Carne asada tacos feature tender grilled skirt or flank steak in the BEST carne asada marinade. Serve them alongside all your favorite taco toppings and spice up taco night!
These carne asada tacos combine at least four of my favorite things. Isn’t it great when a homemade dinner can do that?
For starters: tacos. While most of the time my husband and I can whip up a batch of taco meat and homemade taco seasoning with our eyes closed, there’s something special about grilling meat for tacos. Grilling – my second favorite here.
Next is using these tacos as a vehicle for eating a fair amount of avocado. Straight-up slices or in the form of guacamole works. I’m not picky.
Last, how great is enjoying a frosty cerveza while grilling, or even making a batch of homemade margaritas or beergaritas to kick taco night up a notch or two? Lots of different ways to have a good time with these carne asada tacos.
Why This Recipe Works
- A potent marinade really permeates the meat to provide a bold flavor and desirable juiciness.
- It’s as easy a grilling recipe as you’re going to get. Put the steak on the grill, flip once, then remove when it hits your preferred temperature.
- This recipe features a ton of serving versatility. The steak is delicious in carne asada tacos, but can also be easily served over rice or grain bowls or over salads. Or eaten straight off the cutting board…
- Steak: Skirt steak is a fattier cut than flank steak, but either will work just fine (more than fine, in fact) for this grilled carne asada recipe. Look for a cut that’s around two pounds of meat in total.
- Liquid base: The liquid base of this marinade is comprised of equal parts orange juice, soy sauce, and olive oil. A citrus element (orange juice) tenderizes the meat and allows it to better absorb the other liquid ingredients (soy sauce, olive oil) for maximum flavor. Apple cider vinegar and lime juice help out on the tenderizing front.
- Jalapeno: Jalapeno peppers add flavor instead of spice here, if you’re concerned about the heat level. Removing the seeds from one pepper helps ensure it’s really not spicy, but you can leave them in (or remove seeds from both peppers) if you prefer.
- Peppercorns: “Cracking” whole black peppercorns instead of using ground black pepper provides a bolder flavor that shines in a marinade recipe.
Really every taco night we use different toppings depending on what we have in the fridge, but ingredients like chopped cilantro, diced onion (white, yellow, red, whatever), salsa, avocado, and some sort of cheese are the usual suspects.
While there are two jalapeno peppers featured in the marinade, it doesn’t make the meat spicy so do add a few dabs of your favorite hot sauce or use a spicy salsa variety if you’re looking for some heat.
Start by prepping your ingredients, which beyond measuring things out includes cracking the peppercorns. Cracking peppercorns delivers a bolder flavor than using ground pepper.
- Place one teaspoon of whole peppercorns on a paper towel (or sheet of aluminum foil) and folded the paper towel over a few times to completely enclose them. Hit the packet with a meat tenderizer until the peppercorns are cracked into small bits, not completely pulverized.
- Next add all of your marinade ingredients to a glass container or large resealable bag and give it a big whisk to combine everything evenly. The add the steak. Since the marinade includes acidic elements, I do not recommend using a metal container for marinating as metal can react with the acids to impact the flavor (in a not-good way).
You can fold the meat over onto itself in order to fit into the marinade container if needed, though a two pound flank or skirt steak should fit snugly in a 9″ x 13″ dish.
- Let the steak marinate, in the refrigerator, for at least two hours, but my preference is longer. I aim for at least six, up to eight hours. All the acidic elements in the marinade may start to turn the meat mushy if left marinating for much time over eight hours, so do be mindful of that.
- Before firing up the grill, brush the grill grates with a neutral tasting, high smoke point oil (like canola, corn, or vegetable oil) to help cut down on sticking.
- Heat the grill to medium-high (in the 400-450°F range) then lay the marinated steak on it in a single layer over direct heat. Close the lid and let it cook for 7-8 minutes.
- After 7-10 minutes, flip the steak and let it cook for roughly another 7-8 minutes.
