The Best Authenic Carne Asada Marinade Recipe

Sliced carne asada meat with limes and cilantro on a wooden cutting board with taco fixings.

This is the best Mexican carne asada marinade recipe I’ve tried. You’ll love the flavor.

Making authentic carne asada from scratch, instead of buying it at the carniceria, is worth the effort.

Use it to make tacos, burritos, fries, nachos, and more!

The best carne asada marinade for parties

Perfect for a crowd, we love grilling up carne asada when entertaining.

This great marinade turns out better than the carne we ate our favorite Mexican restaurants in San Diego.

Make Tijuana carne asada street tacos for your guests. They’ll rave over them!

Grilled steak tacos on plates, sliced meat with limes and cilantro on a wooden cutting board, and a bowl of salsa.

How to make this recipe

1. Combine all ingredients (except the steak) in a large bowl. Whisk to combine.

2. Place the meat in a gallon-sized freezer bag, in the bottom of a large baking dish, or in a non-reactive (plastic or glass) storage container with a lid.

3. Pour the authentic carne asada marinade on top of the meat. Then cover the dish or close the bag. Marinate overnight for up to 48 hours in the refrigerator.

How to cook the marinated flank steak

1. Preheat the grill on high. Oil the barbecue grill with a spritz of olive oil cooking spray so the marinated beef doesn't stick to your outdoor grill.

2. Turn down the green to medium or medium-high heat.

Cook the marinated skirt steak or flank steak for several minutes per side (keep flipping the flank steak) until the center is only slightly pink.

3. The temperature should be 110 degrees F on your grilling meat thermometer for the perfect level of doneness.

4. Then pull the carne asada off your outdoor grill and let the meat rest for a few minutes so you have a juicy steak.

Pro tip: you can cook the steak on a cast iron skillet on the stovetop.

How to cut up the cooked steak

Then you need to slice up the steak against the grain so it isn't chewy.

Don't know what the grain is in the meat? Here's a terrific guide on cutting against the grain from Serious Eats.

The best way is to cut perpendicularly (across) the lines in the meat. Don't cut parallel.

If you're stumped, you can always dice up the meat for tacos or burritos.

Sliced grilled meat with limes and cilantro on a wooden cutting board and a bowl of salsa.

Do I have to use cilantro?

Don’t like cilantro? OK to use fresh parsley instead.

What kind of steak?

Use lean skirt steak or lean flank steak and marinate for 12 to 24 hours.

Flank steak is leaner. Skirt steak is tougher and should be cooked to medium-rare or it will become too chewy.

The tougher the meat, the longer you should marinate it.

Should I tenderize the meat?

To further tenderize the flank steak or skirt steak, use a quality meat tenderizer tool. It's a must-have!

Run it over both sides of the meat, which helps the steak absorb the marinade for maximum flavor.

You can also use it on these easy chicken marinade or grilled flank steak recipes.

Closeup of a carne asada taco on a white plate with limes with a bowl of salsa and grilled meat on a cutting board.

What kind of spices and seasonings?

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.

Don’t skip the cloves as it adds something special to the meat.

Also, if you don't want to use white pepper, you can substitute black pepper.

Can I make this without orange juice?

This marinade is made with orange juice. Then the orange sections are thrown into the marinade.

If you don’t like orange juice or forgot the oranges at the store, here are some substitutes for the citrus juice:

  • pineapple juice
  • Sunny D, at the suggestion of some of my readers
  • beer (gluten free)
  • cider (hard or regular)
  • apple juice
  • tequila

Gluten free?

If you're gluten free, don't use malt vinegar! Instead, for a gluten free marinade, use red wine vinegar, white wine vinegar, or cider vinegar.

You should also use corn tortillas instead of flour.

Is carne asada keto-friendly?

Yes, it is. While the ingredients aren’t low carb, they’re just flavoring and tenderizing the meat.

They don’t add many carbs to the grilled steak.

