The Best Carne Asada Marinade recipe ever!

The Best Carne Asada Marinade recipe ever!

This carne asada marinade recipe came out of a culinary challenge I faced. Could a marinade recipe for carne asada tenderize tough mountain goat meat?

While it didn’t – the meat was delicious but incredibly tough – I ended up with an authentic carne asada  marinade that I now swear by.

It's now the best Mexican carne asada recipe I've ever tried.

For carne asada marinade, it’s about the vinegar and spices

We love grilling up carne asada that tastes just like the kind we ate when we lived in San Diego. I now use this asada marinade every time we have a big party.

I learned to make it at home based on a recipe my husband found online. (There are so many similar versions that I’m not sure who to credit anymore.)

Over time, I’ve tweaked this carne asada recipe and come up with, in my humble opinion, the best carne asada marinade recipe you will ever find!

I hope you’ll agree that making your own authentic carne asada – instead of buying it at your local carnicería (Hispanic grocery store) – is worth the effort.

Vinegar: Traditionally, marinade recipes use red wine vinegar. Instead, I decided to do things differently and use malt vinegar.

Malt vinegar has a strong zingy taste that goes well with the lime and orange juices.

Gluten free? However, if you’re gluten free, don’t use malt vinegar! Instead, for a gluten free marinade, you can use red wine vinegar or cider vinegar.

Spices: 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 to the carne meat.

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

Two carne asada burritos with rice and beans on a grey plate.

Cooking up your easy carne asada marinade

This recipe 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.

What kind of steak? Use skirt steak, flank 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.)

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

How to grill the marinated flank steak: You should cook your skirt or flank steak on a very hot grill for several minutes per side (keep flipping the flank steak) until the center is only slightly pink and register at 110 degrees F on your grilling thermometer.

(Oil the grill with a spritz of olive oil cooking spray so the marinated flank steak doesn't stick to your outdoor grill.)

Then pull the carne asada off your outdoor grill and let it rest for a few minutes so it will be nice and juicy.

How to cut up the cooked carne asada: 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 authentic carne asada for tacos or burritos. Who’s going to know, right?

Love Mexican food? Here are a few Mexican recipes you'll adore:

Pumpkin Smoothie for Dia de los Muertos – Day of Dead

Easy Mexican Rice – just as good or better than Mexican restaurant style rice

Layered Mexican Christmas Eve Salad – make this holiday salad in a trifle bowl

Easy Breakfast Chilaquiles – this breakfast dish is baked up in a skillet making for easy cleanup

Crock-Pot Mexican Shredded Chicken with Black Beans & Corn – the secret ingredient is pineapple, making this shredded chicken dish super tasty!

Try making a slow cooker carne asada recipe

Traditionally, you grill authentic 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!

(If you’re looking for a recipe for crock-pot goat, try my Slow Cooker Goat Recipe.)

Pulled carned asada: Instead, I decided to make slow cooker carne asada! I cooked the other half of the meat in my slow cooker.

While, it wasn’t as sweet and tangy as the grilled carne asada, it was still tasty.

It was tender and more like a “pulled” tacos carne asada recipe, which is what I was shooting for.

I haven’t tried slow cooking a beef carne asada recipe after marinating.

But I bet you could use the carne asada marinade on a pork butt (carnitas) and slow cooking it instead. Experiment!

If you love pulled pork tacos, check out my Slow Cooker Pulled Pork Tacos. Your family will love them and they’re super easy to make!

Marinated carne asada skirt steak on a hot grill.

How do you serve up your tacos carne asada recipe?

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:

● salsa – sweet, verde and/or al 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

● freshly diced tomatoes

● beans – black or pinto

● slices of avocado

● chopped green onions

● chopped cilantro

● shredded cabbage or lettuce

● plain no fat Greek yogurt (a healthy alternative to sour cream)

vegan sour cream if you can't tolerate dairy (it's made with tofu, but tastes like the real thing!)

Other ways to serve carne asada:

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.

I've also enjoy carne asada fries! It's French fries, chopped carne asada steak, salsa, and melted shredded cheese with sour cream and guacamole.

Yield: 12 SERVINGS

Best Carne Asada Marinade Recipe

The Best Carne Asada Marinade recipe ever!

Looking for an easy carne asada recipe? You'll love this carne asada marinade for grilling or the slow cooker.

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


  • 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 oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 orange, sliced
  • 1/4 bunch cilantro, chopped
  • 6 pounds skirt steak


  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 the meat, cover dish or close bag, and marinate overnight up to 48 hours in the refrigerator.

Grilling the marinated carne asada:

  1. Take the carne asada out of the 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 the carne asada 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 the carne asada over rice for a carne asada bowl.

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Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:

1/2 pound

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 686Total Fat: 38gSaturated Fat: 14gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 22gCholesterol: 135mgSodium: 1014mgCarbohydrates: 24gFiber: 1gSugar: 22gProtein: 59g

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 and January 21, 2016.

Updated with new pictures and information.

The Best Carne Asada Marinade recipe ever!

57 thoughts on “The Best Carne Asada Marinade recipe ever!

  1. 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.

  2. John

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

      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.

        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!

  3. 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?

  4. 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!

    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.

  5. Emi

    Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    Hi Anna- 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 10pounds of beef about 15 hours and it was the right tenderness.
    Thank you again and I definitely make again carne asada with this recipe.

          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.

  6. 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

  7. 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.

  8. 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!

  9. 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!

  10. 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!

  11. 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!

    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!

    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.

    3. Keri

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

  12. 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? ?

  13. 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!

    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.

  14. 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!

  15. 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

    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!

  16. Suzanne Mardesen

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

  17. 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!!

    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!

  18. 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!

      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

        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.

  19. 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.

    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.


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