Bistec encebollado is a traditional Puerto Rican recipe featuring cube steak marinated in a flavor-packed combo of onions, sofrito and vinegar, before being stewed in a savory tomato based sauce. It’s pure Puerto Rican comfort food.
Bistec encebollado is the one recipe that I insist my mom makes whenever I’m visiting home. She’s in New Jersey, and I’m in Florida, so when I head up North to see her and the rest of the family, this dish is a must. It always reminds me of home, and definitely brings me back to my childhood with each bite. My sister and I would dip white bread into the delicious guiso (stew), it was our favorite part of this dish, so much so, that we’d end up eating a half a loaf of bread in one sitting!
What’s the best cut of beef to use for Bistec Encebollado?
Some people like using whole beef fillets, but I like cutting it into strips, because that’s how my mom makes it. The best cut of beef to use for this recipe is cube steak. Cube steak or cubed steak is a cut of beef, usually top round or top sirloin, tenderized and flattened by pounding with a meat tenderizer, or by using an electric tenderizer. The name refers to the shape of the indentations left by that process. This is the same kind of steak that’s used for chicken fried steak. Cube steak is also typically very economical, so it’s a great way to serve a delicious family dinner on a budget!
How Do You Make Bistec Encebollado?
Bistec encebollado translated to steak and onions, so those are the main components of this dish. Other key ingredients are sofrito, adobo and sazon, which are Puerto Rican staples in the kitchen. One element that gives this recipe its distinct flavor is vinegar. Once the cube steak is sliced into strips, I simply marinate it with olive oil, vinegar and the spices. After the beef marinates for a few hours, I add a bit of oil and sofrito to a Dutch oven, or caldero. Next comes the marinated beef, sliced onion, tomato sauce, water and powdered chicken bouillon. After all the ingredients are in the pot, I simply bring the whole mixture to a boil, then lower and simmer for 45 minutes, until the beef is tender and the onions practically melt into the sauce. You’ll end up with a delicious beef stew that gets even better after sitting in the fridge overnight! My mouth is watering just thinking about it.
What Should I Serve with Bistec Encebollado?
The delicious gravy from the bistec needs to be sopped up with rice, so that’s definitely a must! You can serve it with white rice, yellow rice or Arroz Con Gandules, which is one of the national dishes of the island! I would also serve some crusty bread on the side, so you can dip into the sauce, like my sister and I do! To round out the dish, I love serving fried sweet plantains or tostones (fried green plantains). Some sliced avocado, or a simple watercress salad would be a great addition as well.
Bistec Encebollado (Puerto Rican Steak and Onions)
Bistec encebollado is a traditional Puerto Rican recipe featuring cube steak marinated in a flavor-packed combo of onions, sofrito and vinegar, before being stewed in a savory tomato based sauce. It's pure Puerto Rican comfort food.
- 3 lbs cube steak, cut into strips
- 2 tbsp olive oil, divided
- 2 tsp Sazon seasoning (with culantro y achiote) 1 packet
- 1 tsp Adobo all purpose seasoning
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 3 tbsp vinegar whatever type you have is fine
- 1/4 cup sofrito
- 1 large Spanish onion, peeled and sliced into rings
- 8 oz can of tomato sauce
- 1½ cups water
- 1 tsp powdered chicken bouillon or 1 cube
Cut the cube steaks into strips and place them into a bowl or ziplock bag. Add 1 tbsp of olive oil, the vinegar, sazon, adobo and oregano. Toss to coat, and marinate for 1-2 hours in the refrigerator.
Heat a Dutch oven or caldero over medium heat. Add 1 tbsp of olive oil, the sofrito, and the marinated beef. Stir for 3-4 minutes to begin browning the meat.
Add the onions, tomato sauce, water and chicken bouillon. Stir to combine and bring the mixture to a boil.
Reduce the bistec encebollado to a simmer, cover with a lid and cook for 40-45 minutes, or until the beef is tender.
Serve with white rice and fried plantains.
I use this recipe all the time! Thank you!
I had a question. I purchased round bottom steak round since a friend recommended using that one. I cooked the meat for about 30 min and the longer it cooked the tougher and chewier the meat became. Is it because I didn’t pound it? Or is it better to buy the cube steak instead? Is it a more tender meat?
In the marinade I also put in 2-3 laurel leaves
This recipe took my family back to Puerto Rico. My husband is from Comerío and he had 2 plates of your recipe. Even my son who hates onions ate all his food. I am bookmarking this recipe!
Love it!! Everyone loved it! I followed the recipe and it came out delicious! I’ve been wanting to learn how to cook this for a while and every time I felt like it didn’t taste right. This recipe is perfect though. Can’t wait to try your pollo guisado recipe next! Thank you so much!
Let me tell you as a Puerto Rican women I just started making this as I type and it smells like I’ve been in the kitchen ALL DAY. I will be coming back with a review of the food but the smell is making my tummy very hungry.
I haven’t had this in years! Really looking forward to making it. Just curious as to the reason behind adding the onions in two separate batches? Does the first batch break down more, but the second stays more intact?
