Chacarero Chileno (Chilean Steak and Bean Sandwiches) Recipe

Grilled beef, sliced tomato, and cooked green beans on a roll make for an unlikely but delicious combination.

Cross section view of Chilean steak sandwich with cut green beans

Serious Eats / J. Kenji López-Alt

Why This Recipe Works

  • Coating the beef in a flavored mayo keeps it tender and juicy, even over high heat on the grill.
  • Cooking the green beans until they're fully softened makes for a better, more integrated sandwich.

"You want to go to the chacarero stand today?"

"What's that?"

"It's the sandwich place in Downtown Crossing, where they put green beans on it."

"Weird. Let's go."

That was me almost 20 years ago in Boston, during my freshman year of college. It was my introduction to chacarero chileno, the Chilean sandwich of grilled meats and green beans that would become a lunchtime staple for me for the next decade or so. From what Google tells me, that shop is still there (though it seems to have expanded from a street-side window to a sit-down affair), but I haven't had the sandwich in nearly another decade since. I have a strong suspicion that, as with many of my older taste memories, the idea of that sandwich is probably better than the reality, which leaves me a little hesitant to go back and try it.*

Can someone from Boston please report back? Is it as great as I remember?

But great taste memories like that, even if they are rose-tinted, offer us a great benefit: They give us a bar to aspire to when re-creating the dish at home.

On paper, the sandwich seems...weird. Grilled meat, sliced tomato, and cooked green beans. It reminds me of the feeling I get when I eat most burritos: Dang, this stuff would be so much better served separately on a plate. Chacareros are also similar to burritos in that they're typically consumed late at night, at neighborhood greasy spoons, when you're slightly inebriated. All I can tell you is, when done properly, it works, and, in honor of my memories of freshman-year me, I decided to head into the kitchen (and out to the patio) to try to bring that vision of the perfect chacarero from my head into reality.

The Meat

Most recipes for chacarero call for thinly sliced, fine-textured beef, like sirloin or round. The problem with these cuts is that no matter how thinly you slice them, they tend to hold together quite well, which leads to the dreaded pull-out: You take one bite, and an entire slice of steak comes with you, leaving you with a piece of meat hanging awkwardly out of your mouth and three-fourths of a sandwich that has nothing but condiments. To top it off, they aren't even particularly meaty or flavorful cuts.

Instead, I like to turn to more substantially beefy, loosely textured cuts, like hanger, skirt, or flap meat. I happen to live a block away from a Mexican butcher shop that sells skirt and thinly sliced flap meat for fajitas and tortas, which are perfect for this sandwich.

Thin slices of loosely textured raw beef for chacarero sandwiches

Serious Eats / J. Kenji López-Alt

If you're shopping at a regular supermarket, ask the butcher if they can butterfly some hanger or flap meat for you. If not, whole skirt steak will work just fine. The key is to pound it nice and thin, to about a quarter-inch thickness or thinner.

What I found was that it's okay if the meat starts to shred and fall apart a little when you do this. So long as it can hold itself together on the grill, the looser the better by the time it reaches the sandwich.

As for cooking, the meat is typically cooked on a flat metal griddle, which works fine, but I wasn't particularly pleased with the flavor I was getting out of it. For the moment, I decided to shift focus and work on the sauce.

The Sauce

Chacareros are a greasy-spoon sandwich, which means that mayo out of the tub is typically the only condiment on the bread. But we're making these at home, so we can do just a little better, I think.

Aioli in a square white ceramic dish

Serious Eats / J. Kenji López-Alt

Making an aioli (a.k.a. garlic mayonnaise) from scratch is one way to go, and it's delicious here. If you want to do just a little less work but still get better-than-jarred results, you can use this little trick: Just stir together store-bought mayo with some extra-virgin olive oil and garlic, and season it with some black pepper. You'll get something that tastes almost as good as homemade aioli, but with about 30 seconds of actual work.

As I was making this cheat-y aioli, I realized that this might be the solution to getting more flavor into my meat. My friend Meathead Goldwyn, of, has recently turned me on to the idea of using mayonnaise as a sort of marinade for meat. Rather than rubbing meat with oil before placing it on the grill, brushing it with flavored mayonnaise can actually improve its grilling qualities quite a bit.

