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    Bistec Encebollado (Latin Steak & Onions)

    How often do you scratch your head thinking what to do with some thin piece of steak? Think flank, skirt, cube or even sirloin steak. Well, I’ve got a great idea: why not turn it into Bistec Encebollado? It’s this amazing Spanish dish that’s packed with flavor, and you only need a few special ingredients to make it happen.

    This is what a typical Puerto Rican or Cuban momma cooks regularly. Why? It’s easy, it’s quick and it’s delicious in its simplicity. Bistec Encebollado, simply meaning Steak and Onions in Spanish. If you don’t know Bistec Encebollado… well, it’s about time you learn. 🙂

    A plate of steak with onions alongside white rice and tostones.

    Spanish Cuisine in Caribbean Countries

    Spanish food is very complex in flavor. It’s not hot or spicy, but always well seasoned and full bodied with the generous use of spices and herbs.

    Spanish speaking Caribbean countries like Puerto Rico, Cuba, Dominican Republic and many others have their roots in Spain, along with influences that can be traced to African slaves and natives of the region.

    Food can be a little different from island to island, and one key difference is the mix and proportions of the herbs and spices used in their stews or curries.

    Cubans are partial to cumin, Dominicans to oregano, and Puerto Ricans can’t imagine cooking anything without their beloved cilantro and culantro.

    The main essence of their cuisine is sofrito, which is nothing but a blend of a few herbs along with garlic, onion and some chili peppers. This mix forms the foundation of many dishes.

    Some islands have cooked sofritos and some make uncooked or raw. GypsyPlate has a great Puerto Rican style Sofrito.

    The other defining seasoning is adobo, which is a blend of salt and spices. Both of these Latin staples are very easily available in the Latin section of your grocery store, as can Sazon, which also goes in this recipe.

    What is Bistec Encebollado?

    Side view of our plate of bistec encebollado.

    The word bistec probably came into existence when Spanish speakers tried to say the English phrase “beef steak”. Bistec, when you abbreviate. Encebollado means “cooked with onions”. So put together it’s beef steak cooked with onions… simple.

    Steak with onions is something that generations grew up on in many different countries and cultures. Everyone might have their own preferred go to recipe, and it can be called different names from country to country.

    They might call this Bistec Ranchero in Mexico, Bistec de Palomilla in Cuba, Bistec a lo Pobre in Peru, or Bistek Tagalog in the Philippines… Yes, they do have a Filipino version of this steak that comes with a pile of onions.

    In most cases the piece of steak is marinated for quite a while with herbs and spices, olive oil, vinegar and lots of garlic. Vinegar not only helps tenderize the meat, but also imparts unbelievably delicious flavors.

    Here is my Puerto Rican style version of this classic comfort dish. You would need some latin staples, but in a pinch can try it without… though I couldn’t guarantee those unmistakable latin flavors.

    Extreme close up of steak and onions.

    What Cut of Meat to Use

    I personally think any steak would be great when you smother it with the amazing gravy. But traditionally they use any thin cuts of steak like skirt, cube, flank or sirloin.

    I am using flank today. Something that needs to be either quick cooked in a stir fry or simmered for a long time to get the same tender melt in your mouth effect. Steaks can be such an unforgiving piece of meat and need some TLC, unless you want to eat a dried out rubbery mess.

    In this case, it’s a little easier, as it will be simmered into smooth submission for some time.

    About Sofrito

    Homemade sofrito in a mason jar.

    As I mentioned above, this is one of their key ingredients. It’s basically a quick blend of cilantro + culantro (optional) + onion + garlic + green peppers. You can check my Sofrito post for more details.

    I understand making it is an extra step, but you can make a large batch and freeze it. In a pinch, you can buy it from the Latin aisle in your grocery store. You can altogether skip it, but your Bistec might miss that Latin punch. It can still turn up good if you increase the garlic and add chopped cilantro and onions to the marinade.

    Ingredients Needed

    • Steak
    • Sofrito
    • Goya sazon seasoning – Particularly Goya con culantro y achiote packet.
    • Adobo – It’s Latin seasoning salt. In its absence you can use regular salt.
    • Spices and herbs – Cumin, oregano, black pepper.
    • Garlic
    • Vinegar – Any vinegar is fine, I am using white vinegar.
    • Tomato sauce or crushed tomatoes
    • Onion
    • Olive oil

    How to Make Bistec Encebellado

    1. Marinate: I like to start by marinating the steak, and the longer it sits, the better. I recommend marinating it for at least 4-5 hours, or even from the morning if I’m planning to cook it for dinner. Some folks use whole steaks, but I usually cut them into strips before marinating to really let the flavors soak in.

    I just mix together some olive oil, vinegar, adobo, sazon, oregano, cumin, pepper, garlic, and sofrito. Then, I put the beef in this mixture and let it marinate in the refrigerator. It’s a simple step that makes a big difference in the flavor.

    Marinating strips of beef.

    2. Sear: When it’s time to cook, I give the steak a quick sear on both sides to get a nice brown color. This adds a delicious crust to the meat and locks in all those marinated flavors.

    3. Simmer: After searing the steak, I add the rest of the marinade to the pan along with a bit of water and start cooking it, covered. After about five minutes, I stir in some more sofrito and some tomato sauce, then keep cooking it covered until the steak is melt-in-your-mouth tender. Easy?

    Collage of four steps of this recipe.

    4. Oh… Don’t forget the onions :). You can just add sliced or rings of onions over the steak in the last few minutes of cook time.

    I feel already caramelized onions add more flavor to the dish, so sauté them in a bit of butter and olive oil before adding over the steak.

    There you go. Unbelievable tasting steak with onions.

