It doesn’t take much to spruce up charred beef, and Carne Asada Tacos are proof.
Rustic, simple, and about as unpretentious as it gets, these easy tacos feature sliced, marinated flank steak cooked to juicy, beefy perfection, wrapped in a double layer of corn tortillas, and are humbly topped with diced white onion and sprigs of cilantro. Add a fresh squeeze of lime and a dollop of guacamole for a no-fuss, downright delicious dinner idea.
WHAT IS CARNE ASADA?
Carne Asada literally translates to “grilled meat.” It is beef that has been marinated, cooked over a flame, and (most often) used as a filling in tacos.
These rustic tacos first made their way to the scene in Mexico in the 1500s. Grilled meat has (clearly) been around for a long, long time. Thin strips of beef were cooked over hot coals, wrapped in corn tortillas and topped with guacamole, onions, chile peppers, and lime. Not much has changed half a century later. When something works, it works.
WHAT KIND OF MEAT IS CARNE ASADA?
Carne Asada Tacos can be made with either flank steak or skirt steak, but flank steak is the more popular cut for this dish. Flank steak comes from the abdominal area, below the ribs of the cow, and is revered for its big beefy flavor.
CARNE ASADA TACOS VS. STEAK FAJITAS
You might have noticed there are quite a few similarities between Carne Asada Tacos and Steak Fajitas. So what is the difference exactly?
The main difference between the two is while both dishes can be made with either flank or skirt steak, skirt steak is more commonly used for fajitas. There is also a difference in the way the two are served. Fajitas typically come along with flour tortillas, a sizzling platter of peppers and onions, and molcajete loaded with extra toppings.
Carne Asada Tacos, on the other hand, are usually served street taco-style, with corn tortillas, sliced beef, diced white onion, chopped cilantro, and a squeeze of fresh lime juice. Sometimes, they’ll also have come with a side of guacamole. Bonus.
HOW TO MAKE CARNE ASADA
- Season the Beef
- Grill (or Pan Sear)
- Assemble Tacos and Serve
MARINATE THE FLANK STEAK
A simple cilantro-lime marinade adds a ton of flavor to Carne Asada Tacos and is well worth the small amount of effort it takes to throw one together!
This marinade comes together with a rough chop of cilantro, jalapeño, and onion. Then, you’ll combine the veggies with seasoning, lime juice, and oil, add the flank steak and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 4 hours.
SEASON THE BEEF
Before your steak hits the grill (or pan), you’ll want to remove excess marinade to help to prevent flare-ups if you are cooking on the grill and to get a better sear on the meat.
Then, drizzle the flank steak with a bit of oil and sprinkle it with salt and pepper. There is no special spice blend for Carne Asada. The marinade adds all the flavor you need.
- Prepare a charcoal or gas grill and bring the heat to medium-high. You will know the temperature is right when the coals are glowing brightly and have a faint coating of ash. You could also hold your hand about 6″ above the grate (with caution, of course), and begin counting. You should have to withdraw your hand by the count of 3.
- Once the grill has come to temperature, add the beef and cook the flank steak for about 12-14 minutes total, turning it about half-way through.
- Add oil to a cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat and allow it to come to temperature.
- Add the beef to the pan, and cook the flank steak for about 12-14 minutes, turning it about half-way through.
HOW TO SLICE FLANK STEAK
The most important factor regarding whether or not your Carne Asada Tacos will have a tender bite to them is how you slice them. It is of the utmost importance that you slice the beef against the grain. You’ll also want to slice the beef as thin as possible.
HOW TO MAKE CARNE ASADA TACOS
To assemble Carne Asada Tacos, stack two warm corn tortillas on top of one another. Then, lay a few strips steak on top of the tortillas, sprinkle with finely chopped white onion, and chopped cilantro leaves. Lastly, squeeze a wedge of lime all over the beef and enjoy!
WHAT TO SERVE WITH YOUR TACOS
In addition to the standard combination of onion, cilantro, and lime, you can also serve Carne Asada Tacos with a side of salsa (Rojo or Verde), thinly sliced jalapeño peppers, guacamole, chile con queso, shredded cheese, or crumbled cotija cheese. And surely, no one would complain if a homemade Chimichurri Sauce made its way to the table.
Looking to make a full meal out of it? You can’t go wrong with the classic rice-and-beans combo to serve on the side of any Mexican dish, but the deliciousness doesn’t stop there. See below for more serving ideas!
5 MORE TACO RECIPES YOU’LL LOVE
How to make the best Carne Asada Tacos with juicy, tender marinated flank steak (grilled or cooked in a skillet), tortillas, cilantro, onion, and lime!
- 3/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice about 6-8 limes
- 2 cups roughly chopped cilantro leaves and stems (about 1 bunch of cilantro)
- 2 jalapeños roughly chopped (seeds intact)
- 1/2 white onion roughly chopped
- 5 large cloves of garlic roughly chopped
- 1 tablespoon Kosher salt + 1 1/2 teaspoon, separated
- 1 tablespoon black pepper + 1 teaspoon, separated
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- 1/4 cup canola or avocado oil (+ 3 tablespoons if cooking on the stovetop)
- 2 pounds flank steak
- 16 corn tortillas (you will need 2 corn tortillas per taco)
- Chopped white onion, cilantro, and fresh lime juice for topping
Add the lime juice, cilantro, jalapeños, white onion, garlic, salt, pepper, and cumin, as well as a 1/4 cup of water to a mixing bowl and stir to combine. Slowly drizzle in a 1/4 cup of oil, whisking with the tines of a fork to combine.
Place the flank steak in a gallon-sized ziptop bag, pour over the marinade, and seal tightly. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 4 hours.
Set the beef out at room temperature for 30 minutes prior to grilling. Remove the protein from the bag and pat dry with a paper towel. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon of oil and sprinkle with 1 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt and 1 teaspoon pepper. Rub all over to adhere, and set aside until ready to use.
Prepare a gas or charcoal grill and bring to medium-high heat. To test whether or not your grill is hot enough, (carefully) hold your hand about 6" from the grate. It should be so hot, that you have to move it by the count of 3.
Add the beef to the grill. Cook flank steak for about 12-14 minutes, turning it about half-way through.
Add 3 tablespoons of oil to a large, skillet (preferably cast iron) over medium-high heat. Once the oil has come to temperature, add the steak and cook for about 12-14 minutes, turning it about half-way through.
Allow to rest 5-10 minutes. Then, slice the beef as thin as possible (cutting against the grain) and set aside.
Add the steak to a tortilla, top with diced onion, chopped cilantro, a squeeze of fresh lime juice, and other taco toppings, if desired.
The thickness of the steak matters. If your flank steak is thicker than 3/4", it will very likely be rare if you use the indicated cook times. Thinner flank steaks work best for this recipe, but if you cannot find one, there is a fix:
If the flank steak is between 1 to 1 1/4" thick (before searing the steak) preheat the oven to 375°F degrees. Cook the flank steak as indicated in the recipe card. Then, transfer it to a baking sheet and bake for 7-10 minutes, depending on how "done" you like your beef.