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The Best Carne Asada Recipe for Tacos
The Best Carne Asada Recipe for Tacos
written by Rodrigo Diniz

on June 19, 2024

Finding the perfect carne asada recipe for tacos can be challenging. We combine dried chiles, citrus, and spices in a standout marinade. This article will guide you through making this unbeatable dish at home with precision and flavor.

Key Takeaways

  • The best carne asada marinade includes lime juice, orange juice, olive oil, soy sauce, and spices like cumin. This mix makes the meat tender and tasty.
  • To make amazing carne asada, marinate skirt or flank steak for 4 to 12 hours before grilling. These cuts soak up flavors well and grill nicely.
  • Carne asada can be used in tacos, burritos, or even on fries. Add toppings like cheese, salsa, and guacamole for extra yum.
  • Avoid common cooking mistakes by not over-marinating meat and letting it sit at room temperature before grilling. Cut the steak against the grain after cooking to keep it tender.
  • You can serve carne asada with sides like Mexican rice or grilled corn to complete your meal with traditional flavors.

What is the best carne asada marinade?

The best carne asada marinade mixes lime juice, olive oil, garlic, and spices. It soaks the beef, adding flavor and making it tender.

Essential marinade ingredients for carne asada

Making the best carne asada starts with the perfect marinade. This mix of spices and liquids turns beef into a flavorful, tender delight.

  1. Citrus juice adds brightness and tenderizes the meat; use both lime and orange for a balance of flavors.
  2. Olive oil acts as a fat carrier for flavors and keeps the meat moist during cooking.
  3. Soy sauce brings a deep umami taste, making the beef richer in flavor.
  4. Molasses lends a subtle sweetness that contrasts well with the savory elements.
  5. Worcestershire sauce introduces a complex, tangy depth to your carne asada marinade.
  6. Fish sauce might seem unusual but it adds an unmatched savory note you can't pinpoint yet love.
  7. Ground cumin seeds are essential for that earthy, warm base note typical in Mexican cooking.
  8. Coriander seeds yield a slightly citrusy, nutty flavor enhancing the marinade's complexity.
  9. Kosher salt works to season the meat properly, which is crucial for bringing out its natural flavors.
  10. A mixture of dried chiles like ancho, guajillo, and chipotle peppers impart heat and smokiness.

Each ingredient plays a role in creating a carne asada marinade that's not just tasty but memorable too. Use this blend to marinate your steak before grilling for an authentic Mexican dish everyone will love.

How to achieve the perfect carne asada marinade

To make the perfect carne asada marinade, mix flavor agents like orange and lime juices with salt, protease from pineapple juice, oil, and sugar. Add whole dried chiles for a deeper taste.

Soak your skirt steak in this blend for 4-12 hours before cooking to ensure the meat soaks up all the flavors.

For an extra kick, blend salsa ingredients together—like tomatoes, onions, and more chiles—and season with salt to coat your marinated steak right before grilling. This step not only adds layers of flavor but also helps to create a caramelized outer layer when you char the meat on high heat.

Marinating time is key—give it 4-12 hours for best results.

Tips for using lime juice and garlic in your marinade

After learning how to mix the perfect carne asada marinade, let's focus on important ingredients: lime juice and garlic. Lime juice adds a zesty flavor and helps make the skirt steak tender.

Use fresh limes to squeeze out 2 tablespoons of juice for your mix. Garlic brings a strong, aromatic touch that is key for authentic taste. Crush or finely chop two cloves of garlic and add them into your marinade.

Pour this blend over your steak, making sure every part is coated well. Then, let it sit in the refrigerator for 2-4 hours to soak up all those flavors.

Before you cook, take the steak out and leave it at room temperature for about 30 minutes. This step makes sure your meat cooks evenly on the grill or skillet. Keep in mind these simple tips: use fresh lime juice and enough garlic to ensure your carne asada has that tried-and-tested Mexican recipe flavor everyone loves.

How to prepare the carne asada recipe

First, gather all your ingredients and a sharp knife. Then, combine them as directed, making sure to cut the beef across the muscle lines for tenderness.

Step-by-step carne asada recipe instructions

Making carne asada at home brings a taste of Mexico to your table. Follow these steps to ensure your meat is tender, flavorful, and perfectly grilled.

