Best Carne Asada Marinade recipe ever!

No more trips to the drive through Mexican taco place. Make your own carne asada tacos and burritos at home with the Best Carne Asada Marinade Ever! Very easy to make and perfect for parties or tailgaiting!

This carne asada marinade recipe came out of a culinary challenge I faced. I had to cook up a mountain goat my husband bagged. We had our local game processor make the meat into German, Italian and chorizo sausage – all of which were fantastic. However, I was concerned with the steaks and chops. Could a carne asada marinade tenderize the tough mountain goat meat? While it didn’t – the meat was delicious but incredibly tough – I ended up with a terrific marinade that I now swear by.

With carne asada marinade, it’s all about the vinegar, spices and herbs!

We love authentic Mexican carne asada like we used to enjoy in when we lived in San Diego. So I learned to make it at home based on a carne asada marinade recipe my husband found on the Internet. (There are so many similar versions online that I’m not sure who to credit as the author.) Over time, I’ve tweaked my recipe and come up with, in my humble opinion, the best carne asada marinade recipe you will find. I hope you’ll agree that making your own carne asada – instead of buying it at your local carnicería (Hispanic grocery store) – is worth the effort.

Traditionally, a carne asada marinade uses red wine vinegar. Instead, I decided to do things differently and use a malt vinegar, which has a wonderful, strong zingy taste that goes well with the lime and orange juices. However, if you’re gluten free, don’t use malt vinegar. Instead, for your carne asada marinade, you can use cider vinegar or red wine vinegar.

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I use ground cloves, cilantro and Mexican dried oregano in my marinade. You can use regular dried oregano if you can’t find Mexican dried oregano. But please don’t skip the cloves as it adds something special.

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Also, I know some people really, really hate cilantro. So, skip the cilantro in the carne asada marinade, if you insist, and use parsley instead. I won’t tell!

This Mama’s tips on cooking up the carne asada marinade

This easy to make marinade is perfect for five to six pounds of meat and can be cut in half for a small dinner with no leftovers or doubled for a big party or tailgating. Use skirt steak or a similar thin cut, as show above, and marinate for 12 to 24 hours. (The tougher the meat, the longer you should marinate it.)

To further tenderize the meat, I use a meat tenderizer tool. I run it over both sides of the meat, which helps the skirt steak absorb the best carne asada marinade for maximum flavor.

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You should grill your skirt steak on a very hot grill until the center is pink and register at 110 degrees F on your grilling thermometer. Then pull the carne asada off your grill and let it rest for a few minutes so it will be nice and juicy.

Then you need to slice it against the grain so it isn’t chewy. If you don’t know what the grain is in the meat, here’s a terrific guide on cutting against the grain from Serious Eats. The grain is basically the wrinkles or the lines in the meat. You need to cut perpendicularly (across) to that. If you’re stumped, you can always dice up the carne asada for tacos or burritos. Who’s going to know, right?

Slow cooker pulled carne asada

Traditionally, you grill carne asada meat in order to get that wonderful charred taste that only the grill can give you. I tried that on half the mountain goat meat I prepared. While it was extremely delicious, it was still chewy even after marinating the mountain goat for over two days!

Instead, I decided to cook the other half of the meat in my slow cooker. Unfortunately, it wasn’t as sweet and tangy as the grilled carne asada. It was still tasty and tender, more like “pulled” meat, which is what I was shooting for. From now on, all mountain goat meat will be slow cooked. Lesson learned.

I haven’t tried slow cooking beef after marinating. But I bet you could use the carne asada marinade on pork butt (carnitas) and slow cooking it instead. Experiment! (If you love pulled pork tacos, check out my World’s Best Slow Cooker Spicy Pulled Pork Tacos. Your family will love them and they’re super easy to make!)

There's no need to go out for Mexican food when you can make carne asada burritos at home. Just try the Best Carne Asada Marinade Recipe Ever! It's easy to make and perfect for parties or taco night.

How do you serve up your carne asada?

