Origin: South American, Peruvian
Method: Grill or SmokerJump to Recipe
Picanha has become our family's absolute favorite cut of meat to cook on our grill, so we are always looking for new ways to cook the South American cut. This Peruvian inspired grilled picanha sandwich takes thinly sliced grilled picanha and serves it on a soft bolillo roll with lime-garlic aioli and a spicy Peruvian criollo salsa. This Peruvian sandwich is both easy to make and absolutely delicious.
What is a Picanha Roast?
Picanha is a part of the sub-primal sirloin and is one of the most prized cuts of beef in South America. In America, this rump cap muscle is typically divided into other cuts as part of the rump, round, loin, or as top sirloin steaks with the fat cap all removed. This is truly a shame, because this is one of the most tender, flavorful, cuts of the entire beef.
The cut itself was named after a picana, which was a pole used to herd cattle in Spain and Portugal. In the U.S. you may also see the cut referred to as a top sirloin cap roast, coulotte, or rump cover.
Want to cook picanha churrasco style on your BBQ grill. Try our Garlic Basted Rotisserie Picanha.
Making the Peruvian Steak Sandwich with Salsa Criolla
To make the South American inspired steak sandwich with grilled picanha you will need to make a simple garlic-lime aioli, a spicy salsa criolla, and grill the picanha roast.
How to make Peruvian Salsa Criolla
What is Peruvian Salsa Criolla
Salsa Criolla, also known as sarza criolla in Peru, is a simple relish consisting of red onion, aji amarillo pepper, lime, and cilantro. Considered a mojo, this Peruvian condiment is used as an accompaniment to many Peruvian dishes such as grilled meat or fish. Compared to salsa criolla in other regions of Latin America, the Peruvian version tends to be much more simplistic compared to other regions, where it takes on a more salsa like quality.
To make the salsa criolla you will need red onion, aji amarillo peppers, cilantro, red wine vinegar, salt, a couple sweet peppers, a lime, and olive oil. Aji amarillo is a medium spicy Peruvian pepper used in many authentic Peruvian dishes. It can be found jarred in some Latin markets, or you can order it on Amazon. There is not really a great substitute for Aji Amarillo in the US, but you can substitute a mixture or jalapeno and habanero to estimate the heat and flavor given by the yellow Peruvian peppers.
Thinly slice the red onion and toss with about a tablespoon of salt. Let the onions set for about 15 minutes, then cover with cold water and let sit for 1-2 hours. Because the onions are raw in salsa criolla, this helps take some of the bitterness and bite out of the red onions.
Next, rinse the onions and pat dry or dry with a salad spinner. Mix with the remaining criolla salsa ingredients and refrigerate until needed.
Make the Garlic-lime aioli
This garlic and lime aioli is inspired by Peruvian style mayonnaise which typically consists of emulsified egg, salt, and lime or lemon. This recipe is simple and can be made in a couple minutes and can be made ahead of time if needed.
Trim and prep the picanha
Trim any discolored fat from the picanha but leave the fat cap intact. Make cross hatch cuts into the fat cap, about ¼ inch deep.
If there is any silver skin left on the picanha you can trim that off as well.
Pat the picanha roast dry and season both sides with the BBQ rub of your choice. We typically use a basic SPG rub, but you can use your favorite rub for beef or steak seasoning as well.
Grilling the picanha roast
Once your meat is seasoned it is time to cook the picanha on your grill. Heat your grill or smoker to 400 degrees and set up for direct heat. Cook the picanha, starting with the fat cap down, flipping about every 10-15 minutes. We cooked this picanha on a Big Green Egg, but any grill will work fine.
Continue to cook to an internal temperature of about 128 degrees (for medium rare) then remove from the smoker. This typically takes about 45 minutes to 1 hour but there can be a lot of variation so monitor the internal temperature of the meat with a temperature probe.
Once the meat has reached 128 degrees, or about 7 degrees below your desired temperature, remove the meat from the grill. Rest on a cutting board, tented with foil, for about 5-10 minutes.
Once the meat has rested, thinly slice the picanha roast, against the grain. Only slice what you plan on using for the Grilled picanha sandwiches with salsa criolla.
Assemble the Grilled Picanha Sandwich
Spread some garlic lemon aioli on both halves of the bolillo roll. Top with sliced picanha and then top with the salsa criolla. For even more flavor try adding a little Easy Chimichurri sauce or Authentic Peruvian Green Sauce: Aji Verde.
Be sure to try some of our other South American recipes while you are here:
- Peruvian Lomo Saltado: Stir-fried sirloin steak and fries
- Grilled Brazilian Fraldinha
- Uruguay's Chivito: The Ultimate Steak Sandwich
- Venezuelan Shredded Beef Arepas: Carne Mechada
- Argentinian Empanadas with Beef Tenderloin
- Peruvian Anticuchos de Pollo: Peruvian Chicken Skewers
- Peruvian Roast Chicken: Pollo a la Brasa
Enjoy these Peruvian steak sandwiches while warm, with your favorite sides.
What are the best side dishes for steak sandwiches?
This Grilled Picanha Sandwich also pairs well with South American inspired sides like Brazilian Feijoada: Meat and Black Bean Stew, papa a la Huanicaina, or rice.
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Peruvian Steak Sandwich with Grilled Picanha
- 6 Bolillo Rolls
- 3.5 pound Picanha
- 2 Tablespoons Steak Rub
- 1 Red Onion Finely Sliced
- 2 Tablespoons Cilantro chopped
- 2 Sweet Peppers Sliced, seeds and stems removed.
- 1 Aji Amarillo Pepper Sliced, seeds and stems removed.
- 1 Tablespoon Lime Juice
- 1 teaspoon Red Wine Vinegar
- 1 teaspoon Olive Oil
- 1 pinch Kosher Salt
- ½ Cup Garlic Aioli
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- Mix the garlic aioli and lemon juice in a small bowl and refrigerate until needed.
- Thinly slice the red onion and toss with about a tablespoon of salt. Let set for about 15 minutes then cover with cold water and let sit for 1-2 hours.
- Rinse the onions and pat dry or dry with a salad spinner. Mix with the remaining criolla salsa ingredients and refrigerate until needed.
- Trim any discolored fat from the picanha but leave the fat cap intact. Make cross hatch cuts into the fat cap, about ¼ inch deep.
- Pat the picanha roast dry and season both sides with the BBQ rub or steak seasoning.
- Heat your grill or smoker to 400 degrees and set up for direct heat. Cook the picanha, starting with the fat cap down, flipping about every 10-15 minutes. Continue to cook to an internal temperature of about 128 degrees (for medium rare) then remove from the smoker. Rest on a cutting board, tented with foil, for about 5-10 minutes.
- Thinly slice the picanha roast, against the grain.
- Spread some garlic lemon aioli on both halves of the bolillo roll. Top with sliced picanha and then top with the salsa criolla.
- Enjoy while warm.