Carne Asada Tacos takes your classic beef taco flavors to the next level. Only five minutes of prep for a spicy citrus marinade you’ll love!
Carne Asada Tacos are a tantalizing fusion of savory and zesty notes. The star, of course, is the beef, traditionally flank or skirt steak, marinated in a blend of citrus, garlic, and spices. This marinade not only infuses the meat with rich flavors but also tenderizes it to perfection. Once grilled, the beef acquires a smoky exterior while retaining a juicy, tender inside. Ideal for family dinners or weekend BBQ parties, these tacos cater to everyone. And let’s be real, who can resist the allure of building their own taco, customizing it to their heart’s desire?
Tracing its roots back to the diverse regions of Mexico, the Carne Asada Taco, or ‘grilled meat’ taco, has slight variations from one locale to another. Check out our Easy Carne Asada recipe that is the base for these tacos that you can serve with Mexican Rice, Easy Refried Beans, and Chipotle Guacamole (Copycat).
Table of contents
- About our Carne Asada Tacos Recipe
- Carne Asada Tacos Ingredients
- Kitchen Tools & Equipment for Making Carne Asada Tacos
- How to Make Carne Asada Tacos
- Nutritional Facts
- Carne Asada Tacos Recipe Tips & Tricks
- Toppings for Carne Asada Tacos
- How to Store Carne Asada Tacos
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Variations on Carne Asada Tacos
About our Carne Asada Tacos Recipe
Originating from the vibrant culinary landscape of Mexico, Carne Asada Tacos have been a beloved staple for generations. At its core, this dish involves marinating choice cuts of beef, preferably flank steak or skirt steak, in an aromatic concoction of citrus, garlic, and various spices. Once marinated, the steak is grilled to smoky perfection and then nestled inside a soft tortilla. To elevate the experience, traditional garnishes include freshly chopped cilantro, onions, and a dash of lime.
What sets our version apart? It’s the delicate balance of flavors in the marinade, paying homage to tradition while adding a unique twist to cater to modern palates. Moreover, we’ve incorporated some insider tips to ensure the meat is not only flavorful but also melt-in-the-mouth tender.
What is the Meaning of Carne Asada?
Carne asada translates to “grilled meat”. Beef is the traditional choice of meat although you could also make pollo asado which is “grilled chicken” or pork asada using the same cooking technique. The best carne asada is grilled and is often offered as street tacos in Mexico.
Can Carne Asada Tacos be Made Ahead of Time?
Absolutely! Carne Asada Tacos are perfect for those who love a little meal prep magic. Here’s a simplified plan:
- Marinate the Carne Asada: Start by marinating your beef a day ahead. This not only saves time but also allows the meat to soak up all the rich flavors, resulting in a tender and flavorful carne asada.
- Grill the Meat: You can grill the carne asada a day before serving. Once grilled, let it cool and store it in an airtight container in the fridge.
- Prepare Toppings and Sides: Dice up your onions, chop cilantro, slice radishes, and make any salsas or guacamole. Keep them refrigerated in separate containers.
- Assembly: On the day you plan to serve, simply reheat the carne asada on a skillet or in the microwave. Warm up your tortillas, and you’re all set to assemble your tacos and add your toppings.
Carne Asada Tacos Ingredients
- Olive Oil: Olive oil acts as a base for the marinade, helping to coat the meat and carry the flavors of the other ingredients. Its richness also helps tenderize the steak. Substitutions: If you’re out of olive oil, avocado oil or canola oil can be used as replacements.
- Orange Juice: This citrus juice adds a fresh, tangy dimension to the marinade, while its acidity aids in tenderizing the meat. Substitutions: Pineapple juice or apple cider vinegar can be used for a different flavor twist while maintaining the tenderizing effect.
- Lemon & Lime Juice: These juices further enhance the marinade’s tanginess and break down the meat fibers for a juicier result. Substitutions: If you’re out of either, simply use more of one or the other, or consider grapefruit juice.
- Soy Sauce: Introduces a salty depth and umami flavor. It also aids in achieving a richer color when grilling. Substitutions: Tamari or coconut aminos can be used for a gluten-free or soy-free alternative.
- Garlic: Infuses the steak with a robust, aromatic flavor. Substitutions: Garlic powder or granulated garlic can be used in a pinch, though fresh is always best.
- Canned Adobo Chipotle Pepper: This adds a smoky heat and depth of flavor. Substitutions: Dried chipotle powder or smoked paprika can be used, but you might miss out on some of the deeper flavors from the canned version.
- Chili Powder, Ground Cumin, Paprika: These spices combine to give the marinade its characteristic spicy warmth and depth. Substitutions: Ancho chili powder or ground coriander can be used in place of some of these spices if necessary.
