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15 July 2019

To make the best carne asada, you need a great carne asada marinade recipe. Mine is a perfect blend of seasonings and flavors for the best I’ve ever had.

I’ve been making carne asada for years. Ever since I learned how to make it, it’s been a staple in my kitchen. Carne asada, which translates to “grilled meat”, is beef that is marinated, grilled and sliced. You can use different cuts of beef. Commonly used are sirloin, rib or tenderloin.

Where I live, you’ll mostly see either flank steak or skirt steak, also referred to as “arrachera” – marinated flank or skirt steak. It’s a popular Mexican dish, incredibly easy to make, and it’s huge on flavor.

For that flavor, it’s all about the marinade.

Carne Asada Marinade in a bowl, ready to use

The Secret is the Carne Asada Marinade

You need a good marinade to make carne asada. There is no single traditional marinade, and marinade recipes vary from cook to cook and region to region. Some simply use a dry rub of salt and pepper and may include other seasonings. Many incorporate juices, oil, seasonings and herbs to develop more complex flavors.

My recipe incorporates a number of different ingredients. I’ve been tweaking it for a while now, using it on different cuts of meat. For me, it’s the best carne asada marinade I’ve ever had.

Skirt steak and flank steak can be somewhat tough, but the marinade helps to not only flavor the meat, but also tenderize it. Once you’ve marinaded your steak, you’ll notice how tender and juicy it becomes after you’ve grilled it. Each bite will melt in your mouth.

I can’t get enough of this marinade!

Let’s talk about how we make it, shall we?

Whisking up some Carne Asada Marinade in a bowl

Zesty Carne Asada Marinade Recipe

First, gather up your ingredients. For this marinade, you’ll need the following ingredients:

  • 1-2 serrano peppers, minced (or use jalapeno peppers for a milder version)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • ¼ – ½ cup chopped cilantro
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons chili oil
  • Juice from 2 large oranges (about a ¾ cup orange juice)
  • Juice from 2 limes (lime juice)
  • 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar (apple cider vinegar is good, too)
  • 1 tablespoon ancho powder (optional, but I LOVE it)
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper

You’ll also need a 2-3 pound skirt or flank steak to make the carne asada.

Flank Steak

To make the marinade, simply whisk all of the ingredients (except for the steak) in a medium sized bowl until well combined.

Whisking together the carne asada marinade ingredients in a bowl

Alternatively, you can process the ingredients in a food processor or blender until smooth.

To use the marinade, add it to a large sealable bag with the steak and rub it thoroughly into the meat. Seal and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or overnight for more flavor penetration.

You can also set the submerge the steak in the marinade in a large baking dish.

Flank Steak marinating in a plastic bag

That’s it, my friends! This is the best carne asada marinade I’ve ever had. I love it! I’ve experimented with different ingredients and ratios, and I’m done! I am not tweaking this recipe anymore.

When you’re ready to grill up your carne asada, it is super simple.

Carne Asada Recipe

Easy Carne Asada Recipe

  • To make carne asada, remove the steak and discard the marinade.
  • Fire up your grill to medium-high heat. The high heat will help to achieve a nice char on the meat, which is a great flavor builder.
  • Next, grill the marinated steak for 8-10 minutes per side, or until cooked to your liking. 135 degrees F is medium-rare. NOTE: I like to use my ThermoPop meat thermometer from ThermoWorks (I’m an affiliate). Works great!
  • Let the steak rest for 5 minutes (or up to 10 minutes), then thinly slice it against the grain on a cutting board and serve it up.

If grilling is an issue, you can also sear up the steak in a hot cast iron pan or a grill pan. I’ve done this and it works great.

Recipe Notes

If your plan is to make carne asada tacos, you can slice the meat before you marinade it. This will cut down on your marinating time and will also help the marinade more deeply penetrate the meat. Just don’t forget the corn tortillas and toppings, like authentic pico de gallo.

Otherwise, I like to marinate the steak whole to cook the steak more uniformly.

Also, while I consider this the best carne asada marinade ever, feel free to use it on other cuts of steak, and also on other proteins. It will work to flavor different cuts of chicken, pork, and even vegetables. You’re going to love it!