  1. Blend salsa ingredients together; add salt for seasoning.
  2. Split the salsa; place half in a bowl and the other half in a container that seals tight.
  3. Coat the skirt steak evenly with salsa from the bowl.
  4. Put the steak into a plastic bag designed for food storage; seal it.
  5. Let the steak sit in your fridge anywhere between 3 to 12 hours to marinate.
  6. Heat your grill until it's very hot; make sure it’s clean and apply oil on the grate.
  7. Place the marinated steak over high heat on your grill.
  8. Grill each side of the steak for about 4 to 6 minutes, depending on its thickness.
  9. Use an instant-read thermometer to check if it’s done to your liking; aim for medium-rare, which is around 135°F (57°C).
  10. After grilling, let your steak rest on a cutting board for 5 minutes before slicing it.
  11. Cut the steak across its muscle fibers—this makes every bite tender.
  12. Serve your carne asada with warm corn tortillas or make dishes like tacos and burritos.

By following these detailed steps, you'll enjoy authentic Mexican carne asada right at home!

Best techniques to make carne asada at home

For the best carne asada, pick skirt or flank steak. These cuts absorb marinade well and grill perfectly. First, mix your marinade—include lime juice, garlic, and orange juice for a burst of flavor.

Marinate your meat for at least 1 hour but not more than 12 hours; acid in the marinade tenderizes the beef.

Heat your grill to the highest setting. Shake off any excess marinade from the steak before placing it on the grill. This step ensures a good char without burning. Cook each side for 3-4 minutes if you like medium-rare; use a meat thermometer to check.

It should read 130°F for medium-rare and 140°F for medium doneness. After grilling, let it rest on a cool surface for 5 minutes before slicing thinly against the grain.

The key to great carne asada is high heat grilling and resting before cutting.

Common mistakes to avoid in Mexican cooking

Mexican cooking is full of vibrant flavors and techniques. Mastering it requires avoiding some common mistakes.

  1. Over-marinating meat changes its texture, making it mushy. Limit marination to a few hours for the best carne asada.
  2. Cooking steak straight from the fridge leads to uneven cooking. Let it rest at room temperature for 30 minutes first.
  3. Not slicing steak against the grain results in tough meat. Cut perpendicular to muscle fibers for tenderness.
  4. Skimping on oil can make your food stick to the grill or pan. Grease well before cooking.
  5. Flipping meat too soon prevents proper charring. Wait until it releases naturally from the grill or pan.
  6. Overlooking the importance of resting meat after cooking makes it less juicy. Let steak rest for 5 minutes before cutting.
  7. Using dull knives mashes rather than slices ingredients, affecting texture and presentation in dishes like carne asada tacos.
  8. High heat can overcook or char meat outside while leaving it raw inside, Aim for medium-high heat and use a thermometer.
  9. Cooking all ingredients at once doesn't allow each one to shine, Cook vegetables separately from meat to maintain distinct flavors.
  10. Fearing spices leads to bland food, Mexican cuisine loves cumin, chili powder, and cilantro – don’t hold back.

Following these tips will help ensure your Mexican dishes are as delicious as they should be!

What is the best cut of beef for carne asada?

For the juiciest carne asada, go for a skirt or flank beef. These cuts soak up the marinade well and cook fast on the grill, giving you tender and flavorful meat. 

Exploring cuts: skirt steak vs flank steak

Choosing between skirt steak and flank steak for carne asada boils down to flavor and cooking time. Let's compare:

Cut Flavor Cook Time (Per Side) Best For
Skirt Steak Buttery, rich, juicy 4 minutes Quick grilling, intense flavor
Flank Steak Lean, beefy 6-8 minutes Marinating, slicing against the grain

Both cuts must be grilled over high heat. Skirt steak, with its buttery taste, cooks quickly. It's perfect for a fast, flavorful meal. Flank steak, though leaner, benefits from more cook time. It's great for absorbing marinades. Always cut against the grain for tender meat.

Why the best carne asada is made with a skirt or flank steak

Skirt and flank steaks are top picks for carne asada because they soak up marinades well. Their texture becomes tender and flavorful after grilling. Skirt steak stands out for its tenderness and rich flavor, making it ideal for quick grilling.

On the other hand, flank steak packs protein, amino acids, iron, and zinc. It's a bit tougher but rewards you with tenderness when cooked properly.

Both cuts benefit from high-heat cooking which seals in their juices. You'll get that perfect char outside while keeping the inside juicy. Be sure to cut against the muscle fibers; this trick makes every bite incredibly tender.

The key to mouth-watering carne asada lies in choosing the right cut - skirt or flank steak delivers unbeatable flavor.

Now let's explore how to grill your carne asada perfectly.

How to cut against the muscle fibers for tender steaks

Choosing a skirt or flank steak is just the start for making your carne asada tender and delicious. After grilling, let it rest for 10 minutes. Then, slice the steak thinly across the muscle fibers.

This means if the lines in the meat go one way, you cut another way. Cutting against these lines breaks up the muscle fibers, making each bite super tender.

Use a sharp knife to make these cuts clean and easy. Hold your steak on a sturdy surface like a cutting board. Look closely to see which way those lines run--that's your guide on how not to cut.

