The Best Carne Asada Recipe

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Additional Time 4 hours
Total Time 4 hours 20 minutes
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This bold, vibrant recipe for Carne Asada is first marinated in a delicious blend of citrus, Mexican spices, and jalapeños before being grilled to perfection. Serve with rice, on a taco, or any way you like!

Bold, Citrusy Mexican Carne Asada Recipe

Grilled flank steak is always gonna be a “yes.” It’s just so good! And it’s even better when you give it a little love first, in the form of a killer marinade. This recipe uses all kinds of goodies to flavor-blast the already flavorful steak with lime, pineapple, garlic, cilantro, jalapeño… so yummy!

It’s also extremely easy. While the steak is marinating, you can make sure you have a side or two and some tortillas, and then relax until it’s time to quickly grill the steak and slice it up. Perfect for an easy-but-special weekend meal, birthday dinner, etc.

What is Carne Asada?

Carne asada is grilled and sliced steak. In Spanish, the term “carne asada” literally means “grilled meat.” You can use different cuts of beef for carne asada with the most popular ones being flank or skirt steak. The meat is grilled over high heat until it is lightly charred on the edges, then it’s sliced and served in everything from tacos to burritos.

What’s the Difference Between Carne Asada and Steak?

So is carne asada just… steak? Well, sort of. The term has become famously connected to grilled flank or skirt steak that’s been marinated with citrus, garlic, and other bold flavors. If you order carne asada at a restaurant, that’s almost always what you’ll get, and that’s what this recipe delivers.

From top: Chopped cilantro, olive oil, chopped onion, salt and pepper, white vinegar, seasonings, lime juice, finely chopped jalapeno, flank steak, cumin, pineapple juice, chili powder, maggi jugo, garlic.

The Ingredients

This recipe is basically just steak and marinade. The marinade is mostly pantry staples, but there are a few “special” items that you may not typically have on hand. You can probably find everything at your local grocery store, though!

  • Flank Steak: I like mine on the thinner side. 
  • Limes: Juice a couple of limes, or use bottled lime juice.
  • Pineapple Juice: Use a good quality pineapple juice or better yet, fresh pineapple juice. Orange juice will also work if you don’t have pineapple.
  • Garlic: Crush them with the side of your knife, and peel away the papery skin. No need to chop or mince.
  • Cilantro: Fresh chopped cilantro is so good in this marinade. If you’re not a fan of cilantro, substitute fresh chopped parsley.
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Olive Oil: Extra virgin olive oil has the most flavor. 
  • Jalapeños: My family likes spicy dishes, so I usually throw in a couple of these with the seeds and ribs removed. You can leave them out for a milder dish.
  • Vinegar: Plain old white vinegar is fine, or you could use apple cider vinegar, rice vinegar, etc.
  • Onion: Chopped. 
  • Mexican Oregano: Mexican oregano is a little different from regular oregano. Marjoram is similar in flavor, but regular oregano will also work.
  • Cumin and Chili Powder: Must-have spices for lots of Mexican dishes. 
  • Maggi Jugo: Maggi Jugo is a flavorful condiment, usually found in the international foods aisle in U.S. grocery stores. See the “Tips” section for more.

What Cut of Meat is Best for Carne Asada?

Flank steak is really popular for making carne asada, and skirt steak is also a great choice. Basically, you are looking for a cut that is beefy and a bit tough, to marinate and cut across the grain for tender grilled strips that still have some chew to them. You can also use steak marked “flap meat.”

All of these come in different lengths and thicknesses. You may have to cut a large piece into smaller pieces to fit it on your grill, and you may have to adjust the cooking time for thinner or thicker cuts.

Grilled steak, garnished with chopped red onion and cilantro.

How to Make Carne Asada

This cooking method is so easy, you guys – you literally just marinate, grill, and slice. There’s nothing more satisfying than that delicious sizzle when you lay this flavorful marinated steak on a hot grill grate.

  • Marinate the Steak. To get started, find yourself a large zip-top bag (or a big glass dish with a lid). Place the flank steak inside. In a separate bowl, combine all of the marinade ingredients and stir them well. Pour the marinade over the meat, toss to coat, and let it hang out in your fridge for 4 hours. 
  • Grill. When you’re ready to cook, preheat your grill to high heat. Take the meat out of the marinade, and lay it on the hot grill. Let it cook on each side for 2 – 3 minutes for medium, or 3 – 4 minutes for well done. (This is for a thinly-cut flank steak. If yours is on the thicker side, it may take longer.)
  • Rest and Slice. Once the steak is cooked, take it off of the heat. Wrap it or cover it with foil and let it rest for about 5 minutes – don’t skip this step! It’s important for keeping the meat juicy. When the rest time is up, use a sharp knife to thinly slice the meat against the grain.
  • Enjoy!

About that Carne Asada Marinade

The marinade is an important part of this recipe – in fact, you can’t overestimate how important it is! It adds flavor and tenderness to the meat that just transforms the final dish.

All that being said: don’t over-marinate. Given how quickly pineapple juice works on meat, I recommend marinating your meat for only about four hours. Two hours will work, four is best, and six is the max. If you do longer than six hours, your meat may turn out a bit grainy or dried-out from getting over-tenderized, and the flavor won’t be as beefy.

