Mouthwatering Keto Cuban Ropa Vieja Recipe with Healthy Plantain Alternatives

Welcome to Flavorful Tradition: Keto Cuban Ropa Vieja with Plantain Alternatives

Embark on a culinary journey to the vibrant streets of Havana with our Keto Cuban Ropa Vieja. This dish is a celebration of rich, complex flavors, all while keeping your macros in check. Perfect for the keto enthusiast, this traditional Cuban recipe is reinvented to fit a low-carb, high-fat lifestyle. The succulent shredded beef simmers in a savory tomato sauce, delivering a mouthwatering experience with every bite. And for those missing the sweetness of plantains, we’ve got you covered with innovative, keto-friendly alternatives.

Whether you’re a seasoned keto dieter or just looking for a healthy twist on a classic, this Ropa Vieja is sure to satisfy. It’s not just a meal; it’s a testament to the versatility of keto cooking, proving that you can enjoy the richness of international cuisine without compromising your dietary goals.

Keto Cuban Ropa Vieja with Plantain Alternatives

Unveiling the Keto Cuban Ropa Vieja

The Keto Cuban Ropa Vieja is more than just a dish; it’s a story on a plate. Originating from the beautiful island of Cuba, Ropa Vieja, which means “old clothes” in Spanish, traditionally features shredded beef in a tomato-based sauce. It’s a dish born out of necessity, transforming simple ingredients into something extraordinary. For the keto adaptation, we’ve kept the essence of the dish intact while making mindful changes to suit a low-carb diet.

Our version uses flank steak, a protein-rich cut of beef that’s perfect for slow cooking until it’s tender enough to shred. The beef is the star, providing a substantial amount of high-quality protein and fats, aligning with the keto philosophy. We’ve also included a medley of bell peppers and onions, which not only add a burst of color but also bring in a subtle sweetness and a dose of essential nutrients without overloading on carbs.

The spices, including cumin, oregano, and smoked paprika, are key players in this culinary symphony. They infuse the beef with an aromatic depth that’s characteristic of Cuban cuisine. The diced tomatoes lay the foundation for the sauce, contributing to the dish’s vibrant flavor profile while being mindful of the sugar content.

For the plantain alternative, we turn to jicama. This root vegetable is a keto dieter’s dream, offering a low-carb substitute with a satisfying crunch and a subtle sweetness that echoes the role of plantains in the traditional recipe. When baked with avocado oil and seasoned well, jicama slices become a delightful accompaniment to the rich Ropa Vieja.

Preparing Keto Cuban Ropa Vieja

Mastering the Method

Creating the perfect Keto Cuban Ropa Vieja is an art. The process begins with searing the beef to lock in its juices and create a flavorful crust. This step is crucial – it’s where the magic starts, and the beef begins to take on the character that will define your Ropa Vieja.

Once the beef is seared, the same skillet is used to sauté the vegetables. This technique not only saves on washing up but also ensures that the flavors from the beef are carried over to the vegetables, creating a seamless flavor profile. When adding the spices, let them toast for a moment with the garlic, onions, and peppers. This releases their essential oils, which enhances the overall taste of the dish.

As the beef slowly cooks in the slow cooker, it’s essential to resist the temptation to peek. Keeping the lid closed ensures even cooking and allows the flavors to meld together beautifully. When the beef is tender, shredding it should feel effortless, and returning it to the sauce allows it to soak up all the deliciousness.

For the jicama, achieving the right texture is key. It should be thinly sliced for a quicker cook and a better chance at crispiness. Make sure the slices are well-coated with oil and evenly spaced on the baking sheet to ensure they crisp up nicely.

Keto Cuban Ropa Vieja Served

Variation: Spicy Ropa Vieja

If you’re a fan of heat, adding a kick to your Ropa Vieja can elevate the dish to new heights. Introduce a diced jalapeño or a sprinkle of chili flakes to the vegetable sauté. This will infuse the dish with a warmth that complements the rich tomato sauce and tender beef.

Variation: Creamy Ropa Vieja

For a richer, more indulgent version, stir in a dollop of sour cream or cream cheese into the sauce once the beef is shredded and returned to the slow cooker. The creaminess balances the acidity of the tomatoes and adds a luxurious texture to the dish.