Just remember to pick low carb, keto-friendly toppings to your tacos or burritos. Or have the meat plain with grilled vegetables on the side.

Sliced grilled carne asada meat on a wooden board with a bowl of salsa and slices of lime, white plates, a red napkin, and a pile of flour tortillas.

How do you serve up your tacos?

Serve up carne asada tacos with the following toppings:

● salsa

● pico de gallo

● queso fresco

Mexican hot sauce

● shredded Mexican-style cheese

● lime wedges

● diced tomatoes

● beans (black, pinto, or refried)

● avocado

● chopped green onions

● chopped white onions or red onions

● chopped fresh cilantro

● shredded cabbage or lettuce

● plain no-fat Greek yogurt or vegan dairy-free sour cream

● tortilla chips

Plates of tacos with sliced meat on a cutting board with a bowl of salsa and plates of tortillas.

Ways to serve leftovers

Store leftovers in an airtight container. Then use to make:

● Taco bowls using Easy Mexican Rice or white or brown rice.

● In Easy Breakfast Chilaquiles instead of chorizo.

● In nachos instead of using taco meat.

● Carne asada fries are French fries topped with chopped steak, salsa, melted shredded cheese, sour cream, and guacamole.

Try these other Mexican recipes

Love Mexican food? Give these a try:

Chicken Enchilada Casserole uses leftover crockpot whole chicken or Instant Pot whole chicken

Layered Taco Dip Recipe and Chopped & Layered Taco Salad

Peach & Cherry Beer Margarita

Layered Mexican Christmas Eve Salad

Easy Slow Cooker Mexican Shredded Chicken Recipe

What's your favorite Mexican dish?

Yield: 12 SERVINGS

Best Carne Asada Marinade Recipe

Sliced carne asada meat with limes and cilantro on a wooden cutting board and a bowl of salsa.

Looking for an easy carne asada recipe? Grill up this authentic carne asada marinade for tacos. One the best Mexican carne asada recipes!

Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Additional Time 8 hours
Total Time 8 hours 40 minutes

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 cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon ground white pepper (black pepper will work, too)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 orange, sliced
  • 1/4 bunch fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 6 pounds lean skirt steak or lean flank steak

Instructions

  1. Combine all ingredients (except steak) in a large mixing bowl. Whisk to combine.
  2. Place meat in a 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 the meat, cover dish or close bag, and marinate overnight up to 48 hours in the refrigerator.
  4. Take the steak from the marinade. Toss the leftover marinade. 
  5. Cook the meat until just cooked through on a hot grill. (Rare to medium-rare.)
  6. Cut cooked meat into strips.
  7. Place meat and favorite toppings in tortillas to make into tacos or burritos. 

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Nutrition Information:

Yield:

12

Serving Size:

1/2 pound

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 700Total Fat: 38gSaturated Fat: 14gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 22gCholesterol: 141mgSodium: 1018mgCarbohydrates: 24gFiber: 1gSugar: 22gProtein: 61g

Nutritional information is automatically calculated per the ingredients list. Serving size may not be accurate. Please double-check with your preferred nutritional app for the most accurate information.

Originally published October 27, 2011.

Updated on September 22, 2017 with new pictures and information.

60 thoughts on “The Best Authenic Carne Asada Marinade Recipe

  1. Tosca

    Absolutley the best. I also took the advice of using the kiwi fruit and let it marinade for 48 hours. We couldn’t get enough of it. It’s the best recipe I have found and I have tried a BUNCH OF recipes

    Reply
  2. Dcpineda

    Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    This is now our go to carne asada recipe. I’ve used it for a few parties now its definitely a crowd pleaser. Thanks for the recipe!

    Reply
  3. Stephanie Mudget

    Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    I just put the mix in the fridge. But before adding the meat i tasted the marinade and it is spot on to our mexican stores. I bought a 99 cent store oj that turns out to be a cheap sunny d so no need for added sugar.