Tips for Success

What else should you know about making carne asada? Good question! As it happens, I do have a couple of helpful tips to share. 

  • Pineapple Juice: I know, pineapple juice may be a little surprising, but pineapple juice carries an enzyme called bromelain that helps tenderize meat like nobody’s business. Bromelain dissolves collagen fibers (connective tissue) in steak. When I worked at a Mexican restaurant in Texas, we used soy sauce and pineapple juice to marinate the steak fajita meat and they were the BEST fajitas in town! If you don’t have pineapple juice, orange juice can be substituted.
  • Maggi Jugo: Maggi seasonings are a big deal in different parts of the world, with Maggi Jugo being super popular in various Mexican communities. It’s fabulous on grilled meat, and lots of other things too. If you don’t have it on hand, you can use soy sauce with a big splash of Worcestershire sauce. 
  • Don’t skip the resting time. It’s tempting to serve your carne asada immediately but the resting time is important. During this time, the meat absorbs extra moisture so that you get tender, juicy bites of steak.
  • Slice correctly. Carne asada made with flank or skirt steak should be sliced at an angle against the grain of the meat. Cut the meat after it has finished resting.
Steak tacos on flour tortillas.

Perfect Serving Suggestions

You can pile carne asada slices into tacos, burritos, over rice, or even over a salad. Any way you slice it (see what I did there?) it’s great with one or more of these fresh, flavorful sides:

Close-up shot of grilled carne asada steak.

How to Store and Reheat Leftovers

Storing leftover carne asada is straightforward and easy, and so is reheating – that makes this easy recipe even better, don’t you think?

  • Store any leftover meat in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
  • Reheat on the stove, in a covered skillet over low heat. You want to reheat gently until the meat is heated through, but don’t overcook it or the steak will get tough and dry.

Can I Freeze Carne Asada?

Yes, you can. Carne asada slices should be frozen in freezer bags, or tightly wrapped in a double layer of plastic wrap and foil. That way, you can keep as much air out as possible. Freeze for up to 3 months, and thaw in the fridge before reheating.

Sliced grilled flank steak, garnished with onions and cilantro.
4.8 from 4 votes
Print Pin Recipe
Yield: 4 Servings

The Best Carne Asada

This bold, vibrant recipe for Carne Asada is first marinated in a delicious blend of citrus, Mexican spices and jalapeños before being grilled to perfection. Serve with rice, on a taco, or any way you like!
Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time10 minutes
Additional Time4 hours
Total Time4 hours 20 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds thinly sliced flank steak
  • 2 limes, juiced
  • ½ cup pineapple juice, or fresh orange juice
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 cup cilantro, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 2 jalapeños, seeded and minced
  • 2 tablespoons white vinegar
  • ½ cup chopped white onion
  • 1 teaspoon Mexican oregano
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 tablespoon Maggi jugo, or soy sauce and a hearty splash of worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder

Instructions 

  • Place the flank steak in a glass dish (with a lid) or in a large ziplock bag.
  • Combine the remaining ingredients in a mixing bowl and stir to combine. Pour over the meat and toss well to coat.
  • Cover the meat or seal the ziplock bag and place in the refrigerator for 4 hours, for best results. (Minimum marinade time is 2 hours and max marinade time is 6 hours.)
  • Remove the meat from the marinade and turn the grill to high heat.
  • Place meat on the hot grill and grill each side for 2 to 3 minutes. If you like your meat well done, grill for 3 to 4 minutes per side. (These cook times are for thinly cut flank steak, if you are using a thick cut flank steak, you will need to cook your steak for longer.)
  • Remove and wrap with foil to rest for 5 minutes before serving. (Don’t skip this step!)
  • Slice the meat against the grain in strips and serve as desired in tacos, burritos, over rice and beans, etc. 

Notes

Store any leftover meat in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or freeze for 3 months.

Nutrition

Serving: 1, Calories: 734kcal, Carbohydrates: 14g, Protein: 65g, Fat: 46g, Saturated Fat: 12g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 31g, Cholesterol: 179mg, Sodium: 1007mg, Fiber: 3g, Sugar: 6g

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3 Responses
  1. David Nila

    As a Mexican I have to say something: this is for sure not authentic carne asada like the link in FB said.

    First of all, we don’t use olive oil or vinegar, we want the real flavor of the meat. Some people use beer and orange juice to marinade the meat, but for sure not olive oil or vinegar.

    Second: plantains, really? This tell us this guy is not Mexican at all. You eat this with beans and rice maybe, but definitely not plantains.

    1. A woman holding a camera standing in front of some shelves.
      Jessica

      This recipe is from a friend of ours who is Mexican and lives half of the year in Mexico. We love it and are thankful she shared it with us and let us share it on our site. As she said, the recipe has changed over the years as she has updated and changed the ingredients for the best steak. We never once claimed this to be the *ONLY* way to make Carne Asada, but we do think it’s the best and recommend you try it before hating on it.

      Also, no, plantains are not Mexican, however they are delicious and go great with carne asada. We live in a blended household and see no problem with mixing different foods from different cultures that go together well on one plate.

Welcome!

Jessica
I'm a trial & error, self taught, sugar addict who thankfully learned how to survive in the kitchen! I am also a wife, mama of 3.