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Seitan Ropa Vieja

Recipe from Fresh from the Vegan Slow Cooker: 200 Ultra-Convenient, Super-Tasty, Completely Animal-Free Recipes by Robin Robertson

Seitan Ropa Vieja

Photo: Sabra Krock

Author Robin Robertson, on Seitan Ropa Vieja:

There are many variations of this flavorful Latin American dish. This vegan version, made with a combination of seitan, black beans, and mushrooms, is my favorite! Served over rice, it makes a delicious dinner when accompanied by a green vegetable. It’s also terrific spooned into warm tortillas and topped with diced avocado or vegan sour cream.

Cooks&Books&Recipes Notes:

Looking for a way to enjoy tacos without the meat and animal products? Here’s your answer: a recipe for Ropa Vieja (Spanish for “old clothes”), substituting seitan for the traditional shredded flank, brisket, or skirt steak. Though originally from the Canary Islands and a staple dish in Cuba, Ropa Vieja can also be piled into tortillas or taco shells and served with avocados and sour cream, as shown above. And here’s another bonus of this recipe: it’s cooked in the slow cooker. Super-easy vegan. Super-fun celebration, whether Cuban- or Mexican-style.

But what’s with the odd name? Apparently, the name comes from the fact that the cooked and shredded meat and vegetables look like colorful strips of old clothes or rags. Or there’s another origin story, noted in Wikipedia, “about a man whose family was coming to his home for dinner. Being very poor, the man could not buy them enough food when they came. To remedy his situation, he went to his closet, gathered some old clothes (ropa vieja) and imbued them with his love. When he cooked the clothes, his love for his family turned the clothes into a wonderful beef stew.” I like that one.

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Seitan Ropa Vieja

Featured Recipe From: Fresh from the Vegan Slow Cooker: 200 Ultra-Convenient, Super-Tasty, Completely Animal-Free Recipes

Slow Cooker Size: 4- to 6-quart

Yield: 4

Cook Time: 4 to 6 hours on low


  • 2 teaspoons olive oil (optional)
  • 1 small yellow onion, sliced paper-thin
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 green bell pepper, seeded and sliced paper-thin
  • 1/3 cup tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 cup crushed tomatoes
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon natural sugar
  • 1 pound seitan, shredded or very thinly sliced
  • 2 portobello mushroom caps, grilled scraped and discarded, shredded or thinly sliced
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked black beans or 1 (15-ounce) can beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh cilantro
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • Flour tortillas or hot cooked rice, for serving


1. For the best flavor, heat the oil in a medium-size skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and saute until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and bell pepper and continue cooking for 1 minute. Stir in the tomato paste and cumin and cook for 1 minute longer. Alternatively, omit the oil and saute these ingredients in a few tablespoons of water or combine them in a microwave-safe bowl with a little water, cover, and microwave for 2 minutes.

2. Transfer the onion mixture to the slow cooker. Add the crushed tomatoes, oregano, sugar, seitan, mushrooms, beans, broth, cilantro, and salt and pepper. Cover and cook on Low until vegetables are tender, 4 to 6 hours.

3. Just before serving, add the lime juice, then taste and adjust the seasonings, if needed. Serve hot, spooned into tortillas or over rice.

Recipe © 2013 Robin Robertson

Reprinted with permission from Fresh from the Vegan Slow Cooker: 200 Ultra-Convenient, Super-Tasty, Completely Animal-Free Recipes by Robin Robertson (Harvard Common Press, 2012)

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