I’m This traditional Mexican carne asada is a delicious and easy marinated, grilled beef dish that makes tacos perfect for summer. With minimal ingredients and effort, it’s a meal you’ll have on repeat.
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My first visit to Mexico many years ago now was a real feast for the senses. While I was mainly there to work at a residential center so most of my meals were there, I did manage to experience a few local treats at various points, from wonderful blue corn tacos to the most amazing choice of ice cream and paletas I’ve ever seen.
At the end, I spent a few days in Mexico city which is a great place both to get a great sense of some of the country’s history but also experience some amazing food.
What is carne asada?
“Carne asada” literally translates as “grilled meat” and is used in quite a general term in much of Latin America to mean barbecue, both the cooking and getting together. However in Mexico, it typically refers to this simple way of marinating and grilling beef.
Tacos have been around for centuries in Mexico, dating back to long before European colonization. This beef version dates back to after cattle were introduced by the Spanish, in the 1500s. Cattle ranching quickly flourished and this became a great way to serve one of the lesser cuts.
The lime and orange marinade used here (which is essentially a mojo) tenderizes the beef and adds a great citrus flavor. It allows the flavor of the beef to really come through as well.
Tips for making this marinated grilled beef
As with many traditional recipes, there’s more than one way to make this but most keep it simple. Nearly all use citrus juice though some use bitter orange, others lime depending on the crop of the region. I’ve gone with lime and the more common sweeter orange here to give that balanced but tart flavor.
Some include some beer, but I skipped that as I’m not sure how much it adds. You don’t need many seasonings either, just some salt, pepper, a little cumin and garlic which is always a good idea to me.
All you do is mix all the marinade ingredients, add the beef and leave it to marinate overnight in the fridge. Make sure the beef is submerged in the marinade by either putting it in a freezer bag or else a dish only slightly bigger than the piece of meat. You can also turn it if it sticks up a little.
You can add jalepenos to the marinade if you like, as many traditional recipes do, but if, like me, you have some kids eating them who are less good with spice, you might instead want to add your chili in the toppings instead.
This dish is typically made with skirt steak, although you can also use flank steak. It’s best with a tender, flavorful cut that’s also not too thick. This way it takes in the marinade well and also cooks quickly.
Make sure you let the meat rest briefly after cooking. This helps the meat hold in all the juices – ideally tent it with foil to keep warm. Then, cut the meat against the grain. This means it will be more tender and easier to chew.
How to serve carne asada
The most traditional way to serve this dish is with grilled green onions – you can just put them on the grill whole as you cook the meat. Then, peel back the blackened outer layer before eating.
You don’t have to have them as tacos but if you do, they’re really good with the onions, some fresh salsa or pico de gallo and some guacamole. No more than that.
If you want to be less traditional, or if you have leftover meat, why not make a bowl with it. You could add rice, beans, avocado and other veggies. Alternatively, try the Californian creation of carne asada fries or use it to top a salad.
However you enjoy this carne asada, it’s an easy way to prepare grilled beef with delicious results. The marinade is so simple but adds wonderful flavor to this sometime overlooked cut. Perfect for Taco Tuesday or any time.
Try these other favorite Mexican dishes:
- Tacos al pastor (pork with chili-pineapple marinade)
- Shrimp ceviche tostadas
- Molletes (a traditional breakfast/snack of beans and cheese loaded bread)
- Plus get more Mexican recipes in the archives.
- 1 lb. beef skirt steak 450g, can also use flank steak, top sirloin also fine
- 1 lime juice ie juice from 1 lime
- 1/4 cup orange juice
- 1/4 tsp cumin
- 2 cloves garlic large, 3 if smaller
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp pepper
- Trim any excess fat from the steak and if you prefer, cut into slightly smaller lengths to make it easier to grill.
- Put the orange juice, lime juice, garlic, cumin, salt and pepper in a freezer bag big enough to hold the meat, or container that allows the meat to lay flat.
- Mix the marinade ingredients, add the meat and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate to marinade at least 2 hours but less than 8.
- When ready to cook, remove from refrigerator a few minutes early to come to room temperature and preheat grill to a high heat.
- Shake off excess marinade and grill for a few minutes on each side until cooked through.
- Serve in thin slices – be sure to cut it across the grain. Recommended with grilled green onions, salsa/pico de gallo and/or guacamole.
Grill on high for best results (around 500°F). If you do not own an outdoor grill, you can make carne asada in the oven under the broiler.
Cooking time is an estimate and depends on the thickness of your cut of beef. Use a meat thermometer for best results.
See some of my favorite cooking tools and ingredients in the Caroline’s Cooking Amazon store.