My family and I like eating our carne asada two ways, either on warm soft corn tortillas street taco style or wrapped in burritos. We like to combine the chopped carne asada meat with the following:

  • chopped cilantro
  • salsa – sweet, verde and/or fresca
  • Mexican hot sauce –  our favorites are Valentina Salsa Picante Mexican Hot Sauce and Cholula
  • shredded Mexican-style cheese
  • crumbled queso fresca
  • the juice from wedges of lime
  • diced tomatoes
  • beans – black or pinto
  • slices of avocado
  • chopped green onions
  • plain no fat Greek yogurt (a healthy alternative to sour cream)

You can make a carne asada taco bowl on white or brown rice. Leftover carne asada can be reheated with eggs and potatoes in a breakfast hash style dish.

Carne asada goes great with my Easy 10-Minute Mexican Rice, too! Serve it on the side or right in the burrito.

What toppings do you like on your carne asada burritos or tacos?

No more trips to the drive through Mexican taco place. Make your own carne asada tacos and burritos at home with the Best Carne Asada Marinade Ever! Very easy to make and perfect for parties or tailgaiting!

Best Carne Asada Marinade Recipe Ever!

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 cup malt vinegar (any vinegar is fine in a pinch!)
  • 1/3 cup lime juice or lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup orange juice
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons peeled fresh garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon ground white pepper
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon Mexican oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 orange, sliced
  • 1/4 bunch cilantro, chopped
  • 5-6 pounds skirt steak

Directions

  1. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and whisk to combine.
  2. Place meat in gallon sized freezer bag, in the bottom of a shallow baking dish, or a non-reactive (plastic or glass) storage container with a lid.
  3. Pour carne asada marinade on top of meat, cover dish or close bag, and marinate overnight up to 48 hours in the refrigerator.

Grilling the marinated carne asada:

  1. Take meat out of container and grill until just cooked through. (Rare to medium rare.)
  2. Cut cooked meat into strips.
  3. Place meat and favorite toppings (salsa, cheese, guacamole, avocado slices, tomatoes, shredded cabbage, grilled sweet peppers, etc.) in a tortilla to make into tacos or burritos. You can also serve meat over rice for a carne asada bowl.

Slow cooking the marinated carne asada:

  1. After marinating for one or two days, place meat and marinade in a slow cooker.
  2. Slow cook for 10 to 12 hours on low.
  3. Meat should be extra tender and can be shredded with a fork.
  4. Place meat and favorite toppings (salsa, cheese, guacamole, avocado slices, tomatoes, shredded cabbage, grilled sweet peppers, etc.) in a tortilla to make into tacos or burritos. You can also serve meat over rice for a carne asada bowl.
Prep Time: 24 Hours 20 Minutes
Cook Time: 20 Minutes
Total Time: 24 Hours 40 Minutes
Servings: Feeds 4 to 6 with leftovers
  • Serving size: 1/2 pound per person

Originally published October 27, 2011. Updated with new pictures.
Photo credit: Adobe Stock

Looking for a quick and easy carne asada burrito (or taco) recipe? Try the Best Carne Asada Recipe Ever! It's so easy that you'll never bother with Mexican take out again for dinner or parties

29 thoughts on “Best Carne Asada Marinade recipe ever!

  1. Sabrina

    I’ve had trouble finding a carne asada marinade that doesn’t produce a “skunky” taste like a lot of the citrus-beer marinades do. Thanks for sharing the malt vinegar research!

    Reply
  2. Lili

    This is in my fridge getting ready for tomorrow’s July 4th BBQ. I had to sub oregano with Italian seasoning and I didnt have white pepper so I used black ground. I also mistakenly used a Sunny D type of orange juice which will hopefully not take away too much from the taste. I can’t wait, I’ll let you know how it goes when we grill in 13 hours from now!

    Reply
  3. Leila

    I just tried this recipe this past weekend and it tasted amazing. My family loved it and raved how tender and juicy the meat turned out. Much mahalo for sharing!

    Reply
  4. Carol

    I grew up in the Imperial Valley, CA. I live in France now and have been here for 26 years. Every once in awhile I get a hankering for carne asada, and I desperatly search the Internet in the hopes of finding a recipe for the marinade. Finally, voilà, I found it! I made a batch yesterday, and the whole family plus our French friends absolutely LOVED it. Yeah, now I don’t have to wait for when I go back to visit to be able to eat the carne asade I grew up with. Thank you sooooooo much for sharing this recipe!