- Dried Oregano: Imparts an earthy, slightly bitter undertone. Substitutions: Fresh oregano can be used, or even marjoram as a close relative.
- Black Pepper: Adds a sharp, pungent kick to the marinade. Substitutions: White pepper or crushed red pepper flakes can be used for different heat profiles.
- Flank Steak: The star of the dish! Flank steak is lean and flavorful, perfect for grilling. Substitutions: Skirt steak or hanger steak can be used as alternatives.
- Corn Tortillas: The traditional choice for tacos, they add a slightly sweet, earthy taste. Substitutions: Flour tortillas can be used, but they offer a different texture and flavor.
- White Onion & Cilantro: These fresh toppings bring a crispness and zestiness that contrasts with the rich, grilled meat. Substitutions: Red onion can be used for a sweeter profile, and parsley can replace cilantro, especially for those who find cilantro soapy-tasting.
Kitchen Tools & Equipment for Making Carne Asada Tacos
- Blender: Used to emulsify and blend the ingredients for the marinade. This ensures even distribution of flavors.
- Resealable Container or Zip-Top Bag: Essential for marinating the steak, ensuring it’s immersed in the flavorful mixture.
- Cutting Board: Used for preparing the steak before and after grilling. Ideally, use a large one to accommodate the steak.
- Meat Tenderizer: Helps to break down the meat fibers, making it more receptive to the marinade and ensuring a tender result.
- Tongs: Helpful for turning the steak on the grill, ensuring even cooking.
- Knife: A sharp one is essential for chopping the grilled steak into cubes.
- Pan or Skillet: To warm the corn tortillas, enhancing their flavor and making them more pliable.
How to Make Carne Asada Tacos
Time needed: 2 days and 25 minutes.
Experience the incredible flavors of Mexico with our Carne Asada Tacos, a dish that promises both authenticity and a burst of sizzling taste. Taking a total time of around 30 cooking minutes plus marinading time, this recipe serves up to 8 people. Let’s get started!
- Prepare the Marinade
Pour the olive oil, orange juice, lemon juice, lime juice, soy sauce, garlic, adobo chipotle pepper, chili powder, ground cumin, paprika, dried oregano, and black pepper into a blender. Blend the marinade ingredients until it becomes a smooth emulsion. Then, set aside 1 cup of the mixture in the refrigerator; you’ll use this reserved portion for serving later.
- Marinate the Steak
Lay your steak out on a cutting board and gently poke it with a meat tenderizer. This makes the steak receptive to the flavors of the marinade. Place the steak in your resealable container or bag, pour in the remaining marinade, ensuring the steak is well-covered. Seal the bag or container and refrigerate, letting the steak marinate for 48 hours.
- Grill Steak
Fire up your grill to medium heat. Once heated, grill the steak for about 5-6 minutes on each side, achieving a perfect medium doneness. After grilling, allow the steak to rest for 10 minutes to retain its juices.
- Preparing Tacos
With a sharp knife, chop the rested steak into ½ inch cubes. Warm your corn tortillas in a pan or skillet until they become slightly toasted. Spoon the steak cubes onto the warm corn tortillas, and sprinkle with finely chopped white onion and cilantro. Drizzle over some of the reserved marinade from the fridge, adding an extra layer of flavor.
- Serve and Enjoy
With your Carne Asada Tacos now ready, set them out on a plate. Offer additional marinade, chopped onions, fresh cilantro, and some fresh lime juice.
Carne Asada Tacos Recipe Tips & Tricks
Best Way to Heat Tortillas
There are two schools of thought for heating tortillas, direct heat and indirect heat.
- Direct Heat: Add your tortillas directly to a flame, a grill, or a grill pan. This will result in a crispier tortilla that may even have some char marks.
- Indirect Heat: Place your tortillas in a piece of foil and wrap the foil tightly then add the foil to a heating surface. The foil pack allows your tortillas to heat gently, maintain their moisture, and avoid getting a crispy texture.
How to Cut Steak for Tacos
- When cutting steak for tacos you have to remember to cut against the grain of your meat.
- You should cut them into small bite-sized pieces, no more than 1/2″ cubes.
- Allow the meat to rest ten minutes before slicing, if you don’t the meat will lose all moisture.
How Do You Cook Carne Asada?
- Grilled: On an outdoor grill on medium heat, gas or charcoal for 5-7 minutes on each side.
- Stove top: Use a heavy cast iron skillet on medium-high heat for 4-6 minutes per side.
- Oven Roasted: 400 degrees until it reaches 130 degrees internal temperature.