Because mayonnaise contains both fat and proteins (from the egg yolk), it's great at browning and distributing heat evenly. It's also an emulsion, which means that it's nice and thick and stays put on the surface of the meat, trapping flavorings against it as well. I've recently tried grilling fish, steaks, pork chops, and chicken with flavored mayo coatings and have had great success with all of them. (Daniel also uses the technique for his broiled salmon.)

Since I already had this garlic aioli made for the sandwich, I decided to try using the exact same mixture as a coating for my steak before grilling it (I also tried it in a pan on the stovetop), blasting it on the highest heat I could muster in order to char it without overcooking.

It was a smashing success. The mayonnaise browned well over the heat of the grill, and the meat was able to achieve a nice char wile still remaining a juicy pink in the center—no small feat for such a thin cut of meat! This will probably become my go-to method for grilling thin steaks from now on. (It worked equally well in a cast iron skillet, though it does create quite a bit of smoke, which requires some elbow grease to clean up.)

Now it was time for the signature garnish: the green beans.

The Beans

The green beans they served at that old chacarero joint in Boston were drab army green, and well past the al dente that restaurant chefs love. Indeed, most recipes call for green beans that are cooked until fully tender, or even soft beans from a can. When I first started thinking about making my own version of this sandwich, I figured that keeping the green beans snappy and fresh would be a no-brainer. But, as I made a few sandwiches and tasted them, it turned out that snappy and fresh is not always best. When they're crisp, they have trouble integrating into the sandwich.

Closeup of whole raw green beans.
Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik.

When tender, however, the beans become part of a seamless whole. Cutting them sharply on a bias makes them a little more manageable as well. The flavor complements rather than competing. And complementing is what good sandwiching is all about. I cooked my beans in a pot of salted water until they were fully softened, a good two to three minutes longer than I typically would.** I then drained them and ran them under cold water to stop them from cooking any further. (We normally recommend using an ice bath to chill vegetables after blanching, which you can read about here, but since these beans are allowed to be softer than normal, it's not necessary here at all.)

** Just writing about overcooking green beans makes me feel naughty. Is this what people who get off on shoplifting feel as they slip a fidget spinner into their pocket? Sometimes it feels so good to be bad. (In truth, it's not the first time we've broken bad on the green beans front: Daniel has written about his love of overcooked green beans before.)

Still, there was something missing from the sandwich (and I'm not talking about just the tomatoes). A rich, grilled cut of meat and soft-cooked vegetables need some acidity to balance them out. I scanned my refrigerator for potential candidates and my eyes settled on a jar of pickled peperoncini, which I sliced thinly and tossed with the green beans. For good measure, I also poured in some of the pickling liquid from the jar, letting the bright juices serve as a sort of dressing for the beans.

Components of chacarero sandwich: cooked green beans, tomato slices, flavored mayo, toasted bun, grilled steak
Serious Eats / J. Kenji López-Alt.

It was exactly the kick the beans needed to really pull this sandwich together.

To serve it, I grilled up some split ciabatta rolls (any hearty, crusty roll will work, such as a kaiser, telera, or a Portuguese roll), then slathered them with mayo before stacking on a few pieces of grilled steak, some thick slices of ripe tomato (which I seasoned with salt, of course***), and a pile of the beans and peppers.

At the chacarero shop in Boston, you could get your top bun spread with smashed avocado, which I actually found almost over the top in this case. I preferred my sandwich without it. But feel free to smash away your future of home ownership if you'd like avocado on your sandwich.

*** I have opinions on tomatoes and salt. You can read about them here.

Finished chacaerero sandwich, with grilled steak, sliced tomato, green beans, and flavored mayo on a toasted roll

Serious Eats / J. Kenji López-Alt

I closed the sandwich off, giving it a little push to make sure all the ingredients were secure before slicing it in half on a bias (because, as we all know, triangles taste better).

I haven't experienced it in the motherland, but not only am I certain that this sandwich would taste glorious late at night while slightly tipsy in Chile, I am 100% positive that it is delicious even when you're completely sober in the mid-afternoon in California.

