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Jackfruit Ropa Vieja

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I am really excited to share this recipe with you guys!

First of all, I LOVE all foods latino! Growing up in New York and with a latina Grandma, this is the stuff I was raised on (other than Italian food, that was the other biggie! It could be argued my grandma’s Italian food is oddly better than her “Spanish food” as she calls it).

Since going vegan, Latin American cuisine is one style of cooking that is pretty rare to see vegan. Mexican food? Sure, replace the shredded meat with some mushrooms/lentils/beans. But South American or Carribean recipes that feature beef? Not as easy to come by.

I realized I had been using jackfruit to mimic pulled pork for a while so, why not shredded beef??

Enter Ropa Vieja. Ropa Vieja is a signature Cuban dish that literally translates to “old clothes.” It’s actually found in many Latin American countries and typically is made with onions, garlic, tomato sauce, seasonings, and a tough cut of beef that has been slow cooked and shredded until it has the appearance of old, tattered rags. It is so savory, comforting, and delicious, this is one of those dishes you are bound to miss if you are used to latino cooking and recently went vegan! It was kind of a challenge to create a beef flavor without beef, but after many hours of tinkering I think I nailed it!

I served this dish with a side of fried sweet plantains, home made black beans, and arepas (a Venezuelan side dish that can be split and stuffed like a pita or served as is). I highly recommend trying it! I got my recipe from the Minimalist Baker and it was DEAD ON! Here’s a link to their recipe


Jackfruit Ropa Vieja

A vegan spin on everyone's favorite Cuban dish. To compensate for the lack of beef, created a savory tomato sauce and added in some shredded jackfruit and green bell pepper. The results did not disappoint!
Course Main Course
Cuisine Cuban, Latino
Keyword jackfruit, ropa vieja, vegan
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour


  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 green bell pepper sliced longways extra thin
  • 1 box young, unripened jackfruit (or 2 15oz cans) without seasonings, not in brine if possible
  • 1 15oz can tomato sauce unseasoned
  • 1 6oz can tomato paste
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce vegan varieties are available in most stores
  • 1 tsp liquid smoke
  • 2 tbsp coconut sugar
  • black pepper to taste optional


  • Begin by heating your oil in a sauce pan on medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the onions and sauté until fragrant and transluscent. Once the onions are ready, add in the tomato paste and garlic, stir, and sauté another 2-3 minutes until again fragrant.
  • Next, add in the veggie broth, tomato sauce, worcestershire sauce, liquid smoke, sugar, and black pepper. Stir, bring to a boil, then turn the heat to low and simmer uncovered (remember to stir occasionally) for 30 minutes.
  • Add the jackfruit and bell pepper. If you are using a nonstick pot, you will want to shred your jackfruit before adding it in. Jackfruit is actually much easier to shred after it is cooked, but to avoid dragging forks along teflon, it is worth an extra minute to shred by hand and then throw in. Cover with lid and simmer an additional 15-30 minutes.
  • After the jackfruit has simmered and the peppers have softened, and if you haven't pulled your jackfruit already, go ahead and take two forks to shred it now.
  • That's it! I served mine today with Venezuelan Arepas by the Minimalist Baker (I'll link the recipe below), black beans, and fried sweet plantains! It was SUPER authentic, SUPER savory, and SUPER good!


After trying many brands, my absolute favorite is the Edward & Sons Organic Unseasoned Jackfruit Pieces. It can be found in many stores, often in the international aisle. Unlike many canned varieties, the fruit does not sit in a brine, so it does not come with a fermented, vinegary, or bitter taste. If you can find this brand, please try it! Otherwise, if you do use canned jackfruit, please be sure to drain and rinse before adding to the recipe. You may also find that you will need extra sugar, worcestershire sauce, liquid smoke, and salt to cancel out the brine flavor. And no, this is not a paid ad!! 

PS: if you’re looking to make some plantains, no recipe needed. The sweet variety is large and should be covered in black spots, or almost completely black when it’s ripe. To prepare: cut off the ends, score the peel with the tip of a knife from end to end, and peel away. Chop the plantains into small pieces and fry in neutral flavored oil of choice (I used canola). Make sure the oil is nice and hot, fry until golden brown on both sides, and drain on a paper towel.

For black beans, I did enjoy the process and result, but I felt like it wasn’t THAT different from canned black beans. If you’re making all the sides, I honestly recommend just sautéing a can of black beans in some garlic and onions. If you REALLY want to go all out, make sure you soak the beans overnight first, then drain and rinse before cooking. THEN go ahead and saute a large onion and 2-4 cloves of garlic in a little oil, then cover the beans in veggie broth (or water), add a bay leaf or two, and 1/2 tsp oregano. Boil until beans soften. Newer beans that were well soaked will cook faster (30-45 min). Older beans or beans that weren’t as well soaked will take at least one hour.

I hope you try and love this recipe as much as I do! It really made me feel like I was back home.

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