- At this point use an instant-read thermometer to check the internal temperature in the center of the thickest part. Look for 130-135°F for medium-rare doneness, and up to 145°F for medium doneness.
- Take the steak off of the grill, place it on a cutting board, and loosely “tent” it with foil. Let it rest for 10 minutes, which allows the juices the settle and maximizes tenderness.
While the steak is resting is a good time to throw a few tortillas on the grill to heat them up. Cook on both sides in just enough time to see grill lines forming.
- Once rested, slice the steak against the grain into thin strips. I like thicker strips so that’s what you see pictured here, but it can really be as thin as you like.
- Assemble carne asada tacos however you please!
- For extra flavor and more tender meat, I recommend marinating the steak for the upper end of the time range if possible (seven to eight hours). Always refrigerate the steak while marinating.
- Slicing against the grain (the visible lines running the length of the meat) is very important when cooking cuts that can be on the tougher side. Slicing them this way breaks up the connective tissues into smaller bits and allows for an easier chew.
Carne asada is beef and is made with flank or skirt steak. Both leaner cuts that can veer a little tough, they benefit greatly by marinating well and slicing thin.
Yes. Because carne asada marinade includes significant acidic ingredients (orange juice, lime juice, apple cider vinegar), you don’t want to let the steak marinade for much longer than eight hours. After a longer time the acidity can turn the steak mushy and be off-putting texture-wise.
If you’ve enjoyed this recipe, I’d love for you to leave a star rating in the recipe card and/or a comment review below!
Grilled Carne Asada Tacos
- 2 lbs skirt or flank steak (approximate)
For the marinade:
- ½ cup olive oil
- ½ cup orange juice
- ½ cup soy sauce
- 2 limes juiced
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 1 ½ teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
- 2 jalapeno peppers minced (one with seeds and one without)
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
- 4 cloves garlic minced or pressed
- 1 teaspoon black peppercorns cracked (see note)
- 12 soft taco-sized tortillas, flour or corn
- Chopped onion, any kind
- Cheese, cotija, shredded, your favorite
- Sliced avocado, or guacamole
- Chopped cilantro
- Salsa, your favorite
- Add all marinade ingredients to a large rectangular glass dish (9" x 13" is ideal) or a large resealable bag and stir/whisk to combine. Add the whole steak and submerge. Cover dish and refrigerate for preferably 6-8 hours, but 2-4 hours will work if you're pressed for time.
- Once marinated, brush the grill grates with a neutral tasting, high smoke point oil (corn, vegetable, canola, etc.) before you turn it on to prevent sticking. Heat the grill to medium-high heat (in the 400-450°F range). Once heated, add the steak in a single layer and allow it to cook over direct heat with the lid closed for about 7-8 minutes. Then flip it over and cook for another 7-8 minutes on the other side.
- To check for doneness, insert an instant read meat thermometer midway into the thickest part of the steak. You'll want the temperature to reach 130-135°F for medium-rare doneness and up to 145°F for medium doneness.
- Take the steak off the grill and place it on a plate or cutting board. Tent the top with aluminum foil to cover and allow it to rest for 10 minutes. Meanwhile add tortillas to the grill and let them heat until grill lines begin to form. Flip and repeat on the other side, and then remove.
- Using a sharp knife, cut the steak into thin slices against the grain. You can use these strips as-is for the tacos, or cut them again into smaller chunks if you prefer.
- Top tortillas with carne asada and all your favorite toppings.
- Marinades with acidic elements like this one (citrus juice, vinegar) are prone to messing with the texture of meat if it’s left marinating for too long – think all day all day or overnight. I suggest sticking to around 4-8 hours to prevent the steak becoming mushy, 7-8 hours is ideal.
- Slicing against the grain (the visible lines running the length of the meat) is very important when cooking cuts that can be on the tougher side. Slicing them this way breaks up the connective tissues into smaller bits and allows for an easier chewing experience.
Nutritional information is provided as an estimate. As it can vary due to many factors (brands used, quantities, etc.), we cannot guarantee its accuracy.
Carne asada marinade adapted from Food Network