The jibarito sandwich is a hunger buster filled with garlic and lime marinated ribeye steak and comes topped with popular sandwich toppings like juicy tomatoes, crisp lettuce, and onions. Its uniqueness comes from its “bun”, which is crafted from two large tostones—twice-fried green plantains. A blend of mayonnaise and ketchup, known as mayo-ketchup, stands in for traditional condiments usually found on sandwiches like this one.
Jibaritos are a Chicago recipe with ties to Puerto Rico. Juan “Peter” Figueroa created this plantain and steak sandwich in his Borinquen Restaurant, which was located in the Puerto Rican enclave of Humboldt Park in Chicago, Ilinois. Using ingredients common to traditional Puerto Rican meals, he combined them into a hearty sandwich, which he then named after the beloved countryside dwellers of Puerto Rico:jibaros.
Puerto Rican cuisine is known for its vibrant and bold flavors. The steak for these jibaritos is marinated in a lime and garlic marinade that is popular in Puerto Rican recipes. Allow the steak to marinate for at least 1 hour before pan frying them to get the most flavor in your sandwiches, but no longer than 12 hours (or overnight) as it tends to become tough when marinated too long.
Adobo is an all-purpose seasoning that gives your dishes tons of flavor with minimal effort. It’s a salt-based spice blend that has heavy notes of garlic, onion, pepper, and cumin. You can make your own at home or purchase it pre-made in bottles. It’s usually located in the Hispanic foods section of the grocery store.
One of the key components in a jibarito sandwich is the absence of a traditional bun. Instead of using bread to hold the substantial fillings, the sandwich is made with thick twice-fried green plantains, called tostones.
Plantains are the larger, starchier cousins of yellow bananas. Usually, they are sold individually, not in bunches. Selecting the perfect plantains for this recipe is easier than you may think: look for bright green plantains that are firm like a potato when pressed. If your plantains have a bit of yellow on the peel, that’s okay, just avoid any that are mostly yellow or have darkened to black, as they will be too sweet and soft for this recipe.
To prepare them for the recipe, you first need to peel them. If you’re preparing these jibaritos for big appetites, you can slice a plantain down its length and use one per sandwich. For smaller appetites, cut the plantain in half across its girth, then slice the halves in half lengthwise to create 4 slabs.
The most popular toppings for jibaritos are green leaf lettuce, tomatoes, red onions, and mayo-ketchup. Cheese is added to discretion, but my family of cheese lovers can’t go without a few slices of mozzarella or gouda on our jibaritos.
You might like to add some of these to your sandwiches:
- Crisp dill or bread and butter pickle slices
- Ripe avocado slices
- Potato matchstick chips (found in the chips section of the grocery store)
- A little heat in the form of hot sauce or a spicy relish
Jibarito sandwiches are a three napkin (or more) type of meal. Things can get a little messy when you’re eating them, which is why I prefer to make mine with whole ribeye steaks instead of sliced meat. If you prefer the sliced meat version, you can swap the ribeyes in this recipe with flank steak, cooked to medium and sliced across the grain.
Some other meat options:
- Skirt steak
- Boneless, skinless chicken thighs or breasts
- Sliced roast beef
For a vegetarian version of the jibarito, consider marinating portobello mushrooms or jackfruit with this recipes marinade before cooking.
Cook time can vary slightly depending on the temperature of your finished steaks.
This recipe calls for 1 1/2 tablespoons of adobo seasoning. Feel free to use 1 tablespoon for a lower sodium option.
- Juice of 3 medium limes (about 1/3 cup)
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- 4 cloves garlic, mashed to a paste
- 1 1/2 tablespoons adobo (homemade or store-bought)
- 2 teaspoons onion powder
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 2 pounds boneless, thin-cut ribeye steaks (about 4 thin-cut steaks)
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise
- 1/3 cup ketchup
- Juice of 1 lime (about 1 1/2 teaspoons)
- 1 teaspoon granulated garlic
- 3/4 teaspoon adobo (or kosher salt)
- 4 medium green plantains
- Vegetable oil, for frying plantains
- 4 to 8 slices mozzarella cheese
- Green leaf lettuce leaves
- 1 ripe beefsteak tomato, sliced
- 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced in rings
- Prepare the steak marinade:
In a quart mason jar, combine the lime juice, vegetable oil, garlic paste, adobo, onion powder, oregano, cumin, and black pepper. Screw the lid on tightly and shake the jar vigorously for 40 seconds to 1 minute until the ingredients are well combined.
