These Carne Asada Tacos are bursting with flavor from a citrusy, cilantro based marinade. Serve this smoky grilled flank steak on toasted tortillas with onion, avocado and crumbled Cotija cheese for plenty of authentic street taco flavor.
What is Carne Asada?
Carne asada is without a doubt one of the most delicious things you can cook on a grill. In fact, “carne asada” literally translates to grilled meat, a common cooking style in both Mexico and Central America. Although it refers to a method of cooking, not a specific recipe, most carne asada recipes are made with a thin cut of beef that is marinated in a cilantro and citrus based marinade and quickly grilled. It’s delicious on tacos and burritos or served as an entrée with rice and beans.
Carne Asada Ingredients
- Steak – I used flank steak here but other cuts work well. See the FAQ section below for more details on the best cuts for carne asada.
- Carne asada marinade -Olive oil, cilantro, fresh orange juice, lime juice, garlic, and jalapeno create a thick paste that’s seasoned with smoked paprika, cumin, salt, and pepper. A little sugar is added to help the beef get a nice char on the grill.
How to Make Carne Asada Tacos
This is a quick overview of how to make this recipe. You’ll find detailed instructions in the recipe card at the end of this post.
- Place the carne asada marinade ingredients in the bowl of a food processor.
- Give them a whirl to create a thick, lush puree of goodness.
- Place the steak in a baking dish large enough to allow it to lay flat. Spread the marinade mixture evenly over both sides of the steak. Next, cover the dish and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 8 hours.
- Allow the marinated steak to rest at room temperature for 30 minutes before grilling. Finally, grill the steak until medium-rare to medium with a hint of pink. It’s important allow the grilled steak to rest for 5 minutes before slicing to help it retain all those flavorful juices.
While the grilled steak is resting, toast corn or flour tortillas in a dry skillet over medium heat. I use a cloth tortilla warmer to keep the tortillas warm and ready to serve for up to one hour.
FAQ and Valerie’s Tips
Flank steak and skirt steak are the cuts most commonly used to make carne asada. They are thinner cuts that benefit from marinating and they cook quickly. Carne asada is best grilled to an internal temperature of 135 degrees F to no more than 140 degrees F for a perfect medium-rare. The cook time will vary depending on the thickness of your steak but be sure not to let it go too far past this temperature or these cuts can become tough. With the price and availability of beef these days, I think it’s fine to use other cuts, like top sirloin, in a pinch.
Flank steak has a very obvious fibers running through it in one direction. These fibers are referred to as “the grain” of the meat. Always slice flank steak across or against the grain into ¼-inch slices to cut through and shorten the tough fibers for the most tender result. Then, cut each slice into pieces that will fit well in the tortillas.
I use both flour and corn tortillas for Carne Asada Tacos. Either will work and it all depends on personal preference. Toast the tortillas in a dry skillet for the best texture and flavor.
Alternate Cooking Methods
Broiler – Allow the marinated steak to rest as directed above. Position the oven rack so that the surface of the meat will be 3- to 4-inches from the heating elements. Place the flank steak on the rack of a broiler pan and cook as directed to medium-rare doneness, flipping about halfway through.
Stovetop – Coat the bottom of a large nonstick skillet, cast iron skillet, or stovetop grill pan with vegetable oil and place it over medium heat. When hot, add the flank steak and cook to medium-rare, flipping to sear both sides.
Best Toppings for Carne Asada Tacos
For an authentic carne asada street tacos you can go as simple as a little diced onion, crumbled Mexican cheese and some cilantro leaves. But, we love our tacos loaded up with lots of delicious toppings.
- Mexican cheese – My favorite is cotija cheese, a sharp, salty, pungent cheese. Queso fresco is lighter and milder than cotija and also a great choice. Both types crumble up beautifully and lend an authentic look and taste to Carne Asada Tacos.
- Salsa or pico de gallo – Or just opt for some hot sauce to add a little kick.
- Avocado – Chopped avocado or my Corn Guacamole is outrageously good on these Carne Asada Tacos.
- Diced red onion
- Cilantro leaves
- Lime wedges – I love adding a squeeze of fresh lime juice to my tacos.
