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The BEST Carne Asada Recipe

The best carne asada recipe for amazing results every time! Delicious steak marinated in a fresh, simple marinade and cooked to perfection for an unforgettable meal. Make carne asada tacos or burritos!

Carne Asada sliced on a black cutting board with garlic and cilantro on top

Do you ever assume those dishes you absolutely adore must be impossibly challenging to make?

This was me with carne asada.

Perfectly crispy yet tender marinated beef that hits all the right flavor spots and reels you in such that you could just eat taco after taco after taco, hallelujah.

Well, let it be known…in case you were wondering…

Carne asada is remarkably easy to make.

In fact, even those with very little cooking experience will be able to nail this dish for an epic win.

What is Carne Asada:

In case you haven’t tried it, carne asada (translated to “grilled meat”) is tender beef that has been marinated in a combination of orange juice, lime juice, garlic, vinegar, and cilantro. After it has spent some time marinating, the meat is then grilled (or pan seared) and sliced into thin slices or chopped into chunks.

This tender flank steak is often served with side dishes, or it is used for tacos or burritos.

If you’ve never tried making a homemade carne asada recipe, the process is so simple. 

The straight-forward order of operations goes like this.

  • Marinate the steak in an easy peasy amazing marinade.
  • Grill or pan-sear the carne asada.
  • Cut it into strips or chunks depending on how you’re serving it.
  • Devour with joy.

I have included cooking instructions for using an outdoor grill or a skillet to give you some options.

Let’s dive into the fresh ingredients so that we can impress everyone around us with the magic of carne asada.

three carne asada tacos on a black slate with slices of turnips and limes to the sides

Carne Asada Ingredients:

Steak: What type of steak should you use for authentic carne asada? Flank steak or skirt steak are the common cuts used in delicious carne asada recipes, which are leaner cuts of meat.

These large flat steaks are relatively cheap cuts of beef and benefit greatly from marinating since they don’t have a huge amount of fat marbling.

Because lean skirt steak and lean flank steak are trimmed of excess fat, they are ideal for marinating for long periods of time to inject tenderness and flavor into the meat.

The longer you marinade the meat, the better! I recommend two hours at the very least, but ideally overnight, and up to 36 hours yields the best result. Sirloin steak will work too, as will any favorite cut of beef.

Orange Juice: Adding sweetness and smooth citrus flavor to the carne asada, orange juice is great for tenderizing and adding that sweet flavor to an otherwise savory dish.

Lime Juice: Paramount in carne asada, lime juice brings the majority of the tangy flavor to carne asada and also boasts freshness. This light and vibrant ingredient goes a long way in making carne asada uniquely flavorful.

Vinegar: Bringing more tang to the marinade, vinegar contributes its own unique flavor while ensuring the steak has enough tang.

Liquid Aminos or Soy Sauce: Bringing umami flavor to the steak, liquid aminos or soy sauce generates that unparalleled savory meaty experience.

I’ve made carne asada without the liquid aminos and it still tastes great, but it just seems like something is missing. I highly recommend you use it for the best results!

Avocado Oil: Traditional recipes for carne asada often use vegetable oil or canola oil, but I use avocado oil for a health conscious alternative that is still neutral in flavor. Olive oil will work too.

Fresh Cilantro: The combination of cilantro, lime juice, and garlic is what makes carne asada shine! Cilantro gives that herby, fresh flavor. As a lifetime cilantro hater, I still love the use of cilantro here because all of the flavors in combination create a magic that overpowers the individual flavor of cilantro.

Fresh Garlic: A big flavor enhancer, fresh minced garlic brings boldness and richness to the carne asada marinade. Feel free to adjust the amount according to your love for garlic!

Salt & Pepper: Bringing all of the flavors out and rounding out the palate, salt and pepper level up each individual ingredient for a full palate experience.

These marinade ingredients result in a savory, umami, fresh and herby, tangy beef with the slightest sweetness and results in authentic Mexican flavor that you get from the asada at your favorite Mexican restaurant.

Optional Additions:

I have seen some people add chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, chili powder, or worcestershire sauce to their marinade recipe.

While I don’t believe these ingredients are traditionally used, feel free to incorporate them to level up the flavor and give the beef a little kick of heat.

Now that we’re familiar with the simple ingredients for carne asada, let’s make it!

Sliced carne asada on a black slate

How to Make Carne Asada:

Stir together the ingredients for the carne asada marinade in a bowl or measuring cup (orange juice, lime juice, vinegar, oil, cilantro, garlic, salt, and pepper) until well-combined.

Transfer the flank steak to a large (1-gallon) zip lock bag along with the marinade. Seal the bag tightly and gently move it around so that the full steak is exposed to the marinade.

Refrigerate for at least 1 hour, ideally 4 to 8 hours.

meat marinating in a plastic bag

How to Cook Carne Asada in a Skillet:

When you’re ready to make the carne asada, heat a large cast iron skillet (12 inches or larger) over medium-high heat and add enough high temperature cooking oil (such as avocado oil) to generously coat the surface, about 1 to 2 tablespoons.

