San Diego Style Carne Asada Marinade

San Diego Style Authentic Carne Asada Marinade Recipe loaded with Mexican flavors and taste. Perfect for carne asada tacos or burritos or to nosh alone with beans and rice.

Carne Asada Marinade

Looking for 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.

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 passangers carry outside food on a plane, 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,


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 tortillas, restaurant style homemade salsa and guacamole, all from scratch.


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.

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 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.

Anyway – PLEASE leave a comment below and let us know what you thought of this recipe!




Authentic San Diego Style Carne Asada Marinade Recipe! Perfect for Carne Asada Tacos or Carne Asada Burritos. Better Carne Asada than you'll find at your local taqueria. This Mexican Food Recipe is perfect for Cinco de Mayo! More recipes at #mexicanrecipes #dinnerrecipes #tacorecipes #burritorecipes #cincodemayorecipes

Carne asada - Marinade
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4 from 43 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.
Cook Time20 mins
Total Time20 mins
Servings: 6 people
Author: Darcey Olson


  • 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


  • 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 6 hours.
  • Before grilling, remove from the refrigerator up to an hour in advance.
  • Ten minutes before grilling, add meat tenderizer (optional)
  • Pre-heat grill to medium high.
  • Place meat directly on greased grate for 10 minutes.
  • Flip and grill for an additional 7-8 minutes, until your desired doneness (165 is well done).
  • Let rest for 10 minutes before slicing and serving.
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  • 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!

    • Google “Casa de Bandini”, Carlsbad, CA. and you’re in for a feast for the eyes. Diane Powers owns it–she refers to the relocated CDB as Second Generation Casa de Bandini. It’s a destination restaurant–a place to take out-of town guests for a great evening.

  • 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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