Slow Cooker Chicken Ropa Vieja

March 26, 2015

Slow Cooker Ropa Vieja | One Hungry Mama

There’s a lot going on. I can’t wait to share details but, for now, lets just say that I’m busy. Very busy. And lets also say that winter has been hard on my waistline. That’s right: I’m saying it because it’s true.

With spring finally here (kind of, sort of), I’m making some changes. I need to run more, which is to say that I need to run, period. And I’m swapping hearty stews and—oh, lets be honest—desserts for light, healthy meals. Oh, and remember that busy part? These light, healthy meals have to be quick and easy to make, like this Slow Cooker Chicken Ropa Vieja.

We’re going to be eating this a lot over the next few months. No one’s complaining.

I love Cuban food and especially ropa vieja but, at it’s most delicious, rope vieja is made with fatty red meat that pulls apart in the most glorious way after hours of cooking. Though delicious, it doesn’t quite fit my spring food criteria.

To lighten the traditional version, I’ve been making ropa vieja using chicken instead. Normally, I use chicken thighs since they have more flavor and a higher fat content that keeps the meat moist. Lately, though, I’ve been using chicken breasts to keep this dish as lean as possible. They work surprisingly well, yielding a ropa vieja that’s as full of flavor as it is waistline-friendly.

Ugh. Waistline-friendly. I hate that I’ve typed that, but it’s got to be that way right now. I’m eager to feel tip-top again and meals like this make it easy to eat lean without feeling like I’m on a diet. No diets allowed, but something’s got to be done after a winter of eating cake on a daily basis.

I digress. This Chicken Ropa Vieja is not just about eating light. It’s also a great way to enjoy the simplicity of Cuban home cooking without eating red meat, which can be more expensive and not always a kid favorite. It’s just a good way to change things up. Plus, this meal practically makes itself, so there’s that, too.

Throw everything in the slow cooker in the morning and, if you have a rice cooker that flips into keep warm mode, you can can get that going, too. Otherwise, you can make rice in the 20 minutes right before dinner. As soon as the rice is cooked and while the pot is still steamy, add frozen peas and cover for 4 minutes right before serving. Serve the green pea studded rice alongside the chicken, top with cilantro, avocado slices, and hot sauce, if you like. A quick, light, spring meal—complete with veggies—with barely any effort.

It’s just what I need. You, too?

Slow Cooker Chicken Ropa Vieja
(Can be shared with kids 10+ mos)*
Serves 6

1 28-ounce can whole, peeled tomatoes
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 red pepper, cut into 1/2″ slices
1 green pepper, cut into 1/2″ slices
1/2 a large onion, halved and cut into 1/4″ slices
1 tablespoon cumin
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 bay leaf
1 1/2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs or breasts
1 tablespoon cider vinegar, plus more to taste, to finish (optional)
Fresh cilantro, chopped, for garnish (optional)
Your favorite hot sauce, to finish (optional)

1. Use your hands to lift the tomatoes out of the can, allowing the excess liquid to drip off, and crush them straight into your slow cooker insert. The liquid that comes from crushing and cooking the whole, peeled tomatoes is enough; discard or save for another use the liquid in which the tomatoes come packed.

2. To the insert with the crushed tomatoes, add the garlic, peppers, onion, and spices. Use clean hands or a spoon to give everything a quick stir.

3. Add the chicken on top, cover, and cook on high for 6 hours. (If your slow cooker has a different time setting, don’t stress—one hour more or less will not make a difference here.) If you have the time, remove the lid from your slow cooker and allow the chicken to cook uncovered for about 20 minutes at the very end. This will help cook off some of the juices so that your sauce isn’t too watery. Don’t worry too much about this, though, as the sauce for ropa vieja tends to be quite thin.

4. Finish the chicken with cider vinegar, if you choose, and serve over or alongside rice with green peas, topped with cilantro, hot sauce, and/or sliced avocado.

*Note: While there is nothing in this that is unsafe for younger eaters, I recommend sharing this with kids 10+ mos as a personal preference. I tend to keep from introducing meat until children can handle the texture without having to puree it. If you’ve chosen to introduce meat earlier you should, by all means, share this dish! Just pulse or puree to share this with eaters as young as 6+ months!

6 Responses

  1. Justinas says:

    This sounds perfect, I can’t wait to try it! Thanks for the recipe!

  2. Cindy says:

    This sounds delicious, but how can I cook this without a slow cooker?

  3. Rachel says:

    I’d also love to know how to make this without a slow cooker. Would a Dutch oven work?

  4. Seth says:

    About to make this! I just want to make sure that it’s 6 hrs on HIGH? Most slow cooker recipes I’ve done are 2hrs on HIGH or 6hrs on LOW.

  5. One Hungry Mama says:

    Hey @Seth – did you give it a try? I have an old school slow cooker that only gives me a few options and I use 6 on HI. Did it work for you? Hope so.

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