I have kind of a thing for Ropa Vieja and if you’re here, maybe you do, too. I already have a recipe on my site for a long-simmered, Slow Cooker Classic Cuban Ropa Vieja, long a family fave, but these days, I’m all about the Instant Pot…and so I wondered if an Instant Pot Ropa Vieja would be just as good. Verdict: Yup, yup, yup! It’s fabulous.
I was actually inspired by the Super Bowl, which this year is in Miami, to revisit my fave Ropa Vieja! See, thinking about Miami made me think about Cuban food, and Cuban food made me think about Ropa Vieja, and now you know how my mind works. It’s all about the food, even if it’s really about sports, lol! This version of Ropa Vieja isn’t just a rehash of my Classic Cuban Ropa Vieja, it’s a little kicked up and super flavorful; I think you’re gonna love it.
About Instant Pot Ropa Vieja:
Ropa Vieja is the national dish of Cuba although it’s popular and traditional around many different Island areas around the Carribean. And of course, it’s not surprising it can be found in Florida, although not so much up Nord, here, in Minnesota. It was actually my sister, who lives in the South that introduced me to Cuban food. It was love at first bite and one of my faves is Ropa Vieja!
There is something tantalizing about Ropa Vieja. There’s lots of meat, which pleases my son to no end, a mix of peppers and onions (called Sofrito) which go down easy, even for those not into veggies, because they are kind of “hidden” in the tangles of beef. And there’s a hint of sweet; in some recipes, that’s from sugar, in mine, it comes from raisins. Be brave if cooking with dried fruit isn’t normally your thing; they dissolve away into nothing but leave behind a little sweet & incredible flavor. Then the Ropa Vieja is finished with briny olives and a hint of red wine vinegar.
I’m sure you can imagine that rich shredded beef and all those spices with just the faintest hint of addictive sweet/sour vibe. No need to imagine, though, when you can make it!
Serve your Ropa Vieja with rice and black beans, both of which are such great budget items, they’ll help to balance out the more expensive beef and peppers price-wise and stretch the meal. I like to doctor up a can of black beans with a little garlic powder and cumin, and heat them up in the microwave as a quick cheater side dish. And the rice, I usually cook now in the Instant Pot; see my Perfect Instant Pot Rice, or just simmer on the stove according to package directions.
Making Instant Pot Ropa Vieja:
I gotta say I love my Instant Pot for a lot of reasons, and one of those is so many recipes can be made in one pot. While you can do that in this recipe, too, sometimes when I need to brown a lot of meat and saute a lot of veggies like in this recipe, I’ll just pull out my big skillet. It’s up to you, but if you use the IP, make sure it is deglazed well with no browning or “fond” left on the bottom of the pot or you could get the dreaded burn notice.
There are a lot of ingredients in the recipe but most of them are just spices; it’s straightforward and easy to make.
Once your meat is browned, it’s removed and the same is done with the veggies. I like to use green and red bells and use the red primarily because they look so beautiful in the final dish. Just fyi: yellow or orange bell peppers end up looking “muddy”. There are no Cuban peppers up Nord here in Minnesota in my grocery and I’d guess the same for most of the country.
The rest is easy peasy; add in the garlic, the spices, give it a minute, then the tomatoes and raisins (use a little brown sugar if you’re really opposed; I know there are “haters” out there!), the beef and any accumulated juices are added back in and it’s sayonara for 90 minutes. When you open the pot, there is glorious, luscious beef swimming in flavorful sauce, easy to just shred in the pot with two large forks. Add in olives and vinegar to taste. If you really feel it’s too juicy (and it should be) you can set the saute function on low and gently simmer.
The beef you use in this recipe needs to be one with lots of flavor and one that shreds easily.
- Flank steak is often used in Ropa Vieja. It has big beefy, flavor, shreds well, and has the advantage of being very lean. It can also be a bit drier, which isn’t so much of an issue since this is very saucy. What is an issue is that this cut of beef, which used to be such a great budget cut is high in demand and even on sale, can be very pricey. I used flank this time, but only because I happened across a deeply discounted package priced for immediate sale.
- Chuck can stand in, and I often use it for Ropa Vieja. It’s got a lot of beefy flavor, too, and is a bit fattier; it shreds beautifully and definitely has a more luxurious, softer mouthfeel. It’s often on sale and a great budget sub for the flank.
