Authentic Carne Asada + Marinade Recipe

Sharing is caring!

This post may contain Affiliate Links. Please see my Full Disclosure Policy for more details.

Carne Asada is easy to make with a super tasty marinade to give it a lot of flavor. This recipe is my go-to whenever I am craving authentic restaurant-quality Mexican for dinner, with plenty of ways to use up the leftovers!

Since I have lived in South Florida for a large amount of my life, and I am Panamanian on my dad's side (hi, Grandma!) I'd like to think of myself as a connoisseur of Latin and Caribbean food. I grew up eating authentic foods made by my friends' abuelas and ma's, hole in the walls, and family-owned restaurants that were only across the street from the subdivision I lived in.

Carne Asada is easy to make with a super tasty marinade to give it a lot of flavor. This recipe is my go-to whenever I am craving authentic restaurant-quality Mexican for dinner, with plenty of ways to use up the leftovers!

Speaking of which, there was a Mexican restaurant that Brian and I always went on dates to, which was one of the restaurants across the street. Family-owned and had karaoke on Fridays, a mariachi band, and a Mexican songstress during Sunday brunch. And the best Mexican food.

Yes, there was an abuela and her adult children in the back. And yes, the food was amazing every time. Their carne asada was second to none, period!

What is Carne Asada?

There are a ton of similarities between Latin cultures and the foods among them. One of the biggest is carne asada, which translates into grilled meat, but is actually used as a term similar to the way we say barbeque. As in 'We're having a barbeque', a carne asada is more like a function in terminology, and there's usually grilled meat and cervesa (beer) involved.

Just like churrasco from the Caribbean, carne asada, which originated in northern Mexico, is sliced beef that has been marinated or given a dry rub before being charred quickly over high heat and served with sides.

overhead shot of carne asada on a cast iron skillet with black beans, cilantro lime rice and limes

When cattle were first brought to the 'New World', cows had tougher meat and tasted best when well-seasoned and grilled over high heat.
Nowadays, the way we treat and eat cattle is different, but we still use the tougher and more affordable cuts with good flavor like flank steak, skirt steak, and flap meat for carne asada.

How is it made?

There are three important parts to making great carne asada: the cut of meat, the marinade, and the way you cook it.

What cut of meat is used for carne asada?

The cut of meat you want to use should be flavorful, and that doesn't exactly mean it needs to be tender or expensive. Skirt steak is traditional, but flap meat and flank steak are great (and widely used) alternatives. They have long grains that need to be cut into smaller sections and all take well to absorbing the flavors in a great marinade.

Skirt Steak

This is the one everyone knows about and is the most expensive of the cuts. The loose grain of skirt steak holds marinade with ease and has a super beefy flavor, more so than flank steak, and has a good amount of fat on and in between the meat fibers, which keeps it juicy over high heat on the grill. 

authentic mexican carne asada prepared for tacos with rice, limes slices, and tortillas

Flap Meat

I find this to be the most inexpensive out of the three (I find it at 5 pounds for less than $30 at my local bulk store) as well as the least known. Let's keep it that way, it'll be our little secret steak cut, 'kay? 

Flap meat has an intensely beefy flavor and holds marinades well in its coarsely grained fibers. It's also called 'sirloin tips' in some parts of the US, but you may find it under its French name bavette d'aloyau (bib of the sirloin). It looks a lot like skirt steak when cut into long, flat steaks, which is how I found it at my store, but sometimes it's cut into cubes for kabobs.

Flank Steak

Flank steak comes from the lower belly of the cow and has little to no fat, so it benefits a lot from marinating. It's used in lieu of skirt steak for many recipes, including fajitas, stir fry, and on the grill.

All of these cuts are tougher and have to be cut against the grain, or perpendicular to the lines on the meat. Cutting against the grain cuts the tough fibers so the meat is pleasant to eat instead of tough and chewy.

Carne Asada Marinade

meat being marinated in a bowl of carne asada marinade

Is there one kind of marinade that is 100% authentic? No. The need for a marinade is to do two things: tenderize the meat using acid and impart intense flavor into the protein you're using.

