CrockPot Ropa Vieja Recipe

Day 334.

What should you do when you have a house full of food? Make more!


The turkey carcass has been soupified, and the yams, potatoes, and stuffing has been given away and frozen. The refrigerator looked weird and empty yesterday, but we had an overflowing produce drawer. I had an email saved from Melanie, who walked me through making Ropa Vieja---which is a fantastic way to use a frozen hunk-of-meat, and feed a lot of people.

The Ingredients.

--3 lbs meat (get what's on sale. Stew meat, chuck roast, steaks, whatever.)
--1/2 cup chicken broth
--1/4 cup apple cider vinegar (could use white)
--1 T cumin
--1 tsp smoked paprika
--1 tsp salt
--1/2 tsp black pepper
--1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
--1 large red onion, chopped
--2 red bell peppers, chopped
--2 med yellow apples, grated
--3 stalks celery, chopped
--3 cloves smashed and chopped garlic
--1/2 cup cilantro leaves

The Directions.

I used a 6.5 quart crockpot. I think you'll need at least a 5 quart----this is a lot of food.

Combine all of the dry spices in a bowl. Rub the spices all over the piece (or pieces) of meat you are using. Put the meat into your crockpot. Dump any extra spice on top.

Coarsely chop the vegetables and add to the pot. Smash the garlic, take the leaves off the cilantro stems, and add.

Peel the apples, and grate them into the pot with a cheese grater.

Add the chicken broth and vinegar.

Cover and cook on low for a very long time, or on high for a pretty long time. I'd go for at least 10 hour on low and at least 7 hours on high, checking about 2 hours before serving to see if you can shred the meat with forks. If you can't shred the meat, cook for longer, or remove the meat and cut in long slices, then return to the pot.

Ropa Vieja means "old clothes"---the meat and vegetables should be shreddy and fully intertwined. The longer and slower you cook this, the better. There is plenty of moisture from the chicken broth and vinegar---if you are a peeker, you may need to add more chicken broth; but otherwise, you'll get a good amount of juice at the bottom of the pot.

Serve over brown or white rice, with a ladle full of broth.

The Verdict.

Delicious. After a few days of sweet Thanksgiving food, we were ready for a different flavor.

The kids ate their meat separate from the vegetables, but did eat it. They also ate a ton of rice, because--well--that's just what they do.

I hadn't cooked the meat long enough when I took the above picture. I was tired, and just wanted to be done, and the kids were hungry. After we took some of the meat out, it cooked for another 3 hours on low, and then was perfect. The resulting stew was tangy and smoky at the same time---it was delicious. I ended up cooking on low for a total of 12 1/2 hours.

Thank you, Melanie!

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Posted by: Stephanie O'Dea | A Year of Slow Cooking at November 29, 2008

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What they say about this article

  1. I've been looking for a crockpot recipe for a pot luck at work next week -- this looks perfect. Thanks for the timely posting =)

  2. Anonymous11/29/2008

    Technically, it's ropa vieja (not viejo). ;)

  3. ok! I'll fix it! The internet spells it both ways. ;-)

  4. Sounds different, but I have come to trust your taste, so I'm going to try this! A 12 hour recipe is perfect because I can put it on in the morning and not worry about it while I'm at work for 8 hours. :) Thanks!

  5. Anonymous11/29/2008

    While the recipe has a long list of possible meats to use, currious what you used when you made this batch. Different cuts of meat could produce different results/cooking times.

  6. good question! I used a chuck roast.

  7. OOOOOH Ropa Vieja! I saw Guy Fieri on Diners Drive-Ins and Dives help a guy make this in some out of the way mom-n-pop-op on his show...sounds really cool! My husband would just call it stew lol.
    The name Ropa Vieja, which my hispanic friends tell me, implies leftovers.

  8. very good!!! Panamenians and Cubans make this very soupy, and yes, it is called Ropa Vieja! yum! :)

  9. Since you have that listed as Mexican food that explains why the recipe doesn't sound like the ropa vieja that I grew up eating. Especially the apples which don't grow in Cuba as far as I know. I have a great recipe for Cuban Ropa Vieja on my cooking blog.

    I have cooked the meat in a crockpot before shredding it, since it takes 2 hours and it's easier in the crockpot.
    Rabo Encendido is a great canidate for the crock pot though.
    and I have made Carne guisado con platanos in the crockpot too.

  10. I am afraid to see what happens come Jan 1 - I haven't been disappointed in a recipe yet even though I've only recently found your blog.

    Today I purchased a new 3 qt Hamilton Beach crockpot. When I opened the box, I discovered the lid had a permanent vent hole - and no way to close the vent. I am going to return it to the store and probably get the new 2/4/6 qt pot also by HB. Any thoughts on the vent?