- Broiled: 8 inches away from the broiler 5-6 minutes on each side.
Toppings for Carne Asada Tacos
- Cheese: Cotija, Cheddar, Queso
- Creamy: Crema (recipe below also used on Crispy Fish Tacos!), Sour Cream, avocado, guacamole
- Citrus: Lime wedges, lime juice, orange, lemon wedges
- Spice: Jalapenos, adobo sauce, hot sauce
- Crunchy: radish, jicama, pico de gallo, cilantro, white onion
Homemade Crema Recipe
- ¼ cup mayonnaise
- ¼ cup sour cream
- 1 teaspoon lime zest
- 1 tablespoon lime juice
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- Mix ingredients well and refrigerate for at least one hour.
How to Store Carne Asada Tacos
Storing Leftover Carne Asada Tacos
Store the carne asada meat separately from the tortillas and toppings in airtight containers. This separation prevents the tortillas from becoming soggy due to the moisture from the meat and toppings. Place the containers in the refrigerator, ensuring they are tightly sealed. Leftovers should be consumed within 2-3 days for the best taste.
Reheating Tips for Carne Asada Tacos
Start by reheating the meat. You can use a skillet over medium heat, allowing the meat to warm up slowly while regaining some of its grilled flavors. For the tortillas, a quick stint on a dry hot skillet or a few seconds on an open flame (if you have a gas stove) is the best method, as it revives the tortillas’ softness and charred flavor. Assemble the tacos with toppings only after everything is warmed to prevent wilting or sogginess.
Freezing Carne Asada Tacos for Later
If you’re thinking about preserving Carne Asada Tacos’ taste after storage, freezing the meat is an option to consider. Place the cooked carne asada in an airtight container. Tortillas can be stored in their original packaging or be wrapped in aluminum foil. When you’re ready to enjoy them, let each component thaw in the refrigerator overnight. Once thawed, simply reheat and assemble for a delightful meal.
Frequently Asked Questions
Absolutely! While flank steak is a popular choice due to its flavor and tenderness, skirt steak or sirloin tip can also work well. Adjust cooking times accordingly, as different cuts may vary in thickness.
Definitely. While marinating for 48 hours allows the flavors to deeply penetrate and tenderize the meat, even a few hours can make a significant difference. If you’re short on time, aim for at least 3-4 hours.
Don’t worry! If your marinade separates a bit, it’s okay. Just give it a good shake or whisk before using. The key is to ensure the meat is well-coated when marinating.
If you don’t have a meat tenderizer, the back of a heavy skillet or the edge of a saucer can work in a pinch. The aim is to break down some of the meat fibers to make it more tender and allow the marinade to penetrate better.
If you try to use a room temperature or cold tortilla in making a taco you’re going to find that your tortillas are less pliable (bendy) than they would be when warmed. If you’re in a time crunch, you can wrap your tortillas in a moistened wet paper towel and microwave them for 5-10 seconds to warm them.
Want a quick and easy taco serving idea? Serve this in corn tortillas topped with some cotija cheese, cilantro, salsa, and avocado for the perfect easy taco!
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1/2 cup orange juice
- 1/2 cup lemon juice
- 1/2 cup lime juice
- 1/2 cup soy sauce
- 4 cloves garlic , minced
- 1 canned adobo chipotle pepper
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- 1 tablespoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 tablespoon coarse ground black pepper
- 4 pounds flank steak
- 24 small corn tortillas
- 1 white onion , chopped finely
- 1/4 cup cilantro , chopped
- Add all the ingredients except for the steak into a blender and blend until emulsified, then keep 1 cup of it reserved in the fridge for serving when cooked.
- Add the rest to a resealable container, place your steak on a cutting board and poke with a meat tenderizer, then place in bag and marinate for 48 hours.
- Grill on medium heat for 5-6 minutes on each side for medium doneness, let sit for 10 minutes then chop into ½ inch cubes, serve in warmed corn tortillas with onions, cilantro, and remaining marinade.
Variations on Carne Asada Tacos
- Spicier Kick: Add a teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes or a couple of minced fresh jalapeños to the marinade for an added fiery touch. If you’re using these spicier elements, be sure to balance them with a tad more citrus to mellow out the heat.
- Alternative Proteins: While beef is the traditional choice, you can easily swap it out for chicken thighs, pork shoulder, or even tofu for a vegetarian version.
- Tropical Twist: For a summery vibe, add some pineapple or mango chunks to your marinade or as a salsa. The natural enzymes in these fruits also act as tenderizers, giving your meat a softer texture and a fruity undertone.
Photos used in previous versions of this post.