- Sour cream
- Rice – Cilantro Lime Rice, Restaurant Style Mexican Rice, or Salsa Rice are all perfect choices for serving with Carne Asada Tacos.
- Beans – Just warm a can of refried beans or try my Instant Pot Mexican Pinto Beans.
- Beverages – I believe a couple of very cold beers or some margaritas are in order. An icy, refreshing Ranch Water is my beverage of choice!
You may have noticed that food bloggers (including myself) have been gradually removing personal stories and anecdotes as we update our old content. Why bring this up? Because I just couldn’t bring myself to delete the snippet of life I included with this blog post when it was published way back in 2014. Life was oh, so different then and yet I think the short narrative is universally relatable to anyone who has children. If you’d like to read it, you’ll find it below the recipe card.
Carne Asada Tacos
- 1½ to 2 pounds flank or skirt steak
- 12 small corn or flour tortillas, toasted in a dry skillet
Carne Asada Marinade
- ⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 3 whole garlic cloves
- 1 jalapeno, seeded as desired
- ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- ½ bunch fresh cilantro
- sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 1 lime, juiced
- 1 orange, juiced
- ½ teaspoon sugar
- cotija or queso fresco Mexican cheese, crumbled
- salsa, pico de gallo, or hot sauce
- avocado or guacamole
- diced red onion
- sour cream
- cilantro leaves
- lime wedges
Marinate the Steak
- Place all the ingredients for the marinade in the bowl of a food processor. Process until well pureed.
- Place the steak in a baking dish large enough to allow it to lay flat. Spread the marinade mixture evenly over both sides of the steak. Cover the dish and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 8 hours.
Grill the Steak
- Prepare and heat an outdoor grill to MEDIUM-HIGH heat. Grill the steak about 7 to 10 minutes on each side, to an internal temperature of 135 degrees to no more than 140 degrees F for medium-rare to medium with a hint of pink. Transfer the grilled steak to a cutting board and allow it to rest for 5 minutes before slicing it into ¼-inch slices against the grain. Cut the slices down into pieces that will fit well in tortillas.
For the Tortillas
- Toast either corn or flour tortillas in a dry skillet over MEDIUM heat for about 30 seconds per side, or until nicely toasted. Transfer to a tortilla warmer to keep warm until ready to serve.
Assemble the Carne Asada Tacos
- Serve the carne asada on toasted tortillas with any or all of the optional toppings.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated using generic ingredients, and is an estimate not a guarantee. For more accurate results, please refer to the labels on your ingredients at home.
This post has been updated with new text and images. The snippet below is from the original post published on April 30, 2014.
Thanks for indulging me in my mama ramblings. Try the carne asada! I hope you love it as much as we do.
I had brunch with my oldest yesterday. I get to do that kind of thing now. As the mother of grown people I get to say “Hey, wanna meet up for brunch” and he says “Yes!” and we meet up for brunch. It’s a beautiful thing.
Our conversations have gone way past X-Men and Power Rangers. We talk, drink coffee, eat too much, and he makes me laugh; so much like his father even though he doesn’t see it. All the work, worry, illness, school projects, broken hearts, teenage strife, it all leads to this. The payoff, the jackpot – this incredible man sitting across the table from me.
When they were very young, I remember trying to picture what our lives would be like through time, as they grew and moved on to the next big thing. Middle school, high school, college. But that’s where it ended. I never really thought past that point.
And now, here we are. Past that point.
When you have little ones in your house, it is hard to imagine a time when there won’t be a constant demand on your time and focus. You get into that parenting groove and then a funny thing happens. Even when those demands ease, you don’t get it. It takes time for it to set in. With my youngest finishing his first year of college, I’m just now beginning to get it. I came home from work the other day, picked up a book and read – for three hours – stopping only to eat a quick dinner. I’m learning to sleep again – I mean really sleep. It takes years to learn how to turn off the mom radar at night. I’m not sure that will ever completely go away.
Funny thing is, just as I’m adjusting, the school year is coming to an end. Come June, we’ll have three out of the four back for the summer. So, I have to laugh when people call us “empty nesters”. Not quite yet. And, I couldn’t be happier. It’s a beautiful thing.