By following this simple technique, every slice of carne asada will melt in your mouth with incredible tenderness and flavor that stands out. Whether you're firing up tacos or serving slices straight up, cutting against the grain ensures maximum enjoyment from each piece of beef.

How to properly grill carne asada?

Grilling carne asada right means high heat and quick cooking. Use a barbecue or stovetop griddle, get it real hot, and grill your meat for just minutes on each side for that perfect char.

Ideal grilling methods for the best carne asada

Grilling the perfect carne asada requires precise heat and timing. Choosing the right beef and prepping your grill are key steps.

  1. Oil grill grates well before heating to ensure the meat does not stick.
  2. Heat your grill to the highest setting for a strong sear that locks in flavors.
  3. For skirt steak, cook each side for about 4 minutes if you like it medium rare; flank steak needs 6-8 minutes on each side depending on thickness.
  4. Use a cast iron skillet on the grill for even heat distribution, especially if you don't have a direct flame option.
  5. Flip the steak only once during cooking to get a good crust without overcooking.
  6. Keep a meat thermometer handy to check for doneness—135°F for medium rare is ideal.
  7. Let the carne asada rest off the heat for at least 5 minutes before slicing; this helps keep it juicy.
  8. Slice against the muscle fibers to make every bite tender and easy to chew.
  9. For those without outdoor grills, broiling in an oven or cooking on a stove-top cast iron skillet can mimic grilled textures and tastes.
  10. Marinate your steak with lime juice, garlic, and spices beforehand—this flavors and tenderizes the meat.

By following these steps, even tourists in Hawaii can enjoy authentic carne asada at home that rivals their favorite Mexican restaurant's offering.

How to char your carne asada perfectly

Now that we've covered the best grilling methods, let's focus on how to get that perfect char on your carne asada. First, make sure to shake off any extra marinade from your steak.

This step is key. Then, place your meat on a grill that's heated to high. You're aiming for a well-charred surface that adds that authentic smoky taste everyone loves in carne asada.

Grill each side for about 4-6 minutes if it's thin or 6-8 minutes if it's thicker. A good char requires high heat and precise timing based on the thickness of your meat. After grilling, let the steaks rest for 5 minutes away from heat before you slice them up against the muscle fibers—this makes sure every bite is tender and full of flavor.

Using these steps will ensure you achieve a beautifully charred carne asada perfect for any dish.

Using a meat thermometer to ensure doneness

After you've charred your carne asada perfectly, it's crucial to check its doneness. A meat thermometer is key here. You want your carne asada medium? Aim for an internal temp of 145°F.

If you like it a bit rarer, look for 130°F; medium-rare fans will find happiness there.

Cooking times vary depending on thickness,\" but with your instant-read thermometer, you'll nail the perfect level every time. Just insert the probe into the thickest part of your steak and wait a few seconds.

Make sure not to cook longer than necessary to keep that great taste and tenderness we all love in carne asada.

What dishes to make with carne asada?

Turn your carne asada into mouth-watering meals. Think tacos, burritos, or even fries loaded with grilled beef--yum!

Popular Mexican dishes like carne asada tacos and burritos

Carne asada shines in tacos and burritos. These dishes combine grilled meat with fresh toppings for a mouthwatering meal.

  1. Make carne asada tacos by grilling skirt steak until it reaches the desired level of doneness, usually 6-8 minutes per side depending on the thickness.
  2. Warm corn or flour tortillas on the grill for about 30 seconds each side.
  3. Slice the grilled beef against the muscle fibers to ensure tender bites.
  4. Assemble tacos by placing slices of carne asada on each tortilla.
  5. Top each taco with cheese, homemade salsa, salsa verde, pico de gallo, sour cream, guacamole, or avocado crema.
  6. Serve tacos with hot sauce on the side for added spice.

For burritos:

  1. Grill flap steak following the same method used for tacos to achieve perfect caramelization.
  2. Use large flour tortillas that can hold generous amounts of fillings without tearing.
  3. Layer grilled meat, beans, Mexican rice, shredded lettuce, and cheese down the center of each tortilla.
  4. Add scoops of guacamole and pico de gallo for freshness and flavor.
  5. Fold in the sides of the tortilla and roll tightly to encase all ingredients.
  6. Optionally, finish burritos on a grill pan or skillet to add a crispy texture to the outside wrapper.
  7. Serve immediately while hot with additional salsa and sour cream on the side for dipping.

Both these dishes showcase carne asada's versatility and its key role in Mexican cuisine—offering a delicious way to enjoy grilled beef with vibrant flavors and textures from traditional sides and toppings

Making carne asada fries and its variations

To make carne asada fries, first cook the meat with a great recipe. Then chop it into small pieces. Layer fries with cheese, carne asada, salsa, and guacamole on top. You can also add sour cream or jalapeños for more flavor.

