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Bistec Palomilla Cuban STeak Recipe

Bistec de Palomilla (The Classic Cuban Steak Recipe)

This Bistec de Palomilla Recipe is going to take you step by step to making a perfect classic cuban steak. We are breaking down for you what a palomilla is, where to find it, and how to season and cook it to its greatest potential.

The ability to cook and serve a good Bistec de Palomilla should be considered an art form. A classic Cuban Steak is it’s own love language. There was no greater expression of love, than a perfectly cooked Bistec de Palomilla covered in onions served over white rice and covered with freshly cooked french fries.

It didn’t matter the time… If you walked into my Abuela Oliva’s house she would always ask “Tienes hambre?” Before you could answer there was a steak swimming in olive oil and she was taking out plastic placemats. She would serve the palomilla with white rice and a mountain of freshly cut fries. There was no better meal.  


I lived for Yaya’s Bistec with arroz blanco and papitas. Each time I would pop into her house, she would pull a bistec out of her drawer and cook it up for me with fresh papitas. It just made me feel so special. Even though I knew she would do it for any of her grandchildren when they came to see her, it still felt special. Like it was just for me. I knew my husband was the one, when we went to visit her one day and she offered to make it for him. He was in. A keeper. Her biggest stamp of approval. We make this meal on Sundays now for the kids. I can’t think of any one meal that gives this much love and comfort. The perfect meal.


Let’s Start at the Beginning: What is a Palomilla?

Palomilla steak is a thinly cut top sirloin. Top sirloin is a very tender lean cut of meat, which is perfect for the traditional thin cut of the palomilla. It’s incredible how tender and flavorful your steak can be considering how thin it is and fast it cooks.

The reason the palomilla is so flavorful is because of all the marinating and seasoning. We encourage you to try to marinate your steak overnight if you can, or even just a few hours prior to cooking. However we will tell you that leaving it just for 30 minutes can also do the trick if you are short on time.

The second thing you want to remember is to be very generous when seasoning your steak. It’s a thin cut, so give it that injection of flavor that it so desperately wants.

How to Cook the Palomilla

Both of our Abuelas would shallow fry the steaks in a lot of oil. However, the truth is you don’t need to do that to get an amazing result. In this recipe we are doing something a little more heart healthy. Instead we are marinating them in olive oil and then adding just a little more to the pan to get them crispy. It’s a lot less than most grandmothers would approve of but it doesn’t make any difference. God bless our Abuelas, but they really didn’t consider fitting into jeans when they cooked.

The truth is, in it’s purest form- this meal isn’t diet friendly. You want ot serve it with the Perfect White Rice and Papitas Fritas. But if you are trying to keep it light, the bistec with cebolla would go great with a fresh salad or Roasted Veggies.

The Perfect White Rice
The Perfect White Rice

Our Tips for a Perfect Bistec de Palomilla (The Classic Cuban Steak Recipe):

  • The thin palomilla is the most moist and tender just as it is getting placed on the plate. As it sits it could get tough. 
  • When shopping for palomilla you want to look for any of the following: top round steak, top sirloin or canada. Palomilla is a very thin steak from any of these cuts of meat.
  • Since it could be on the tougher side, the lime juice helps to breakdown the meat. 
  • If the steaks are very long it’s best to cut them in half. This will make them more manageable when you are cooking them. 
  • Try not to overcrowd the pan. If you are making a lot of steaks work with two pans to make it faster.
  • Try using a Cast Iron Skillet like THIS one if you have, if not a regular non stick pan will do.
  • *** Pollo a la Plancha is the same technique but the chicken will take a little longer to cook. Use very thinly sliced chicken. Marinate the same way. Cook the chicken on medium high to be sure both sides are seared for 3 minutes, but then drop the temperature to low and cook another 7-9 minutes making sure the chicken is cooked through.

Bistec de Palomilla (The Classic Cuban Steak Recipe)

Recipe by Abuelas Cuban CounterCourse: Entree


Prep time


Cooking time






  • 4 to 6 thinly sliced top sirloin or top round steaks (if you like it very thin, you can ask the butcher to pass it through the tenderizing machine or you can pound them to make more tender and thin)

  • 10 cloves of garlic, smashed 

  • 1/4 cup of olive oil for the marinade, plus more for cooking 

  • 2 teaspoons Abuela’s Sazon

  • 4 medium onions, thinly sliced 

  • 1/4 cup of parsley, roughly chopped 

  • juice of 2 limes and limes

  • Garnish and serve with limes and parsley. Some people like to top their steaks with chopped white onion as well. 


  • Start with Marinating: Place the steaks in a bowl or a bag. Marinate the steaks with the garlic, oil and lime juice. Season each side with the Sazon and salt. Give it a mix so everything is evenly coated. Then add the garlic and onions to each layer of the steaks. Try to marinate for a few hours or overnight. But minimum let it stay in marinade for 30 minutes. Truth is: if you can’t you will be fine.
  • Heat a sauté pan to medium high heat. Add 1-2 tablespoons of oil. Every time you are going to fry a steak. 
  • Once the pan is hot, shake off some of the marinade from the steaks and add them to the oil with a few pieces of garlic and some onion. 
  • Cook the steaks 2-3 minutes per side.  
  • Once the steaks are ready remove them onto a plate but continue to cook the onions in the pan and add in more onions if you’d like. Cook on medium-high for 7-10.  They should be browning in the edges and getting soft.
  • If your pan is very caramelized at the bottom, add a few tablespoons of water to deglaze the crispy bits on the pan. Let it cook on high for 2 minutes and you can add the onions with the liquid to the steaks.Serve with parsley and lime wedges.