by Olena

Carne Asada

Olena's image
Olena Osipov
5 from 3 votes

How to make Carne Asada with a citrusy Mexican steak marinade that’s packed with enough flavor to make everyone’s mouths water. Perfect for enjoying as a main or within tons of Latin American (and other) dishes like tacos, nachos, burritos, salad, and more!

Carne Asada

Flavor-Packed Carne Asada Recipe

When grilling season arrives, one of the first things I have cooking (along with these coconut lime grilled chicken thighs) is this marinated carne asada as a special treat. Flavorful, juicy, and tender – you’ll be scarfing down carne asada tacos, burritos, and more, in no time. Honestly, even in the middle of winter, this carne asada steak is worth heating up the grill and braving the winter weather for.

Luckily, you don’t have too though. Enjoy this recipe any time by grilling carne asada when possible and learning how to cook carne asada with either a broil or stovetop method the rest of the year.

Best of all, achieving these tender, succulent, flavor-packed beef steak pieces is super simple – anyone can do it! Plus, this recipe is super versatile – feel free to adjust the marinade to what you have available and your personal tastes and serve the steak up in dozens of ways.

Once cooked, serve warm immediately, and then pack leftovers away to pull out for the rest of the week- if you have any, that is!

This carne asada recipe has been perfected over two years of tweaking and is officially Steak-pro husband-approved too! Plus, in my opinion, it rivals any version I’ve tried in Mexico – so I hope you enjoy it!

What Is Carne Asada?

Carne asada literally translates to “grilled meat” and is used in Latin America to refer to grilled then sliced beef. The beef is marinated (with either a dry rub or wet marinade) and then cooked, searing for a smoky charred flavor.

In terms of carne asada seasoning options, this can massively vary, with the simplest of options relying on just oil and salt and pepper to complex dry rubs or wet marinades.

For this recipe, I’ve used a citrusy flavor-packed (and in my opinion) best carne asada marinade made up of soy sauce, vinegar, lime juice, several spices, jalapeño, and cilantro. This combination has enough acid to break down tough fibers, with fresh and dried herbs and spices to flavor the steak with a slight kick. So good!

What Cut of Meat Is Carne Asada?

Carne asada is usually made with either skirt steak, tenderloin, sirloin, strip, or rib steak. The best cuts, in my opinion, are either skirt steak or flank steak. I save sirloin for sirloin tip roast.

For this carne asada recipe, I used skirt steak.

Skirt steak (also called Romanian tenderloin/Philadelphia steak) has a strong, meaty flavor and contains more fat than flank. It is best cooked rare or medium-rare; otherwise, it can become very chewy and tough.

Both work particularly well, though, when marinated first to help tenderize the meat. Both also need to be cut against the grain for the best eating experience.

Carne Asada sliced on a cutting board

The Carne Asada Ingredients

This recipe for carne asada steak requires two elements: the meat and the marinade.

  • Beef: I used skirt steak. Flank steak is the closest alternative (read above for more).

The Carne Asada Marinade Ingredients

  • Soy sauce: Use tamari or coconut aminos for a gluten-free option. You could try a reduced-sodium version too, but I use general dark soy.
  • Apple Cider Vinegar: White wine vinegar would also work.
  • Lime Juice: Lemon juice would also work, but the flavor will vary slightly.
  • Spices: Cumin, chili powder, black pepper. No extra salt is needed due to the addition of soy sauce.
  • Jalapeño: This adds a kick without being too spicy. Feel free to substitute with a different chili or omit entirely.
  • Cilantro: Though the flavor won’t be the same, for the cilantro haters out there (I know there’s plenty of you!), you could try using flat-leaf parsley instead.

How to Cook Carne Asada

This quick and easy carne asada recipe is super simple but requires a little forethought. Remember to leave enough time to marinate the steak!

  • Prepare the marinade: Mix all the marinade ingredients together. It’s easiest (but not necessary) to do this directly in the dish that the steak will marinade – I like using a large, wide dish for the meat to lay in- for better penetration.

Feel free to keep a little of the Mexican steak marinade to one side to spoon over the cooked steak at the end.

  • Marinate the steak: Add the steak to the dish with the marinade and toss gently, so it is thoroughly coated. Allow it to marinate for between 4-24 hours, or less if it’s thinner.

How thin the steak is will vary the amount of time needed. For thin pieces, 4 hours will work (which is what I did). Thicker cuts will need up to 24 hours.

  • Prepare the grill: Preheat the grill to at least 500F/ 260C. Once ready, cook the steak, covered, for about 4-5 minutes per side for medium-rare consistency or until your desired level. It will be quite smoky, but if it’s not burning, this is fine. The aim is for those lovely char marks on the outside, yet a tender, pink middle.
  • Allow the carne asada to rest: For 5-10 minutes, tented with foil or a lid. This will help to seal in all the juices.
  • Slice the steak: The best way to do this is to slice straight or at an angle ALWAYS against the meat’s grain (through the visible lines in the meat rather than with them). By angling the knife, you’ll have slices that are wide but thin (or as thick as you want them to be).

