Carne Asada seems like a simple dish because the translation of the words basically amounts to “Grilled Meat,” but the truth is that it’s harder to find good preparations than one might think. No matter what kind of Mexican restaurant I try, I tend to judge their quality by their carne asada (and carnitas!). Some places give you dry, overcooked meat and some places just give you a bland poor quality beef.
This recipe is really simple, but uses a citrus marinade to add a freshness and depth to an otherwise very basic grilled meat dish. The brightness of the citrus goes really well with the lean meat and adding the really simple onion salsa garnish just makes everything right. Give this a try and you’ll have restaurant (or food truck) quality tacos at your own dinner table in no time.
Other Recipes to Try With This One:
Makes 1 pound of carne asada with 6 servings of 135 calories each (plus a negligible amount of calories from the marinade). Also makes about 6 servings of simple salsa at 8 calories each.
+ 50 calories per corn tortilla (soft corn taco)
Carne Asada Tacos with a Citrus Marinade
Citrus marinated carne asada tacos.
- 1 pound of skirt steak or flank steak (about 800 calories) Note: It’s not always easy to find just one pound, so be sure to scale the recipe up for more meat.
- 4 tablespoons of lime juice, which is about 2 limes
- 1 orange squeezed for juice
- 1/4 sweet onion, roughly chopped
- 1 jalapeno pepper roughly chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- Salt to season the meat just before grilling
Simple Onion and Cilantro Salsa Ingredients
- 1/2 sweet onion (about 30 calories)
- 1 tablespoon finely diced cilantro
- 2 tablespoons lime juice, which is about 1 lime (20 calories)
- A pinch of salt
- Optional: 1 teaspoon white vinegar
- Airtight container or large zipper seal plastic bag
- Small bowl
- Cutting board
- Tablespoon and teaspoon measurements
- Grill or grill pan
- Place your skirt steak into an airtight container or plastic zipper seal bag. After trying this out using a glass storage dish, I wish I had just used the plastic bag to maximize the marination. It’s just easier and the cleanup is a cinch.
- Squeeze the juice of 2 limes and 1 orange all over the meat.
- Roughly chop up the onion and jalapeno (leave the seeds in) before adding them to the meat.
- Add in the oregano and black pepper to the marinade.
- Mix everything thoroughly so that all of the meat is coated before setting the meat aside for at least 20 minutes to an hour at room temperature or up to 4 hours in the fridge. You don’t want to marinate the meat much longer than that because skirt or flank steak has natural grooves that easily absorb marinades unlike other cuts.
- While the meat is marinating, go ahead and make the simple salsa. Start by very thinly slicing 1/2 an onion. Try and make the slices as thin as possible.
- Then finely dice about a tablespoon of fresh cilantro.
- Add the onion, cilantro, lime juice, salt, and optional vinegar to a bowl and mix all of the ingredients together well. Cover the bowl and place in the fridge until ready for use. Note: Alternatively, use my Pico de Gallo recipe for a different kind of fresh salsa.
- After marinating, the meat is ready to grill. If you had the meat in the fridge, take it out of the fridge and let it come to room temperature for at least 30 minutes before grilling.
- Get the grill up to a really hot temperature. I like to see the temperature hit 550 degrees F before I put the meat on in order to maximize the sear and not overcook the meat.
- Cook the meat about 4 minutes on each side. This will give you a nice medium temperature, which is optimum for this cut of meat. You don’t want to overcook skirt or flank steak because it gets really tough and stringy. Cook it to medium or medium rare and when you remove it from the grill keep in mind that the meat will continue to cook a bit more.
- While the meat is grilling, now is a good time to toast the corn tortillas a bit. This really does add to the flavor of the whole dish!
- Remove the steak from the grill and set aside to allow it to rest for 7 to 10 minutes before cutting the meat. If you don’t let the meat rest, the juices will all flow out of the meat causing it to become dry.
- After letting the meat rest, cut it across the grain to keep the meat tender and easy to chew. You can cut it into strips, but I prefer cubing the meat into 1-inch pieces so that it’s easy to scoop into tacos and each bite is easy.
- Now you can make your tacos. Scoop some meat onto a corn tortilla, place a spoonful of the simple salsa on top, and add a slice of avocado, a squeeze of lime, some hot sauce, or all of the above!
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