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!
More Delicious Mexican Recipes
Lucky for you, I’ve got countless Mexican recipes to keep up your sleeve for your next fiesta!
- Carnitas: for the juiciest, most tender shredded pork!
- Barbacoa: enjoy fall-apart tender beef that’s perfectly spicy.
- Chicken Fajitas: the easiest one-pan skillet recipe loaded with flavor.
- Shrimp Fajitas: mix up your fajitas with sizzling seafood.
Carne Asada Recipe Video
Ready to make your carne asada? Perfect – give this video a quick watch!
If you make this carne asada recipe, let me know how it turned out! I’d love to hear what you think in the comments below.
BEST Carne Asada Recipe
- 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
- Whisk all of the marinade ingredients together in a small bowl.
- 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.
- Heat a grill on medium-high heat. Add the carne asada and cook for 5-7 minutes on each side. Remove the steak to a cutting board and let it rest for another 5 minutes.
- 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.
Recipe originally posted April 2018, but recently updated.
wow. I am a beginner cook trying to keep things afloat with cooking in my home. My fussy kids loved this. We use this for recipe for tacos night and it was a hit. Also scaled it up with a larger group and we worked perfectly. Ideally, marinating for a few hours is best but even with an hour of marinading, it’s delicious and flavourful. I love your website!
Thanks so much Nancy! I’m happy you and your kiddos love the carne asada recipe. :)
I made this recipe with morningstar ‘meat’ crumbles to keep it vegetarian, and it was amazing. Thanks Lisa for yet again, another tasty recipe.
I’ve tried some of your recipes and I love them. You are doing great work. 👏 Anyway, I was wondering if I could make the marinade a day ahead of time and then combine it with the meat on the day I plan to make the Carne Asada on the grill?
Yes, you can make the marinade a day in advance!
First time making carne asada, this recipe was easy and delicious….
The best Carne asada!
I am new to your website, however I have made several of your recipes. I have made your prime rib recipe, and your mediterranean chicken, which my husband stated was one of his top ten favorite dishes of all time. Tonight I’m going to make your Carne Asada recipe. You have done an amazing job with your recipes and website. I would like to suggest that you tackle greek pastitsio (greek lasagna). It looks delicious, but I would like a healthier version.
Thank you for your consideration.
Thrilled to hear you and your husband have been enjoying my recipes so far! I will definitely keep that recipe in mind :)
HI! Would I be able to use this recipe with sirloin steak? Love your recipes! :)
You should be able to use the marinade for sirloin steak! But you might have to adjust depending on the size and amount.
I made this last week for me and my son, who hates spicy food. The only thing I changed was that I put salsa in place of the cilantro because I really don’t like cilantro. We both adored it. Extremely tasty and full of different flavors. I kept going by the pan and eating some more straight off it.
Next time I will use cilantro and try it fully original.
Glad this still turned out perfectly with salsa instead of cilantro Larissa!
We have been making this recipe for carne asada for 2 years now (apparently right after you posted it) and it couldn’t be better, and having had great carne asada all over San Diego, that is saying something. The only thing we do differently is now we buy the already sliced skirt steak from a small market in El Cajon but we have other hispanic markets near by that will cut it too. I like that it marinates fast, and therefore , we get to it faster. The next day after we grill it, is a faster carne asada burrito night for us, win win, I say.. We make no changes to the recipe, I tried that with other recipes and they had to be jiggled around so much that they were no longer true to what was posted, yours is perfect.
Hi Barbara- Wow, thrilled to hear this carne asada recipe is up to par with the San Diego’s Mexican food!
For the calories, how many oz is 293 calories? Or is that for the whole recipe?
Hi Gloria – there are 6 servings with the 1 1/2 pound flank steak and those calories are per serving.
These were so good! I followed the recipe exactly but marinated them for like 7 hours. We kept basting it with the marinade on the grill and I already want them again soon!
Sometimes the longer you marinade, the better! Glad you enjoyed this recipe :)
Made this for Cinco de Mayo and it was amazing.
Would this recipe work with tri-tip?
Yes, no problem!
I followed the recipe and found that there weren’t enough flavors to this marinade. All we tasted was the lime. I won’t make it again.
Hi Becky – I’m sorry you didn’t find enough flavor in this marinade! You can always increase the amount of cilantro, cumin, and chili powder as well for additional flavoring.
Wow this was delicious! I paired it with Cilantro Lime Rice and Refried Beans. So good!