    Finished product in a cast iron skillet.

    Serving Suggestions

    It is perfect with any kind of rice, be it over a pile of white rice, yellow rice or their Arroz con gandules.

    Stacks of tostones… check out our tostones post… or mudoros, their sweet plantains.

    It goes great with some kind of beans, like Habichuelas Guisadas or Frijoles Negros, or some avocado.

    Or you can have a piece of bread to sop up the gravy, but we skipped it to give more attention to Bistec. Ahmm… good decision!

    Some Variations

    1. You can make it a drier version by just frying the marinated steak along with marinade without any additional liquid. In this case, you just give it a quick stir fry, rather than simmering.
    2. You can skip adding tomatoes and follow the same recipe.
    3. Play with whatever herbs or spices you often use when cooking.
    4. Many island countries top it up with fried eggs and scarf it down for breakfast or brunch.
    5. Try topping it with sautéed peppers.

    Alpana’s Tips

    • Marination Time: I make sure not to rush the marination process. The longer the steak marinates, the deeper the flavors will penetrate. Marinating it overnight is really the best way to go for the most flavorful result.
    • Sofrito From Scratch: If I have the time, I always try to make homemade sofrito. Using fresh herbs and spices really amps up the flavors and makes a huge difference in the dish. It’s totally worth the extra effort!
    • Proper Cookware: I use a heavy-bottomed skillet or Dutch oven when cooking the steak because it helps with even heat distribution. This ensures the steak cooks uniformly, which really helps in making it tender and delicious.
    • Taste Test: Always taste the sauce midway through cooking.
    One more picture of our Latin supper.

    We personally fell in love with Puerto Rican food after our introduction to Picadillo, one of our most popular recipes on GypsyPlate. That led us to explore more of what’s out there. Go through all the great Puerto Rican Food we’ve cooked for you over the years, and see why we like it so much.

    I love sharing with you what we are discovering. Sharing is caring, right? Share GypsyPlate, subscribe to GypsyPlate and spread the love… love for good food. Thank you for making our mailing list increase as the days go by.

    I hope you make this amazing recipe and let us know when you share this with your loved ones. Take care…

    Bistec Encebollado, on our Gypsy Plate… With onions removed for my onionphobic husband!

    Steak, with onions removed and sautéed peppers added, on the Gypsy Plate.

    Try these other great Latin beef recipes!
    Beef Birria
    Caldo de Res
    Carne Guisada
    Lomo Saltado
    Carne Mechada
    Vaca Frita
    Carne Picada

    For more tropical flavors, check out my collection of the 40 best Caribbean Recipes!


    Bistec Encebollado (Steak & Onions)

    Yield: 4 servings
    Prep Time: 10 minutes
    Cook Time: 50 minutes
    Total Time: 1 hour

    Bistec Encebollado, simply meaning steak and onions in Spanish. If you don’t know Bistec Encebollado… well, it's about time you learn this Latin flavor bomb!


    To Marinate

    • 1.5 lbs flank steak (see note 1)
    • 1 Sazon Goya con culantro y achiote packet
    • 1 tsp adobo seasoning
    • 3 Tbsp sofrito
    • 3 Tbsp vinegar
    • 2 Tbsp garlic, chopped
    • 2 tsp oregano
    • 2 tsp cumin
    • 1 tsp pepper
    • 3 Tbsp olive oil

    For Bistec Encebollado

    • 8oz tomato sauce
    • 2 Tbsp sofrito
    • 2 Tbsp oil
    • 2 onions, sliced or cut into rings
    • 1 Tbsp butter


    1. Cut the steak into broad strips and marinate it with all marinade ingredients for at least 4-5 hours.
    2. Heat oil in skillet on medium high heat and quickly sear the steak without marinade on both sides. Once it is browned, add the rest of the marinade along with 1.5 cups of water and cook covered for 5 minutes.
    3. Stir in tomato sauce and sofrito. Mix well. cover and cook about 40-45 minutes, till the meat is tender. Stir occasionally. Adjust water according to the liquid consistency you want. Taste and adjust for seasoning like adobo.
    4. Sauté onion rings in butter and oil till slightly caramelized. Add in sautéed onions to the cooked beef in the last 5 minutes of cooking. (see note 2)
    5. Serve with rice along with tostones and black beans.


    1. Other cuts that work well with this recipe are skirt steak, flap steak or sirloin.
    2. Sautéing the onions is optional, but adds great flavor. If you skip this step and just use raw onions, add them in the final 10 minutes to allow them to fully cook.
    3. Some make this recipe without tomato. Experiment and see which you like better!
    4. If you have the time, making homemade sofrito can amplify the flavors considerably. Fresh herbs and spices make a world of difference!
    5. Leftovers refrigerate very well in an airtight container for 4-5 days. Simply reheat on stovetop over medium heat, adding in a splash of water if needed.

    Nutrition Information
    Yield 4 Serving Size 1
    Amount Per Serving Calories 594Total Fat 38gSaturated Fat 10gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 22gCholesterol 142mgSodium 698mgCarbohydrates 12gFiber 3gSugar 5gProtein 51g

    Nutrition information calculated by Nutritionix.

    Did you make this recipe?

    Please leave a comment on the blog or share a photo on Pinterest

    Picture of Alpana, blogger and recipe developer at GypsyPlate

    Welcome to GypsyPlate! I'm Alpana, former wordwide tour manager and professional caterer, now full time blogger. I love exploring cuisines from around the world, and my recipes have been featured on sites such as MSN, Parade, Brit + Co, CNET and AOL. You can explore my entire collection of sortable recipes in my Recipe Index or learn more about me here.

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