Carne Asada Tacos! Made with tender homemade marinated steak, and topped with pico de gallo and guacamole, these carne asada tacos are perfect for taco lovers!
I love carne asada tacos! It’s one of my favorite tacos because of one simple reason: the marinade is so good! The marinade gives the flank steak so much flavor and also makes it really tender.
Carne asada tacos marinade is made with fresh lime and orange juice, spices, olive oil, cilantro, and garlic. It’s seriously SO delicious! The citrus also tenderizes the meat, which is a must when it comes to steak.
I love to top my carne asada tacos with a quick homemade guacamole and pico de gallo. So good!
The Carne Asada Marinade
Let me tell you all about this delicious marinade!
Marinades are great for two reasons: flavor and texture.
I especially love citrus-based marinades not only because of the great flavor, but also because it helps to tenderize the meat. I used flank steak in this carne asada tacos recipe, and it came out so tender (flank steak is known to be tough generally).
The carne asada marinade is made of:
- Fresh lime juice
- Fresh orange juice
- Fresh cilantro
- Olive oil
- Spices: Ground cumin, chili powder, paprika
- Salt and pepper
It only needs to marinate for 2 or 3 hours, maximum 4 hours. Because this marinade is acidic, marinating the meat for too long will actually make the it tough and rubbery. I know, I know…it’s counterintuitive, isn’t it? Anything between 2-4 hours will be plenty of time for all those delicious flavors to penetrate.
Quick tip: Use a resealable plastic bag. This way, you can ensure that the marinade will cover all sides of the meat.
This is what you need to make these carne asada tacos:
- Marinade: lime, orange, olive oil, cilantro, ground cumin, paprika, chili powder, minced garlic, and ground black pepper.
- Flank steak: It’s a lean cut of meat that tenderizes really well with a marinade.
- Corn tortillas: I love the flavor of corn tortillas for carne asada. Flour tortillas will work too!
- Toppings: Pico de gallo, guacamole, cilantro, lime wedges.
You can find all the ingredient quantities and details in the recipe card below, including how to make homemade guacamole and pico de gallo.
Easy to Make
So easy to make! Here’s a top-level overview:
- Marinate the flank steak: Use a resealable blag to ensure all sides touch the marinade. Marinate for 2-3 hours.
- Grill the meat: Grill on each side until desired level of doneness – about 5-6 minutes for medium rare, and 6-7 minutes for medium. As an alternative to grilling, you can sear the meat on the stovetop over high heat for 4 minutes per side, and finish it in a preheated 400 degree F oven for 4-5 minutes for medium.
- Let the meat rest: This is crucial to allow the juices to redistribute.
- Prepare your toppings: I used a homemade pico de gallo and guacamole.
- Slice against the grain! This is SUPER important! Slicing against the grain (perpendicular to the muscle fiber lines on the meat) is essential to get tender meat.
The most accurate way to check for doneness is by using a meat thermometer:
- Rare: 130 degrees F
- Medium-rare: 140 degrees F
- Medium: 145 degrees F (my choice)
- Medium-well: 155 degrees F
- Well done: 160 degrees F
You Can Finish it in the Oven!
If you don’t have access to an outdoors grill, you can totally make this on your stovetop without smoking your entire house (been there, done that!).
The trick is to sear the meat on both sides for about 4 minutes per side, and then finishing in a 400 degree F oven for 4 to 5 minutes, or until desired level of doneness. Use a meat thermometer.
Toppings and Variations
My favorite toppings for carne asada tacos are:
- Pico de gallo: made with roma tomatoes, onions, cilantro, freshly squeezed lime, salt, and pepper.
- Guacamole: made with ripe avocado, lime juice, and salt.
- Sliced avocados
- Queso fresco
- Sliced radishes
As for variations, instead of tacos, you can make burritos or burrito bowls. You could even serve it as is – jut slice it instead of dicing it – and accompany it with a simple salad.
That’s it. So easy, flavorful, and tender. These are seriously the best carne asada tacos!
Whenever I have friends and family over, I serve these DIY style. Everyone can add their favorite toppings. Hey, I think it may just be the perfect excuse to prepare as many toppings as I want!
I hope you like these tacos as much as I do. If you’re looking for similar Mexican and Tex-Mex flavors, check these out:
- Steak Tacos with Corn Salsa
- Chicken Fajita Bowls
- Baja Fish Tacos
- Chicken Taquitos
- Tacos al Pastor (slow cooked!)
- Chili Lime Shrimp Cups
- Beef Taco Salad
Tips for Success
- Marinate for 2-3 hours, maximum 4 hours: Anything longer than that can leave the meat too rubbery and tough since the marinade is acidic (lime and orange juice).
- Ensure all sides of the meat is covered with the marinade. Resealable Ziploc bags work like a charm!
- For maximum tenderness, let the cooked meat rest for 10 minutes and then slice against the grain (slice it perpendicular to the muscle fiber lines).
Carne Asada Tacos
Steak and Marinade
- Juice of 2 limes
- Juice of 1 orange
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 2 lbs flank steak (excess fat trimmed)
Tacos and toppings
- 4 roma tomatoes, diced
- 1/4 cup small-diced white onions
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro
- 3 to 4 ripe avocados
- 1 to 2 limes (to taste)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Lime wedges for garnish
- 12 corn tortillas (or 24 tortillas if stacking 2 tortillas per taco)
Marinate the meat
- In a resealable bag, add the marinade ingredients and whisk to combine. Place the steak in the bag along with the marinade, and marinate for 2 or 3 hours (maximum 4 hours) in the refrigerator. Note: marinating steak with acidic ingredients (lime and orange) will turn the meat tough and chewy if left for too long. 2-4 hours should be enough time.
Cook the steak
- After it’s done marinating, preheat grill to medium-high heat. Remove steak from bag, shaking off excess marinade. Grill on both sides until for about 6-8 minutes for medium-rare to medium. For doneness accuracy, use a meat thermometer (see temperatures in notes below).
- Optional: Instead of grilling, you can sear the steak on the stovetop and finish it in the oven. To do this, first preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Heat some olive oil over a large oven-proof skillet over high heat, and sear the steak for about 4 minutes per side. Finish cooking the steak in the oven for 4-5 minutes for medium-rare to medium.
- Let the meat rest for 10 minutes. Then slice against the grain (perpendicular to the muscle fiber lines), and dice the steak into bite-size pieces.
Prepare the toppings
- Make the pico de gallo: In a bowl, combine the diced tomatoes, diced onions, and chopped cilantro. Add freshly squeezed lime juice (about 1/2 a lime), salt, and pepper to taste. Set aside.
- Make the quick guacamole: In a bowl, mash the avocados along with freshly squeezed lime juice to taste (about 1/2 a lime). Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
Build the tacos
- Heat the tortillas over open flame or in the microwave oven. If using the microwave method, place damp paper towels in between tortillas, and microwave for 45-50 seconds.
- To build the tacos, add a few spoonfuls of carne asada on a tortilla and top with the pico de gallo and guacamole. Serve with lime wedges. Enjoy!
- Special equipment: Grill or ovenproof skillet, resealable bags.
- Marinate the meat for a maximum of 4 hours, preferably 2-3 hours. This marinade is made with lime and orange juice, which are acidic, which can break down meats too much when left for too long.
- Doneness temperatures: Rare 130 degrees F, Medium-rare 140 degrees F, Medium 145 degrees F (my choice), Medium-well 155 degrees F, Well done 160 degrees F.