To tenderize the steak, I use my favorite mojo recipe as the base of the marinade. Mojo is a sauce often used for marinating meat, poultry, and pork in Latin cooking, specifically in Cuban and Puerto Rican cuisine. It's a mix of sour orange juice, garlic, and some seasonings and it's great on everything, including carne asada. 

The next thing I love to use is soy sauce. Not only does it help break down the tough protein, but it gives serious umami flavor, too. If you have ever eaten something savory and was like 'hmm, something is missing here...' it was the umami. Trust me. 

The next important thing in the marinade is oil. Oil is important in marinades because it helps bring the fat-soluble flavors into the fat of the meat. Just make sure you use one that has a high smoke point, like vegetable oil, grapeseed oil, or peanut oil.

close up of sliced medium rare carne asada steak in a cast iron skillet with limes, beans, and rice

To give our carne asada bold and intense flavor I also have chiles, jalapenos, whole garlic cloves, some of my favorite spices, and a couple cubes of homemade sofrito because I had some and they added great herbaceous flavor. That's what's great about this marinade, you can add and subtract flavors to suit your tastes...so long as the marinade is powerful.

Marinate your choice of steak for anywhere from 30 minutes to 4 hours, depending on how much meat you are cooking. If you're looking for a quick and easy marinade, only marinate the steak in a zip-top bag for 30 minutes to an hour.

How to Cook Carne Asada Steak

The whole point of carne asada is that it's cooked over high heat for a short amount of time, usually on the grill or even directly on hot coals, to get a nice char on the outside and keep the inside medium-rare and juicy. But using a cast-iron skillet over high heat on the stove is a great way to get a fast sear when you don't have access to a grill.

The one thing you do not want to do is overcook the steak; skirt steak, flap meat, and flank steak all are best eaten at medium-rare. Any farther and they end up tough and chewy.

Cook each steak for about 4-6 minutes on each side over medium-high to high heat then rest on a cutting board for at least 5 minutes.

Close up of seared carne asada with a wedge of lime

Resting a large piece of meat, whether it be a steak or a Thanksgiving turkey, is important after cooking as it allows the juices that were rushing around due to the high amount of heat to settle back into the protein strands so the meat remains juicy when you cut into it. To rest it, just leave it alone on the cutting board for a few minutes. Super simple, right?

Like I said earlier, make sure you cut against the grain of the meat. On flank steak, you'll find the grain or lines run the length of the steak, while the grain on skirt steak or flap meat runs the width of the steak.

For the skirt steak and flap meat, cut with the grain to cut the steak into sections, then cut against the grain to slice the meat into bite-sized slices for however you plan on serving your carne asada.

What can I serve with Carne Asada?

Carne asada should be thinly sliced for the best mouthfeel and chew, served with classic Latin sides and usually some type of alcohol if at a social gathering. Some of my favorites are:

What you can make with Leftover Carne Asada

quick and easy carne asada sliced up in preparation for tacos or burritos

The best part about carne asada is that leftovers can be used for many different dishes. Carne asada tacos, fries, fajitas, burritos are all pretty common ideas but I also love adding the steak chopped up on twice-baked potatoes, sliced for steak sandwiches with spinach or arugula, add into salads, put into homemade Chipotle-style burrito bowls, into taquitos with refried beans and an avocado lime crema, the list can go on.

Tips for the Best Carne Asada Ever

  • The times for cooking are estimates. The cooking time will depend on how thick and what type of steak you use, so using a meat thermometer (this is the one I use, it's reliable and even survived falling to the bottom of a hot electric oven!) will ensure accuracy.
  • To ensure your carne asada isn't tough, marinate it for at least an hour, cook it to at most medium rare, and cut against the grain of the steak.
  • The authentic way to cook carne asada is over the grill, but using a grill pan or cast-iron skillet indoors on your stovetop will give you a great char on the steak as well.
  • The marinade is just a guideline, the ingredients give a bright flavor, full of umami and spice. Add your favorite herbs, spices, citrus, whatever you like, to your marinade to give it a personal touch.

