Inter Foods : Ep1


INTERNATIONAL FOODS : PEPITO (MEXICAN STEAK SANDWICH)

by Thomas M. Tillman
This Pepito (Mexican steak sandwich) recipe combines juicy pieces of steak with beloved Latin American flavors like luscious avocado, creamy beans, and spicy jalapeños. These easy pepito sandwiches are sure to please, and only take about 20 minutes (or less) to make!
A Mexican pepito sandwich with steak and avocado filling in a baguette on a rustic plate.
(This recipe was originally published in May 2017, but was updated with new photos and content in 2021). Although tacos may reign supreme in the arena of Mexican foods, let's not overlook the almighty Mexican torta, or Mexican sandwich. The term pepito originates in Spain and can refer to a variety of sandwiches containing steak, pork or even chicken. While there are many varieties of Mexican sandwiches or tortas, a pepito is also a specific type of Mexican steak sandwich which is quite different from its American counterparts. A pepito sandwich is also a very popular Venezuelan street food! There are many ways to customize a pepito sandwich by changing up the toppings or even the type of bread, but the combination below is truly stellar and one I highly recommend. The result is a well-balanced sandwich with a myriad of flavors and textures. Simultaneously crispy and chewy bread encases juicy, tender steak. The creaminess from the refried beans and avocado mingles with the crunch and sharpness of the onion. Finish with a hint of tang and spiciness from mustard and pickled jalapeños. It really is one helluva sandwich.

INGREDIENT NOTES

Ingredients for Mexican steak sandwiches on a grey concrete background.
  • Beef: Use any tender cut of beef that you would enjoy as steak (not the types of cuts you'd use for stews). I recommend beef tenderloin, ribeye (pictured in this post), strip steak, or even sirloin steak tips. Make sure to slice the steak thinly into ¼-inch thick slices against the grain.
  • Baguette: Divide a baguette into 4 equal pieces to make 4 of these pepito sandwiches. You can easily swap out the baguette for 4 large soft hoagie style rolls or buns if you prefer though they won't have the same crispy/chewy texture of the baguette (which in my opinion is perfection).
  • Refried Black Beans: There are many brands of canned refried black beans which you can find in the Latin American foods aisle in supermarkets. You could also use traditional refried beans (made with pinto beans) if you prefer.
  • Pickled Jalapeños: Although you can absolutely purchase canned or jarred pickled jalapeño slices, I highly recommend making homemade pickled jalapeños using my easy recipe. They are THE BEST pickled jalapeños you'll ever have, and really take this pepito sandwich to another level.
A baguette filled with steak, sliced onion and avocado with the bread lid on the side.

HOW TO MAKE IT

Lay sliced beef on a large plate, and season generously with salt and pepper. Pour the Worcestershire sauce and squeeze the lime over the beef and lightly toss to coat. Heat a large skillet over high heat and add enough oil to coat the bottom of the skillet in a very thin layer. Working in batches to avoid crowding the skillet, cook the beef until browned on both sides, 30 to 45 seconds per side. Transfer the beef to a clean plate to rest. Cover loosely with aluminum foil just to keep it warm. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Carefully wipe down the interior of the skillet with a slightly damp paper towel (use tongs to grip it). Spread the soft butter evenly over the cut sides of the baguette. Toast the baguette pieces (in batches if needed), buttered sides down, in the skillet until they are light golden brown and crisp, but still soft in the middle, a minute or two.
Various ingredients for Pepito Mexican steak sandwiches arranged on a work surface prior to assembling.
To assemble each pepito, spread a layer of refried beans over the baguette bottoms. Then spread the mayonnaise and mustard over the baguette tops (PHOTO 1). Arrange the beef slices on the baguette bottoms on top of the beans (PHOTO 2).
Step-by-step photos of assembling Mexican steak sandwiches on a wooden board.
Top with sliced pickled jalapeños, thinly sliced white onion, slices of ripe Mexican Hass avocado, and finally a pinch of salt (PHOTOS 3-4).
Step-by-step photos of assembling Mexican steak sandwiches on a wooden board.
Cover with the baguette tops and press firmly but gently. Enjoy!

EXPERT TIPS

You can easily halve the recipe to make 2 portions, quarter it to make a single sandwich, or multiply it to feed a crowd. These Mexican steak sandwiches are absolutely delicious even at room temperature so don't stress if you can't serve them piping hot to guests. The steak cooks very quickly! Prep your bread and toppings beforehand. Slice the avocado last, and squeeze a little lime over the top to keep it from browning. This way you are ready to assemble the moment the steak is cooked and the bread is toasted. Feel free to get creative with the toppings and step outside of the box. As pepitos have origins in Spain and are extremely popular in Venezuela too, you can try omitting some of the more Mexican flavors here (like the refried beans) and perhaps swap the sliced avocado for Guasacaca (Venezuelan avocado salsa) or even add some grated cheese!
Closeup of a crispy baguette sandwich filled with steak, jalapenos, mayonnaise, and avocado.
 

Ingredients

  • 1 pound boneless beef tenderloin, strip or ribeye steaks, or sirloin steak tips, trimmed of excess fat and sliced into ¼-inch thick slices
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 generous teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • ½ juicy lime
  • Olive or vegetable oil
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 baguette, cut into 4 equal pieces and split
  • ½ cup refried black beans, (or traditional refried beans made with pinto beans) homemade or canned
  • 3 tablespoons mayonnaise or Mexican crema
  • 4 teaspoons Dijon or yellow mustard
  • Sliced pickled jalapenos for topping
  • Thinly sliced white onion for topping
  • Sliced ripe Mexican Hass avocado for topping

Instructions

  • Lay the sliced beef on a large plate, and season generously with salt and pepper on both sides. Pour the Worcestershire sauce and squeeze the lime over the beef and lightly toss to coat.
  • Heat a large skillet over high heat and add enough oil to coat the bottom of the skillet in a very thin layer (if your skillet is nonstick use even less). Working in batches to avoid crowding the skillet, cook the beef until browned on both sides, 30 to 45 seconds per side. Transfer the beef to a clean plate to rest. Cover loosely with aluminum foil just to keep it warm.
  • Reduce the heat to medium-low. Carefully wipe down the interior of the skillet with a slightly damp paper towel (use tongs to grip it). Spread the soft butter evenly over the cut sides of the baguette. Toast the baguette pieces (in batches if needed), buttered sides down, in the skillet until they are light golden brown and crisp, but still soft in the middle, a minute or two. Remove from the heat and arrange tops and bottoms side by side on a work surface for assembly.
  • Spread a layer of refried beans (a tablespoon or two) over the baguette bottoms. Spread the mayonnaise and mustard over the baguette tops. Arrange the beef slices on top of the bean layer on the baguette bottoms, cutting and stacking if necessary so they fit neatly. Top with sliced pickled jalapenos, thinly sliced white onion, slices of ripe Mexican Hass avocado, and finally a pinch of salt. Cover with the baguette tops and press firmly but gently.