This Carne Asada is a steak lover’s dream come true! Melt-in-your-mouth, juicy and bursting with flavors from a citrusy marinade. So good that you will want to have it on rotation all summer long!
An authentic carne asada recipe!
It’s officially grilling season and our grill has been working hard pretty much every night!
Nothing beats a summer backyard grilled dinner. Bonus points if it’s steak! If you want to win my family’s heart, serve us steak. 😍😍😍
So, as you can imagine, this carne asada recipe is a family favorite and it is made quite often in our house, either served by itself (with vegetables) or in tacos and burritos.
The marinade ingredient list might seem like a lot, but it’s all easy to find ingredients that might already be in your pantry!
Whatever you do, please don’t skip marinating your carne asada. The marinade is what transforms this dish from a simple grilled steak into a juicy explosion of flavors!
In this post, you will learn:
- What is Carne Asada
- Ingredients that you will need
- What cut of steak is used for carne asada
- How to make carne asada
- What is the recommended internal temperature for best results
- Serving suggestions
- Carne Asada FAQs
Plus a printable recipe!
What is Carne Asada?
Carne Asada, which means “grilled meat” in Spanish, is exactly that: marinated and grilled steak that is sliced thin and served on tortillas or as an ingredient in other dishes.
It is enjoyed throughout Central America, but is particularly popular in Mexico, especially in northern Mexico, where it is considered a staple food and served at parties and celebrations.
Not to be confused with asado, which is the word used for “barbecue” (as both the technique and the social event) in South America. But that will be the subject of another post!
Here’s what you’ll need to make this carne asada recipe:
STEAK – I use flank steak.
MARINADE – A marinade made of onion, garlic, a roasted tomato, roasted jalapeños, orange juice, lime juice, lemon juice, white wine vinegar, soy sauce, brown sugar, oregano (preferably Mexican), cumin, salt, pepper, olive oil and fresh cilantro.
What kind of meat is carne asada?
Carne asada is traditionally made with skirt steak, flank steak or flap meat. These are all similar cuts, so feel free to choose your favorite one!
That being said, you can make carne asada with almost any type of steak. But I would leave the ribeyes and strip steaks – aka “the expensive stuff” – alone. After all, it’s almost an heresy to marinate these cuts!
How to make Carne Asada
While the marinade for carne asada varies greatly depending on region and preferences, almost all the recipes will ask you to cook the steak on the grill.
I am including instructions for both the grill AND the stovetop, using a cast iron skillet. After all, grilling season eventually ends and I want you to be able to cook this indoors when the cravings strike!
A few tips:
- If using flank steak, marinate for at least 3 hours, or up to overnight. If using skirt steak, you can get away with a shorter marinate, at least one hour!
- Always clean and lightly oil the grates of your grill before cooking to prevent the steak from sticking when cooking. I like to dip a piece of paper towel in a bit of oil (not too much or you can start a flare-up) and use tongs to wipe it over the grate.
- If using the cast iron skillet, let it preheat for at least 5 minutes over medium-high heat. You want the pan to be sizzling hot when you add the steak, so you can get that nice char that is characteristic of carne asadas!
- Do not cut your steak right away! Resist the temptation and allow it to rest for 5 to 10 minutes, because the juices need time to redistribute.
- And, finally, always slice your steak against the grain. The grain is the direction that the muscle fibers are aligned in a piece of steak. When you cut the meat against the grain, you shorten these fibers, which makes for a tender bite.
Here’s how I make this carne asada recipe. As always, you will find the printable (and more complete) version of the recipe at the end of this post.
Carne Asada Marinade
- Roast the tomato and jalapeños: Cut the tomato and jalapeños in half, remove and discard jalapeños seeds, and place them under the preheated broiler for 3 to 5 minutes or until charred.
- Make the marinade: Blend all the ingredients for the marinade in a blender or food processor. I like to reserve a cup of the marinade to serve with the cooked meat.
- Marinate the steak: Place the steak and the blended marinade in a gallon-sized ziplock bag. Squeeze all air out of the bag and seal, making sure the steak is throughly coated in the marinade. Refrigerate for 1 to 8 hours. (If using flank steak, marinate for at least 3 hours!)
While not mandatory, roasting the tomato and jalapeños mellows the jalapeños spiciness and enhances the tomato’s sweetness while giving the marinade a touch of smoky flavor.
How to cook Carne Asada
There are two ways to cook carne asada: in the grill or on the stove. If cooking on the stove, I highly recommend using a large cast iron as that will give you the best char!
- Preheat your grill – If using a charcoal grill, prepare your grill for direct grilling over hot coals. If using gas, turn the burners to the highest setting and preheat for 10 minutes.
- Cook the steak – Remove the steak from the marinade at least 15 minutes before cooking and brush off the excess of marinade. Place the steak on the hottest side of the grill and cook for a few minutes, until well charred on the bottom side. Turn and sear the second side.
- Rest and slice – Remove the steak from the grill and let it rest for 5 to 10 minutes. Slice thinly, against the grain, and serve immediately!