Judy en Texas
Yup that’s correct, I like seeing the onions at the end so that’s my logic for the 2 step process.
where do you read onions added in two parts cause i dont
My Tia passed away a couple of years ago and her bistec encebollado was so delicious. I’ve tried several recipes and nothing came close to hers. I found this recipe and this one is it! Thank you so much for sharing this recipe ❤
Great recipe. I keep seeing comments where people say they do not like cilantro, and ask if they can leave it out. Am I missing something? I do not see cilantro in the recipe. The CULANTRO in the sazon is NOT the same as CILANTRO. CULANTRO is Coriander. Culantro and Cilantro, are similar but not the same.
It’s one of the main ingredients in the sofrito.
The only difference between Coriander and Cilantro is that Cilantro is the leaves of the Coriandrum sativum plant, while Coriander are the dried seeds. Same plant, different parts. Some people don’t like any part of the plant. The names only exist so people know leaf from seed, but both parts are the same plant and some people will still refer to coriander as cilantro, such as people from the UK and other European countries. In the UK and other European countries it’s referred to as cilantro no matter what part of the plant is used, and that includes the seeds. Cilantro isn’t even the original name of that very native to Asia plant either, it’s dhania. Also, Cilantro is literally Spanish for Coriander.
I don’t like cilantro. Can I leave out the sofrito or leave cilantro out of sofrito?
Yes you can leave the cilantro out and replace with parsley if you like.
Hi Jannese, my first time making this dish today, it was absolutely delicious. Thank you.
What temperature may I use for the medium heat ?
Depends on your stove, if it’s electronic then it’s the center of your stove dial.
How can I make this without a Caldero?
Any heavy bottom pot is fine.
Hi Jannese, I love garlic and cilantro, can I add? Also I notice recipe does not call for salt, is it because adobo is being used.
Yes you can add whatever you like! And that’s correct, adobo is salty, so add salt to taste to adjust seasoning.
I never made this before but yesterday my pregnant sister was asking for this meal. So glad I came across your recipe!! I used pepper steak strips cause that’s all I had, added peppers and cilantro stems it came out soooo delicious. The meat was tender and the sauce was fantastic, can’t wait to eat the leftovers lol
Thank you Amanda!
I am so happy I came across this authentic recipe for a much loved dish. This is the first time I get results that are equal to my moms bistec! I did not add additional salt as the bit of adobo and chicken buillon suffice. The result was a tender and super tasty dish. Thank you for sharing — this will be my go to from now on.
Intenté preparar bistec encebollado con tres recetas diferentes, anteriormente, pero ninguna alcanzaba la calidad y sabor que logré con la suya. La receta me quedó como siempre los había recordado y saboreado. La seguiré porque me demostró que conoce muy bien la cocina puertorriqueña, y la manera en que condimentamos nuestros platos. Éxito en su carrera.
Best recipe ever!!! Tastes just like the restaurant. Can’t wait to try your other recipes.
Made this tonight and it was perfect! Already shared recipe with my sister and friends lol — oh and I also made sofrito and tomorrow we’re making pollo guisado! So glad I found you Jannese ❤️
From another Puerto Rican- this was freaking delicious. Five stars and will absolutely make it again. Thank you for the recipe
What tomato sauce do you use ? I notice you said sauce and not tomato paste . Also can you pls make a video making this ?
Just regular canned tomato sauce you’ll find it in the tomato aisle in your supermarket
Mira Doñita! Prenguntita…. En vez de picar la carne se podría hacer con el biftec entero?
Si seguro, lo vas a tener que cocinar para más tiempo hasta que esté blandito.
Thank you. Recipe was easy and it came out GREAT. I used chuck filets instead of cube steak. Delicious.
What number on the stove is low heat? 2 ? 5? Mine goes up to 9 then high. I just want to be sure.
Thank you! Have made this 3 times since I found your recipe. I love it, my family loves it and it is now one of my go to recipes. Gracias ❤️
Well…I finished it and it came out perfectly. Nitido!
I missread your instructions and started my marinade with the onions included, it’s marinating as we speak, We’ll see if it turns out. Lol
That’s perfectly fine. Either way works.
Im about to cook it and i seasoned the meat with sofrito before i found the recipe.do i still put in sofrito with the oil or is being on the meat enough.?
You can never have too much sofrito
Jannese you are a genius! Made it tonight and it was sooo delicious! Got tons of compliments but they should all go to you.
My sauce came out alittle watery how can I fix that? And I followed the exact recipe.
The sauce will not be thick, if you want to reduce it just cook longer or add a bit of corn starch that’s been dissolved in water.
How many people does this recipe serve?
If there were 10 stars I would give your recipe a 10! I have made Bistec Encebollado many times in the past from different recipes. This is the best and most authentic. I made it with white rice and maduros. So delicious! This will always be my go to recipe now. Thank you for another delicious meal!
Thank you so much!
Omg! I made this today going by your recipe and all I can say it taste amazing! This will be my way of making bistec encebollado from now on. Thank you so much for sharing!
Thank you so much, I’m glad you enjoyed it!