Ancho Powder is Awesome

I definitely recommend using the ancho powder. In the recipe, I’ve written that is is optional, but I use it every single time. Ancho is such a great flavor, and it really works here. I wouldn’t skip it. I only say “optional” because if you don’t have any on hand, or can’t find it, it’s still a great marinade without it.

But hey, go buy yourself some ancho powder! It’s perfect for so many recipes!

About the Peppers

I started this marinade recipe a while back using jalapeno peppers, but moved up to serrano peppers for a bit more heat and spice factor. Jalapenos average about 5,000 Scoville Heat Units on the Scoville Scale, where serranos measure from 10,000 to 23,000 SHU. I enjoy the added heat, but if you feel they’re too spicy for you, go with the wonderful jalapeno pepper.

Of course if you’re looking to up that heat factor even more, go with a habanero pepper or two, or even up to the awesome ghost pepper or, hey, why not use a Carolina Reaper? It’s the hottest pepper in the world!

I know some of you are crazy, my chilihead friends! I’m right there with you.

That’s it, my friends! Let me know how you like the marinade. Best one ever! I love it! Have a good one.

Try Some of My Other Popular Marinade Recipes

Carne Asada on a platter, ready to serve

Got any questions? Ask away! I’m happy to help. If you enjoy this recipe, I hope you’ll leave a comment with some STARS. Also, please share it on social media. Don’t forget to tag us at #ChiliPepperMadness. I’ll be sure to share! Thanks! — Mike H.

Zesty Carne Asada Marinade Recipe
Prep Time
5 mins
Cook Time
20 mins
Marinating Time
2 hrs
Total Time
25 mins
 
To make the best carne asada, you need a great carne asada marinade recipe. Mine is a perfect blend of seasonings and flavors for the best I've ever had.
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American, Mexican
Keyword: arrachera, carne asada, marinade, recipe
Servings: 6
Calories: 338 kcal
Author: Mike Hultquist
Ingredients
  • 1-2 serrano peppers minced (or use jalapeno peppers for a milder version)
  • 4 cloves garlic minced
  • ¼ - ½ cup chopped cilantro
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons chili oil
  • Juice from 2 large oranges about a ¾ cup
  • Juice from 2 limes
  • 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar apple cider vinegar is good, too
  • 1 tablespoon ancho powder optional, but I LOVE it
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 pound skirt or flank steak for marinating
Instructions
  1. Whisk all of the ingredients (except for the steak) in a medium sized bowl until well combined.
  2. Alternatively, you can process the ingredients in a food processor or blender until smooth.
  3. To use the marinade, add it to a large sealable bag with the steak and rub it thoroughly into the meat. Seal and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or overnight for more flavor penetration.
  4. Discard the marinade, then grill the marinated steak on the grill for 8-10 minutes per side, or until cooked to your liking. 135 degrees F is medium-rare. Let the steak rest for 10 minutes, then slice it against the grain and serve it up.
Nutrition Facts
Zesty Carne Asada Marinade Recipe
Amount Per Serving
Calories 338 Calories from Fat 189
% Daily Value*
Fat 21g32%
Saturated Fat 5g25%
Cholesterol 90mg30%
Sodium 297mg12%
Potassium 555mg16%
Carbohydrates 1g0%
Protein 32g64%
Vitamin A 405IU8%
Vitamin C 1.1mg1%
Calcium 43mg4%
Iron 2.9mg16%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Zesty Carne Asada Marinade - To make the best carne asada, you need a great carne asada marinade recipe. Mine is a perfect blend of seasonings and flavors for the best I\'ve ever had. #MexicanCuisine #Marinade

5 comments

  1. Thanks Michael,
    I saved your recipe for chili oil but I also ended up finding some at a local Asian market so either way I’m in good shape , I appreciate it, thank you sir.

  2. I can’t seem to find the chili oil, is there a different name for it or can you make your own? I’m pretty lucky to have a authinic Mexican grocery store near by and they didn’t have any? Any suggestions would be appreciated.

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