Can You Cook Carne Asada Without A Grill?

You sure can. There are methods for broiled carne asada and options on the stovetop.

Broiled Version

Set the oven broiler to high and pre-heat, then broil the steak on each side for between 3-6 or until your desired doneness.

Stovetop Version

You can use a well-seasoned large cast iron pan or grill pan to pan-sear the carne asada steak. To do so, heat to medium-high/high and cook for between 4-7 minutes on each side or until your desired level.

You could alternatively heat on high for the initial sear, then reduce to medium to finish the cooking to avoid burning.

The kitchen WILL become super smoky doing it this way, so make sure your extraction fan is working, or the window is open if you don’t want to set off the smoke alarm!

Carne Asada tacos served with lime, cilantro and guacamole

How to Serve Carne Asada

There are tons of ways to enjoy this carne asada meat, whether you want to serve it as a main alongside some lime wedges and a bit of salsa and/or guacamole, or as part of a larger meal.

You can also enjoy this carne asada in tons of Latin American meals, including burritos and burrito bowls, nachos, tacos, quesadillas, enchiladas, fajitas – the list goes on.

How to Store Carne Asada?

Store: Refrigerate and leftover carne asada meat for up to five days within an airtight container.

Freeze: Leftovers can be frozen for up to three months. Thaw in the fridge before reheating.

Reheating: The easiest way to reheat the steak without overcooking it is by heating it for between 40-50 seconds in the microwave.

Alternatively, place it on a baking tray and heat it in the oven at 325F until warm through (usually 15-20 minutes). Don’t be tempted to increase the heat. Otherwise, you’ll dry out the steak. You can then briefly sear the heated steak for even better results.

Carne Asada on the grill with flame up

How Long to Marinate Carne Asada?

This will depend on the thickness of your steak cut. I recommend:

  • Thin skirt or flank steak – 4 hours.
  • Thick sirloin, tenderloin, or rib steak – 24 hours.

How do I know if the steak is ready?

With this thin steak, I’ve personally found an instant-read thermometer doesn’t yield great results. Instead, you can use the ‘finger method’ (which I’m not great at) or simply cut into the meat. Cook it until you see the desired amount of blood, which is my preferred method.

If you do want to use a thermometer, though, (and avoid cutting the meat) then there are certain temperatures to look out for:

  • Rare (cool red middle): 125°F/52°C
  • Medium-rare (warm reddish pink): 135°F/57°C
  • Medium (warm pink): 145°F/63°C
  • Medium-well (slightly pink): 150°F/66°C
  • Well done (little to no pink): 160°F/71°C

However, remember that the meat will continue to cook as it rests, so I suggest ever so slightly undercooking it no matter which method you use. For temperatures, aim for a temperature 3-4°F below the guidelines and rest for at least 5 minutes.

More Recipe Tips

  • Optionally set aside some of the marinade: To spoon over the cooked steak when serving.
  • Don’t forget to slice against the grain: Otherwise, you can end up with steak that’s tough to cut and eat.
  • To adapt the heat level: Feel free to swap out the jalapeño for your chili pepper of choice, based on how spicy you’d like the marinade to be. Alternatively, skip it entirely for a milder option.

Other Recipes You May Like

If you enjoyed this quick and easy carne asada recipe, you might like these other steak and grilled recipes.

Carne Asada

Best Ever Carne Asada

How to make Carne Asada with a citrusy Mexican steak marinade that's packed with enough flavor to make everyone's mouths water. Perfect for enjoying as a main or within tons of Latin American (and other) dishes like tacos, nachos, burritos, salad, and more!
5 from 3 votes
Print Save Rate
Course: Dinner
Cuisine: Mexican
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes
Servings: 8 servings
Calories: 280kcal
Author: Olena Osipov

Ingredients

  • 3 lbs skirt or flank steak
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce I used Bragg’s liquid aminos
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 limes 1/4 cup, juice of
  • Handful cilantro minced
  • 4 garlic cloves minced
  • 1 jalapeño with seeds minced
  • 2 tsp cumin ground
  • 2 tsp chilli powder
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper

Instructions

  • In a medium bowl, combine marinade ingredients: soy sauce, apple cider vinegar, lime juice, cilantro, garlic, jalapeno, cumin, chili powder and pepper. Whisk well.
  • Place steak in a large flat dish with side – I love using Pyrex glass baking dish with a lid.
  • Pour marinade on top and toss steak gently to coat an all sides.
  • Cover and refrigerate for 4 – 24 hours. I tried both and both times we had flavorful steak. Of course, longer marinating, more flavor. Don’t exceed 24 hours.
  • Preheat grill to 500 degrees F or medium-high heat.
  • Grill covered for 5 minutes per side for medium rare, longer for more done. Play it by ear and grill like you would steak. Because skirt steak is quite thin, inserting meat thermometer in it while on the grill isn’t the best method to check for level of doneness, I found. Instead I like to cut with a knife right on the grill or on the plate.
  • To grill indoors, use well seasoned cast iron grill pan.
  • Let meat rest covered with foil for 5 minutes to allow juices settle.
  • Thinly slice and serve in tacos, with corn avocado salad, rice and beans or mashed potatoes. Why not?! 🙂

Store: Refrigerate leftovers for up to 5 days in an airtight container. Freeze for 3 months.

