San Diego Style Carne Asada Marinade

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, Carne Asada Nachos or carne asada 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,


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.


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.


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!


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


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
4.17 from 48 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


  • 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 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.


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.


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
Recipe Rating

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Thursday 16th of September 2021

Can't wait to try this! I'm from the bay area but lived down in san Diego for a few years, it ruined Mexican food for me! Have not had a Great Burrito in years! I don't get it? seems like the worst burrito I had in San Diego was still better than the best burrito I've had up here. Rice Beans!!! I don't understand. Mexican Food in Northern Ca sucks compared to San Diego.

Jackie E.

Monday 16th of August 2021

THANK YOU a thousand times over for this recipe! We just moved to the Hill Country from San Diego (Chula Vista to be exact). My husband is originally from San Antonio and I am a third gen. San Diegan. I am loving the Hill Country and LOVE Texas but miss my SD Style Mexican Food. Just like I couldn't find great Texas BBQ in San Diego (I came close) there is no finding anything close to Lolita's here. We have found a coupled that are ok and are advertised as SD Style food. My kids were having some serious withdrawals and were craving carne asada chips, burritos and refried beans with great flavor and texture. Thank you again for your recipe.

Joseph Read

Sunday 1st of November 2020

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!

Michelle Chaudoir

Thursday 11th of March 2021

Lol I was stationed in San Diego many years. I visited Charleston, SC to visit an old friend that I had met when stationed there. Met for lunch at a nice mexican place on rivers ave. The salsa choices were - 1 - that's ok. She brings our meal and I tell her the menu touted "fresh" salsa..... she went to talk to someone and came back to tell us that it was indeed fresh, why the cook had opened the can that very morning. We were so spoiled because of the good food in San Diego, there really wasn't much I could say, other than thank you for checking.

Darcey Olson

Tuesday 3rd of November 2020

I'm dying laughing! BBQ is MUCH better outside Southern California for sure!

Justin N

Monday 12th of October 2020

So I've tried this recipe twice. Both times it is nowhere I mean NOWHERE near San Diego style Carne Asada. Where in mexico would they add cloves to the marinade??? K.I.S.S. found another site that recommends just lemon, lime, salt and pepper. That's closer to San Diego carne asada than this recipe. It's a decent mix of spices so I'll give you two stars for trying but the flavor is WAY off. Benefited someone by buying these random ingredients.

Tana Clark

Tuesday 8th of September 2020

I live in San Diego and eat carne asada frequently. I followed the recipe exactly and this tastes nothing like a San Diego carne asada. Extremely disappointing.

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