    Reply
    1. RICH

      I grew up in Imperial Valley also. We got the best Carne as ada from a meat shop in Brawley! Never have tasted the same since. I hope this turns out half as good as that stuff!

      Reply
    2. Steve Kirby

      I too grew up in the Imperial Valley. My family owned the Cameo Buffet Restaurant for many years and I remember enjoying wonderful Carne Asada from many places in the Valley. What a great memory from my youth.

      Reply
    3. Keri

      Us too! Imperial CA, now we live in Idaho and there is ZERO resturants around that have decent carne asada like home.

      Reply
  5. Sarah

    I am interested in trying this.. We got our recipe from a Guatemalan and it is the best I’ve ever had, but hey, why not try something new? 😀

    Reply
  6. Phyllis M

    You are so right! This was the very best carne asada marinade! I cut the vinegar to 3/4 C. because my husband does not like really tart things, and he thought it was perfect! I thank you so much, it was wonderful!

    Reply
    1. Anne-Marie Nichols Post author

      You’re so welcome! This recipe is a favorite of ours. So glad it worked just as well with less vinegar, since that’s supposed to help tenderize the meat as well as add flavor.

      Reply
  7. Kim W

    I prepared this dish yesterday for my family on New Year Day 2015 & they absolutely LOVED it! My hubby said its by far the best Carne Asada I have ever made. The marinade is perfect. I marinated the meat for 48 hours as recommended and this recipe turned out so awesomely tender and delicious. No doubt this will be in our dinner rotation. Thanks for sharing! Happy New Year!

    Reply
  8. Admira

    this marinade was so good! My husband enjoyed his carne asada, he commented several times how tasty it was and how he could taste the lemon in it. It was delicious! I didn’t have cilantro and I used White vinegar. I had a little over 3 pounds of meat and I halved the recipe and it was more than enough

    Reply
    1. Anne-Marie Nichols Post author

      So glad you enjoyed it Admira. I think any type of vinegar is good. I’ve used cider vinegar and even flavored rice vinegar – whatever I have in the pantry that I want to use up!

      Reply
  9. Suzanne Mardesen

    This was awesome! We omitted garlic due to an allergy and did not have any cilantro and was still very good!

    Reply
  10. Tracy

    My husband went on and on about how good carne asada is when I moved out here 6 years ago and when I would order at a restaurant it was, eh, bland.. He said true carne asada is full of flavor. So he drove over to Blythe, CA from here in Phoenix and came back with some Carne Asada that was everything he said true carne was. I don’t recall where he got it, but he came home with 40 lbs of it! Anyway, after trying that delicious meat, I had to find a recipe to make it. I searched through many recipe’s and the ingredient lists were not things I expected for carne, until I came across your recipe. We put together the marinade today and added the skirt steak. I bought about 5 lbs to try out. We opened the bag this evening and it smells so good! WE are excited to try it Tuesday night. I will let you know how it goes. Usually I read reviews to see how other’s liked a recipe, but most of the time they just comment on how they would like to try something, or sounds good. I like to give true feedback. I appreciate that you have posted this recipe for the rest of us. Thanks!!

    Reply
    1. Tracy

      We cooked this carne asada tonight and it was so great! We are so happy to have a great recipe to make at home. Thanks!! Very, very good!

      Reply
  11. Lori

    Hi! I came across your recipe while searching for a carne asada recipe. Do you think your recipe would still turn out OK if the malt vinegar was not used? Would you recommend the red wine vinegar or some other type of vinegar? I am eating gluten-free and I believe that anything with malt contains gluten. Thanks!

    Reply
  12. Will Barks

    I will try this out. I have bagged 2 mountain goats on Kodiak Island. They are great to eat and incredibly fun to watch and hunt. Thanks for sharing the recipe. Have you tried using Tequila instead of vinegar? It is a traditional ingredient.

    Reply
    1. Anne-Marie Nichols Post author

      Will, congrats on bagging two mountain goats! My advice is to have most of the meat turned into sausage. It’s really crazy that you have to slow cook the meat for 15-20 to deal with its toughness.

      No, I’ve never used tequila in any of the carne asada marinades I’ve tried. One even used Coca-Cola, believe it or not.

      Reply

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