What is Beef Milanesa? Origin, Variations, and How to Make This Iconic Breaded Steak

Beef milanesa is a thin, breaded and fried steak that is a popular dish across Latin America. With its crispy golden exterior and juicy interior, milanesa is comfort food at its finest. But what exactly is milanesa and where did it originate from?

A Brief History of Milanesa

While its name suggests an Italian origin, beef milanesa actually has roots in Austria and Germany. It likely originated from the Austrian dish Wiener Schnitzel and the German dish Schnitzel. These dishes consist of thin cuts of meat (usually veal) that are battered and fried.

The concept was brought over to Italy under the name Cotoletta alla Milanese (Cutlet Milan-style). The Italians used veal and pork for their cutlets. When immigrants from Italy moved to Latin America in the 19th and 20th centuries, they brought the dish over with them. However, due to beef being more widely available and affordable in Latin America, locals began using thin cuts of beef instead.

Over time, the dish was adapted in each country to suit local tastes and ingredients. For example:

  • In Mexico, milanesa is often served in tortas (sandwiches) along with avocado, refried beans, and cheese.

  • In Cuba, a variation called Milanesa Napolitana consists of the breaded steak topped with ham and cheese.

  • In Argentina, milanesa is frequently served with french fries and topped with a fried egg or tomato sauce.

No matter where you travel in Latin America though, you can find some version of milanesa on most restaurant menus. It’s a ubiquitous and beloved staple of the region’s cuisine.

What Does Milanesa Mean?

In Spanish, milanesa simply means “in the style of Milan.” The name refers back to the Italian origins of the dish. While the meat options vary around Latin America, the preparation method remains consistent:

  • A thin cut of meat is pounded to flatten and tenderize it

  • It is seasoned, dredged in flour, dipped in beaten egg, then coated in breadcrumbs

  • The breaded cutlet is fried in oil until crispy and golden brown on both sides

  • It is served as is, on bread as a sandwich, or topped with extra ingredients like cheese

So the term “milanesa” indicates that familiar breading technique, no matter the country.

Making Beef Milanesa at Home

If you’ve never attempted milanesa before, don’t be intimidated. While there are a few steps involved, it’s easy to master with just a little practice! Follow this simple recipe:


  • 2 thin top sirloin steaks (about 1/2 pound total)
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 1 1/2 cups panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • Vegetable or canola oil for frying


  1. Using a meat mallet, pound each steak to about 1/4-inch thickness. This helps tenderize the meat.

  2. Season both sides of the steaks generously with salt and pepper.

  3. Set up your breading station. Place the flour in a shallow dish. Beat the eggs in a second shallow dish. In a third dish, mix the breadcrumbs and oregano.

  4. Working with one steak at a time, dredge in the flour, shaking off any excess. Dip in the egg, allowing any excess to drip off. Finally, coat in the breadcrumb mixture, pressing gently so it adheres. Place on a clean plate and repeat with second steak.

  5. In a large skillet, heat 1/4 inch of oil over medium-high heat. Test when oil is hot by adding a pinch of breadcrumbs – it should sizzle immediately.

  6. Carefully add the breaded steaks. Fry for 2-3 minutes per side until deeply golden. Drain on a paper towel-lined plate.

  7. Serve the milanesas immediately, while still hot and crispy. Enjoy on their own or in sandwiches, with rice, salad and your favorite toppings!

And that’s all there is to it. With some practice your milanesas will soon rival those from your favorite Latin restaurants. Now let’s take a look at some popular ways to serve this tasty breaded steak.

How to Serve Beef Milanesa

While milanesa is delicious on its own, it also serves as the perfect canvas for all kinds of delicious toppings and extras. Here are some serving ideas from around Latin America:

Simple Sides

  • White rice or french fries
  • Salad greens
  • Fried or scrambled eggs
  • Fresh lime wedges


  • Milanesa topped with ham, cheese, fried egg
  • Served with french fries


  • Milanesa in toasted bolillo roll
  • Toppings like refried beans, cheese, avocado
  • Salsa, jalapeños, cilantro


  • Milanesa topped with salsa criolla (onion/lime relish)
  • Served with white rice


  • Milanesa between slices of sweet plantain
  • Topped with chili or cheese sauce

Get creative and make it your own! The crisp and tasty milanesa steak can handle just about any topping.

Milanesa Variations

While beef is the most common choice, milanesa can also be made with other types of meat:

Chicken Milanesa

Use thin chicken breast cutlets instead of beef. Pound to an even thickness. Bread and fry the same way.

