Ana’s Cuban Steak with Onions: Bistec Encebollado

Cuban steak bistec and rice and onions

This Cuban steak with onions or bistec encebollado is a family-favorite in the Illinois home of Ana Osadzinski (Colet). This abuela cocinera learned how to make this traditional recipe from her mother, when Ana was growing up in Bayamo, in Cuba’s Oriente province.

Traditionally, Cuban cooks use palomilla or top-round for this dish. The beef is thinly sliced in half (palomilla means “butterflied”), tenderized with a meat mallet, seasoned, breaded, and pan fried with silky sweet onions. This dish is Cuban comfort food at its most classic. It is so delicious, says Ana. And best of all: ”It’s so simple! You take a steak, pan fry it with onions, and that’s it.”

Ana and Sophie grandaughter steak onions bistec encebollado
Ana Osadzinski (Colet), one of our favorite Cuban abuela cocineras, shows her granddaughter Olivia, how to make bistec encebollado, a traditional classic dish.

Ana’s Cooking Tips for Making This Cuban Classic

And here’s the secret to getting the beef and onions tender, flavorful and juicy, says Ana. Be sure to 1) marinate the beef and 2) cook it over low heat—both for a long time. She likes to start seasoning the carne in the morning and put it in the fridge all day long to lets the flavors steep before cooking that night.

Bistec encebollado is one of the family-famous Cuban dishes specially requested by her kids for big occasions. “It’s my daughter in law’s favorite,” says Ana, reporting she will make it for Crystal’s birthday feast later that week. Her whole family loves it when she makes it. ”I also make ropa vieja for them. I make them arroz con pollo. I make them my picadillo with yuca and mojo on the side,” says Ana. ”They love all the traditional dishes.”

Ana Cuban steak onions bistec
To ensure the steaks stay moist, Ana coats each one in flour, eggs and bread crumbs before cooking.

The 3 Tweaks She Made to the Cuban Recipe

Since Ana moved with her family to the States at age 14, she has been eating and making this dish. Over the years, Ana has made several tweaks to her mother’s traditional recipe.

First, instead of palomilla, she prefers to use cube steak, an inexpensive cut of beef that’s already been flattened and tenderized. “You buy it at the store, already cubed,” Ana explains. “You know, they pound it, they put it through the machine. That’s how it gets all that flavor.”

Second, Ana has been known to use cubed pork instead of cubed beef. Saves her time, she says. Starting with pork cuts down the cooking time by more than half. “When you use beef, the steak has to cook more slowly, so that it’s tender,” says Ana. ”The pork is the easy way out”—and just as loved by her family.

And third (here’s the big cambio!), Ana breads the beef, dipping each steak in flour, egg and seasoned bread crumbs. Her classic of bistec encebollado should technically be called: bisctec encebollado y empanado. Coating it in the bread crumbs makes the meat extra juicy, Ana says. “It’s almost like a chicken-fried steak.”

Watch Belqui of Belqui’s Twist make Ana’s bistec encebollado y empanado—step by step!

How to Serve this Classic Cuban Dish

When ready to serve at your family feast, pile the sauteed onions high on the steak, says Ana. Add a side of freshly made white rice, stewed black beans, and plantain maduros or tostones for an authentic Cuban meal. Ana and her family also made one last, fourth tweak to the recipe. ”I like my onions on top of the rice. With ketchup,” she told us.

If you prefer to keep things traditionally Cuban, you can squeeze a little fresh lime over the steak and onions, grins Ana. She’ll stick with the ketchup, thank you. “Every family has their own thing.”

To try more of Ana’s family-famous Cuban recipes, try her Familia Kitchen Recipe Contest–winning ropa vieja, classic picadillo, and her always-requested yuca con mojo.

Ready to Make Cuban Steak with Pan-Fried Onions?

Ana’s Cuban Steak with Pan-Fried Onions—Bistec Encebollado

Recipe by Ana Osadzinski (Colet)
5.0 from 1 vote
Cuisine: Cuban


Prep time


Cooking time




  • 2 lbs cube steak, cut into 6 pieces

  • 1 tsp salt

  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper

  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder

  • 1/2 tsp onion powder

  • 1/2 tsp adobo

  • 2 to 3 yellow (Spanish) onions, large

  • 2 cups flour

  • 3 eggs, beaten

  • 1/4 cup milk

  • 2 cups bread crumbs with seasoning (Ana likes to use Italian)

  • 1 tsp salt

  • 1 tsp garlic powder, divided

  • 1 tsp onion powder, divided

  • 1 tsp oregano

  • 1 tsp cumin, divided

  • 1 tsp parsley (optional)

  • 1 tsp basil (optional)

  • 1/2 cup olive oil and/or avocado oil


  • Marinate the Meat
  • Rinse the steaks. Pat them dry. Season with salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, and adobo.
  • Slice the onions in half and then in thin rounds, each about 1/4-inch thick.
  • Place the meat in a glass container. Add the onion slices in between the seasoned cube steaks. Put the container in the fridge to marinate for at least 4 hours or overnight.
  • Make the Steaks
  • Bring the marinaded beef to room temperature.
  • In a bowl, combine the eggs and milk and beat by hand.
  • Lay out 3 bowls. Fill the first with flour, the second with the eggs mixture, and the third with the seasoned bread crumbs. Divide and mix in the spices—salt, onion powder, garlic powder, cumin and optional basil and parsley—equally across the 3 bowls.
  • Dip each cube steak in this order: first: flour, second: egg mixture, and third: bread crumbs. Set aside on a plate as you work.
  • Add about 2 Tbsp of the oil in a heavy frying pan over medium-low heat.
  • Place the meat in the pan, without crowding (use 2 frying pans or cook in batches) and slow cook, uncovered. Each side takes about 15 minutes to brown. Replenish the oil, as needed. Turn over when the breading looks golden and the meat is tender-cooked. Be sure to pan-fry on low heat—you don’t want to burn the breading, cautions Ana.
  • As the beef is slow-cooking, add the onions to the same pan. Stir occasionally, as needed. When the onions are sauted, golden brown and soft, place in a pyrex dish or glass bowl, covered with foil, to keep them tender and warm.
  • Serve the steaks hot, topped with the pan-fried onions and your choice of traditional sides for an authentic Cuban meal.


  • To make bistec encebolladothe the classic Cuban way, skip the breading and pan-fry the marinated beef and sliced onions on low heat for about 15 minutes per side.
steak onions bistec encebollado
Ana marinades the beef cube steaks with salt, black pepper, adobo, garlic powder and onion powder for 6 to 8 hours before cooking.
Ana, Crystal, Sophie grandaughter steak onions bistec encebollado
Ana’s granddaughter Olivia and daughter in law Crystal help make bistec encebollado and tostones. ”Keeping the tradition going,” says Ana.
Ana steak onions bistec encebollado
This is how Ana plates this family-favorite dish in her house: The steak and onions are served with white rice, tostones, a side salad, and ketchup, her condiment of choice.

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