Carne Asada

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My favorite Mexican carne asada recipe — made with a simple and flavor-packed carne asada marinade, and easy to cook on an outdoor grill or on the stovetop. Perfect for tacos, burritos, nachos, fries, and more! 

Carne Asada (Mexican Grilled Steak)

Raise your hand if you love carne asada as much as I do! ♡

This traditional Mexican grilled steak has always been one of my favorite things to order at restaurants and street taco stands over the years.  I love it served hot off the grill with a side of fresh lime and avocado, or incorporated into everything from carne asada tacos to fries, burritos, nachos, fajitas, quesadillas and more.  But what I really love is when the steak is made with a bold, citrusy, and zesty marinade.

Traditional Mexican carne asada (which translates to mean “roasted” or “grilled meat” in Spanish) can run the gamut in terms of seasoning, sometimes made simply with just salt, pepper and oil.  But in most regions in Mexico, it is customary to let the steak marinate for a few hours in a bright and citrusy marinade before searing it on a blazing hot grill — which, in my opinion, is a very very good idea and kicks the flavor up a mega notch!

Here at home, I like to make my own carne asada marinade with a bold blend of fresh orange juice, lime juice, cilantro, garlic, jalapeño and a few dried seasonings.  And while I highly recommend charring the steak on an outdoor grill if you have one, I can vouch (after having lived in Barcelona without a grill for a few years) that this recipe still tastes fantastic when seared on high heat in a grill pan or cast-iron skillet on the stove too.  Feel free to tinker around with the marinade and ingredients and find the blend that works best for you.  Then serve it up however you love best — the options for carne asada dishes are deliciously endless.

Alright, fire up that barbacoa (which means “barbecue” in Spanish) and let’s grill some steak!

Carne Asada Marinade

Carne Asada Ingredients:

As I mentioned above, traditional carne asada recipe ingredients in Mexico can run the gamut from simple to complex, so there really is no one standard way to make this dish.  That said, from what I have read and tasted in my travels, most carne asada is made with at least some sort of citrus-based marinade or drizzled with lime upon serving.  So I recommend starting there with your marinade, and then adding in whatever other seasonings you love best!

Here are the ingredients that I like to use in my carne asada recipe:

  • Steak: Lean flank steak or skirt steak (arrachera, in Spanish) are traditionally the most popular cuts of beef for carne asada.  But really, you can marinate just about any lean cut of beef that you prefer (the cooking time may just differ).
  • Oil: I like to use avocado oil in this recipe, but any high-heat oil such as grapeseed oil or regular (not extra-virgin) olive oil would work.
  • Lime and orange: Citrus juice is traditionally provides the tart backbone to most carne asada marinade recipes.  I like to use a mix of lime and orange, but feel free to experiment with whatever citrus you love best.
  • Jalapeño (optional): I like to dice up some fresh jalapeño to add some heat to this marinade.  But you could use any other kinds of fresh chiles that you prefer, or add in a pinch of dried cayenne, or just skip the extra heat entirely.
  • Cilantro: The flavor of fresh cilantro really shines through in this marinade!
  • Garlic cloves: I love adding lots and lots of garlic to this marinade, but feel free to tone that down if you prefer.
  • Seasonings: A simple mix of chili powder, ground cumin, and dried oregano.
  • Sea salt and freshly-cracked black pepper: I really love using a more coarse or flaky sea salt in this recipe, to give the crust of the steak a bit of extra crunch.  And of course, you know me, the more freshly-cracked black pepper — the better!

See full recipe below for detailed ingredient amounts and instructions.

Flank Steak in Carne Asada Marinade

How To Make Carne Asada:

This carne asada recipe is super-simple to make, but you do need to remember to plan ahead.  The steak really needs to marinate for a few hours for optimum flavor, and then it ideally needs an additional 30 minutes of rest time on the counter so that it can return to room temp before cooking it on the grill.

Here is a basic overview of the steps for how to make carne asada, with more details included in the full recipe below.

  1. Make the marinade. Whisk together all of the marinade ingredients until combined.
  2. Marinate the steak. You can either toss the steak with the marinade in a shallow baking dish or a large Ziplock (or reusable Stasher) bag.  Refrigerate for 2-4 hours to let those flavors soak in.
  3. Bring the steak to room temp. Remove the dish from the refrigerator, lift the steak out of the marinade and transfer it to a clean plate. Season each side with a few generous pinches of salt and pepper, then let the steak rest for 30 minutes or until it reaches room temperature.
  4. Cook the steak. Heat an outdoor grill or indoor grill pan (or cast-iron skillet) to high heat.  Cook the steak for 5-7 minutes per side — resisting the urge to move the steak as it cooks so that it can sear properly — until it reaches your desired level of doneness.  (See temperature chart below.)
  5. Rest the steak. Transfer the steak to a clean plate and let it rest for 10 minutes, which will help to seal in the juices.
  6. Slice/cut and serve. Then slice the steak against the grain as thickly or as thinly as you prefer.  (Or can dice it into small pieces.)  Then serve and enjoy!

