Vegan Ropa Vieja

This vegan spin on classic Cuban ropa vieja features shredded soy curls in spicy sauce with juicy green olives and a sprinkle of fresh cilantro. A delicious protein-packed comfort food dinner that’s easy enough for a weeknight!

The “meat” portion of this dish is made with soy curls. Are you guys familiar with these things?

Normally, I like to avoid using meat substitutes in recipes that I post, with the exception of the kinds I’m capable of making from scratch, like seitan. But even though I don’t actually know how to make soy curls, my understanding is that they’re minimally processed, so I’m okay with using them.

Also, they’re really good! And no, this post is not in any way sponsored by the people who make soy curls. I just think they’re great.

How to Cook with Soy Curls

Vegan Ropa Vieja in a Cast Iron Skillet with Wooden Spoon

Soy curls come dehydrated, so you need to rehydrate them by soaking them for 10 minutes. If you soak them in broth, they’ll take up the flavor of the broth, making your recipe that much more delicious.

From there, you can use them much like you might other meat substitutes or seitan. I like to pan-sear them with a few spices for a quick salad topper or sandwich stuffer.

For more tips and great info on soy curls check out this post from Dianne’s Vegan Kitchen. She’s also got bunch more soy curl recipes for you to try at the bottom of the post!

How to Make Vegan Ropa Vieja

Ropa vieja is one of those dishes that’s traditionally super involved and time-consuming.

Well, awesome news: this vegan version is waaaaaay easier.

Start by soaking those soy curls like we talked about. After ten minutes you can drain them.

Then, to “shred” our soy curls, we’ll just slice them into strips along the grain. That’s it! The thinner your sliced strips, the more stringy your soy curl “meat” will be, so put in as much or little effort as you like.

Collage Showing Steps for Preparing Soy Curls for Making Vegan Ropa Vieja

Now heat up some olive oil in a skillet. Sauté some peppers and onions for a few minutes, then add some garlic and spices. Cook that for about another minute. Your kitchen should start to smell great!

At this point you can add your shredded soy curls. Cook them for just a few minutes until the excess broth dries up and your soy curls start to brown a bit. Now you can add your garlic and spices, and let everything cook for another minute.

Red wine goes in next. Traditional ropa vieja is made with white wine, but we’re using red here to amp up the meaty flavor. Let the wine simmer until most of it has cooked off.

Stir in some crushed tomatoes, soy sauce, red wine vinegar, and liquid smoke. Let everything simmer for a few minutes. You can add some water if the sauce gets too thick.

Collage Showing Steps for Cooking Vegan Ropa Vieja: Cook Peppers and Onions, Add Soy Curls, Add Wine and Add Tomatoes

Take your skillet off of the heat, stir in some green olives and sprinkle everything with some fresh cilantro.

Serve your vegan ropa vieja with rice.

Vegan Ropa Vieja on a Plate with Rice and a Fork

Vegan Ropa Vieja FAQ & Tips

  • Where can I find soy curls? I haven’t been able to find them in stores yet, so I order them online.
  • Is there a substitute for soy curls? None that I’ve tested with this particular recipe. You might be able to get jackfruit to work, using the cooking technique from this recipe, or seitan by using the method from this recipe to create shredded seitan. Or try a similar dish, such as my lentil picadillo.
  • Uncooked soy curls are perishable, so I recommend storing them in the refrigerator, or freezer for long-term storage.
  • Can this dish be made gluten-free? Yup! Just use gluten-free tamari instead of soy sauce.
  • Leftovers of this dish will keep in a sealed container in the fridge for about 3 days.
  • Is there a way to reduce the sodium in this dish? Most of the sodium comes from the vegetable broth and soy sauce. Try using reduced sodium varieties and/or cutting back on the amount of soy sauce.
  • Is there a substitute for the wine? You can leave it out if necessary. Just skip steps 10 and 11 of the recipe.
  • If you do use wine, check with Barnivore to ensure the brand you choose is vegan.

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Vegan Ropa Vieja

This vegan spin on classic Cuban ropa vieja features shredded soy curls in spicy sauce with juicy green olives and a sprinkle of fresh cilantro. A delicious protein-packed comfort food dinner that’s easy enough for a weeknight!

  • 6 ounces Butler Soy Curls
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, (sliced into strips)
  • 1 medium green bell pepper, (sliced into strips)
  • 1 small onion, (cut in half and then cut into half rings)
  • 4 garlic cloves, (minced)
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 cup dry red wine
  • 1 (14 ounce or 400 gram) can crushed tomatoes
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke
  • 2/3 cup pimento-stuffed green olives, (halved)
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro
  • Cooked rice, (for serving)
  1. Place the soy curls into a medium bowl and pour the vegetable broth over them.

  2. Allow the soy curls to soak for 10 minutes.

  3. When the soy curls have finished soaking, drain any excess vegetable broth.

  4. Place the soy curls on a cutting board, then use a large knife to slice each soy curl into thin strips running the length of the soy curl, creating a shredded texture.

  5. Coat the bottom of a large skillet with the olive oil and place it over medium-high heat.

  6. When the oil is hot, add the peppers and onion.

  7. Cook the peppers and onion for about 5 minutes, until they begin to tenderize and the onion starts to brown in spots.

  8. Add the shredded soy curls to the skillet. Cook for about 5 minutes, flipping occasionally, until they begin to dry up and brown in spots.

  9. Add the garlic, cumin, smoked paprika, sweet paprika, allspice, and cayenne pepper. Cook everything for about 1 minute, until the mixture becomes very fragrant.

  10. Stir in the wine and bring it to a simmer.

  11. Lower the heat and allow the wine to simmer until most of it has cooked off, about 4 minutes.

  12. Stir in the tomatoes, soy sauce, vinegar, and liquid smoke.

  13. Bring the mixture to a simmer and let it cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens up slightly.

  14. Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in the olives. Season the mixture with salt to taste.

  15. Sprinkle with cilantro, divide onto plates and serve with rice.

Nutrition information does not include rice.

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