    Reply
  4. John

    I’ve used Italian dressing for marinades, do you think it will distract from the flavor if substituted for malt vinegar.

    Reply
      1. Roger Jones

        Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
        I am curious about your recipe to say the least! I spent many years in San Diego as well and fell in love with Roberto’s Carne Asada burritos! I hope this is close to that because I’ve not found anything remotely near that flavor anywhere else across the US in my 40 yrs of travel.

        Reply
        1. Anne-Marie Nichols Post author

          I think you’ll be happy with the recipe Roger. I use it all the time and have nothing but terrific results with it.
          just loaded up on 10 pounds of skirt steak at Target (only place I can find it here in Indiana, lol) and can’t wait to make it again!

          Reply
  5. Shawn Stacey

    Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    Made the carne asada for dinner tonight fantastic recipe ! We definitely be making them again. Have you ever marinaded chicken in it?

    Reply
  6. Kristen

    I love carne asada tacos, but I am hesitant to add orange juice. Does it function as a meat tenderizer? Can you actually taste the orange juice?? Thanks!

    Reply
    1. Stephanie Mudget

      Actually a lot of Mexican stores here in Cali use sunny d in the marinades. My moms ex told her that was how its done in Mexico didnt believe him until i saw a store start a new batch of meat to marinate. I will of buy premarinated if they use sunny d.

      Reply
  7. Emi

    Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    Hi Anne-Marie
    This post is from Japan and we thank you for sharing the great recipe.
    We live in Japan (I’m Japanese) but my husband is a Mexican who loves carne asada.
    We tried this recipe for the summer BBQ party at our house inviting our church friends about 30 people.
    We grilled it and came out so good and everyone asked me the recipe.
    One change I made is to add a kiwi fruit to tender the beef quickly since we didn’t have enough time to set the marinade beef.
    I marinaded 10 pounds of beef about 15 hours and it was the right tenderness.
    Thank you again and I definitely make again carne asada with this recipe.

    Reply
          1. Anne-Marie Nichols Post author

            Not crazy about this idea, Adrian. You already have a lot of flavors going on and plenty of things to tenderize the meat. Don’t think the beer would go well with the vinegar either.

  8. Helena Hicks

    For tough cuts of meat
    If I may suggest for that grilled taste, grill the meat and then cook it in the crockpot
    You will have the grilled flavor and tender meat

    Reply
  9. AJ

    Next time you get a mountain goat, try pressure canning it.. pressure canning make it super tender, and if it has any gamey taste it takes that away too. It is so good, makes it taste like slow cooked roast beef. It just falls apart, and makes an easy pulled meat.. we pressure can all if our deer.

    Reply
  10. Sabrina

    Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    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
  11. 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
  12. Leila

    Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    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
  13. 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
  14. 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
  15. 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
  16. 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
  17. 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
  18. Suzanne Mardesen

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

    Reply
  19. Tracy

    Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    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
      1. Anne-Marie Nichols Post author

        So glad you enjoyed it, TracyI I actually picked up some skirt steak today and am going to make a batch this weekend.

        Reply
  20. 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
      1. Margaret

        Ok– my question is whether I’ve ruined this recipe??? I just had balsamic vinegar and rice vinegar– I have it marinating now , I tried cooking a bite and it seems so sweet I’m afraid I blew it. I have added some hot sauce because there was no heat at all ( I did sub black pepper too). Anyway– I’m anxious for the meal– so hope it’s ok!
        :/ Margaret

        Reply
        1. Anne-Marie Nichols Post author

          I’ve used both balsamic and rice vinegar and either one should work. Just make sure to use the amount of sugar or sugar substitute I’ve specified in the recipe and you should be fine.

          Reply
    1. Anne-Marie Nichols Post author

      That’s terrific Molly. So glad you liked it. I made it last week when my husband’s boss came over. Needless to say, the carne asade disappeared!

      Reply
  21. 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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