Steak and Onions, known as Bife Acebolado in Portuguese, is a classic recipe in many households all over the world. It’s simple comfort food that is easy enough for a midweek dinner, and special enough for a Sunday dinner. Besides, it’s one of those classics you’ve gotta know how to make!
Steak and onions are a match made in heaven. They’re simple, but can feel fancy, which means you can dress this recipe up or down depending on your mood, day of the week and what you serve them with. And by the way, I have casually left you a list of sides that pair wonderfully with this recipe at the end of the post, too.
This steak and caramelized onions are made with very few ingredients, like 5-ish — but it might just be one, the steak, if you’re like me and always have oil, soy, butter, onions and Brazilian sofrito at home.
If you don’t, these are mostly inexpensive ingredients, too, so you can spend all your bucks on a nice cut of beef. You deserve it, amigos!! I said so!
I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I do!
Ingredients and tools
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- Top sirloin steaks—or any good cut of beef that you love. Ribeyes and New York Strips work wonderfully, too.
- Onions—yellow or white onions are best. The idea is to have about a quarter onion per steak. I like to cut them thick, but you can cut them thin if you like. I personally like when the onions hold their shape rather than disintegrate, which they do when they are too thin…. and there’s no fear of biting into pieces of onion because they’re delightfully caramelized.
- Brazilian Sofrito—or minced garlic
- Unsalted butter
- Grape seed oil—or any other high smoke point oil
- Soy sauce—you may use a lower sodium soy sauce if you’re sensitive to salt.
- Salt and freshly cracked black pepper
You’ll also need:
- Cast Iron Skillet—while you could use a large skillet in a pinch, I really encourage using cast iron to cook this recipe.
- Kitchen tongs
- Instant read meat thermometer
How to make Steak and Onions
Season the steaks. We’ll season the steaks cool from the fridge with salt and pepper on both sides. Let the steaks sit on the counter for 10-20 minutes so the salt penetrates through the meat and so that the temperature starts to warm.
Heat a cast iron skillet over high heat. We need to make sure the skillet is piping hot. A great way to test is to splash a little water into it. When it sizzles and disappears instantly, the iron is hot and ready to go.
Oil the steaks. Rather than add oil to the pan, we rub the steaks with the oil. This helps us get a nice color on the steaks, as well as prevent smoking while it cooks from too much oil in the pan.
Getting that Perfect Sear
When the pan is hot, reduce the heat to medium high heat. Add the steaks one to two at a time, depending on the size pan you’re using, to avoid crowding.
If you add too much to the pan, the temperature will cool too fast. You won’t get a good sear, and your steaks will not cook nicely.
Cook undisturbed. Let the steaks sizzle on medium high, undisturbed. This means to resist the urge to flip them over and over again…
Slide them with tongs and if they move and unstick from the pan, they’re ready to turn.
Flip and repeat on the other side and cook to your desired doneness. Use a meat thermometer to track this.
If your steak has a fat cap, don’t forget to get a nice sear on the fat, too! Hold the steak with tongs and press the fat down on the hot skillet to render that fat out.
The time it takes to cook your steak to perfection will depend on the steak’s thickness. Here are some guidelines for 1.5″ thick steaks:
Rest. Not you!! The steaks! Remove the steaks from the pan, and place them on a cutting board to rest.
Please note your steak will continue to cook as it rests, so remove the steaks from the pan when they’re 5 degrees from desired doneness. For example, if you want a medium rare steak, cook it until 130F, then remove from heat and let it rest until it reaches 135F.
How to make Caramelized onions for Steak
Making caramelized onions for steak is easier than it sounds!
Just drizzle the pan you cooked the steaks in with olive oil and quickly add in the onions, and season with salt and pepper. Go easy on the salt because we add soy at the end, too.
That said, adding the salt is important because it pulls moisture from the onions and will help us deglaze the skillet. It will also pull that caramelization from the steak to infuse the onions with delicious meaty flavor.
Splash and Saute. When the onions start to caramelize, splash water in the pan, a few tablespoons at the time. This helps bring the temperature in the pan down, as well as deglaze any browned bits stuck to the pan.
When the water evaporates, the onions will continue sautéing and browning. Too much water will prevent them from browning, so add a tiny splash at a time until the onions are completely wilted and caramelized.
More aromatics. When the onions are done, make space in the middle of the pan and add a tablespoon of butter and the Brazilian sofrito. Cook until the garlic is fragrant and golden brown.
Salty umami. Then, in the end, add the soy and finish with the rest of the butter. This combination adds in a deeper depth of flavor. Combined with the steak, it’s glorious!
Add the steaks back. Turn off the heat, and return the steaks to the pan to “re-warm” just for a few seconds in that onion goodness.
Cut the steak, and you are ready to go!
How to serve Steak with Caramelized Onions
But you can also enjoy it with:
- Instant Pot Garlic Mashed Potatoes
- Mashed Yuca
- Vegan Potato Salad
- Carrot Rice
- Farofa | Toasted Cassava Flour
- Baked Asparagus with Parmesan
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Steak and Onions
- 4 beef top sirloin steaks about 2 pounds total
- 2 small/medium onions, sliced about 1/4 onion per steak
- 1 tablespoon of Brazilian Sofrito or 3 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1/2 cup of water
- 2 tablespoons of unsalted cold butter
- 1 teaspoon grape seed oil or any other high smoke point oil
- 1 teaspoon of soy sauce
- salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste
- Season cold steaks with salt and pepper on both sides, and let it sit on the counter 10-20 minutes.
- Heat up a cast iron skillet over high heat.
- Rub steaks with the oil and when the pan is hot, add the steaks (two at a time). Lower the heat to medium high.
- Cook on medium high, undisturbed. The steaks are ready to turn when they unstick from the pan. Flip and repeat on the other side and cook to the desired doneness. Use a thermometer to track the temperature, and remember that the steaks will continue to cook as they rest, so remove them when they are within 5 degrees of your desired temperature.
- Remove the steaks from the pan, and place them on a cutting board to rest.
- Drizzle with the pan with olive oil and quickly add in the onions. Season with salt and pepper, and stir. (Go light on the salt since we are adding soy sauce at the end.)
- Cook the onions and when they start to brown, splash in some the water, a few tablespoons at the time. Keep cooking, and when the water evaporates, and the onions start to brown, splash some more water into the pan. Repeat until the onions are completely wilted and caramelized.
- When the onions are done, make a spot in the middle of the pan. Add one tablespoon of butter and the Brazilian sofrito and cook until the garlic is fragrant and golden.
- Pour in the soy and finish with the other tablespoon of butter.
- Turn off the heat, and return the steaks to the pan to "re-warm" and serve immediately.