Cuban Dishes,  Dinner,  Ethnic Foods,  Lunch

Bistec Empanizado (Cuban Breaded Steak)

Cuban Breaded Steak (Bistec Empanizado) via

It is almost September, and I am nearing one year of residence in Tennesse (wow!). These last few months have been a whirlwind. Between starting a new job, finally getting to move in with my husband, and buying a house, life has seldom slowed down. But the onset of Fall brings wonderful things, and this time it has brought a small spot of peace and quiet in an otherwise crazy life. Today, I want to share with you a recipe that I learned from my mother. When I was little, this was one of our “tag team” recipes. When you have to bread meat, it is a good idea to have a ‘little helper’ to be the dry hands or the wet hands, depending on your preference. It’s not only a great bonding experience, it’s also a good first lesson on working with raw meat (which, let’s face it, can be pretty off-putting at first).

Cuban Breaded Steak (Bistec Empanizado) via

Growing up, I was a little confused by the term “steak.” You see, in our household, steak was a very thin slice of meat, well-seasoned, and well-done. Imagine my surprise when I encountered the barely-seasoned, thick-cut steak that is the American standard. Where were the garlic, the onions – why was the meat so thick? Wait, people actually eat this stuff RAW (to me, ‘pink’ was raw)?! Needless to say, I have come a long way in my steak eating adventures. And, yes, now I will also eat medium-well steaks.

Cuban Breaded Steak (Bistec Empanizado) via

But, let me take you on a little trip to our Cuban home, where breaded and fried Cuban steak was the ultimate ‘treat’ meal. It’s an aroma that inundates the house – you know it as soon as you walk in. As a kid, the smell of ‘Bistec Empanizado’ triggered an instant run-to-the-kitchen-just-to-verify.  It was glorious. To this day, I’ve never met a person who didn’t love this dish (save a few vegetarians who, to be fair, have never tried it). It is a staple at Cuban restaurants, and it is a traditional dish in Cuban homes.

Cuban Breaded Steak (Bistec Empanizado) via


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Bistec Empanizado (Cuban Breaded Steak)
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
This traditional Cuban steak is seasoned to perfection, then breaded and fried to a crisp golden brown. Be prepared to see mouths watering all around you as you fry up this treat.
Cuisine: Cuban
Serves: 6 Steaks
For the marinade:
  • 1.5 lbs Top Sirloin Steak, thin cut (At Publix, ask for setting "4" on the meat slicer, this is almost down to ⅛th inch)
  • 5-6 cloves fresh garlic, minced (avoid jarred garlic for this recipe)
  • 1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 1.5 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp pepper
  • ¼ tsp garlic powder
  • ¼ tsp ground cumin

For breading and frying:
  • 2 sleeves saltines (unsalted)
  • ½ tsp Lawry's garlic salt
  • 4 eggs, beaten, in a medium bowl
  • 2.5 cups oil for frying (I use Canola oil)
To marinate:
  1. Spread your steaks out on a clean, flat surface (I use a large cutting mat).
  2. Using your hands, evenly spread all of the garlic onto the surface of your steaks and rub it in gently.
  3. Sprinkle half of the salt over the surface of your steaks.
  4. Sprinkle half of the pepper onto the surface of your steaks.
  5. Sprinkle all of the ground cumin and garlic powder over your steaks.
  6. Turn the steaks over, and add the remaining salt and pepper to your steaks.
  7. Turn the steaks back over, and evenly pour the cider vinegar over your steaks.
  8. Cover the surface of each steak with the sliced onions.
  9. Stack your steaks until they are all in one pile with onions in-between each layer. Place the stack in a gallon ziploc bag and seal.
  10. Let the steaks marinate in the fridge for at least one hour, or up to overnight.
For breading and frying:
  1. In a blender or food processor, blend the saltines until they form a fine powder. Spread half of the powder over a flat plate or in a wide, shallow dish.
  2. Add the garlic salt to the eggs and beat well.
  3. Prepare a station with the eggs in a bowl, then the plate of saltine crumbs and the remaining crumbs in a bowl next to it.
  4. Take out your steaks and separate them from the onion slices.
One steak at a time, do the following:
  1. Dip the steak in the egg, making sure the whole surface of the steak gets egg on it.
  2. Lay the steak over the cracker crumbs in the shallow dish and use some of the remaining half of the crumbs to cover the top of the steak. Gently press in the crumbs onto all sides of the steak until the surface is covered. Turn the steak over and ensure that both sides are covered in crumbs. Let the excess crumbs fall back onto the plate, and lay the steak aside. Repeat with all filets.
When you're ready to fry:
  1. Heat the oil in a 10 inch skillet over medium high heat.
  2. To test the oil's heat, drop in a few cracker crumbs - the oil should immediately get bubbly around the crumbs and begin to fry.
  3. Once the oil is hot, slowly drop in the steaks, but only in one layer. Do not crowd the pan.
  4. Fry the steaks for 3 minutes, and then flip to the other side. Fry for 1.5-2 more minutes, making sure the breading is nice and golden brown and crunchy.
  5. Remove the steaks onto a plate with a paper towel over it to catch the excess oil.
  6. When you are done frying, remove all but 1 tbsp of the oil from the pan. Saute the onions from the marinade over medium heat until they begin to caramelize.
  7. Enjoy!
This recipe can also be used to make regular Cuban steak. Simply skip the breading and frying part. Instead, heat up a skillet with 1 tbsp of Olive Oil over medium high heat. Add in the steaks, and pour the marinade and onions on top of the steaks (cook in one even layer - you may need to cook in batches). Add in a little bit of water. Cover and cook for 10 minutes. Uncover, turn the steaks over and finish cooking (a little bit of charring on the steaks is a good thing). Remove the steaks and continue to cook the onions over medium heat until they begin to caramelize.


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  • Maria Vicente

    This steak makes my mouth water and add some white rice, black beans and maduros with a salad of lettuce, tomatos, cucumber and avocado with salt, black pepper and olive oil, oh boy. We often had steak growing up in a Cuban household, whether it was Bistec de Palomilla empanizado o Milanesa as it’s also called al estilo Cubano… ah those days… my parents were great cooks and to this day I can cook too but not like them. Enjoy this steak everyone! Buen provecho!

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