Slicing carne asada against the grain

Possible Recipe Variations:

As I said, this carne asada recipe is incredibly versatile, so please feel free to experiment and add in the flavors you love best!  For example, you could…

  • Add more/less heat: I typically just mince a jalapeño or serrano pepper to add to the marinade.  But you could use any other kinds of fresh chiles that you prefer, or add in a pinch of dried cayenne, or just skip the extra heat entirely.
  • Add beer: A half bottle of beer would also be a delicious addition to this marinade.
  • Add chipotle: A diced chipotle chile in adobo sauce (or a teaspoon of chipotle powder) would also add some delicious smokiness to this marinade.
  • Add onions: A handful of finely diced red onion, white onion or green onions would also be delicious in this marinade.

Carne Asada Tacos

How To Serve Carne Asada:

Carne asada can be served as a main dish just on its own, which I recommend serving up with some lime wedges, sliced avocado, and salsa (or pico de gallo) to go with it.

Or, of course, you can add the carne asada to any of your other favorite Mexican dishes, such as carne asada tacos, carne asada fries, or carne asada burritos, nachos, quesadillas, enchiladas, tortas and beyond.  This charred steak is an incredibly versatile ingredient, so get creative with how you put it to use!

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Carne Asada

Carne Asada

  • Author: Ali
  • Prep Time: 2 hours
  • Cook Time: 12 mins
  • Total Time: 2 hours 12 mins
  • Yield: 6 to 8 servings 1x

Description

My favorite Mexican carne asada recipe — made with a simple and flavor-packed carne asada marinade, and easy to cook on an outdoor grill or on the stovetop. Perfect for tacos, burritos, nachos, fries, and more!


Scale

Ingredients


Instructions

  1. Make the marinade. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the garlic, lime juice, orange juice, jalapeño (if using), cilantro, oil, chili powder, cumin and oregano until combined.
  2. Marinate the steak. Place the flank steak in a shallow baking dish, pour the marinade evenly over the steak, and toss the steak until it is evenly coated in the marinade.  (Alternately, you can combine the steak and marinade in a large Ziplock or Stasher bag and toss to coat.)  Cover and refrigerate for 2 to 4 hours to marinate.
  3. Bring the steak back to room temperature. Remove the dish from the refrigerator, lift the steak out of the marinade and transfer it to a clean plate. Season each side with a few generous pinches of salt and pepper, then let the steak rest for 30 minutes or until it reaches room temperature.
  4. Cook the steak. Heat an outdoor grill or indoor grill pan (or cast-iron skillet or griddle) to high heat.  Cook the steak for 5-7 minutes per side — resisting the urge to move the steak as it cooks so that it can sear properly — until it reaches your desired level of doneness.  (See temperature chart below.)
  5. Rest the steak. Transfer the steak to a clean plate and let it rest for 10 minutes, which will help to seal in the juices.
  6. Slice/cut and serve. Then slice the steak against the grain as thickly or thinly as you prefer. (Or you can dice the steak into small pieces.)  Then serve and enjoy!


Notes

Temperature chart for doneness: I strongly recommend using an instant-read thermometer so that you can cook the steak to your preferred level of doneness.  Internal temperatures for steak are as follows (measured in the thickest part of the steak):

  • Rare: 125°F or 52°C  (remove from the grill at 120°F or 49°C.)
    Medium-rare: 135°F or 57°C (remove from the grill at 130°F or 54°C.)
    Medium: 145°F or 63°C (remove from the grill at 140°F or 60°C.)
    Medium-well: 150°F or 66°C (remove from the grill at 145°F or 63°C.)
    Well done: 160°F or 71°C (remove from the grill at 155°F or 68°C.)

FDA note: The FDA recommends that steak be cooked to an internal temperature of 145°C or 63°C.

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8 comments on “Carne Asada”

  1. Can’t wait to try. I have a huge oregano plant. Would you recommend using the fresh or stick with the dried oregano. Btw, during this oandeI have become to love cooking & branching out to different types of food. I particularly love, love your reciepes as you give variations of protein, veggies, etc. to use. I lived in a bigger city & now a small boutique tourist town in the heart of the Texas Hill Country 45 min SW of Austin, TX in Wimberley. Only 2 chain fast food restaurants. We some food trucks & have delicious local restaurants. I pray they make it thru all this. So I’ve made your chicken red sauce enchiladas, Thai Red Curry soup with both chicken & shrimp, Chicken Noodle soup, Pepper steak (as we have mo Asian food. I crave it! IP mac n cheese, IP shredded chicken, 5-ingredient white chicken chilli, etc, etc. Thanks for giving me a new love later in life.

  2. This was SO good. I didn’t even use the salt; it had so much flavor. Thank you for sharing!

  3. Another winner. Absolutely delicious. Paired it with charred broccoli and mushrooms, fresh corn, an easy Rick Stein smoky salsa and Cookie and Kate’s guacamole. The marinade was very tasty, thank you!

  4. This recipe sounds delish once I scrolled through ~15 screens worth of text and photos on my phone.

    Can’t wait to try it and would recommend adding a button that says “take me to the recipe”.

    • Hi Joe! There’s actually a “jump to recipe” button at the top of all of our recipe posts so that you can head straight there. :) Hope that you enjoy the carne asada!

  5. Hi,
    Gonna try it tomorrow for Taco Tuesday. I’m Cuban, and we use Sour/Bitter Orange juice for our pork marinade. I’m wondering if I could substitute it for the lime/orange juice. What say you??

  6. I am gonna try this with best electric smoker
    and add some chicken to it too

  7. Delicious!!!