Today’s Instant Pot ropa vieja recipe is an easy guide to a meltingly tender and fulfilling meal with beef. The tender and juicy shredded beef is braised in the rich and flavorful tomato-based sauce with onions, bell peppers, green olives, raisins, and capers.
What Is Ropa Vieja?
Ropa vieja is a Cuban savory slow-cooked meat dish, and is also one of the national dishes of this country. This dish originated in the Iberian peninsula of Spain and became a staple across the Caribbean, Cuba, and many Latin American countries.
Ropa vieja is made by stewing steak for hours with aromatic spices and vegetables such as onions, bell peppers, olives, and capers. After a quick sear, the beef is simmered in a tomato-and-red-wine-infused sauce until fork-tender and then torn into thin threads.
“Ropa vieja” loosely translates to “old clothes” in Spanish. It gets the name from the resemblance between the stringy pulled beef and the tatters of old clothing.
But don’t worry, the given name was based purely on its appearance. Ropa vieja doesn’t taste old or ragged at all!
Is This Recipe Healthy?
Considering that it calls for chuck roast, fresh vegetables, and aromatic spices, we can confidently say that Ropa Vieja is a healthy dish.
Our fulfilling, protein-packed ropa vieja has all the unique flavors of the original version but is cooked faster and with less fat included. One serving of this dish has 496 calories and only 83.8 mg of cholesterol.
Just a reminder, however, that it’s not kid-friendly due to the presence of red wine.
The Best Beef Cuts for Ropa Vieja
The authentic cut for ropa vieja is flank steak, with skirt steak being the second most common choice. However, for today’s recipe, neither of those was our cut of choice.
Instead, we opted for a beef chuck roast to add a little more fat and tenderness to the dish. Chuck roast has shorter meat fibers but in exchange, it’s juicier and much more affordable.
With a chuck roast, the visual appearance will be slightly different from the traditional version. It won’t be as ropy and stringy as the traditional version that’s made with flank steak or skirt steak.
Main Ingredients You'll Need
First, the chuck roast is lightly seared with the seasonings, then pressure-cooked in the rich broth infused with tomato sauce, red wine, wine vinegar, and a bay leaf. After being pulled into thin threads, the beef is returned to the pot to cook with green olives for a few extra minutes before being served hot with white rice.
Red bell peppers add sweetness to balance out the tang and heat, and generally complement the whole stew. Feel free to substitute them for your favorite vegetables.
The spice blend of salt, ground black pepper, oregano, cumin, turmeric, paprika, capers, raisins, lime juice, and homemade tomato sauce livens up the dish and adds depth to the overall flavor. If you like the flavor of the olives, you might as well love the briny tang of capers too.
Instead of red wine and wine vinegar, you could use apple cider vinegar or lemon juice for a similar taste and fragrance. We also combined our homemade tomato sauce with chicken broth for an even richer taste.
How to Store and Reheat the Leftover
Ropa vieja is an easy make-ahead choice for busy weeks. It can be stored in an airtight container for up to 5 days.
In the freezer, ropa vieja can last well for up to 3 months. Be sure to defrost it overnight in the fridge, then reheat it in the microwave or the Instant Pot the next day before serving.
What to Serve With
Here are some common tasty ways to enjoy a ropa vieja:
Serve it authentically Cuban with white rice, black beans, tortillas, or fried plantains on the side.
Stuff it in tacos, a burrito bowl, or enchiladas.
Put it in toasted sandwiches.
For this Instant Pot ropa vieja, we prepared a bed of hot steamed rice and also two more side dishes to pair with our flavorful pulled beef:
Pico de Gallo: This Mexican salsa made from chopped tomatoes, onion, and jalapeno, with salt, lime juice, and cilantro creates the perfect Latin combo with ropa vieja. It’s bright, acidic, and captivating in every bite.
Cucumber and lemon juice: Finally, grab a chilled glass of this refreshing beverage to cleanse your palate and fill your body with nutrients at the end of the meal.
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Today's Instant Pot ropa vieja recipe is an easy guide to a meltingly tender and fulfilling meal with beef. The tender and juicy shredded beef is braised in the rich and flavorful tomato-based sauce with onions, bell peppers, green olives, raisins, and capers.
Set the “Sauté” setting on the Instant Pot. Heat 1 tbsp olive oil, wait until it's hot, then add 1 tbsp minced garlic and 2 oz finely diced yellow onion. Quickly sauté for 1 minute, stirring often.
Add 4 oz diced red bell peppers and sauté for 2 minutes until softened.
Add 20 oz beef chuck to the pot with the spice blend of 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp ground black pepper, 1 tsp oregano, 1/2 tsp ground cumin, 1/4 tsp ground turmeric, 1/2 tsp smoked paprika, 0.25 oz capers, 0.5 oz raisins, 2 tsp lime juice, and 1/4 cup homemade tomato sauce. Lightly sear the beef (but don't cook them all the way through) for 2 minutes. Transfer the beef to a plate and set it aside.
Add 1 fl oz red wine.
Stir in 2 tbsp all-purpose flour and 1 tbsp wine vinegar. Cook for 1 minute until they slightly reduce in volume.
Add 1 1/2 cups unsalted chicken broth and 1 bay leaf, stirring constantly.
Close the lid, set the valve to the sealing position, and cook on the “Meat/Stew” setting for 35 minutes. Quick-release the pressure.
Transfer the beef to a separate bowl and start shredding it with two forks.
Add 2.5 oz green olives and return the pulled beef to the pot. Cook on “Sauté” for 10 more minutes.
Portion out ropa vieja onto serving plates with 3 cups cooked medium-grain white rice. Garnish with 2 tbsp chopped parsley and serve hot.
Instant Pot Ropa Vieja
Amount Per Serving (1 serving)
Calories 496Calories from Fat 135
% Daily Value*
Saturated Fat 3g
Polyunsaturated Fat 1g
Monounsaturated Fat 7g
Vitamin A 1443IU
Vitamin C 45mg
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Tuyet Pham is an award-winning Saigonese chef who believes that joy is the secret ingredient to delicious food. At Healthy Recipes 101, Tuyet personally tests and simplifies every recipe, ensuring maximum flavor with minimal effort. With a background at prestigious French restaurants P’TI Saigon and Le Corto, Tuyet knows how to make every dish exceptional.
Luna Regina is an accomplished writer and author who dedicates her career to empowering home cooks and making cooking effortless for everyone. She is the founder of HealthyKitchen101.com and HealthyRecipes101.com, where she works with her team to develop easy, nutritious recipes and help aspiring cooks choose the right kitchen appliances.
Lizzie Streit is a Minneapolis-based dietitian and founder of It’s a Veg World After All. She completed her MS in Human Nutrition from Drexel University, and is an expert in culinary nutrition, recipe development, and nutrition communications. Lizzie’s philosophy is centered around making nutrition recommendations, and especially the advice to eat more vegetables, approachable and realistic. She is excited to be working with the team at Healthy Recipes 101 to ensure that their recipes are both nutritious and delicious.