Hi Michelle – What perfect pairings to go back with carne asada :)
Hello, lisa, may I ask your nutritional composition table: calories: 293 kcal, carbohydrates: 2.3 g, protein: 31.9 g, fat: 16.8 g, saturated fat: 4.9 g, cholesterol: 90.7 mg, sodium: 78.2 mg, Fiber: 0.3 g, sugar: 0.3 g. How are these calculated so accurately? Is there a corresponding tool or method? Thank you
All of the nutrition information is calculated through my recipe plugin app, WP Recipe Maker.
I made this for my daughter’s bridal shower…we had a nacho ‘bar’ and I felt we needed some carne asada and I found your recipe. Delicious flavor, and easy to make. When I make this again, I will cook it longer because I have too many in my family that don’t like to see any red in cooked meat! Thanks for sharing.
Hi Millican – Carne asada for a nacho bar sounds perfect! So glad everyone loved this recipe, minus the little bit of red!
The first time I made this for my friends it turned out great. My mother is allergic to cilantro so what would be a good substitute for it?
I’m so glad you loved the recipe! For a cilantro replacement you could use parsley or another fresh herb. :)
Dear Ms. Lisa:
I don’t own a grill. I know the deliciousness of this recipe is due to it being grilled but can this recipe be made in the oven or stovetop?
Hi Deborah – I make this on the stove all the time as well, with a grill pan!
I made this recipe for my husband, a California native transplanted to the east coast and made tacos with it! He was floored at hour delicious it was! As was I tbh. This is the perfect recipe but I love how easy it is! Definitely this is now in my repitoire of meals! Can be used so many ways. Thanks Lisa!
Hi Melea – Thrilled to hear your husband loved this carne asada! I’m glad you can find different ways to incorporate this into different meals too. It’s great for meal prepping :)
So simple, yet full of flavor. I followed Mary’s inspiration and made street tacos. Yummy! Thank you for this recipe.
Hi Donna – I’m glad you enjoyed this Carne Asada recipe! It’s great to eat on its own, or for tacos :)
Very easy to follow and the fami,y loved it
Wonderful! I’m happy you all loved the recipe Michelle!
I would say 3 small limes or 2 large. A dash of cayenne would not be a bad idea. Overall a good start.
Thanks! And yes, you can always feel free to tweak the recipe to your liking.
Ahh can I marinade this overnight? It is marinating now and we might not get home in time to grill it tonight. ?
Yes, no problem! It’ll just be extra flavorful. ;)
This marinade is so delicious. I used the thin sliced skirt steaks for my carne asada. After marinating the meat, I chopped it into small pieces and fried it in a little olive oil. It was the best street taco I’ve ever had.
Yay! I’m happy you loved the carne asada Mary. It really does make for the best street tacos, doesn’t it? :)
Thanks for this amazing recipe. We love street tacos! But, I’ve always been afraid to tackle Carne Asada because the meat is pricey and I didn’t want to waste. But this is so simple and grills fairly quickly. Minus prep this meal can be on the table in 30 min!
You’re welcome Teresa! I’m glad you loved the carne asada recipe and I agree – street tacos are the best! :)
Can this be converted to an Instant Pot?
I don’t see why not. :)
Thanks for sharing your recipe, everyone loved my carne asada
Yay! Happy to hear that! Thanks Alex. :)
Have you found something that can’t be done in an instant pot? I haven’t.
Very detailed information.
Thank you! Glad you found all of the information helpful.
Excellent recipe! I made exactly as described. This is now my go to recipe for Carne Asada Tacos. Thank you.
Wonderful! So glad you enjoyed the recipe Allyen!
It was very easy to understand her instructions. I liked that the kitchen was clean even in the background.
Glad you enjoyed the recipe and video Kris! :)
I haven’t had Carne Asada since I moved to Montana 6 years past. When I lived in SoCal it was my favorite. Can’t wait to try this out, and after so long I’m sure it is going to be a huge hit. More so then ever.
Hope you enjoy it! :)
I don’t have to tell you don’t I Lisa? Every single food I made especially the meat, fries and hummus went down very well. I told them all about you, you have some new fans. Told them about Cinco de Mayo – they’ve booked that weekend too come down and celebrate it here; even though they have no idea what it is! Lol!