    Freeze: Leftovers can be frozen for up to three months. Thaw in the fridge before reheating.

      Reheating: The easiest way to reheat the steak without overcooking it is by heating it for between 40-50 seconds in the microwave.Alternatively, place it on a baking tray and heat it in the oven at 325F until warm through (usually 15-20 minutes). Don’t be tempted to increase the heat. Otherwise, you’ll dry out the steak. You can then briefly sear the heated steak for even better results.

        Video

        Notes

        • Which meat? I used skirt steak. As per Wikipedia, sirloin, tenderloin or rib steak are good cuts for making carne asada.
        • Soy sauce sub: Use tamari or coconut aminos for a gluten-free option. You could try a reduced-sodium version too, but I use general dark soy.
        • Apple cider vinegar – yes: White wine vinegar would also work.
        • Lime juice: Lemon juice would also work, but the flavor will vary slightly.
        • Cilantro substitute: Though the flavor won’t be the same, for the cilantro haters out there (I know there’s plenty of you!), you could try using flat-leaf parsley instead.
        • Optimal marinating time: I would recommend to marinate thicker cuts for 24 hours and thin ones will be fine with 4 hours.
        • Don’t overcook: When checking for doneness, keep in mind meat will keep cooking with residual heat during resting. I recommend to remove it before desired doneness. For example, I like medium rare steak, so I remove meat from the grill with a bit more blood than I eat.
        • Optionally set aside some of the marinade: To spoon over the cooked steak when serving.
        • Don’t forget to slice against the grain: Otherwise, you can end up with steak that’s tough to cut and eat.
        • To adapt the heat level: Feel free to swap out the jalapeño for your chili pepper of choice, based on how spicy you’d like the marinade to be. Alternatively, skip it entirely for a milder option.
        See recipe post for more Tips and FAQs.

        Nutrition

        Calories: 280kcal | Carbohydrates: 4g | Protein: 38g | Fat: 13g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Cholesterol: 107mg | Sodium: 665mg | Potassium: 568mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 247IU | Vitamin C: 7mg | Calcium: 27mg | Iron: 4mg
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        olena osipov in the studio

        Hello and welcome to iFOODreal.

        My name is Olena Osipov. I'm a mom to 2 boys, a wife to Alex and we reside on magical Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada. This is our healthy family recipes blog. Originally from Ukraine, I grew up on real food. As an adult, I struggled with diets for years because none worked long-term. Now for over 10 years, I cook easy healthy meals for my family. I can help you with “What’s for dinner?” too.

        9 comments on “Carne Asada

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        1. 5 stars
          Fantastic easy and flavourful marinade! We grilled the meat and made fajitas. This recipe is a keeper!

        2. 5 stars
          Dear Olena,

          My sister introduced me to your website about half a year ago and since then I have tried over 15 of your recipes. They have all been terrific – easy, healthy and delicious! I really appreciate your efforts to reduce salt, fat and cost without sacrificing taste, your embrace of the Instant Pot and your infectious enthusiasm. I have thought of sending you a happy comment many times, but I rarely do such a thing. However, your recent recipe for carne asada has blown away my reluctance. It is sensational! I grilled two thick sirloin steaks using your technique. They were easily the most tender and flavourful steaks I have ever grilled, just as you promised. Even my wife who is not a fan of beef (definitely not a “steak pro”) was wowed. Instead of offering me her leftovers, as she often does, she quickly squirreled them away for herself.
          I also want to thank you for a low carb and fat white lasagne I recently made. I know that it’s not one of the iFOODreal recipes, but I borrowed your trick of a “cream” sauce based on mashed beans which I picked up from your “Healthy White Chicken Chili” recipe. What a great idea! The lasagne, half of whose noodles were pasta and half zucchini (another favourite ingredient of yours), was wonderful.
          Thank you, Olena, Spasybi!

        3. 5 stars
          Nice flavor for what can be a tough cut of meat. Loved the bit of heat from the jalapeños. Thanks for the recipe.

          1. Hi Cyndi. I have not tested this recipe with venison. You could give it a try and adapt marinating and cook times to venison. Let me know if you do!

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