Get ready to spice up your taste buds with this mouth-watering street tacos recipe! Create the most delicious tacos with fresh ingredients and a variety of toppings. It will make you feel like you’re strolling down the streets of Mexico.
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Learn how to make street tacos for your next fiesta or simple weekday meal. This style of wrap is easy to customize. For this version, I’ll share my delicious citrusy marinade to make each bite of steak juicy and delicious. You only need a quick 30-minute soak before cooking the meat on the stovetop.
One of my fondest travel memories is ordering street tacos from the cart vendors in Baja, Mexico. I’d enjoy a few as I strolled around the city. They are the perfect size to grab and eat without needing to sit down and miss the excitement. So, grab your favorite tortillas, then fill them with meat and toppings. Don’t forget to enjoy a margarita!
- Steak: The best cuts are skirt steak, flap meat, or flank steak.
- Marinade: I use a citrus marinade, similar to my carne asada recipe. It combines orange, lime, soy sauce, minced garlic, and savory seasonings.
- Tortillas: Use small corn tortillas or flour tortillas, about 4 inches in size. These make for smaller hand-help wraps that are easier to eat, especially if standing.
- Toppings: Onion and cilantro are classic toppings for street tacos. Add hot sauce, salsa, pico de Gallo, sour cream, pickled onions, or cotija cheese for extra flavor.
Prepare the steak
Typically, the steak is left whole at taco stands or Mexican restaurants and then chopped into smaller pieces. However, cut the steak into 1/2-inch pieces for more flavorful bites, then marinate. This creates more surface area for the salty ingredients to flavor the inside of the meat while other seasonings stick to the surface.
Another bonus is that it cooks the meat faster on the stovetop for a super juicy steak. If you prefer carne asada street tacos, keep the steak as one piece and marinate for at least an hour so it can be grilled.
Marinate the steak
Soak the steak in a marinade to elevate the taste of the meat. I use olive oil, orange juice and zest, lime juice, and zest, soy sauce, minced garlic, cumin, dried oregano, chili powder, salt, and pepper. The smaller pieces require less time to marinate, about 30 minutes.
However, marinate for up to 8 hours for even more flavor infusion. Beyond that time, the muscle fibers dry out too much from the salt and acid.
Cook the steak
Use a large cast-iron skillet or saute pan to cook the pieces. Warm the olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat, then carefully add the steak to a single layer in the pan. Let it sear for about 2 minutes, then saute to cook the beef. The smaller chunks cook very quickly.
The steak will be ready in 5 minutes or less! This method will give medium doneness, so if you like some pink in the center, I recommend you grill or pan-sear the whole marinated steak instead.
Build the taco
I always warm the tortillas over medium heat in a skillet before filling them. This makes the starches in the corn or flour tortillas more flexible and soft to prevent breaking. The light browning also makes the tortilla more flavorful.
Mexican street tacos are enjoyed for their easy customization of fillings. Try these tasty options:
- For a tangier marinade: Add Worcestershire sauce, red wine vinegar, or distilled vinegar. Use about 1 to 2 teaspoons.
- Dry Seasoning: If you’re short on time, sprinkle some taco seasoning on the meat for instant flavor instead of a marinade.
- Chicken: Marinate pieces of chicken thighs or chicken breasts to make chicken street tacos or grill for pollo asado. Shredded chicken is also delicious!
- Carne Asada: Grill the marinated steak for charred flavor.
- Seafood: Add succulent pieces of shrimp, lobster, or blackened fish like mahi-mahi or salmon.
- Pork: Chop up al pastor with marinated pork and pineapple, or shredded carnitas. Saute some chorizo for a savoring filling.
- Homemade corn tortillas, flour tortillas, or cassava tortillas.
- Refried beans or black beans
- Mexican rice
- Elotes or Mexican street corn salad
Frequently asked questions
Limit marinating to 8 hours to prevent dry and chewy bites. Slice the beef against the grain for tender pieces that don’t taste stringy.
Sure! Increase marinating time to at least 60 minutes. The seasoning needs more time to dissolve and move into the muscle fibers of the beef for improved flavor. Shake off the excess marinade and cook the meat on the grill or stovetop to the desired doneness.
Classic toppings include diced white onion, cilantro, limes, and roasted hot peppers. Radish adds a nice crunch, or pickled onions for tanginess. Add mild hot salsa, pico de Gallo, guacamole, sour cream, crema, queso fresco or cotija cheese.
Can you marinate steak too long?
Marinating beef has several benefits. The muscle fibers restructure, holding on to moisture and infusing more water-soluble flavor compounds, like salt, for a well-seasoned steak. However, if there are a lot of acids, like lime or orange juice, or vinegar, it’s best to stop marinating after about 8 hours. Long exposure to the acids can cause the meat to become dry and mushy in texture.
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- ¼ cup olive oil, plus 1 tablespoon
- ¼ cup orange juice, plus 1 teaspoon zest
- 2 tablespoons lime juice, plus 1 teaspoon zest
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano, optional
- ¼ teaspoon chili powder
- 1 ½ pounds skirt steak, flank steak, or flap meat
- 12 corn or flour tortillas, 4" size
- ½ cup diced white onions
- ½ cup cilantro leaves
- lime wedges
- Make the Marinade – In a medium bowl, whisk together the ¼ cup olive oil, orange juice, orange zest, lime juice, lime zest, soy sauce, garlic, cumin, salt, pepper, oregano (if using), and chili powder.
- Prepare the Meat – Cut the steak into ½-inch pieces.
- Marinate the Steak – Add the steak to the marinade, stirring to coat. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes or up to 8 hours. Stir before using.
- Cook the Steak – Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Once hot, carefully add the meat in a single layer. Sear for about 2 minutes, then saute until no longer pink on the surface, about 1 to 2 minutes.
- Warm the Tortillas – Heat a pan over medium heat. Cook the tortillas on each side until warm and lightly browned, about 10 to 15 seconds per side. Wrap in a kitchen towel to keep warm.
- To Serve – Fill the tortillas with the steak, then top with onion and cilantro. Serve with lime wedges.
- Make Ahead: Marinate the steak for up to 8 hours.
- Storing: Cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days.
- Reheating: Cover and microwave in 15 to 30-second increments until hot.
- Make it Gluten-Free: Substitute soy sauce for coconut aminos or gluten-free tamari.
- Grilling the Steak: Do not cut the steak into smaller pieces. Marinate for 1 to 8 hours. Heat grill to 400 to 450ºF (204 to 232ºC). 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.
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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