This dish is easy to follow and super tasty.

For variations, try different cheeses like cotija or Monterey Jack. Use sweet potato fries for a twist. Add beans or corn to the mix for extra filling. Each version brings new tastes to enjoy.

Now let's talk about serving carne asada with traditional sides like Mexican rice.

Serving carne asada with traditional sides like Mexican rice

Carne asada shines with sides like Mexican rice. This dish, a staple at local Mexican restaurants, pairs perfectly with grilled meats. Not just plain rice—Mexican rice brings flavors of tomato, garlic, and onions to the table.

Add cilantro lime rice for those who love a zesty kick. For a healthier spin, try quinoa or cauliflower rice. These grains make the meal feel lighter but still satisfying.

Don't forget about traditional sides that everyone loves. Grilled street corn, coated in creamy sauce and cheese, is a must-have. Salads add freshness to your plate with crisp greens and veggies.

Fruits bring sweetness to balance the savory spices of carne asada tacos or burritos. Together, these sides turn simple grilled meat into a feast that captures the essence of Mexican cuisine.

Wrapping Up

Making this carne asada recipe brings a juicy, tender, and flavorful meal to the table in just 35 minutes. With prep taking only 10 minutes and cook time at 25 minutes, it's super easy.

Choose flank steak for the best result and marinate it with olive oil, soy sauce, orange juice, lime juice, brown sugar, plus spices. This mix is key for that authentic taste. For cooking, grilling gives a perfect char but if you don't have a grill—broiling works fine too.

Cutting against the muscle fibers ensures your steak stays tender.

Serve your carne asada in tacos or burritos; pair it with nachos or salads if you like variety. It's great for feeding everyone at gatherings too! You can store leftovers in the fridge up to five days or freeze them for three months—making this dish not just delicious but also practical for any day of the week.


Q: What are the best cuts for carne asada?

A: The best cuts for carne asada are generally skirt steak, flank steak, or flap meat. Each cut has its texture and flavor, with skirt steak being one of my favorites because of its tenderness and rich taste. Flap meat is also a great choice for a juicier and more flavorful bite.

Q: How do you prepare a tried and tested carne asada marinade recipe?

A: A tried and tested carne asada marinade recipe typically includes ingredients like lime juice, orange juice, garlic, cilantro, and various spices like cumin and chili powder. Marinate the steak for at least 4 hours, but not longer than 12 hours, to ensure the flavors penetrate the meat without making it mushy.

Q: What is the best way to marinate the steak for carne asada?

A: To marinate the steak for carne asada, place the steak in a resealable plastic bag or shallow dish. Add your steak to the marinade and pat it all over to cover evenly. Ensure the marinade coats every piece of meat well, and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.

Q: How do you cook carne asada if you don’t have a grill?

A: If you don’t have a grill, you can cook carne asada on a stovetop using a cast-iron skillet or a broiler in the oven. Heat the skillet on high until it’s smoky hot and cook the steak for about 4 minutes per side for medium-rare. If using a broiler, place the steak on a broiler pan and broil, flipping once midway through.

Q: What does carne asada mean?

A: In Spanish, carne asada literally means "grilled meat." It typically refers to beef that has been marinated, grilled, and then sliced for serving in dishes like tacos or burritos.

Q: How can I make this recipe taste like my favorite Mexican restaurant's carne asada?

A: To make this recipe taste like your favorite Mexican restaurant's carne asada, focus on a well-balanced marinade with fresh ingredients. Also, use the best cuts for carne asada and cook the meat over a charcoal grill if possible, as this adds an authentic smoky flavor.

Q: How long should I grill the steak for carne asada?

A: Grill the steak over high heat, preferably on a charcoal grill, for about 4 minutes per side for medium-rare. The exact time will vary depending on the thickness of the steak and the heat of your grill. Always let the steak rest for a few minutes before slicing against the grain for maximum tenderness.

Q: What common spices are used in carne asada?

A: Common spices used in carne asada include cumin, chili powder, paprika, garlic powder, and black pepper. These spices add depth and warmth to the marinade, making it a flavorful mexican recipe.

Q: Can I use other types of meat for carne asada?

A: While traditional carne asada is made with cuts like skirt steak and flank steak, you can experiment with other cuts like flap meat. Ground beef is not suitable for carne asada as it lacks the texture and marbling needed for grilling.

Q: What should I do if my carne asada is too tough?

A: If your carne asada is too tough, it may be due to the quality of the meat or under-marinating. Ensure you're using good cuts for carne asada like skirt or flap meat and allow enough marinating time. Always slice the meat against the grain to increase tenderness.