Carne Asada Tacos are a must-make entree for Cinco de Mayo. Easy to make marinade makes the steak incredibly tender and flavorful. Top off your tacos with the best homemade pico de gallo and cilantro vinaigrette for the ultimate bite!
This year, enjoy the best flavors of Cinco de Mayo from the comfort of your own kitchen. With a margarita in one hand and a chip dipping into some queso with the other, you’ll definitely feel like celebrating!
I can never say no to bright, flavorful, juicy, and tender carne asada tacos! The best thing about them is the flavor-packed marinated and grilled hanger steak. Even through skirt or flank steaks are traditional choices for steak tacos, I love using hanger steak because it is just so unbeatable when it comes to flavor. However, if you opt for skirt or flank steaks, don’t worry – your carne asada will still be impossibly good.
After spending a few hours in this bright Mexican citrus marinade, any steak you choose will be infused with the best flavors. Then, all you need to do is simply toss it on the grill to cook (or even into the skillet on the stove) and slice it nice and thin for the tacos. You’ll love how easy this recipe really is! Plus, if you’re making this for Cinco de Mayo, you’ll also love skipping the long wait times at your local taqueria.
The best compliment for this grilled steak is a simple homemade pico de gallo. It only takes a few minutes to dice and mix together and it will add a nice, fresh touch to the otherwise savory tacos. To enhance that freshness even more, I also like to drizzle on some cilantro vinaigrette. It’s made with a handful of natural ingredients that will seriously make your mouth water! Choose corn or flour tortillas and serve these tacos with your favorite Mexican side dishes.
Steak – I prefer using hanger steak, but skirt or flank steak also work well.
Tortillas – You can use corn or flour, whichever you prefer will be just fine.
Citrus – You’ll need the fresh juices of both 1 orange and 1 lime for the marinade.
Jalapeño – This adds just the right amount of subtle spice to the marinade. For more heat, leave the seeds in the mix. For a tamer heat, de-seed the jalapeño. If you have an extra jalapeño on hand, use it to make an orange jalapeño margarita and thank me later!
Cilantro – This is a key ingredient for the marinade, the pico de gallo, and the vinaigrette!
Seasonings – A bold but simple blend of cumin, chili powder and salt is really all you need to enhance the flavors of this recipe.
Red Onion – When it comes to pico de gallo, I don’t think that red onions should be substituted with any other onion.
Olive Oil – This is the base of the vinaigrette. It’s important to try and choose a good quality extra virgin olive oil for the best flavor.
See recipe card for complete information on ingredients and quantities.
How to Make Carne Asada Tacos
Step 1: Add all of the marinade ingredients to a large zip-top bag and add the steak. Get all of the air out and close it tightly.
Step 2: Place the sealed bag into a large bowl. Make sure the steak is fully covered by the marinade and refrigerate for 2-8 hours. Don’t let it marinate much longer than 8 hours or the tissue will start to break down!
Step 3: Preheat your grill to medium-high heat. Make sure the grate is clean.
Step 4: Remove the steak from the marinade. Let the excess liquid drip off of it. Grill the steak over direct heat until it’s medium-rare. Turn halfway through cooking.
TIP: Different steaks will take different amount of time to cook so use a digital meat thermometer to check the internal temperature. For medium-rare, take the steak off the grill when it reaches 130°F and let it rest for about 5 minutes before slicing. The steak will continue to cook off the grill for a few minutes.
Step 5: Slice the steak thinly against the grain.
Step 6: Combine all of the vinaigrette ingredients in a bowl. Whisk until combined. Spoon the vinaigrette over the sliced steak and reserve some on the side for the individual tacos.
Step 7: Dice all of the pico de gallo veggies and toss them in a bowl. Squeeze in some lime juice and add cilantro and salt. Mix everything together well.
Step 8: This is the fun part! Assemble your tacos, take a big bite, and enjoy!
