Cuban Ropa Vieja

I had the pleasure of visiting Cuba a few months ago, so naturally, the first thing I signed up for was a food tour! I took a Food Tours Havana tour that, over the course of several hours, walked us through Old Havana where we learned about Havana and the Cuban people, food and culture, and sampled several very traditional Cuban foods. It was a great tour, and to top it off, they shared recipes of all the foods we sampled! One of these dishes was Ropa Vieja, the national dish of Cuba. I am posting the recipe as it was written for a slow cooker or stovetop cooking, but I’m also including my own InstantPot instructions, because that’s how I made it. No matter how you make it, it’s going to be delicious!

Cuban Ropa Vieja

2 to 3 pound flank steak (could also use chuck)
1½ teaspoons salt
1½ teaspoons garlic powder
1 green bell pepper, sliced into ¼” strips
1 red bell pepper, sliced into ¼” strips
1 large yellow onion, sliced into ¼” strips
6 large garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 to 2 Tablespoons cooking oil (for InstantPot use only)
½ cup green Spanish olives (optional but highly recommended)
1 cup dry white wine (e.g., Pinot Grigio)
28 ounces tomato puree
6 ounces tomato paste
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon white sugar
1 teaspoon salt
Optional garnish: minced cilantro (about ¼ cup; adjust to taste)

Instructions for slow cooker or stovetop cooking

Rub each side of the steak with the 1½ teaspoons of salt and garlic powder then add it to a slow cooker or a stovetop cooking pot. Add the peppers, onion, garlic and olives.

In a large bowl, whisk together the wine, tomato puree, tomato paste and remaining seasonings; add to slow cooker/pot.

Cover and cook on low for 8 hours.

After 8 hours, remove the meat only and shred it very finely using two forks: avoid any large chunks. Add the shredded meat back to the sauce and cook for 20 more minutes.

Serve with white rice and black beans; top with cilantro (optional). Enjoy!

Recipe credit: Food Tours Havana

Instructions for InstantPot (6 quart size or larger)

Rub each side of the steak with the 1½ teaspoons of salt and garlic powder; set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the wine, tomato puree, tomato paste, olives and remaining seasonings.

Press the InstantPot Saute button and add the cooking oil to the pot. When hot, add the peppers and onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened a bit. Add the garlic and cook, stirring often, another minute or so. Turn off Saute function by pressing the Cancel/Keep Warm button.

Place the steak on top of the vegetables in the pot, and pour the tomato sauce mixture carefully into the pot, covering as much of the steak as possible.

Cover and cook at High pressure for 90 minutes. When done, let rest and allow the pressure to naturally release for up to 30 minutes. Release any remaining pressure, carefully remove lid and remove the meat only.

Shred meat very finely using two forks: avoid any large chunks. Add shredded meat back to the pot and press the Saute button. Once the mixture is bubbling, turn the InstantPot off and continue cooking for 15 minutes.

Serve with white rice and black beans; top with cilantro (optional). Enjoy!

Step by Step Instructions for InstantPot (6 quart size or larger)

Prep all the ingredients first, and you’ll be ready to go.

Whisk together the wine, tomato puree, tomato paste, olives and remaining seasonings. I left my olives whole, but feel free to halve or quarter them.

Sautéing the veggies is optional, so if you don’t want to take the time, I don’t think it’s going to matter all that much. But I felt like it would help to get them started, so I did.

Place the steak on top of the vegetables in the pot and carefully pour the tomato sauce mixture into the pot, covering as much of the steak as possible.

After cooking (High pressure) for 90 minutes, I totally get that you may not want to wait the additional 30 minutes for the pressure to naturally release. That’s fine. You’re getting hungry and this stuff smells amazing. Go ahead and release the pressure whenever you want, and carefully remove the lid and take out the meat.

I shredded mine in a bowl to keep it from going all over my counter.

Remember to shred the meat very finely, leaving no large chunks. You could even cut across the steak if the shredded threads get too long. I didn’t do that here but may next time.

Add shredded meat back to the pot and press the Saute button. Mix it up well, and when bubbling, turn the InstantPot off. It will stay hot enough to continue cooking for 15 minutes.

Serve with white rice and black beans; top with cilantro (optional). (Fried ripe plantains are also traditionally served with this dish, but I didn’t have any.)


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