Skip to Content

San Diego Style Carne Asada Marinade

San Diego Style Carne Asada Marinade

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

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 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 4 ingredient 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
mango pico de gallo
Pico de Gallo
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.

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.
4.47 from 75 votes
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Marinating: 1 day
Total Time: 1 day 30 minutes
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
  • ¼ cup Red Wine Vinegar
  • ¼ cup Water
  • 2 tbsp Vegetable Oil
  • 2 tbsp Lime Juice
  • 2 tbsp Orange Juice
  • 2 tbsp Chopped Cilantro
  • 1 tbsp Minced Garlic
  • ¾ tbsp Garlic Salt
  • ½ tbsp White Pepper
  • ½ tbsp Cumin
  • ½ tbsp Chili Powder
  • ½ tbsp Mexican Oregano
  • 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
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!
Recipe Rating


Thursday 4th of May 2023

Do you drain the meat to come to room temp? Then put the meat tenderizer on it.?

San Diego Charlie

Saturday 24th of June 2023


The marinade will tenderize the meat. If you want it to be even more tender, leave it in marinade in the fringe at least over night.


Friday 5th of May 2023



Friday 5th of May 2023

@Darcey Olson,

Darcey Olson

Thursday 4th of May 2023

I pull out the entire bag from the fridge. About 10 minutes before I want to cook it I drain the meat and then sprinkle on the tenderizer.

Jeff M

Sunday 23rd of April 2023

I just made this recipe, and it was delicious! Highly recommended! Born and raised in San Diego, been eating Carne Asada everything my entire life!


Sunday 7th of May 2023

@Jeff M, I needed to read this comment before I committed myself to trying the recipe. I am born and raised in San Diego and miss Carne Asada Preperada from the markets or going to eat it at all the local truck spots. Thank you so much! Signed a girl in Japan missing that CA goodness

Jason Putnam

Sunday 26th of March 2023

25 years in SD and this recipe captures the flavor of the new age Mexican flavor . With TJ so close I feel this infused both traditional flavors with new age as well . Can swap: Salt for Soy Orange for Blood Orange or Pineapple Juice Red wine vinegar for your favorite Red wine / Apple cider vinegar .

Had many versions of this style and they all turn out phenomenal. This recipe is a really great blueprint to mess around with and dial in something you love .

Thanks -JP


Tuesday 8th of November 2022

Do SD taco shops always use skirt/flank/flap steak? I guess I assumed they used chuck steak because it's cheaper since they pack each burrito with a ton of meat.

Darcey Olson

Wednesday 14th of December 2022

Skirt/flank/flap is traditionally an inexpensive cut of meat. The past few years prices have skyrocketed so I wouldn't be surprised if some places, especially non-traditional restaurants, switched to it. Chuck steak is a tough piece of meat and needs to be cooked low and slow vs. grilled.


Friday 30th of September 2022

Amazing Recipe! Needs more salt- I add 2TBSP Soy Sauce and it's perfect!

Darcey Olson

Monday 24th of October 2022

I'm happy to hear you enjoyed it as much as we do!!