But I'm just one data point. I'm gonna need you all to go ahead and try it out for yourself and report back, so that we can get some real data going. Don't do it for me, don't do it for you; do it for science.

June 2017

Recipe Details

Chacarero Chileno (Chilean Steak and Bean Sandwiches) Recipe

Active 30 mins
Total 45 mins
Serves 4 servings

Grilled beef, sliced tomato, and cooked green beans on a roll make for an unlikely but delicious combination.


  • Kosher salt

  • 1/2 pound (225g) green beans, cut on a sharp bias into long, thin strips

  • 1 cup jarred pickled peperoncini or pickled banana peppers, with their liquid, peppers cut into rings

  • 1 1/2 pounds (680g) skirt steak, hanger steak, or flap meat (see note)

  • 3/4 cup (175mlmayonnaise

  • 3 medium cloves garlic, minced

  • 3 tablespoons (45ml) extra-virgin olive oil

  • Freshly ground black pepper

  • 4 sturdy rolls, such as telera or ciabatta rolls

  • Sliced fresh tomato


  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Add beans and cook until tender (they should be slightly softer than al dente), about 4 minutes. Drain beans and run under cold water to halt cooking. Transfer to a medium bowl. Add peperoncini and their liquid and toss to combine. Set aside at room temperature.

    Collage of slicing green beans on a bias, blanching and draining beans, and tossing them in peperoncini brine.

    Serious Eats / J. Kenji López-Alt

  2. Working with one piece at a time, place a piece of steak between 2 sheets of plastic wrap or inside a heavy-duty zipper-lock bag and pound gently with the bottom of a skillet until the meat is less than 1/4 inch thick. Cut each steak into lengths that slightly overhang the length of your bread. Set meat aside on a large tray.

    Using a skillet bottom to pound a piece of hanger steak covered with plastic

    Serious Eats / J. Kenji López-Alt

  3. In a small bowl, stir together mayonnaise, garlic, and olive oil. Season generously with black pepper. Transfer half of mixture to a covered container and refrigerate until ready to use.

    Mixing together mayonnaise, seasoning, garlic and olive oil in a bowl

    Serious Eats / J. Kenji López-Alt

  4. With a pastry brush, brush steak pieces on both sides with remaining mayonnaise mixture. Season generously with salt.

    Brushing mayonnaise mixture onto surface of flatten steak

    Serious Eats / J. Kenji López-Alt

  5. Light one chimney full of charcoal. When all charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, pour out and arrange coals on one side of charcoal grate. Set cooking grate in place, cover grill, and allow to preheat for 5 minutes. Alternatively, set half the burners on a gas grill to the highest heat setting, cover, and preheat for 10 minutes. Clean and oil grilling grate.

  6. Working in batches if necessary, place meat directly over hot side of grill and cook without moving until well charred on first side, about 2 minutes. Flip and cook until charred on second side, about 2 minutes longer. Transfer steak to a clean plate as it finishes cooking. When steak is cooked, toast buns, cut side down, on grill until crisp and lightly charred.

    Pieces of hanger steak coated in mayonnaise charring on grill

    Serious Eats / J. Kenji López-Alt

  7. To Assemble the Sandwiches: Slather top and bottom buns with remaining mayonnaise mixture. Layer meat, tomatoes, and bean/pepper mixture on bottom buns, then close firmly with top buns. Cut sandwiches in half on a bias (remember: triangles taste better!) and serve.

    Collage of assembling chacarero chileno
    Serious Eats / J. Kenji López-Alt.

Special Equipment

Grill, pastry brush


If you're using hanger steak or flap meat, have the butcher butterfly the meat for you so that it is very thin. Skirt steak can be used as is.

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Nutrition Facts (per serving)
908 Calories
58g Fat
49g Carbs
49g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4
Amount per serving
Calories 908
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 58g 74%
Saturated Fat 11g 57%
Cholesterol 133mg 44%
Sodium 1064mg 46%
Total Carbohydrate 49g 18%
Dietary Fiber 6g 20%
Total Sugars 9g
Protein 49g
Vitamin C 39mg 197%
Calcium 167mg 13%
Iron 7mg 39%
Potassium 833mg 18%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)