San Diego Style Carne Asada Marinade

San Diego Style Authentic Carne Asada Marinade Recipe. Juicy grilled steak in a flavorful citrus marinade loaded with Mexican flavors. Perfect for carne asada tacos or burritos or to nosh alone with beans and rice.

Up close shot of sliced grilled flank steak.

Looking for a kick ass Carne Asada Marinade? Your search is over. You can stop the hunt.

You just found the BEST San Diego Style Carne Asada Recipe available outside your local taqueria. If you’re not from San Diego, or haven’t visited, you may think distinguishing this Carne Asada Recipe as “San Diego Style” is a bit odd. And it is. But there’s a reason.

San Diego, hands down, has the best Mexican food in the US (View our list of Mexican Recipes). There I said it. There’s a reason a few Mexican restaurants in Texas brand themselves as “San Diego Style Mexican Food.” They’re smart enough to know Tex-Mex has nothing on authentic Mexican Food. Plus, with the sheer amount of Californians moving to the state, there is a huge market for this style of Mexican Food. Tex-Mex doesn’t cut it when you’re jonesing for Authentic Carne Asada Tacos or carne asada burritos.  

Three Carne Asada tacos topped with cilantro and onions on a white plate. Served with lime slices and cilantro.

Most folks outside California lump all of us together. Please don’t. From Central Coast on up, they have no idea how to cook good Carne Asada. Years ago, when they let passengers carry outside food on a plane and I couldn’t Google “taquerias near me”, I’d package up a few carne asada burritos and treat my friends in San Jose. After all, they had to listen to me whine about the lack of quality Mexican joints in the Bay Area. I mean,

WHO PUTS SOUR CREAM IN THEIR GUACAMOLE???

When we moved away from San Diego we had to figure out how to make Carne Asada at home. Of course tips from the local line chef at the taco joint helped guide us in the right direction. We tweaked and tweaked until we came up with this Carne Asada Marinade. Anytime we had guests over, we’d treat them to Carne Asada burritos, complete with homemade flour tortillas, restaurant style homemade salsa and guacamole, all from scratch.

RECIPE TIPS:

Here are a few tips when preparing the carne asada:

We prefer flank steak, but you can also use flap meat. Either cut makes for a great meal. Sadly, both are super expensive now.

Medium to medium-well makes for the best texture and firmness. It also makes it easier to chew. You’ll see medium-rare quoted elsewhere but check out the next carne asada burrito you grub down on. I guarantee you won’t see tons of pink. We grill our carne asada meat until it has an internal temperature of 155 degrees F.  While it rests it reaches 160 degrees F.

10 minutes before we place the meat on the grill, we sprinkle it with this meat tenderizer (hello, it’s just $3!). It comes out tender every time.

If you can swing it, try and make everything from scratch – the flour tortillas, salsa and guacamole. It really makes a big difference in the final product. There’s nothing worse than a plastic tasting tortilla masking the taste of carne asada.

Calculate 1 pound of meat per 4 people on the low end. For folks with heavy appetites, you may want to increase it by a half pound. Any leftovers can be used in a breakfast burrito the next morning.

This Carne Asada marinade works best when left in the refrigerator overnight. In a pinch, you can do it first thing in the morning, but make sure to give it at least 6 hours for the best flavor.

Don’t sub out any of the ingredients (say oregano vs. Mexican oregano). They each play an important role and you’re not getting the full San Diego Style Carne Asada experience without it.

Before you ask, no Chipotle Carne Asada isn’t amazing. Tried it. Hated it. Chipotle Carne Asada is no comparison to homemade, so I stick to the steak. Use this carne asada seasoning recipe and carne asada recipe tips to get an authentic meal.

Carne Asada Translation- Carne Asada translates to “grilled meat” in Spanish. Grilled being the keyword. I’ve spotted a few Instant Pot Carne Asada Recipes and Slow Cooker Carne Asada recipes online, but those aren’t Mexican carne asada recipes. Carne asada is GRILLED MEAT!!

A few Carne Asada Recipes to make with your grilled carne asada: Carne Asada Tacos, Carne Asada Fries, Carne Asada Burritos, Carne Asada Nachos, Carne Asada Torta, Carne Asada Quesadilla or Carne Asada Plate with Rice and Beans. TONS of ways to use yo’ meat!

Flank steak in a ziploc bag along with carne asada marinade.

HOW TO MAKE CARNE ASADA

Just a few steps are required to make this quick and easy Carne Asada recipe, but it does take some forward planning. You need at least two hours of marinating time, preferably 24 hours, and at least 30 minutes of counter rest time before you start grilling.