Yay – so happy your party was a success! And thanks for spreading the word about Downshiftology. :) I think we should now look for holidays from other countries and just keep celebrating. Haha! ;) x
We all are looking forward to Saturday. We have friends staying over the weekend annnnnnnd we’re having carne asada!!! Yay!!! Since we are eating them on Saturday – I didn’t want to faff about in the kitchen while everyone is yammering – I’ve made the marinate, guacamole (am so happy with your advice on topping it with water so it keeps) and hummus, all in the fridge. I also took on board the meal prep ideas for crudités- they’re in the glass container filled with water and in the fridge! Your way takes a lot of hassle out of cooking for a party! I look forward to commenting what others think of the carne asada (making them with fries a la Lisa!) and uploading photograph. Wish you were here to join in and laugh at my ‘new found expertness’ on cooking fab food!
Sounds like an amazing spread! I wish I was there as well! Perhaps one day. ;) x
Oh, goodness! This was a hit indeed! We’re having leftovers in your taco recipe tomorrow (or whenever that dang avocado gets ripe)! Adding pickled red onions. Thank you!
Wonderful – glad you enjoyed it! And yes, always best to wait for a ripe avocado for the tastiest tacos. ;)
The meat was beautifully tender and citrusy without it being too sour, I was surprised how much it worked well pairing up with your guacamole and the chips. A hit with my 3 children and husband (and myself). The tortilla didn’t turn out right – too wet, but it was my fault, I got too ahead of myself and tripled the batch. Maybe making 3 batches at a time would be better, ended up making some with wheat flour. Luckily daughter is just gluten sensitive so could tolerate the wheat tacos. Made Margarita, hey! Why not! Made virgin mojito for the children as I didn’t know how to make non alcoholic margarita. It’s been a beautiful day. Our first time celebrating Cinco De Mayo, roll on until next year!
Glad you guys enjoyed the carne asada and guacamole! And yay for all your hard work in creating an awesome Cinco de Mayo fiesta. Well done! Fingers crossed your next batch of cassava flour tortillas turns out better. :) x
Meat is marinating – I know it’s going to taste mind blowingly beautiful as the smell is divine. Guacamole done and in the fridge, as are citrus shrimp ceviche. Made hummus – just because! Horchata recipe that you posted yesterday – stewing (I think that is the right term?) Looking forward to blitzing that and try it out. Going to make the cassava tortilla/taco shortly. Can’t wait for the Cinco de Mayo fiesta tonight with lovely food, husband is going to get Mexican beer! I’ll be sending you the photograph – and review from 5 of us. It is very hot here in Wales today, perfect!
Wow – you are on fire! I need you to come cook for me now! Lol. ;) x
This Carne Asada looks amazing but what can I sub for the cilantro? I’m one of those people to whom it tastes like soap, and I mean like I bit into a bar of Ivory. I’d like a spicy or herb that’s not hot or peppery either, I can’t handle heat.
Thanks Priscilla! I’d sub in a flat leaf Italian parsley. Slightly different flavor profile, but it’ll still be delicious! :) x
Made this last night on the charcoal grill. Absolutely delicious. Wouldn’t change a thing
Awesome! So happy to hear that. Thanks Jack!
This carne asada looks like something I want to munch on right now. I am a sucker for a big slice of meat and this fits the bill. Your photos look excellent and I am going to put this on my list of recipes to make.
Great! Let me know how it turns out when you make it. And thanks for your kind words on my photos. It’s always a little more difficult to make meat photogenic. ;)
Oh my goodness this looks absolutely delicious! Moist, juicy and simply amazing! I love your photographs too ♥
Thanks so much Natalie! Hope you enjoy the recipe!
I can see why people come back for seconds. This steak looks perfect!
Thanks so much Jill! I’m such a fan of steak that’s got delicious grill marks on the outside but with a tender, medium inside. :)
This is the kind of recipe my dad would LOVE and his birthday is coming up so the timing is perfect!
Yes! A total dad grilling recipe. ;) Hope your dad loves it as much as mine does!
I likre the carne asada recipe
Great – hope you enjoy the recipe!
I’d never heard of Carne asada, but I love grilled meat and your photos make it look so mouth-watering I could eat it now (despite the fact I’m about to go to bed!). I love your serving suggestions!
Haha. Yeah, probably not the best to look at recipes and food photos before you go to bed. ;) Thanks Mel!
This looks so juicy and flavorful!! I can’t wait to make it!
It sure is! And it’s so easy to which makes it even better. ;)