Traditionally, skirt steak or flank steak is the choice for carne asada, but you can also venture into other cuts like hanger steak or even flat iron steak. Since the beef will be spending a few hours in the marinade, you don’t want to use prime, expensive cuts of meat. That’s why less expensive cuts are preferred.
Hanger steak: This is a beautiful choice for tacos because hanger steak is very tender and flavorful but it’s not as lean as a tenderloin. This cut comes from the area under the rib and runs along the diaphragm. It usually had some nice marbling throughout that makes it tender and flavorful. One drawback is the membrane that runs along the muscle in the center, it can be a little tough to bite through.
Skirt steak: It’s a long flat steak that runs along the ribs of the cow, relatively lean and has intense beef flavor. It can be a little tough so it’s preferred not to cook it to no more than medium internal temperature and slice thin against the grain.
Flank steak: It’s also a long flat steak that is adjacent to the plate where skirt steak comes from but closer to the rear and it is very lean. This steak cut has even more beef flavor and is leaner than skirt steak. Don’t cook it more than medium-rare and also slice it thin against the grain.
On those rainy days or when you don’t have access to the grill, you can definitely cook steak indoors! Use a cast iron skillet or another pan that you trust to cook evenly and cook the steak over medium-high heat. Make sure to preheat the skillet first and add a little oil to the pan.
For thicker steaks, like the hanger steak, you may need to finish it in the oven. Make sure to use an oven-save cooking pan, preheat the pan first over medium-high heat, and preheat the oven to 450°F. First, sear the steak on stove-top for about 45 seconds on each side and then move the pan into the preheated oven and cook until it’s medium-rare.
Take the steak out when it reaches 130°F and let it rest for about 5 minutes before slicing.
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Carne Asada Tacos
- 6 soft taco shells corn or flour
- 1 lb flank, skirt, or hanger steak
- 1 large orange – juice only
- 1 large lime – juice only
- 2 Tbsp white wine vinegar
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 4 garlic cloves smash and mince
- 1 jalapeno diced (leave seeds in or discard)
- 2 Tbsp minced cilantro
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 1/2 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp chili powder more if you want spicier marinade
- 1 1/2 tsp Salt
Pico de gallo:
- 2 medium tomatoes
- 1/2 red onion
- 1 jalapeno
- 1 lime – juice only
- 1 tbsp minced cilantro
- 1/2 tsp salt or more to taste
- 2 tbsp minced cilantro
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
- 1 tbsp lime juice
- 1/8 tsp chili powder
- 1/4 tsp cumin
- 1/4 tsp salt or more to taste
- Combine all the ingredients for the marinade in a large zip-top bag and add the steak. Try to get all the air out and close it tight.
- Place the bag into a bowl, make sure the steak is covered in the marinade, and refrigerate for 2-8 hours. (Don’t let it marinate much longer than 8 hours or the tissue will start to break down.)
- Preheat gas or charcoal grill to medium-high heat. Make sure the grate is completely clean before adding the steak.
- Take steak out of the marinade and let it drip off back into the bag. Grill the steak over direct heat until medium-rare, turning once half-way through. (Note: Different steaks will take different amount of time to cook so use a digital meat thermometer to check the internal temperature.)
- For medium-rare, take the steak off the grill when it reaches 130° and let it rest for about 5 minutes before slicing. (Steak will continue to cook off the grill for a few minutes.)
- Make sure to slice the steak thinly against the grain.
- Combine all the ingredients for the vinaigrette in a small bowl and whisk together well.
- Spoon some vinaigrette over the sliced steak and reserve the rest for topping individual tacos.
Pico de gallo:
- Dice all the vegetables and add them into the bowl. (Note: if you want pico to be spicier, leave jalapeno seeds in, otherwise, discard them.)
- Squeeze in lime juice and add cilantro and salt. Mix everything together and let it sit for a few minutes to marinate together and for tomatoes to give out more juice.
- Divide sliced steak among the taco shells and top it off with some pico de gallo and a little drizzle of cilantro vinaigrette.
Originally published on Will Cook For Smiles on February 14, 2017. Updated August 5, 2020.