Step 1. Whisk the marinade together in a medium size mixing bowl until well combined.

Step 2. Marinate the steak – put the steak in a large Ziplock bag (or shallow baking dish) and pour the marinade over to coat every. Let marinade for a minimum of two hours, preferably up to 24 hours.

Step 3. Bring the carne asada meat to room temp by removing it from the refrigerator 30 minutes – 60 minutes before grilling.

Step 4. Grill that bad boy! Grill over medium high heat for 6-8 minutes per side until it reaches your preferred level of doneness. If you do not have an outdoor grill, or if the weather sucks, you can use an indoor grill pan (or cast iron skillet) instead.

Step 5. Let the carne asada rest for 10 minutes to seal in the juices.

Step 6. Thinly slice against the grain and serve baby!

WHAT TO SERVE WITH CARNE ASADA

We’re not short on Mexican Recipes here at Foodie and Wine. Our favorites to serve with Carne Asada:

How To Make Flour Tortillas
The Perfect Mexican Michelada Recipe
Restaurant Style Refried Beans
Restaurant Style Homemade Salsa
Margarita Mix Recipe
Authentic Carne Asada Tacos with Guacamole

WHAT CUT OF MEAT IS CARNE ASADA?

Carne Asada is traditionally made with skirt steak or flank steak, but you could also use flap meat. As mentioned above, we prefer flank steak. All of theses cuts are considered “lean cuts” meaning they have less fat that other cuts. 

Up close shot of grilled flank steak sliced to make carne asada recipes.
Print Recipe
4.12 from 45 votes

San Diego Style Carne Asada

San Diego Style Authentic Carne Asada Recipe loaded with Mexican flavors and taste. Perfect for carne asada tacos or burritos.
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time20 mins
Marinating1 d
Total Time1 d 30 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: Beef Recipes, Carne Asada, Grilled Recipes, keto recipes, Low Carb Recipes, Mexican Recipes, tacos
Calories: 321kcal
Author: Darcey Olson
Cost: $27.00

Ingredients

  • 2.5 lb Flank Steak or Flap Meat
  • 1/4 cup Red Wine Vinegar
  • 1/4 cup Water
  • 2 tbsp Vegetable Oil
  • 2 tbsp Lime Juice
  • 2 tbsp Orange Juice
  • 2 tbsp Chopped Cilantro
  • 1 tbsp Minced Garlic
  • 3/4 tbsp Garlic Salt
  • 1/2 tbsp White Pepper
  • 1/2 tbsp Cumin
  • 1/2 tbsp Chili Powder
  • 1/2 tbsp Mexican Oregano
  • 1/8 tsp Ground Cloves
  • 1 Orange Sliced

Instructions

  • Add all the ingredients (except the meat and orange slices) to a medium size bowl and stir until blended. Transfer to a large Ziploc Bag.
  • Add the steak and shake to coat the entire piece of meat evenly.
  • Lay the bag flat and add the orange slice directly to the meat - half on top and half on bottom.
  • Refrigerate overnight or at least 2 hours. (*Note 1)
  • Before grilling, remove from the refrigerator up to an hour in advance. (*Note 2)
  • Ten minutes before grilling, add meat tenderizer (optional)
  • Pre-heat grill to medium high.
  • Place meat directly on greased grate for 6-8 minutes. (*Note 3)
  • Flip and grill for an additional 6-8 minutes, until your desired doneness is reached.
  • Let rest for 10 minutes before slicing against the grain and serving.

Notes

Note 1. Let the carne asada marinade for a minimum of two hours, preferably up to 24 hours.
Note 2. Bring the carne asada meat to room temp by removing it from the refrigerator 30 minutes - 60 minutes before grilling.
Note 3. This time range is to cook the meat medium to medium-well as this makes for the best texture and firmness. You'll see medium-rare quoted elsewhere, but check out the next carne asada burrito you grub down on. I guarantee you won't see tons of pink. We grill our carne asada meat until it has an internal temperature of 155 degrees F.  While it rests it reaches 160 degrees F.