Cast Iron Instructions:
- Remove the steak from the marinade at least 15 minutes before cooking, and brush off the excess of marinade.
- Preheat your cast iron pan over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes, or until very hot.
- Cook the steak, about 3-5 minutes per side, until it reaches desired doneness.
- Let the steak rest for 5 to 10 minutes before slicing against the grain.
Temperature for Carne Asada
The FDA recommends cooking beef to an internal temperature of 145 degrees F.
However, if you cook flank steak to that high of a temperature, it will be rubbery and unappetizing, so I recommend cooking it medium-rare (115-120 degrees F) for best results!
If you are a medium-well or well done steak kind of person, I would use skirt steak instead of flank. Since it is a fattier cut, it’s naturally more tender and can be cooked more without losing flavor and texture.
What to serve with Carne Asada
I like to serve my Carne Asada in a big platter, alongside a little bit of the marinade (that I reserve before marinading the steak), some kind of salsa (fresh tomato salsa is my favorite!), sliced avocados or guacamole, and corn tortillas.
Sometimes I serve a side of Mexican rice and beans for a heftier meal.
You can also use this carne asada recipe to make tacos, burritos or burrito bowls, and/or tostadas.
Frequently Asked Questions
Any type of steak will never be as delicious as when it was right out of the grill or pan.
That being said, it is safe to cook it and reheat later. Just make sure you let the steak cool to room temperature before placing it in an airtight container in the fridge.
You can marinate steaks for up to 8 hours. I don’t recommend marinating longer than that, as the acidity of the marinade – which helps tenderize and flavor the steak – will continue to work and alter the texture of the meat, which can get mushy.
Leftovers stored in the fridge are safe to eat for 3-4 days.
You can freeze the carne asada cooked or raw, as long it hasn’t been frozen previously.
If freezing raw, place the steak and the marinade in a large freezer bag and freeze up to 3 months. When ready to use, thaw overnight in the fridge and proceed with the recipe as written.
If freezing the cooked steak, let it cool to room temperature and then freeze in an airtight container or freezer bag. It will keep well for up to 3 months. When ready to use, thaw overnight in the fridge before reheating.
My favorite way to reheat leftover steak is on the stove.
Heat a tablespoon of oil in a cast iron skillet, over medium high heat. Once shimmering, add the steak and cook – flipping once – until hot.
Did you make this recipe? I love hearing from you! Please comment and leave a 5-star rating below. You can also take a photo and tag me on Instagram with #oliviascuisine.
- 1 large tomato, halved
- 2 jalapeños , seeded and halved
- 1 small yellow onion, chopped
- 6 cloves garlic, minced
- Juice of 1 orange
- Juice of 2 limes
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- ½ teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon Mexican oregano
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- ½ cup olive oil
- ½ bunch cilantro
- 1 ½ pounds flank or skirt steak, trimmed
- Preheat the broiler.
- Line a small baking sheet with foil. Place the tomato and jalapeños open side down, skin side up onto the baking sheet.
- Place the baking sheet in the oven, about 4 inches from the broiler. Roast for 3 to 5 minutes or until the peppers and tomato are charred and the skin is blistered. Remove from the oven and let them cool slightly.
- Transfer the tomato and jalapeños to a blender or food processor. Add the remaining marinade ingredients and blend until smooth. Reserve 1 cup of the marinade in a sealed container and refrigerate.
- Transfer the rest of the marinade to a gallon-sized ziplock bag. Add the steak and massage so it’s throughly coated in the marinade. Squeeze all air out of the bag and seal. (Alternatively, you can marinate the steak in a large baking dish and cover with plastic before refrigerating.) Refrigerate for at least 3 hours and up to overnight (8 hours).
- When ready to cook, remove the steak from the marinade and wipe off the excess. Let it stay at room temperature for 15 minutes before cooking.
- To cook on the grill, prepare your grill for direct grilling over hot coals. If using gas, preheat at the highest setting for 10 minutes. Clean and lightly oil the grates of the grill. Place the steak on the hottest side of the grill and cook – turning occasionally – until well charred and a thermometer inserted in the center reads 115-120º F, about 3-4 minutes per side.
- To cook in a cast iron skillet, preheat the skillet over medium-high heat for 5 minutes. When hot, add the steak and cook – turning occasionally – until charred on both sides and a thermometer inserted in the center reads 115-120º F, about 3-4 minutes per side.
- Remove the steak to a cutting board and allow to rest for 5 to 10 minutes.
- Slice thinly against the grain and serve immediately, with the reserved marinade as a side sauce.
Serving suggestions:Serve your carne asada with the reserved marinade, mild or spicy salsa, avocado slices or guacamole, sliced red onions, cilantro, lime wedges and warmed tortillas.
Leftovers:Leftover carne asada can be stored in an airtight container, in the fridge, for up to 3-4 days.
- You can freeze the raw carne asada if it hasn’t been frozen before. Just combine the steak with the marinade in the ziplock bag, squeezing all the air out and sealing shut. It can be frozen for up to 3 months.
- Freeze cooked carne asada in an airtight container (or freezer bag) for up to 3 months.