Citrusy Carne Asada Recipe

Carne asada, a cherished dish that originated in Mexico, showcases the vibrant and bold flavors of traditional Mexican cuisine. This recipe for carne asada celebrates the art of grilling tender flank steak to perfection, creating a delicious dish that embodies the essence of Mexican culture. In Mexican culinary heritage, carne asada holds a special place as a staple in outdoor gatherings, family celebrations, and cherished street food. The term "carne asada" translates to "grilled meat," and its preparation method has been passed down through generations, allowing us to savor the authentic tastes and aromas of Mexico's culinary traditions.

Marinated overnight in a vibrant blend of white vinegar, citrus juices, onions, garlic, and jalapeño, the flank steak absorbs an enticing medley of flavors. To truly indulge in the authentic experience, the grilled carne asada is served as tacos, with warm tortillas, fragrant cilantro, refreshing chopped onions, and vibrant salsa.

"Carne asada represents more than just a delicious meal; it embodies the warmth, community, and rich cultural heritage of Mexico and Southern California, where I'm from," says recipe developer Taylor Murray. So, whether you're planning a festive gathering or simply craving a tantalizing feast, immerse yourself in the flavors of Mexico with this mouthwatering recipe for carne asada.

Gather the carne asada ingredients

At the heart of the recipe is the flank steak, a lean and flavorful cut of beef that is perfect for grilling. It serves as the canvas for the vibrant marinade, which consists of white vinegar, vegetable oil, citrus juices from oranges and limes, thinly sliced onions, garlic, and a hint of jalapeño for a touch of heat. The white vinegar and citrus juices work together to tenderize the meat and infuse it with a tangy and refreshing taste. 

Onions and garlic add depth and aromatic notes to the dish, while the jalapeño brings a subtle kick of spiciness. Salt and pepper are used to season the steak, enhancing its natural flavors. To complete the dish, tortillas are warmed and serve as the vehicle to enjoy the succulent grilled meat. Cilantro, with its fresh and herbaceous flavor, adds a bright element to the tacos. Chopped onions provide a crisp texture and a mild bite, while salsa brings a burst of vibrant and zesty flavors.

Marinate the meat

The first step is to marinade the meat. To begin the preparation of the carne asada, gather a bowl and combine the white vinegar, vegetable oil, freshly squeezed citrus juices (orange and lime), thinly sliced onions, thinly sliced garlic, and halved and seeded jalapeño. This mixture creates a robust and tangy marinade that will infuse the flank steak with layers of flavor.

Take the flank steak and place it in a sturdy ziplock bag, ensuring that it is large enough to hold the meat comfortably. Pour the prepared marinade over the steak in the bag, making sure to coat it evenly on all sides. The marinade acts as a tenderizing agent and imparts its delightful flavors into the meat. Once the steak is in the bag, seal it tightly to prevent any leaks or spills. This ensures that the marinade fully envelops the steak, allowing it to absorb the flavors as it rests. For the best results, refrigerate the sealed bag of marinated steak overnight, or for a minimum of 12 hours. This extended marinating time allows the flavors to penetrate the meat and enhances its tenderness.

Prepare the grill and meat

Once the marinating process is complete, it's time to fire up the grill. Whether you're using a charcoal grill or a gas grill, preheat it to medium heat. This moderate heat level ensures that the steak cooks evenly and allows for a balance between achieving a nicely charred exterior and a juicy interior.

While the grill is preheating, carefully remove the marinated flank steak from the ziplock bag, allowing any excess marinade to drain off. Discard the remaining marinade. Season the steak generously with salt and pepper on both sides. This step enhances the natural flavors of the meat and adds a delightful balance of seasoning.