Nutrition

Calories: 321kcal | Carbohydrates: 5g | Protein: 41g | Fat: 14g | Saturated Fat: 8g | Cholesterol: 113mg | Sodium: 986mg | Potassium: 717mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 258IU | Vitamin C: 16mg | Calcium: 58mg | Iron: 3mg
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23 Comments

  • I haven’t tried it yet but looking so forward to it. We moved to Columbia, South Carolina 3 years ago. They THINK they have Mexican food here but….wait for it…….BWAW HA HA HA HA HA. I went into a restaurant and ordered a Chili Relleno and got a bowl of mushy hamburger with a couple of little chunks of Otega diced green chili, all floating in a pool of Lay’s white nacho sauce. Not quite sure which Mexico they think this comes from. Anyway, needless to say, my wife and I would both commit heinous acts of socially unacceptable behavior just to get our hands on a Roberto’s or Sombrero’s Carne Asada burrito. I’ve considered having someone actually send us via FedEx overnight on dry ice a dozen or so burritos. Yes, you may all feel sorry for me now. To give credit where credit is due however, any self respecting South Carolinian would come to California and laugh at what we call Barbeque, which I was abruptly corrected as Barbeque is a noun, not a verb. i.e; you don’t cook meat on the barbeque because a barbeque is not an outdoor cooking appliance. You prepare barbeque on the grill. WANTMESOMECARNEASADANOW!

  • This was super amazing. Followed every detail to emulate a California burrito (the way I like it) The Carne Asada was the star of the show. I wrapped up the meat with softer French fries, Mexican blend cheese, homemade pico de gallo and some el yucateco hot sauce. Totally legit.

  • I started visiting San Diego in the early 1980’s and frequented the area off and on into the 2000’s. The Carne Asada burrito’s originating with Roberto’s, Alberto’s, Adalberto’s, etc, etc are unquestioningly the tastiest, most unique Mexican fare I’ve ever had. It pisses me off to no end when someone tries to tell me they’ve had the BEST carne asada, yet have never had a SD carne asada! I have not been to SD for a good dozen years, and I have VERY high hopes that your recipe will transport me back there!!! I am curious if you have suggestion for the extra hot sauce that I used to get on the side in a small plastic container? On a side note I remember two other restaurants in the area from back in the day; Casa de Bandini in Old Town and La Costa in Tijuana. Neither is still around, but both were OUTSTANDING! Thanks again for the recipe!

  • If you first got hooked on mexican food in So Cal – that is always going to be your standard. I’ve lived in San Diego and SF bay area and I can tell you hands down Taqueria La Bamba in Mountain View serves the tastiest, juciest Carne Asada in the state (in my opinion ). The Bay Area has some of the best Mexican food in the country BUT, all the money coming into Silicon Valley is raising real estate prices and driving the family mexican restaurants out of the area which is absolutely horrible.

    • It’s good to hear the Bay Area has awesome Mexican food options now. When I lived there 20 years ago the “good” options were slim pickins, especially in the San Jose region which was surprising to me to say the least. Mountain View was a favorite stomping ground when I was a young college gal so next time I’m out that way I’ll have to check out Taqueria La Bamba!

  • There is no burrito like a San Diego style burrito. Make sure you tell them to toast the tortilla and, for the love of God, never wrap a burrito in tin foil as that traps in the steam turning the tortilla into a mushy, soggy mess. No one wants a gummy tortilla which the bottom fails and dumps everything on your lap while you are eating it. Like a French Baggette, if you must wrap it only breathable paper is allowed.

  • I tried to make this. Flank steak was too expensive, I used round steak. I didn’t have any red wine vinegar, so I used white. I never buy limes, but I had some frozen limeade concentrate. And it was too far to the store, so I used some orange extract that I had. My family doesn’t like cilantro, so I used parsley insted. Nobody likes cumin, so I substituted cinnamon.

    This recipe was horrible! It is nothing like real San Diego carne asada! Oh, and I’ve never been to San Diego.

    GOT YOUR ATTENTION? I was being facetious, but I have seen comments like that. I made it exactly as written, and it was WAY good! I will absolutely make it a “go to!”

  • Austin isn’t real “Texas” anymore. I love San Diego, and I’m from Texas. There are so many Californian refugees in Texas now! It’s not old Texas anymore. When I return for visits, I’m saddened. The outsiders have enriched the state to an extent, but in doing so, they are killing off the culture that made it “Texan.” (I’m married to a Californian!)

    • Sarah- California is the same way! Cities always change and progress, but when outsiders move in the culture changes significantly. Good and bad thing for sure!

      • Thank you so much for your recipe! Im making it tonight for the family. Smells amazing. I love San Diego! I dont care for city life, but if I had to choose one, it would probably be San Diego.

  • I’ve NEVER heard of ANY Texas restaurant referring to themselves as ” San Diego style Mexican”. If anything that would be an insult.

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