Variation: Ropa Vieja Bowls

Transform your Ropa Vieja into a bowl by serving it over cauliflower rice. The mild flavor of the cauliflower provides a neutral base that allows the flavors of the Ropa Vieja to shine. Top with fresh cilantro and a squeeze of lime for a refreshing twist.

Substitutions for Every Keto Kitchen

While the traditional recipe calls for flank steak, you can easily substitute it with chuck roast or brisket. These cuts are equally rich in flavor and become wonderfully tender when slow-cooked. Just remember to adjust cooking times as necessary.

For those who can’t find jicama, fear not. Turn to other keto-friendly options like thinly sliced radishes or turnips. These vegetables mimic the texture of plantains when baked and offer a similar satisfying crunch.

And if apple cider vinegar isn’t your favorite, you can swap it out for red wine vinegar or even a squeeze of fresh lime juice. This will still provide the necessary acidity to balance the flavors in the sauce.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I make this dish in an Instant Pot?
Yes, the Ropa Vieja can be made in an Instant Pot. Use the sauté function for browning the beef and vegetables, then switch to the pressure cook setting and cook on high for 45 minutes.

What can I use instead of diced tomatoes?
If you prefer to use fresh tomatoes, simply peel and dice them. You’ll need about 2 cups of fresh tomatoes to replace the canned ones.

Is Ropa Vieja spicy?
Traditionally, it’s not very spicy, but you can adjust the heat level to your preference. Add more smoked paprika or a pinch of cayenne pepper for extra heat.

How do I store leftovers?
Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Reheat gently on the stove or in the microwave.

Can I freeze Ropa Vieja?
Yes, Ropa Vieja freezes well. Cool it completely before transferring to a freezer-safe container. It can be stored in the freezer for up to 3 months.

Keto Cuban Ropa Vieja with Plantain Alternatives

A traditional Cuban dish with a keto twist, featuring shredded beef in a flavorful tomato sauce and served with low-carb plantain alternatives.
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Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 2 hours
Total Time 2 hours 20 minutes
Course Dinner
Cuisine Cuban
Servings 6 people
Calories 330 kcal


  • Large skillet
  • Slow cooker
  • Baking sheet
  • Measuring cups and spoons
  • Two forks (for shredding the meat)


  • 2 pounds beef flank steak
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1 green bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 can diced tomatoes, no added sugar 14 ounces or 400g
  • ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Salt to taste

For the Plantain Alternatives

  • 2 cups jicama, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon avocado oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  • Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the flank steak and sear each side for 3-4 minutes until browned. Transfer the steak to a slow cooker.
  • In the same skillet, add the onion and bell peppers. Sauté until they begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, cumin, oregano, smoked paprika, and black pepper, and cook for an additional 2 minutes.
  • Transfer the sautéed vegetables to the slow cooker over the steak. Add the diced tomatoes, apple cider vinegar, bay leaves, and salt. Stir to combine.
  • Cover and cook on low for 8 hours or on high for 4 hours, until the beef is tender and shreds easily.
  • Once cooked, remove the beef from the slow cooker and shred it with two forks. Return the shredded beef to the slow cooker and mix with the sauce.
  • Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Toss the jicama slices with avocado oil, salt, and pepper. Spread them out on a baking sheet in a single layer.
  • Bake the jicama for 25-30 minutes, flipping halfway through, until they are golden and crisp on the edges.
  • Serve the Ropa Vieja hot, topped with the baked jicama slices as a plantain alternative.


If you prefer a thicker sauce, you can remove the lid of the slow cooker during the last 30 minutes of cooking to allow some liquid to evaporate.
The jicama can be replaced with other keto-friendly vegetables like zucchini or yellow squash if desired.
Ensure to check the labels of canned tomatoes for added sugars to keep this recipe keto-friendly.
Adjust the seasoning according to your taste preference, and feel free to add more heat with a pinch of cayenne pepper if desired.
Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.


Calories: 330kcalCarbohydrates: 9gProtein: 28gFat: 20gFiber: 3gNet Carbs: 6g
Keyword keto beef recipes, Keto Cuban Ropa Vieja, Keto Plantain Alternatives, Low Carb Ropa Vieja
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