  11. Anonymous11/29/2008

    Felicia, I have the 2/4/6 quart Hamilton Beach and it also has a permanent vent hole in the lid. My Rival 6.5 qt oval doesn't have one, but I haven't noticed any real difference in the way they cook. I don't think it's a big deal. They both work great.

  12. I thought you may be interested in joining the DEC/JAN edition of the "NOW THAT'S WHAT'S COOKING" recipe exchange.

    The theme: slowcooker or oven ready casseroles.

    You can get all the details by clicking on the lunchbag image in the righthand sidebar of my blog.

    Hope you can join us.

  13. I've nominated you for an award. Check it out!

  14. Anonymous11/29/2008

    By meat do you mean beef?

  15. Anonymous11/30/2008

    Hi! You mentioned it was a good way to use frozen meat. Did you put the meat into the crockpot still frozen? Thanks.

  16. anon, yes, meat=beef.
    anon, my meat was half-frozen. I've used frozen solid meat successfully in the crock numerous times.
    It will take longer to cook and become shreddy.

  17. oh! this looks mouth watering delicious!! I can't wait to try it.

  18. This would be a great late-summer or early-fall dish, when I have all kinds of odd veggies from the garden.
    I got a new crockpot for my birthday, with a Little Dipper on the side. Yippee! Watch out, family, the old one still works!

  19. I made this myself for the potluck, and it was extremely popular. In fact, it was gone before everyone had a chance to taste it ...

    I let it cook overnight. My crock is 6 quarts, and the piece of meat I used was shy of 3 pounds (I think 2.7). The veggies stacked up almost to the top, but by morning they'd all broken down so that there were only 2 or 3 inches of food in the crock. Since I wouldn't have a chance to let it cook longer after I woke up, I cooked it on high for 3 hours, then set it to low for 7 hours overnight. The smell of it cooking was so strong and overwhelmingly yummy that it kind of kept me awake ... so that's a danger.

    It smelled great, and it tasted great. Actually, oddly enough, the taste reminded me of my mom's goulash.

    Again, thank you so much for this post -- the dish was popular, and I want to make it again soon so that my husband and I can have as much as we want =) Poor guy didn't even get a taste.

  20. I made this today- no celery (didn't have any), and I didn't grate anything, just chopped it fine. FREAKING DELICIOUS. Ten stars! Thanks for the recipe, it's going to be a keeper.

  21. Needed something for dinner that wasn't chicken again and used stuff I had in the house. I halved this because I had a small amount of meat, skillet steaks (?) and since they were thin pieces this cooked quickly. So I shredded it and tasted it and it was just ok. But I let it cook on low for another hour and that's when it became delicious. I did add a squeeze of fresh lime juice to give a little extra "hmmm." The family really liked it!

  22. I tried this today as my firs tforay into crockpot cooking. We added a can of chopped tomatoes about halfway through the cooking, but otherwise followed the recipe. Served it over cuban rice. It was amazing! Thanks!

  23. Julia S.10/01/2009

    Made this on Monday (the first of the cold weather came through). It was AMAZING!! My roast was large about 4.25lbs, but it got tender and the meat stayed juicy. I used the leftovers (shredded) and made enchiladas last night - so good! THANKS!!

  24. Anonymous2/10/2010

    I think I must have gotten the proportions wrong -- maybe too much vinegar? I tried this and while the beef tasted good, the vegetables were just too bitter/sour. Is that how it's supposed to taste? We added some salt after the fact, and that helped.

  25. Madison Home Cooker2/14/2010

    This was delicious-- it will become my new favorite company food! I love how 2 or 2 1/2 pounds of meat will easily serve 8-10 people. I've made ropa vieja in the past, but it was much more involved: first you had to slow cook the meat and then you sauteed the onion, peppers, etc. and added the shredded meat. The crock pot was WAY easier. I made a few adjustments based on the recipe I've used before because it comes directly from a Puerto Rican friend:
    *I added a 14 oz can of chopped tomatoes w/ juice with the meat
    *added an 8 oz can of tomato sauce with the meat
    *added about 1/2 cup green olives w/ pimentos
    *added 2-3 Tbsp of olive juice
    *omitted broth
    *omitted apples
    *omitted cayenne because my kids are spice wimps; I passed Tabasco at the table for those interested

    It turned out wonderfully! I served it in pita breads, and I still have some in the freezer for another mea l. I think it would also be good served with rice. A tangy coleslaw and/or corn are good side dishes.

    Thanks for the idea to make this in the crock pot! I'll definitely be making it again!