Looking for the best carne asada recipe? I have a delicious marinade that enhances the flavor. After grilling, just slice it up for tacos, top on a salad, or serve as a main entree with your favorite sides.
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Taking affordable cuts of beef and using a simple marinade can completely transform the taste and texture. For maximum flavor, the meat bathes in a citrusy, herbaceous, and savory liquid for at least an hour before searing. Carne asada is an easy meal to prepare with a few essential ingredients.
Searing the meat on a barbecue or grill pan creates charred marks that add flavor and texture. You can make this recipe any day of the week, but it’s especially popular at Cinco de Mayo. I’m a big fan of wrapping slices in homemade corn tortillas and adding a spoon of guacamole on top.
What is carne asada?
Carne asada translates to grilled meat, and the grilling method provides a charred smokey flavor on the surface. The preparation style can vary in different parts of Mexico or other regions of Latin America. This leaves the cook deciding what marinade and seasonings to add.
The most common cut of beef used for carne asada is skirt steak or flank steak. The skirt steak is from the underside plate of the cow, often known as arrachera in Mexican cuisine. Flank steak is located next to the plate closer to the rear quarter.
These two types of meat are prized for their beefy flavor and cook very quickly to tender pieces. Flap meat or flap steak from the bottom sirloin butt is another alternative. It’s a thinner, lean, coarse-grained cut that’s more affordable.
For the carne asada marinade, I use a combination of citrus juices, seasonings, herbs, and spicy chili peppers. The process entails mixing fresh-squeezed orange juice and lime, plus their zest, chopped cilantro, sliced green onions, garlic, jalapeno, cumin, salt, pepper, chili powder, and soy sauce.
Yes, soy sauce seems an unusual pairing in Mexican cuisine, but it adds a specific umami flavor not present from salt alone. The soy sauce adds depth to the marinade that won’t overpower the taste of the steak. The natural acids in the fruit ingredients will help to tenderize the meat, but you should not exceed 8 hours of marinating or it will degrade the meat’s texture.
How to make carne asada
Poke both sides of the steak with a fork several times to help to allow more of the marinade to infuse deeper inside the muscle fibers. Place the meat in a baking dish or resealable bag to soak in the citrus marinade for 60 minutes or up to 8 hours.
Before grilling, drain the liquid to prevent flare-ups and scrape off any garlic pieces on the surface to avoid a burnt taste.
Prepare the grill
Make sure the grates are clean and oiled to prevent sticking. The grill should be nice and hot before adding the steak, between 400 to 450ºF (204 to 232ºC). This temperature will quickly char the surface of the meat and create gorgeous sear marks.
Beef cuts like skirt or flank steak require about 4 to 5 minutes to hit a medium-rare temperature. To hit the perfect bright pink center, use an instant-read thermometer to target 125 to 130ºF (52 to 54ºC), allowing for carryover cooking as the meat rests.
Using thinner flap meat will take less time, about 3 to 4 minutes, and the doneness will be closer to medium or medium-well. Use this meat temperature guide if targeting a different cook level.
Slice the steak
Rest for 10 minutes before slicing to allow for carryover cooking and trapping the juices in the meat. The coarse grains running along the length of the steak will taste very chewy if not appropriately sliced. Cut thin slices against the grain, not with it, to give tender, easy-to-chew pieces.
Alternatively, you can chop the meat up into small cubed pieces to make tacos or add to fries.
Serve this with
- Top it with pico de gallo
- Warm flour, corn, or cassava tortillas to make carne asada tacos
- Make some black beans or pinto beans for a fiber-rich side dish
- Traditional Mexican rice or Mexican cauliflower rice for a low carb option
- Chop it cup a put on potato wedges to make carne asada fries
Yes! If you don’t have access to an outdoor grill, the meat can cook on the stove top using a grill pan or large cast iron skillet.
Skirt steak or flank steak is commonly used for carne asada. They are thicker cuts that allow better control if you like a medium-rare center. For a thinner, more affordable option, use flap steak. It cooks quicker to give a better medium to well-done doneness.
How long should you marinate the steak?
Some recipes call for marinating the beef for several hours or overnight. However, due to the high about of acid from the orange and lime juice in this recipe, up to 8 hours max. Any longer and the acid will make the meat mushy and squeeze out the moisture from inside, resulting in a drier texture.
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- 1 ½ pound skirt steak, flank steak, or flap meat
- ½ cup cilantro leaves, finely chopped
- ¼ cup sliced green onions
- ¼ cup olive oil
- ⅓ cup orange juice
- 1 teaspoon orange zest
- 2 tablespoons lime juice
- 1 teaspoon lime zest
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 1 tablespoon minced jalapeno
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon chili powder
- Prepare the Meat– Poke the steak about ten times with a fork on both sides to allow the marinade to infuse quicker.
- Make the Marinade – In a medium bowl, whisk together the chopped cilantro, green onions, olive oil, orange juice, orange zest, lime juice, lime zest, soy sauce, garlic, jalapeno, cumin, salt, black pepper, and chili powder.
- Marinate the Steak – Add the steak to a resealable plastic bag or baking dish. Pour the marinade over the meat. Place it in the refrigerator for 60 minutes, flipping over halfway through. Do not let it marinate for over 8 hours.
- Prepare the Grill – Preheat the grill over high heat at 400 to 450ºF (204 to 232ºC). Carefully grease the cooking grates using a paper towel dipped in oil and hold it with metal tongs.
- Grill the Steak – Scrape any herbs or garlic chunks off the meat and allow the excess marinade to drain. Add the beef to the grill, and press down to get a good sear. Cook, uncovered, for 4 to 5 minutes. Flip and cook until the meat registers 125 to 130ºF (52 to 54ºC) for medium-rare, about 3 to 5 minutes.
- Let it Rest – Transfer to a cutting board, cover, and rest for 10 minutes.
- To Serve – Slice the meat against the grain, about ¼ to ½-inch thick. Serve with desired toppings and warmed tortillas.
- Stovetop Directions: Heat a large cast iron pan or grill pan over medium-high heat. Once hot, add 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Add the meat to the pan and sear for 4 to 5 minutes. Flip and cook until the internal temperature registers 125 to 130ºF (52 to 54ºC), about 3 to 5 minutes.
- Make it Gluten-Free: Substitute gluten-free tamari or coconut aminos for soy sauce.
- Make it Paleo and Whole30: Substitute coconut aminos or Bragg liquid aminos for soy sauce. Use sea salt instead of kosher salt.
- Storing: Cool completely and store in an airtight container for up to 5 days.
- Reheating: Reheat in the microwave on the high setting in 25-second intervals until warm. Alternatively, reheat on the stovetop in a pan over medium heat.
Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000-calorie diet. All nutritional information is based on estimated third-party calculations. Each recipe and nutritional value will vary depending on the brands you use, measuring methods, and portion sizes per household.
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