Saving Money on Instant Pot Ropa Vieja:
So we talked about saving money on the beef! Let’s talk about those Bell Peppers; there’s no doubt they can be pricy, especially in the winter. Look for them on sale around holidays (they are usually on sale for the Super Bowl and Valentine’s Day) and they do go on sale sporadically. Aldi will almost always beat the regular sale price, but not always the holiday sale prices. If budget is an issue go with all green peppers. They’re about half the price of the brightly colored ones. Since bell peppers last a week or two in the fridge, get in the habit of picking up extra for the following week when they are at a low.
Specialty condiments like olives and vinegar are almost always at their best price of the year in the weeks preceding Easter. If you make homemade dressings (which are usually a huge savings, so much better than store-bought and better for you) stock up on vinegar for the year! While we expect white vinegar to be at a low (Easter egg dying) often the higher end vinegar is on sale, too, unadvertised. You’ll just need to take a peek down the aisle as you shop.
Olives might be on sale around other holidays, too, especially the Winter Holidays, and that’s when you should be looking for raisins and other dried fruits at their best pricing!
I hope you’ll enjoy this Instant Pot Version of Ropa Vieja as much as we do! It’s an outstanding recipe for family or for company and is a great meal prep recipe. It freezes very well, although I just don’t care for olives after they’re frozen. Either remove them if freezing leftovers or if you are planning ahead and meal prepping, leave them out of that portion of the recipe.Print
Instant Pot Ropa Vieja
- Total Time: 2 1/2 hours
- Yield: 8 servings 1x
- Category: Beef Main Dish
- Cuisine: Cuban
- 2 to 3 tablespoons oil, divided (more as needed)
- 2 pounds chuck or flank steak (cut against the grain in about 3 1/2 inch chunks or strips)
- salt & pepper
- 2 large yellow onion, sliced pole to pole, about 3/8” in thick
- 3 large bell peppers, 1 green and 2 red preferred, sliced in strips about 3/8” in thick
- 6 cloves garlic minced
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1/4 teaspoon ground clove
- 1/8 teaspoon cayenne
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 28 ounce can whole tomatoes, crushed by hand over a strainer over a bowl and only one cup of the juice
- 1/4 cup raisins or 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 1/2 to 3/4 cup green olives with pimiento, cut in 1/2 or sliced
- 2 teaspoon red wine vinegar, or to taste
- 1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley, as garnish, optional
- 1 lime, sliced, as garnish, optional
- Rice for serving
Pat the beef dry and sprinkle with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Heat about a tablespoon oil in the Instant Pot using the Saute function (More) or in a large skillet, over medium-high heat. Brown beef well, watching the heat and adjusting as necessary, working in batches as needed and adding a little more oil if needed. When well browned, remove the beef to a plate. Reserve all drippings in the pan or the Instant Pot.
Add in the onions and bell peppers, a little more oil if needed and cook, scraping the bottom of the pan to incorporate all the fond. Continue to cook, stirring now and then, an additional 10 to 15 minutes until softened and beginning to caramelize. Add the garlic and spices and cook for another minute.
Add the tomatoes and one cup of the juices from the tomatoes:
- If using a skillet, transfer vegetables to the Instant Pot and add the crushed tomatoes and the one cup of the juices from the tomatoes to the skillet and scrape up any fond or spices, then transfer it all to the Instant Pot and mix with the vegetables.
- If using the Instant Pot, just add the tomatoes and juice to the Instant Pot, scraping up any fond and mix with the vegetables.
Stir in the raisins, snuggle the beef into the vegetables and pour in any juices that accumulated on the plate. Seal Instant Pot, set to Pressure High, time 90 minutes. When finished, quick release.
Shred the beef in the pot. Add in the olives and red wine vinegar to taste. Serve as is or if desired, set the Instant Pot to Saute (Less) and gently simmer to thicken the sauce, stirring carefully now and then. The mixture should be very juicy.
Serve, topped with parsley and serve with lime, if desired, over rice.
Keywords: Bargain Meal of theWeek, Beef, Bell Peppers, Chuck Roast, Cuban, Dried Fruit, flank, Instant Pot, Latin American, Olives, Raisins, red wine vinegar
I’ll be sharing at Fiesta Friday #313. I’ll also be sharing at the Weekend Potluck #414 at South Your Mouth & What’s For Dinner Sunday at the Lazy Gastronome. Be sure to stop by if you’d like to catch up on your favorite bloggers in one place every week.