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14 July 2021

This is my favorite tacos al carbon recipe with marinated flank steak that is grilled over hot charcoal for that wonderful smoky flavor, served with roasted red pepper and pico de gallo. Absolutely delicious!

We’re cooking some incredible beef tacos in the Chili Pepper Madness kitchen, my friends, only these aren’t your everyday tacos. Today we’re making Homemade Tacos al Carbon, and I already know you’re going to love it.

Tacos al Carbon is a Mexican recipe of charcoal-grilled meats served up taco style, and they are fantastic. “Carbon” means “charcoal” in Spanish. It is typically a simple dish with chicken or beef lightly seasoned then grilled over a wood fire or charcoal grill, served up with nothing more than a bit of salsa and fresh squeeze of lime.

It is Mexican food at its simplest and most flavorful, though you’re unlikely to find it in Mexican restaurants. Most cooks today choose to prepare their beef tacos on the flat top grill, eschewing the charcoal flavor. 

This is a shame because charcoal imbues a flavor like no other, making tacos al carbon a very special dish.

My version is more of a Tex Mex treatment, sort of a combination of Mexican carne asada and steak fajitas. It’s easy to make and HUGE on flavor.

Let’s talk about how we make tacos al carbon, shall we?

Tacos al Carbon on a cutting board, ready to serve

Tacos al Carbon Ingredients

  • FOR THE STEAK MARINADE
  • Serrano Peppers. You can use jalapeno peppers for a milder version.
  • Garlic. 
  • Green Onion.
  • Cilantro.
  • Olive Oil.
  • Chili Oil.
  • Orange Juice. 
  • Lime Juice. 
  • Vinegar. I use white wine vinegar, though apple cider vinegar is great.
  • Seasonings. Cumin, sea salt, black pepper, ancho powder. The ancho powder is optional, but I love its flavor. You can use a different chili powder more readily available to you.
  • FOR THE TACOS
  • Flank Steak. You can also use flank steak or any of your favorite cuts of beef. I love it with tender ribeye. 
  • Flour Tortillas. You can use corn tortillas for of a Mexican version of tacos al carbon.
  • Your favorite toppings. I am using a simple topping combo of grill-roasted red bell pepper and homemade pico de gallo and a bit of  hot sauce! Sour cream or crema is great for cooling the spiciness. Fresh squeezed lime adds a citrusy pop, and onions and peppers are always popular.

Steak tacos on a plate, aka tacos al carbon

How to Make Tacos al Carbon – the Recipe Method

Make the Taco Marinade. Whisk together the marinade ingredients in a large bowl until well combined.

Marinate the Steak. Add the steak to the large bowl with the marinade and massage the marinade into the meat. Or, add the steak to a large sealable baggie and pour in the marinade. 

Marinating flank steak for tacos al carbon

Refrigerate and marinate at least 4 hours, or overnight for better flavor penetration.

Grill the Steak. Heat your charcoal grill to medium-high heat. Spread the fiery coals out for better heat distribution. Remove steak from the marinade and discard the marinade. Grill the flank steak for 6-7 minutes, then flip and grill another 4-5 minutes.

The internal temperature should read 125 degrees F when measured with a meat thermometer for more rare to medium-rare. Cook to your preferred temperature. See recipe notes for temperatures. I use my Thermoworks Thermapen ONE instant read thermometer (affiliate link, my friends!). Works GREAT!

Checking the internal temperature of the flank steak on the grill with a meat thermometer

Rest the Steak. Cover the steak with foil and rest for 5 minutes to let the juices redistribute. Slice the beef against the grain into thin strips, or with the grain for chewier steak tacos. I love it!

Slicing flank steak for grilled steak tacos

Serve the Tacos al Carbon. Set pieces of charcoal grilled flank steak onto warmed flour tortillas and top with your favorite toppings. Enjoy!

Boom! Done! It’s taco time, my friends! Looks wonderful, don’t they? Everyone loves delicious tacos, especially when the meat is grilled over charcoal flames, imbuing every bite with smoky flavor. I love tacos. Anytime.

Two charcoal grilled steak tacos

Recipe Tips & Notes

  • Chicken Tacos. If you’d prefer this recipe with chicken, follow the recipe exactly, except grill your chicken to an internal temperature of 165 degrees F to cook them through.
  • Cast Iron Skillet Method. Many cooks forego the grill and instead cook up their tacos al carbon on a cast iron pan, sans “carbon”. To do so, heat your pan to medium-high heat with oil and sear the steaks 5-6 minutes per side, or until you reach your desired doneness. 

Roasting a red pepper on the charcoal grill

That’s it, my friends. I hope you enjoy my tacos al carbon recipe. Let me know if you make it. I’d love to hear how it turned out for you. Keep it spicy!

Try These Great Homemade Taco Topping Recipes

Two charcoal grilled steak tacos with pico de gallo and grilled red pepper

Try Some of My Other Popular Recipes

Tacos al Carbon on a cutting board

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.

Tacos al Carbon Recipe

This is my favorite tacos al carbon recipe with marinated flank steak that is grilled over hot charcoal for that wonderful smoky flavor, served with roasted red pepper and pico de gallo. Absolutely delicious!
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time15 mins
Marinating4 hrs
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American, Mexican
Keyword: beef tacos, flank steak, grilling, tacos
Servings: 12 tacos
Calories: 259kcal

Ingredients

FOR THE STEAK MARINADE

  • 1-2 serrano peppers minced - or use jalapeno peppers for a milder version
  • 4 cloves garlic minced
  • 3 tablespoons chopped green onion
  • 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

FOR THE TACOS

  • 2 pound flank steak or use skirt steak, or your favorite cut of beef
  • 12 flour tortillas warmed (or more as needed)
  • Your favorite toppings. I am using a grill-roasted red bell pepper and pico de gallo. And hot sauce!

Instructions

  • Whisk together the marinade ingredients in a large bowl until well combined.
  • Add the steak to the large bowl with the marinade and massage the marinade into the meat. Or, add the steak to a large sealable baggie and pour in the marinade.
  • Refrigerate and marinate at least 4 hours, or overnight for better flavor penetration.
  • Heat your charcoal grill to medium-high heat. Spread the fiery coals out for better heat distribution.
  • Remove steak from the marinade and discard the marinade. Grill the flank steak for 6-7 minutes, then flip and grill another 4-5 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 125 degrees F when measured with a meat thermometer, or your preferred temperature. See recipe notes for temperatures.
  • Cover the steak with foil and rest for 5 minutes to let the juices redistribute. Slice the beef against the grain into thin strips, or with the grain for chewier steak tacos.
  • Serve pieces of charcoal grilled flank steak onto warmed flour tortillas and top with your favorite toppings. Enjoy!

Notes

This recipe also works great with chicken. Just be sure to adjust your cooking times for the chicken.
Steak Temperatures for Serving. Steak internal temps are 120 to 125°F for rare, 130-140°F for medium rare, and 145°F for medium. Remove the steaks from the grill 5 degrees before serving temp, as they continue to rise in temperature about 5 degrees F during resting.
Adjust cooking time based on thickness of your steaks. It is best to cook to temp so you may need more cooking time for thicker cuts.

Nutrition

Calories: 259kcal | Carbohydrates: 16g | Protein: 19g | Fat: 13g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 8g | Cholesterol: 45mg | Sodium: 355mg | Potassium: 330mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 228IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 54mg | Iron: 2mg

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