Once the skillet is very hot, remove the meat from the marinade and allow any excess marinade to drip off. Carefully place the marinated carne asada on the hot skillet and sear for 6 to 8 minutes per side, or until the asada reaches your desired level of done-ness. 

How to Grill Carne Asada:

For grilling, fire up your gas grill or charcoal grill until it reaches medium-high heat (450 to 500 degrees Fahrenheit).

Pat both sides of the marinated steak with a paper towel, then place it on a hot side of the grill (direct heat).

Sear both sides for 6 minutes for medium-rare steak, or until the carne asada reaches your desired level of doneness. 

Use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature of the carne asada to ensure you’re getting the doneness you’re looking for. You’re looking for 125 to 130 for medium-rare steak, 135 to 140 for medium and 145 or higher for well-done.

Transfer the carne asada to a large cutting board and allow the meat to rest for 15 minutes. 

Slice the meat against the grain and serve!

You can serve carne asada with side dishes such as Spanish Rice and Black Beans or refried beans, or you can make beef tacos, carne asada fries,  or asada burritos or a burrito bowl.

Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

If you love making Mexican recipes at home, also try out these reader favorites!

More Mexican Inspired Meals:

Give this authentic carne asada recipe a try and let me know in the comments below what you think!

Carne Asada sliced on a black cutting board with garlic and cilantro on top
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5 from 1 vote

Carne Asada

Tender authentic carne asada is perfect for all those evenings you're craving fresh Mexican food. Serve it with side dishes or as tacos or burritos.
Prep Time15 minutes
Cook Time18 minutes
Additional Time2 hours
Total Time2 hours 33 minutes
Course: Beef Main Dishes
Cuisine: Mexican
Servings: 6 Servings
Calories: 401kcal
Author: Julia

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs flank steak or skirt steak
  • ½ cup orange juice
  • 4 Tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 3 Tbsp liquid aminos or soy sauce
  • 2 Tbsp white vinegar or rice vinegar
  • ¼ cup avocado oil*
  • 1 cup fresh cilantro chopped
  • 5 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • ½ tsp black pepper

Instructions

  • Stir together the ingredients for the carne asada marinade in a bowl or measuring cup (orange juice, lime juice, vinegar, oil, cilantro, garlic, salt, and pepper) until well-combined.
    Carne asada marinade in a bowl
  • Transfer the flank steak to a large (1-gallon) zip lock bag along with the marinade. Seal the bag tightly and gently move it around so that the full steak is exposed to the marinade.
    meat and marinade in a zip lock
  • Refrigerate for at least 1 hour, ideally 4 to 8 hours.

For Grilling:

  • For grilling, fire up your gas grill or charcoal grill until it reaches medium-high heat (450 to 500 degrees Fahrenheit).
  • Pat both sides of the marinated steak with a paper towel, then place it on a hot side of the grill (direct heat). Sear both sides for 6 minutes for medium-rare steak, or until the carne asada reaches your desired level of doneness. 

For Pan-Searing:

  • If you'd prefer to cook the meat in a skillet, heat a large cast iron skillet (12 inches or larger) over medium-high heat and add enough high temperature cooking oil (such as avocado oil) to generously coat the surface, about 1 to 2 tablespoons.
  • Once the skillet is very hot, remove the meat from the marinade and allow any excess marinade to drip off. Carefully place the marinated carne asada on the hot skillet and sear for 6 to 8 minutes per side, or until the asada reaches your desired level of done-ness. 
    Carne asada in a skillet
  • Use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature of the carne asada to ensure you’re getting the doneness you’re looking for. You’re looking for 125 to 130 for medium-rare steak, 135 to 140 for medium and 145 or higher for well-done.
  • Transfer the carne asada to a large cutting board and allow the meat to rest for 15 minutes. 
  • Slice the meat against the grain and serve!
    Carne asada on a cutting board, sliced
  • You can serve carne asada with side dishes such as rice and black beans or refried beans, or you can make carne asada tacos or carne asada burritos or a burrito bowl.

Notes

Nutrition facts calculated for the beef only, and assumes 6 servings (a little less than 1/2 pound of cooked meat per person).

Nutrition

Serving: 1Serving (of 6) | Calories: 401kcal | Protein: 48g | Fat: 23g

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Carne Asada Collage
Recipe Rating




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Michael Baccari

Sunday 17th of September 2023

crazy question, but I’ll ask: is there a cilantro substitute? Thank you for any help.

Julia

Monday 18th of September 2023

Hi Michael! Not a crazy question! If you're okay with losing the herby flavor, you can leave the cilantro out entirely. If you like the flavor of oregano, you can use either 2 tbsp of dried oregano or 1/2 cup of fresh oregano. I think that would be the next best replacement for cilantro :) Hope you enjoy!

The BoYo

Saturday 16th of July 2022

Very unique and god recipe. Had a good experience.

Julia

Wednesday 20th of July 2022

So thrilled to hear you enjoy the carne asada! It's such a simple yet delicious dish!

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