Recommended Tools

  • A grill for the outdoors or a cast iron skillet for consistent high heat while cooking indoors.
  • A meat thermometer to tell you when your steak is medium-rare, as my timing is just a guideline. All steaks can be thicker or thinner and a thermometer will tell you the correct temperature.
  • Tongs are super important! I don't want to see any forks stabbing into your steak, it drains the juices right out.

Click here to subscribe SWEET TEA & THYME’S NEWSLETTER for free and fresh recipes right into your inbox!

To pin this recipe and save it for later you can use the Pin button on the recipe card, the sharing buttons above or below this post, or on any of the photos above. 

Tag me @sweet_tea_thyme on Instagram to share your remakes with me, I love looking through your photos!

Leave a 5 star rating and comment on the recipe card to let me know if you enjoyed this recipe.

📖 Recipe

Authentic Carne Asada + Marinade Recipe

Eden Westbrook
Carne Asada is easy to make with a super tasty marinade to give it a lot of flavor. This recipe is my go-to whenever I am craving authentic restaurant-quality Mexican for dinner, with plenty of ways to use up the leftovers!
4.75 from 12 votes
Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 16 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 16 minutes
Course Dinner
Cuisine Hispanic
Servings 8 servings
Calories 468 kcal

Ingredients
  

Marinade:

  • ½ cup grapeseed oil or oil with high smoke point
  • 2 cups orange and lime juice or mojo criollo
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon ground chipotle powder optional
  • 1 fresh jalapeno pepper deseeded and membranes removed (optional)
  • 2 tablespoon light sodium soy sauce
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves optional
  • 5 clove garlic crushed lightly
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper

Steak:

  • 2 lbs skirt steak but flap meat or flank steak work as well
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • Freshly cracked black pepper

Instructions
 

  • In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together all marinade ingredients. Place the steak into the bowl of marinade and make sure the marinade covers every piece of the meat. Let marinate for at least 30 minutes up to 4 hours.
  • Discard your marinade and gently pat steaks with paper towels to dry them off. Let the meat rest for at least 30 minutes, up to an hour, to come to room temperature. Cold protein seizes up in high heat.
  • Heat a grill pan or large skillet over medium-high to high heat or heat a clean grill rubbed with an onion half to high heat, about 500 degrees. Season steaks evenly on both sides with kosher salt and black pepper. Cook steak 5-7 minutes per side for medium-rare, but use a meat thermometer to ensure proper temperature.
  • Remove steak and let rest on a cutting board, covered with foil very loosely, for ten minutes. Slice thinly against the grain and serve with desired sides.
  • Keep in an airtight container for up to 4 days in the refrigerator.

Notes

  • The times for cooking are estimates. The cooking time will depend on how thick and what type of steak you use, so using a meat thermometer will ensure accuracy.
  • To ensure your carne asada isn't tough, marinate it for at least an hour, cook it to at most medium rare, and cut against the grain of the steak.
  • The authentic way to cook carne asada is over the grill, but using a grill pan or cast-iron skillet indoors on your stovetop will give you a great char on the steak as well.
  • The marinade is just a guideline, the ingredients give a bright flavor, full of umami and spice. Add your favorite herbs, spices, citrus, whatever you like, to your marinade to give it a personal touch.
  • This is my recipe for homemade mojo criollo, it works so well not only with care asada but any grilling or Latin dish!

Nutrition

Serving: 1gCalories: 468kcalCarbohydrates: 7gProtein: 35gFat: 33gSaturated Fat: 9gPolyunsaturated Fat: 22gCholesterol: 83mgSodium: 2074mgFiber: 1gSugar: 4g
Tried this recipe?Leave a star rating and let us know!

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating




This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

6 Comments

  1. I’m looking forward to making this! I was just wondering if it’s okay to marinate the meat overnight?

    1. Eden Westbrook says:

      It’s perfectly fine!

  2. Pingback: Arroz con Pollo | Sweet Tea & Thyme
  3. I need this in my life and on my plate NOW! I love, love, love Carne Asada, but haven't had it in years. I need it!

  4. Pingback: Keto Mexican Recipes • Oh Snap! Let's Eat!
  5. Pingback: Carne Asada with Marinade - Yum Goggle