When it comes to the best carne asada, I’ve had my fair share in Mexico. And the truth is there’s no singular authentic carne asada recipe. They’re all tweaks and variations. But today, I’ll share with you my tried and true carne asada recipe that always brings people back for seconds.
Living in Southern California for the vast majority of my life means that I’ve had my fair share of Mexican food. When I was a kid, my family would frequently pop down to Tijuana and as an adult I’ve explored and vacationed in numerous Mexican towns and cities.
Needless to say, I’ve had my fair share of carne asada in Mexico, from roadside stalls to 5-star luxury restaurants. And here’s the one thing I can you assure you of – there is no one authentic recipe. But there are a few ways to give your carne asada that traditional Mexican flavor.
Watch this quick video of my Carne Asada recipe:
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So 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. Most commonly, I find flank steak being used and I’m using flank steak in today’s recipe. You really 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.
The carne asada marinade
Instead of teasing you with an authentic carne asada marinade (which, as you’ve learned doesn’t exist) I prefer to call this the ultimate carne asada marinade. As it’s one that will make your taste buds happy. So what’s in it? A few simple ingredients: Olive oil, lime juice, garlic, cilantro, 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 marinaded in beer and soy sauce (though spoiler, those aren’t gluten-free).
If you’re aiming for the carne asada you’d find in typical Mexican street tacos, I’d say my recipe is pretty spot on. And *cough* I’m a street taco connoisseur after all.
How to make carne asada
It’s incredibly easy to make carne asada. Just whisk all of your marinade ingredients together and marinate your steak for 1-4 hours in the fridge.
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.
After your steak has cooked, let it rest for 5 minutes before slicing. Then, 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.
Carne Asada (the BEST Recipe)
- 1 1/2 lbs flank steak
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 3 limes, juiced
- 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tsp cumin powder
- 1/2 tsp chili powder
- salt and pepper, to taste
- Whisk all of the marinade ingredients together in a small bowl.
- Add the steak to glass 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 Stasher Bag or Ziploc bag.
- Heat a grill on medium-high heat. Add the carne asada and cook for approximately 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.
- 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.
- Check out my other carne asada recipes: Carne Asada Fries and Carne Asada Tacos. And serve those recipes with my Best Ever Guacamole, Pico de Gallo and Cassava Flour Tortillas.