Grill the beef

Now that the grill is preheated and the steak is seasoned, it's time to start grilling the carne asada. Carefully place the seasoned steak directly onto the preheated grill grates. For medium-rare doneness, cook the steak for about 4-5 minutes per side. This cooking time will result in a juicy and slightly pink center. However, you can adjust the cooking time to your personal preference and desired level of doneness. If you prefer your carne asada more well-done, you can increase the cooking time by a few minutes on each side. Remember to use a meat thermometer to ensure the internal temperature reaches your desired level of doneness. The USDA recommends a minimum internal temperature of 145 F for medium-rare.

While the steak is grilling to perfection, take advantage of the heat and warm the tortillas. Place the tortillas directly on the grill grates, lightly toasting them on the edges for added flavor and texture. This step is optional, but highly recommended as it adds a delightful charred taste to the tortillas, enhancing the overall experience of your carne asada tacos. Grill the tortillas for just a few seconds on each side until they develop slight char marks and become pliable.

Let it rest and slice

After the steak has reached your desired level of doneness on the grill, it's essential to let it rest for a few minutes before slicing. This resting period is crucial as it allows the juices within the steak to redistribute and settle, ensuring that each bite remains juicy and flavorful. Carefully remove the cooked steak from the grill and transfer it to a cutting board. It's best to use tongs or a spatula to handle the hot meat. Then, let the steak rest undisturbed for about 5 minutes. During this time, the residual heat within the meat continues to gently cook the center while the outer layers relax.

Resting the steak is important for several reasons. It helps the meat retain its juiciness. When you cut into a steak immediately after grilling, the juices tend to flow out, leaving the meat dry. Allowing the steak to rest gives the juices a chance to redistribute, resulting in a more succulent and tender final product. Additionally, resting the steak enhances the texture of the carne asada. The resting period allows the proteins in the meat to relax, making it easier to slice the steak against the grain. Cutting against the grain means slicing perpendicular to the direction of the muscle fibers. This method helps break up the muscle fibers, resulting in a more tender and enjoyable bite.

Assemble the tacos

The final step is to assemble the tacos. Start by taking a warmed tortilla and placing a few slices of the grilled steak in the center. Sprinkle a generous amount of chopped cilantro over the steak, along with chopped white onion. To complete the assembly, add a spoonful of salsa on top. 

"Keep in mind that this isn't the only way to eat carne asada," says Murray, "You can also serve it on a rice bowl, in a quesadilla, or on top of nachos." The beef will keep for up to 4 days in the refrigerator, so feel free to double the batch and make extra, if you like to meal prep.

Citrusy Carne Asada Recipe
5 from 38 ratings
This recipe for carne asada celebrates the art of grilling flank steak to perfection, creating a delicious dish that embodies the essence of Mexican culture.
Prep Time
Cook Time
Grilled carne asada
Total time: 12 hours, 20 minutes
  • For the carne asada
  • 2 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 orange, juiced
  • 2 limes, juiced
  • ½ white onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 jalapeño, halved and seeded
  • ¾ pounds flank steak
  • Salt and pepper
  • For the tacos
  • Tortillas
  • 1 bunch cilantro, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • Salsa, for serving
  1. Combine the vinegar, oil, citrus juices, onions, garlic, and jalapeño in a bowl.
  2. Place the flank steak in a ziplock bag and add the marinade. Seal tightly. Refrigerate overnight (or up to 24 hours).
  3. Preheat a charcoal or gas grill to medium heat.
  4. Remove the steak from the ziplock bag and discard the marinade. Season the steak generously with salt and pepper on both sides.
  5. Place the steak on the preheated grill and cook for about 4-5 minutes per side for medium-rare, or adjust the cooking time to your desired level of doneness.
  6. While grilling the steak, lightly grill the tortillas by placing them directly on the grill for a few seconds on each side until slightly charred.
  7. Once the steak is cooked to your liking, remove it from the grill and let it rest. Slice the grilled steak against the grain into thin strips.
  8. To assemble the carne asada tacos, place a few slices of grilled steak onto each warmed tortilla. Top with chopped cilantro, chopped onions, and a spoonful of salsa.
  9. Serve the tacos immediately and enjoy your delicious homemade carne asada.
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