Chicken Ropa Vieja

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Preparation time
15 mins
Cooking time
30 mins
Meal course
Posted by
Posted on
Chicken breasts with bone
onion, quartered
green pepper, quartered
carrot, peeled and thickly sliced
cloves garlic, peeled
Bay leaf
1 tbspn
Garlic cloves
Onion, finely chopped
large red bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
1 cup
chicken broth from cooking the chicken
3 tsp
Ground cumin
1 to taste
salt and pepper
0 1/3 cup
Chicken Ropa Vieja

Chicken Ropa Vieja literally translates as ‘old clothes’ in English. Although the name might not sound appealing, everything else about this recipe screams deliciousness!

The story goes that a poor man went to prepare dinner for his family when he realised he had no food left in the pantry. His love for his family was so great that he took off his clothes and shredded them to make a stew to serve instead! But rest assured, this meal tastes of love, and not of old clothes!

Usually made with beef, this dish is popular in Cuba but its origins are from the Canary Islands. The Canary Islands was the last stop for the Spanish before the long journey to the Americas. Cultural dishes like this travelled with them.
I learned of this recipe in Colombia, so I associate this dish with cold Bogatano nights spent cooking for friends, sharing a glass of wine.

Flavour for this dish comes from the stock. So, try and buy chicken breast on the bone; you’re most likely to find it at a decent butcher. If not, swap one of the breasts for a leg or thigh. There will be plenty of homemade stock leftover but don’t throw it away! You can freeze it and make a tasty soup another day.

This recipe is (slightly) adapted from My Colombian Recipes, a great site for Colombian cuisine.

Ropa vieja is typically served with white rice. I served this dish with flour tortillas, avocado and sour cream to make burritos and this also worked well. The dish includes capers. If you’re not a fan, you can omit them but it will lack the punch that makes the dish so distinct.

  1. Start by placing the chicken, 1 onion, carrot, green pepper, bay leaf and 4 cloves of garlic in a large plan and add enough water to cover the chicken. Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat and cook for approximately 30 minutes or until the chicken is cooked
  2. Take the chicken out of the pan and place in a bowl. Once cool, shred the chicken with your hands by peeling off thin pieces bit-by-bit
  3. Next make the Sofrito sauce. In a large frying pan, heat the oil and fry the second chopped onion for a couple of minutes before adding the garlic and red pepper. Fry, stirring occasionally for about 5 minutes, until the peppers and onion have softened. Add the cumin, stir and add the shredded chicken
  4. Stir in the tomato puree, and then add 1 cup of chicken broth, the capers, and season. Place a lid or cover over the frying pan and cook for another 10 minutes, adding more broth if needed and stirring from time-to-time
  5. Finally, take the lid off and cook for another couple of minutes, check for seasoning before serving.

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