Carne Asada – a must make Mexican recipe! Flank (or skirt steak) is marinated in a fresh, savory marinade that’s rich in spices, herbs and bright citrus flavor. Then it’s cooked over a hot grill to lend that perfect crave-able charred flavor to the exterior of the meat.
What is Carne Asada?
Carne Asada is a Mexican dish made with marinated beef (using less expensive cuts of steak such as skirt, flank, tenderloin, or rib) and it’s usually cooked on a grill or in a heavy skillet.
Most frequently it’s served alone or in tacos but can also be added to many various dishes (see ideas below).
Personally, it’s one of my favorite things to order when eating out at Mexican restaurants, but of course I also love to make it at home.
This recipe is the best blend I’ve come up with, with a little of this and a handful of that. And together it creates one perfectly harmonious blend of flavors. Chef’s kiss on this one!
Carne Asada Ingredients and Substitutes
- Olive oil: Vegetable oil will work fine too.
- Orange: You can use just about any orange here. Navel, mandarin, cara cara, etc.
- Limes: I like to use both the zest and the juice for more flavor. If it’s all you have, lemon could be used.
- Chipotle peppers (with adobo sauce): This is an ingredient you can sort of add to taste based on the heat level you like. Another spicy pepper like serrano will work here, but you will miss out on that smoky flavor chipotle chilies offer.
- Chili powder and ancho chili powder: If you have hard time finding ancho chili powder you can just double up on the regular chili powder. If you love that chili flavor you can add an extra 1 Tbsp.
- Garlic: I really recommend sticking with fresh garlic but in a pinch you could substitute bottled or dried.
- Cilantro: Parsley will work for a chimichurri style flavor but cilantro is more authentic.
- Ground cumin and coriander: You can use whole spices and grind up yourself for an even better flavor.
- Sugar: Honey or brown sugar will work fine as well. This ingredient encourages browning, along with a hot grill of course (more char!).
- Salt and pepper: I like marinades on the salty (and peppery) side, but of course season as you wish.
- Flank steak: Skirt steak is another great option, it’s just not as widely available.
How to Make Carne Asada
- Make marinade: In a mixing bowl whisk together olive oil, orange juice, lime zest, lime juice, chipotle pepper, adobo sauce, chili powder, ancho chili powder, garlic, cilantro, cumin, coriander and sugar.
- Season mixture with salt and pepper to taste (I use about 1 1/2 tsp salt and 1 tsp pepper).
- Cover steak with marinade: Pour half of the mixture into a baking dish just large enough to fit steak, place steak over mixture and press into marinade. Cover top with remaining marinade and spread over to cover.
- Rest in fridge: Cover dish with plastic wrap, transfer to refrigerator to marinade for 2 – 8 hours.
- Cook on grill: Preheat a gas grill over moderately high high heat to about 450 degrees. Grill steak until it’s reached desired doneness (see notes). I like to keep thinner portion of steak if there is one over a cooler area of the grill if possible, then the thicker portion right over the flame.
- How long to cook it? It will take approximately 6 – 14 minutes. Thinner cuts will cook faster and thicker cuts will take longer.
Is it spicy?
My family doesn’t tolerate much heat and using 1 chipotle pepper is just fine for them. If you want more heat like I love, then punch it up to 3 or even 4 chipotle peppers.
What to Serve with It
What can carne asada be served in?
You can eat it all on its own, or try it in tacos, burritos, quesadillas, over fries, nachos, sopes, or in a torta.
Can it cooked in a skillet?
Yes. This can also be pan seared in a skillet over medium-high heat. Just be sure to turn on the vent fan as it will be smoky. And again just take the internal temperature to test for doneness, thinner steaks could cook in as little as 3 minutes per side whereas thicker will take longer.
Tips for the Best Carne Asada
- Though we are using a lean cut of meat, I still like to look for a flank steak with a little bit of fat marbling.
- If possible use a flank steak with an even thickness. Unfortunately though they often come rolled up so it’s impossible to tell, in which case I like to put the thicker portion closer to the flame and leave the thinner side away from the flame so it cooks more evenly.
- Don’t skip marinating time, allow time for those flavors to infuse into the steak.
- Use plenty of seasoning. Here we load up on the spices (with lots of chili flavor, cumin, etc) to bring a burst of Mexican flavor to the dish.
- Cook over hot heat for a nice char on the exterior.
- Let the steak rest before you slice to allow the juices to redistribute throughout the steak, otherwise they’ll just run out onto the cutting board and your steak won’t end up as juicy.
- Slice thin. This isn’t really a super tender cut of beef so thin slices can improve overall texture.
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A must try Mexican recipe! Flank (or skirt steak) is marinated in a fresh, savory marinade thats rich in spices, herbs and bright citrus flavor, then it's cooked over a hot grill to lend that crave-able charred flavor to the exterior of the meat. From there it's sliced thin and served alone or as an ingredient in some of your favorite Mexican dishes.
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup fresh orange juice
- 1 tsp lime zest
- 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
- 1 - 3 canned chipotle peppers, to taste (depending on how spicy you want it), minced
- 1 Tbsp adobo sauce from can of chipotle peppers
- 1 Tbsp chili powder
- 1 Tbsp ancho chili powder
- 1 1/2 Tbsp minced fresh garlic
- 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
- 1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
- 1/2 tsp ground coriander
- 1 1/2 tsp granulated sugar
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 lbs flank steak or skirt steak (I like to look for a cut with some fat marbling)
Make marinade: In a mixing bowl whisk together olive oil, orange juice, lime zest, lime juice, chipotle pepper, adobo sauce, chili powder, ancho chili powder, garlic, cilantro, cumin, coriander and sugar.
Season mixture with salt and pepper to taste (I use about 1 1/2 tsp salt and 1 tsp pepper).
Pour half of the mixture into a baking dish just large enough to fit steak, place steak over mixture and press into marinade. Cover top with remaining marinade and spread over to cover.
Rest in fridge: Cover dish with plastic wrap, transfer to refrigerator to marinade for 2 - 8 hours.
To cook on grill: Preheat a gas grill over moderately high high heat to about 450 degrees. Grill steak until it's reached desired doneness (see notes). Tip: I like to keep thinner portion of steak (if there is one) over a cooler area of the grill if possible, then the thicker portion right over the direct flame.
Cook time will really vary based on the thickness of the steak, grill temp and outdoor temp, desired doneness etc. (it could take about 6 - 14 minutes, always use a thermometer to test for doneness inserting into thickest portion in the center. Thinner cuts will cook faster, thicker cuts will take longer).
Tip: if you are serving in tacos (quesadillas, nachos, etc) then I recommend slicing strips into small pieces.
Rare: 125 – 130 (not recommended for food safety)
Medium rare: 130 – 135 degrees
Medium: 135 – 145 degrees
Medium well: 145 – 150 degrees
Well: 150 – 160 degrees
Keep in mind the FDA recommends safe temp of 145 degrees for steak.