Apr 13, 2023
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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, perfectly charred on the outside, and big on flavor.
From roadside stalls to 5-star luxury restaurants, I’d say I’ve had my fair share of carne asada throughout Mexico. But the truth is, there’s no one authentic carne asada recipe. Depending on the region, you’ll often find subtle tweaks 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 (and carne asada tacos of course). The ingredients themselves are simple, as they should be, but are bold, bright, and super fresh. The best attributes of traditional Mexican food! And with how easy this recipe is, you might find yourself having a Mexican dinner fiesta often (trust me, it definitely brings the crowds).
What is Carne Asada
Carne asada literally translates to “grilled meat.” 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. Either way, you don’t really need an expensive or fancy cut of meat. Especially since you’ll be thinly slicing and chopping it up into small, bite-sized pieces for tacos, nachos, and bowls.
But what makes carne asada so flavorful are two things – the marinade and the fire-grilled char on the outside.
Carne Asada Marinade Ingredients
I won’t tease you with an authentic marinade, because as you’ve just learned, it doesn’t really exist. But what I will do is give you one that’ll make your taste buds happy, based on my first-hand Mexico travels!
- Olive Oil and Lime Juice: Makes the steak extra juicy, with that trademark punch of lime acidity!
- Garlic and Cilantro: Essential aromatics for fresh and bold flavors.
- Spices: Nothing beats this bold combo of cumin, chili powder, salt, and pepper.
Helpful tip: I’ve always found simple is best, but feel free to tweak the marinade! If you want it sweeter, add an orange. If you want it spicier, 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 have your marinade ingredients lined up, let’s get grilling! Here’s how to make this delicious carne asada.
Make the marinade. Whisk all the marinade ingredients together in a small bowl.
Marinate your steak in a bowl or container for 1 to 4 hours in the fridge. Do not marinate for more than 4 hours as your steak can become mushy due to the acid from the lime juice.
Grill. Heat a grill on medium-high heat. Add the steak and cook for 5 to 7 minutes on each side (for a flank steak). That’ll give you a beautiful char on the outside while maintaining a medium-rare inside. Depending on the thickness of your steak and personal preference, feel free to adjust this cooking time.
Rest and slice. After your steak has cooked, let it rest for about 5 minutes. When ready to slice, make sure to slice against the grain for the most tender pieces. From there, you can also chop it into bite-sized pieces for tacos or bowls.
Ways to Serve Carne Asada
Carne asada is great served on a plate with sides like elote and Mexican rice, but so much more can be done with it! Here are a few of my favorite meal ideas.
- 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!
Before storing away any leftovers, make sure to slice the steak into pieces for easy reheating. Here are a few ways to store it.
- To store leftovers: Let the meat come to room temperature before placing it in an airtight container. Then, store it in the fridge for 4 to 5 days.
- To freeze for later: In a freezer-safe container, carne asada will keep for up to 3 months in the freezer.
- For reheating: Microwave the carne asada for 1 to 2 minutes until it’s warmed through.
Helpful tip: If you’re prepping carne asada for a party, marinate the meat a day in advance in a large bag or container. Then all you need to do is grill it the next day!
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.
I can’t wait to see all your carne asada creations! I’d love to hear your thoughts on this recipe in the comment box below.
Carne Asada Recipe
- Whisk all of the oil, lime juice, garlic, cilantro, cumin, chili powder, salt, and pepper together in a 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 to 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 to 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.
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Recipe originally posted April 2018, but recently updated to include new photos and information.