When it comes to the best carne asada, nothing beats this tried and true recipe that’s reminiscent of my travels to Mexico. It’s incredibly tender, big on authentic flavor, and perfectly charred on the outside.
From roadside stalls to 5-star luxury restaurants, I’ve devoured my fair share of carne asada throughout Mexico. And no matter the source, it’s always juicy, tender and packed with bold spicy flavor.
But the truth is, there’s no “one” authentic carne asada recipe. Depending on the region, you’ll often find subtle tweaks and variations to the spices and ingredients.
So I’ve put together what I call my ultimate carne asada marinade to grill up the best carne asada (which of course turns into carne asada tacos). The ingredients itself are simple, as they should be, but are distinctive, bright, and super fresh. Just as traditional Mexican food should be!
WHAT IS CARNE ASADA?
Carne asada literally translates to “grilled meat.” Pretty basic, eh? And that grilled meat can be anything from sirloin steak to tenderloin to skirt steak or flank steak. Though I’d say flank steak is most commonly used. You don’t need an expensive or fancy cut of meat, especially as you’ll thinly slice it, then chop it up into small, bite-sized pieces for tacos, burritos, nachos or fries.
But what makes carne asada so deliciously flavorful is two things – the marinade and the fire-grilled char on the outside.
IT’S ALL ABOUT THE CARNE ASADA MARINADE
Instead of teasing you with an authentic marinade (which, as you’ve learned doesn’t exist), just know that this version is one that will make your taste buds happy. Here’s what’s in it:
- Olive Oil and Lime Juice: Makes the steak extra juicy, with that trademark punch of lime acidity!
- Garlic and Cilantro: Essential aromatics for fresh, bold flavors.
- Spices: Nothing beats this bold combo of cumin, chili powder, salt and pepper.
I’ve always found simple is best, but feel free to tweak! If you want it sweeter, add an orange. If you want it more spicy, add paprika and oregano. Heck, I’ve even seen carne asada marinated in beer and soy sauce (though spoiler, those aren’t gluten-free).
HOW TO MAKE CARNE ASADA
Now that you’ve got your marinade ingredients lined up, let’s get grilling! Here’s how to make this delicious carne asada.
- Marinate: Whisk all of your marinade ingredients together and marinate your steak for 1-4 hours in the fridge.
- Grill: Once your steak has marinated, heat a grill on medium-high heat. Add the steak and cook for approximately 5-7 minutes each side, for a flank steak. That’ll get you a good char on the outside but maintain a medium-rare inside. Depending on the thickness of your meat and personal preference, feel free to adjust this cook time.
- Rest: After your steak has cooked, let it rest for 5 minutes before slicing.
- Slice: Thinly slice the meat against the grain for the most tender pieces. From there, you can chop it into smaller, bite-sized pieces for use in other recipes.
WAYS TO SERVE CARNE ASADA
You can of course it eat carne asada on it’s own, but it’s also delicious turned into:
- Carne asada fries with a dollop of sour cream, guacamole, and shredded cheese.
- Carne asada tacos with a sprinkle of cilantro, onion, and fresh lime juice.
- A steak burrito bowl with cilantro lime rice, black beans, guacamole, fajita veggies and pico de gallo. You could also drizzle a little lime crema or chipotle sauce on top!
HOW TO STORE IT
Let the meat cool to room temperature, then place it in an airtight container in the fridge for 4-5 days. It will also stay good in the freezer for up to 3 months, if you’d like to meal prep it. Yes, that means you can have a quick-and-easy Mexican feast any night of the week!
- 1 ½ lbs flank steak
- ⅓ cup olive oil
- 3 limes, juiced
- ½ cup fresh cilantro, chopped
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tsp cumin powder
- ½ tsp chili powder
- salt and pepper, to taste
1. Whisk all of the marinade ingredients together in a small bowl.
2. Add the steak to a glass or non-reactive baking tray and pour the marinade on top. Ensure both side of the steak are well coated, cover the baking tray with plastic wrap and marinate for 1-4 hours. Alternatively, you could marinate in a plastic bag.
4. Using a sharp knife, slice the carne asada at an angle against the grain. From there, you can further chop the carne asada into smaller pieces, if you’d like.
- I think carne asada is best when cooked on an outdoor grill. But if you’re without one (as I currently am) this reversible grill/griddle is great for your stovetop.
- Remember to double-check the angle of the grain before cooking. Then, it’s easy to determine how to slice against the grain once it’s done.