Spicy Shredded Beef

This is a traditional Cuban dish known as ropa vieja, which translates to ‘old clothes’. This isn’t because you boil your socks into your stew, but rather the shredded meat is said to resemble shredded fabric. Plan ahead with this meal as this is a dish best made a day ahead, allowing the flavours to develop.

Serves: 6
Time: 2 hours and 50 minutes


  • 2 litres water
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 5 cloves garlic, quartered
  • 6 black peppercorns
  • 1 large carrot, chopped coarsely
  • 1 trimmed celery stalk, chopped coarsely
  • 1.5kg beef skirt steak
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium green pepper, sliced thickly
  • 2 medium brown onions, sliced thickly
  • 400g can whole tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 60ml lemon juice
  • fresh coriander, chopped (optional)


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 bacon rashers (140g), rind removed, chopped finely
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 small brown onion, chopped finely
  • 1/2 small green pepper, chopped finely
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • Small pinch of sugar


In a large saucepan, combine water, bay leaf, garlic, peppercorns, carrot, celery, beef and one teaspoon of the oregano. Once you bring it to a boil, reduce the heat and allow to simmer, uncovered, for about two hours or until beef is tender.

Meanwhile, make the sofrito:
Heat oil in a small frying pan. Cook bacon, garlic, onion and pepper until onions are soft. Add the tomato paste, vinegar and sugar, stirring until the vinegar evaporates. Remove from heat and allow to cool for 10 minutes before blending into a smooth mixture.

Once beef is tender, remove meat from braising liquid. Pour liquid through a strainer and discard any solids. Use two forks to coarsely shred beef.

Clean your saucepan and return to heat. Heat oil and cook sofrito, peppers and onion until vegetables soften (stir frequently). Add in the shredded beef and braising liquid, undrained tomatoes, cumin and remaining oregano. Bring to a boil and reduce heat, allowing to simmer uncovered for about 20 minutes.

Serve ropa vieja with a bed of rice and fresh coriander (optional).

Related articles:
Cuban Sandwich
Travel SOS: cruising to Cuba
Hotfoot it to Cuba

Written by YourLifeChoices Writers

YourLifeChoices' team of writers specialise in content that helps Australian over-50s make better decisions about wealth, health, travel and life. It's all in the name. For 22 years, we've been helping older Australians live their best lives.

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