- Marinate the steaks:
Pour the marinade into a shallow dish or sturdy zip-top food storage bag. Add the ribeye steaks to the marinade, flipping each to coat. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour, and up to 12 hours.
- Mix the mayo-ketchup:
In a 1-quart mixing bowl, combine the mayonnaise, ketchup, lime juice, granulated garlic, and adobo until smooth.
Cover the mixing bowl and refrigerate the mayo-ketchup until you’re ready to assemble the sandwiches. The mayo-ketchup can be prepared 5 days in advance and stored in the refrigerator.
- Peel and cut the plantains:
20 minutes before you plan to sear the steaks, peel the plantains by cutting 1/2 inch off each end to remove the stems. Use the tip of a paring knife to cut a slit down the backside length of the plantain. Using the meaty part of your thumb, push up the peel to remove it from the plantain.
Once the plantain is peeled, slice it in half down its length. Repeat with the remaining plantains.
- Prepare your frying station:
In a 12-inch frying pan, fill the pan with 2 inches of vegetable oil and heat over medium heat.
While you’re waiting for the oil to heat, prepare a draining station by placing a cooling rack over a sheet pan, or line a sheet pan with paper towels to absorb the frying oil.
Set your oven to “warm” to hold the tostones once you’re done frying them.
- Fry the plantains:
Once the oil reaches 330°F, or forms little bubbles around the handle of a wooden spoon when you put it in the oil, add 4 slabs of plantain (you’ll cook these in two batches).
Fry the plantains for 2 minutes, then use a pair of tongs to carefully flip them over. Fry the plantains for another 2 minutes, or until the tip of a knife slides in and out of the plantain with no resistance. Remove the plantains from the oil using tongs and place onto the sheet pan to absorb any extra oil.
Repeat with the second batch of plantains.
- Remove the steaks from the fridge:
Before smashing the plantains, remove the steaks from the refrigerator to allow them to come to room temperature slightly.
- Smash the plantains:
Increase the frying pan of oil to medium-high heat while you smash the plantains.
Place the plantain slab on a cutting board and lay a piece of parchment or wax paper over it. Press the plantain with a heavy pan (a cast iron skillet works well for this) to smash to a thickness of 1/3 inch.
Slide a knife or thin spatula to separate the bottom of the plantain from the cutting board and return it to the rack.
Smash the remaining plantains until they are all flat.
- Refry the plantains:
Once the oil in the pan reaches 350°F (180°C), return the flattened plantains to the oil to fry them a second time. You will need to work in batches of 2 or 3 to avoid crowding the pan.
Fry the plantains for 2 minutes on each side or until the edges are slightly brown and the exteriors are crispy.
Remove the tostones from the oil using a pair of tongs and set them on the rack to drain while you fry the remaining plantains.
Once all of the tostones are fried, place the sheet pan in the oven to keep warm while you sear the steaks.
- Sear the steaks:
Heat a 12-inch or larger skillet over medium-high heat. Once heat radiates from the pan, pour in 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil.
Carefully, lay the steaks in the pan and use your fingers or a pair of tongs to press it down onto the skillet’s surface. This contact ensures an even sear. Sear the meat for 4 minutes (for medium-rare). Use a pair of tongs to flip the steaks to the other side and sear for another 4 minutes.
- Let the steaks rest:
Remove the steaks from the pan and allow them to rest for 5 minutes.
- Assemble the jibarito sandwiches:
Assemble the sandwiches by spreading 1 1/2 tablespoons of the mayo-ketchup onto each tostón. Lay a slice of cheese on the bottom of 4 tostones, followed by 1 piece of steak, a leaf of lettuce, two slices of tomato, and a few slices of onion. Top these with another slice of cheese and cover them with the top tostón.
Serve the jibarito immediately.
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