Turkey Milanesa

For a lighter option, use thin turkey cutlets. Follow same method as beef.

Pork Milanesa

Thin pork chops can be used. Tenderize well before breading.

Veal Milanesa

Use thinly sliced veal cutlets, like the original Italian and Austrian versions.

Vegetable Milanesa

For meatless milanesa, use sliced vegetables instead. Eggplant, zucchini and portobello mushrooms work well.

Fish Milanesa

Cod, tilapia, halibut and other white fish fillets make tasty milanesa too. Adjust cook times.

So while beef milanesa may be the most popular, feel free to get creative with the main protein! The breading technique remains the same.

Tips for Crispy, Golden Milanesa

Like any breaded and fried dish, there are some tricks to getting the perfect crisp exterior on your milanesa:

  • Pound the meat thin – This ensures even frying since there are no thick parts. 1/4 inch is ideal.

  • Use very fresh breadcrumbs – Old breadcrumbs lead to soggy results. Make your own for best texture.

  • Chill the breaded cutlets – Letting them rest in the fridge for 30 minutes helps the coating adhere better.

  • Fry in batches – Don’t crowd the pan. Too many cutlets lower the oil temp and make things greasy.

  • Blot on paper towels – Draining on towels absorbs excess oil for a crisper crust.

  • Let the oil reheat between batches – Get it back to the proper temp before frying more.

  • Work quickly – Have everything set up assembly-line style. The breading may loosen if you work slowly.

Follow these tips and you’ll be rewarded with deliciously crispy, golden milanesas every time!

Is Milanesa Healthy?

Like most fried foods, milanesa is high in calories and fat. A typical 3 oz serving contains about 340 calories and 18g of fat. However, the lean cuts of meat used provide a good amount of protein. For a healthier version, you can:

  • Use chicken or turkey instead of beef

  • Opt for whole grain breadcrumbs

  • Skip the deep frying and bake or pan-fry instead

  • Go lighter on the oil if pan-frying – 1 tbsp tops

  • Serve with vegetable sides instead of starchy ones

  • Avoid heavy additions like cheese or mayo

Portion control is important too. While not the healthiest choice for everyday eating, enjoyed occasionally milanesa can be part of a balanced diet.

Milanesa FAQs

What type of meat is typically used?

Thin slices of top sirloin or round steak work best. Chicken and turkey breast cutlets are also common.

Do I need a meat mallet to pound the steaks?

You don’t need one, but it makes flattening the meat easier. A rolling pin or skillet can be used instead.

Can I use regular breadcrumbs?

Dry and fine panko crumbs give the crispiest coating. But regular breadcrumbs work in a pinch.

Is milanesa the same as schnitzel?

They are very similar due to the shared Central European origins. The main difference is schnitzel uses veal while milanesa uses beef.

How long does breaded milanesa last in the fridge?

Breaded, uncooked milanesa will keep for 1-2 days tightly wrapped in the fridge. Fried milanesas are best eaten right away.

Can I bake or air fry instead of frying?

Yes! Baking needs about 10 minutes per side at 425°F. Air frying takes 8-10 minutes at 400°F, flipping halfway through.

The Universal Appeal of Milanesa

From Mexico to Argentina, Cuba to Peru, milanesa is beloved across Latin America. This satisfying breaded steak has managed to both spread far and adapt locally. No matter if you top it simply with lime wedges or go all out with cheese and avo, milanesa always hits the spot! Its crunchy, savory goodness never goes out of style.

Beef Milanesa | Easy Top Round Steak Recipe


What cut of meat is milanesa from?

In Panama, they are most commonly made of thinly sliced beef (usually sirloin steak), but also thin chicken fillet. Lime juice is squeezed over them before serving or eating them, and often they are also seasoned with hot sauce. They are eaten with white rice and other side dishes such as salad, lentils, or beans.

Is milanesa the same as flank steak?

In contrast, traditional Italian steak milanesa initially used beef tenderloin. This choice evolved in Argentina, where the dish gained significant popularity. There, flank steak — or rump steak — became the standard, though chicken adaptations are also prevalent.

Is beef milanesa lean?

There’s nothing like cooking from scratch, especially when you start with Beef Choice Angus Milanesa. Our beef is thinly sliced, fresh, lean, and tender. Our beef is an excellent source of protein, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, zinc, niacin, selenium, and a good source of phosphorous, riboflavin and iron.

Is milanesa good for carne asada?

Wal-Mart here sells what they call “Thin Sliced Milanesa” which is a beef cut that is sliced paper thin. I’m 99% sure it’s from the bottom round, just super thin. That works excepetionally for carne asada.

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