Ropa Vieja


Serve this rich, meaty Cuban dish with grilled focaccia and whipped goat cheese.

Ropa Vieja

Jennifer Causey / Food Styling by Emily Nabors Hall / Prop Styling by Shell Royster

Active Time:
45 mins
Total Time:
4 hrs 45 mins
8 to 10

Chicago chef Cory Morris’ Ropa Vieja recipe features slow-braised meat, meltingly tender vegetables, and a deeply flavorful tangy, velvety braising liquid. He tops the stew with whipped goat cheese which melts into and smooths out the sauce. Grilled focaccia bread is served alongside to sop it all up.

Ropa Vieja is said to be the national dish of Cuba, but originated in the Sephardic Jewish community in Spain more than 500 years ago. Starting cooking the long-braised dish on Friday night was a way to have a warm, hearty meal the next day while still complying with religious bans against cooking on the Sabbath. This dish traveled to the Caribbean with Spanish colonizers, and usually features beef, goat, or lamb. Morris prefers goat, but lamb shoulder is a good substitute if you are not able to find goat. 

Cooking this ropa vieja low and slow is the key to delicious, tender meat. Morris suggests covering the meat with parchment and aluminum foil as it cooks to keep in the moisture. After three or four hours of cooking, you are rewarded with meat that is incredibly tender and well-seasoned, in a sauce that is tangy, rich, and velvety. Be sure to simmer the sauce at the end so it thickens and becomes even richer. The creamy goat cheese topping helps smooth out the sauce as you eat, and the toasted focaccia is perfect for sopping up all that delicious sauce.


Ropa Vieja

  • 5 pounds bone-in goat or lamb shoulder roast, trimmed

  • 3 tablespoons kosher salt (such as Diamond Crystal), plus more to taste

  • 1 tablespoon black pepper, plus more to taste

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

  • 4 cups sliced white onions (from 2 medium onions)

  • 4 cups thinly sliced red bell peppers (from 2 large bell peppers)

  • 5 garlic cloves, smashed

  • 5 medium-size (about 1 pound total) Roma tomatoes, quartered

  • 1/4 cup tomato paste

  • 1/4 cup smoked paprika

  • 2 tablespoons roughly chopped chipotle pepper (from 1 [7 1/2-ounce] can chipotle peppers in adobo sauce) 

  • 2 tablespoons dried Mexican oregano

  • 2 cups dry red wine

  • 8 cups chicken stock

  • 1/4 cup white vinegar

Additional Ingredients

  • 4 ounces goat cheese, crumbled (about 1 cup)

  • 3/4 cup heavy whipping cream

  • 10 (1-inch-thick) slices focaccia bread

  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro


  1. Remove meat from refrigerator 30 minutes prior to cooking. Pat dry using paper towels. Sprinkle evenly with salt and pepper.

  2. Heat oil in a large roasting pan over medium-high; sear meat, rotating and flipping occasionally, until golden brown on each side, about 5 minutes per side.

  3. Transfer meat to a cutting board or baking sheet, and reduce heat to medium. Add onions, bell peppers, and garlic to roasting pan; cook, stirring often to remove any browned bits from bottom of pan, until lightly caramelized, 5 to 7 minutes. Add tomatoes, and cook, stirring often, until slightly softened, about 4 minutes.

  4. Stir tomato paste, smoked paprika, chipotle pepper, and oregano into roasting pan; cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until fragrant and well incorporated, about 2 minutes.

  5. Add wine to roasting pan, stirring to scrape up any browned bits from bottom of pan. Simmer over medium until reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Add chicken stock, and bring to a boil over medium; turn off heat. Add meat to pan.

  6. Preheat oven to 250°F. Cover pan with parchment paper, and tightly cover with aluminum foil; Bake in preheated oven until roast shreds apart easily, 3 hours, 30 minutes to 4 hours. Uncover and let rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.

  7. Carefully transfer meat to a clean cutting board; skim off any excess fat from sauce in pan. Place pan on cooktop over medium-high, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 15 minutes. While sauce simmers, remove meat from bones, and pull into small pieces; discard bones.

  8. Return meat to pan, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir in vinegar.

  9. Stir together goat cheese and heavy cream in a medium bowl until smooth. Brush focaccia slices with oil, and toast in a large dry skillet over medium until lightly browned, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Serve Ropa Vieja in a shallow bowl with a dollop of goat cheese mixture and a focaccia slice. Top with cilantro and serve.

To make ahead

Meat may be cooked up to 3 days in advance of serving.

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