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Carne Asada (the Secret to Tenderness)

Your carne asada can be ultra tender, with a secret ingredient that works for almost any cut of beef you want to grill. We’re sharing our tips on how to make supremely flavorful, tender, juicy carne asada right at home. 

carne asada sliced on a plate with avocado and salsa

Carne Asada Recipe

The sun has finally decided to shine upon Minnesota. I don’t care if it’s hot and humid. It’s become my weather motto: I complain during the arctic winters, so I don’t get to also complain about the heat. I can only pick one season to wah-wah over. Even when it’s so hot that typing makes me sweat, I’m good with it.

Since we only get like 2 months of warmth around here, we all take our grilling season verrry seriously. There’s no taking the grill for granted. I’ve never seen such Weber respect until we moved here. Which brings me straight to our tender carne asada recipe.

Often, homemade carne asada results in steak that tends to be chewy and rather tough, despite slicing against the grain. Most of the time, people are confused and wonder why their skirt or flank steaks remain chewy. I’ve personally shied away from using skirt or flank steaks in the past for the same reason.

However. One day I decided to use a secret ingredient that I routinely use for tenderizing my Korean kalbi beef. Like, duh. I’ve already been doing that for decades and why didn’t I think of it for my carne asada recipe earlier…

carne asada skirt steak marinade

What cut of beef is used for carne asada?

It’s common to use skirt steak or flank steak for most carne asada recipes. You can use more expensive cuts of steak such as ribeye for tenderness, but there is no need to do so unless you need to use up your freezer meat.

As mentioned, skirt and flank steaks can often turn out more tough/chewy than ideal, even when you “do everything right” and even when you slice against the grain. That’s where the marinade makes a world of difference.

You can make the most tender, flavorful carne asada using the more affordable/traditional skirt or flank steaks with the right technique.

Marinade Ingredients for tender carne asada

  • Soy sauce is typically a key player. We recommend regular strength soy sauce, as it’s the only form of salt you’ll be using. A decent quality soy sauce like this one is important, as it will provide much better flavor. If you need gluten-free, go with Tamari soy sauce. Even though we aren’t gluten free, I use that exact Tamari soy all the time because of its purity in flavor. (You may need to add a pinch or two of salt if using Tamari soy, as it tends to have less sodium than regular soy sauce.)
  • You’ll want fresh limes for freshly squeezed lime juice. Lime juice provides the citrus acid that will help in tenderizing the meat while adding flavor. Avoid bottled lime juice.
  • Olive or canola oil in the marinade will help it adhere to the beef, as well as assist in the browning during cooking.
  • It may sound random, but a bit of sugar always goes into our marinades, as it balances out the flavors as well as helps the meat to brown on the grill.
  • As always, we aren’t shy with the garlic. I use about 6 large cloves of minced garlic in the marinade.
  • Dry seasonings include plenty of cumin, ancho chili powder, and onion powder.

Secret Ingredient for extra tenderness

I’m guessing it’s not on many people’s radar. If it is, you might be a kindred spirit who makes kalbi beef the same way I do.

It’s kiwi. This powerful little guy is more than just a cute name. Mashed up green kiwi added during the last 30 minutes of marinading = magic. Don’t let it sit any longer than that, or the beef can over-tenderize to the point of turning mushy. Which would not be delicious.

By the way, you can’t taste the kiwi at all. Its main purpose is to boost the tenderness during the final 30 minutes of marinading. You’ll end up with some kind of wonderful.

Grilled carne asada on cutting board

Any other tips for the best carne asada?

  • It’s important to allow for at least 3 hours of marinade time. At maximum, you can go up to 9 hours. Again, the mashed kiwi should only come into play during the last 30 minutes.
  • Poke holes all over the beef prior to marinading. This allows flavor to soak into the steaks.
  • Get your oiled grill very, very hot prior to laying the steaks down. The grill should be preheated to smoking. This is essential for getting a nice char on the exterior without overcooking the center. Medium rare is preferred for tenderness.
  • Weather didn’t cooperate for outdoor grilling? No worries. You can use an indoor cast iron grill like this one. Just oil it, set it up over 2 burners on matching high heat until smoking, and lay on the steaks. I do this whenever I can’t grill outdoors, which is approx. 8 months out of the year.
  • Once you have nice charring on both sides, your steak should be nicely done in the middle. Exact cook time depends on thickness of your steaks, but generally when the exterior looks done with these thin skirt/flank steaks, it’s ready.
  • This is super hard, but a teensy bit of delayed gratification works wonders — let the grilled meat rest for about 5 minutes before slicing it very thinly, against the grain. You may need to cut your steak into thirds and then thinly slice across the grain for nice, never parallel to the grain.
  • Have your 3-Ingredient Lemonade Margaritas in hand, and you’re ready to rock ‘n roll.
carne asada sliced on a serving plate

What to Serve with Carne Asada:


Watch this recipe in action:


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carne asada recipe

Tender Carne Asada Recipe

5 from 6 reviews

Your carne asada can be ultra tender, with a secret ingredient that works for almost any cut of beef you want to grill. We’re sharing our tips on how to make supremely flavorful, tender, juicy carne asada right at home. 

  • Prep Time: 15min
  • Cook Time: 7 min
  • Total Time: 22 minutes

Yield: 6

Ingredients

Scale
  • 23 lbs skirt or flank steak, roughly trimmed
  • 1/4 cup regular strength soy sauce (or Tamari, for gluten-free*)
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 TB freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 2 TB olive or canola oil
  • 1 TB sugar
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp onion powder
  • 2 tsp ancho chili powder
  • 2 kiwi fruits, peeled and mashed
  • Optional toppings: Pico De Gallo, sliced avocado, lime wedges, chopped cilantro

Instructions

  1. Seasonings: In a 9×13 pan or large dish, add the soy sauce, garlic, lime juice, oil, sugar, cumin, onion powder, and chili powder. Use hand whisk to incorporate well. Set aside.
  2. Coat: Using paper towels, dab off all excess moisture from beef. Use fork to poke holes throughout beef. Place beef in the pan with marinade. Evenly coat beef on all sides, ensuring every bit of beef is well coated (if you have two steaks, ensure even coating on both.) Cover with cling wrap. Chill 3-9 hours.
  3. Tenderize: During the last 30 minutes of marinade time, evenly press mashed kiwi onto all sides of beef, making sure every part of the beef has a bit of kiwi on it. Cover and chill no more than 30 minutes max.
  4. Cook: grease the grill; heat on high until smoking hot. Grill steak just until both sides are nicely charred and browned, and interior is medium rare. Cook time will vary, depending on thickness of steaks. Usually, once the exterior is nicely charred, skirt/flank steaks should be done, as they are thinner cuts.
  5. Rest: Transfer steak to cutting board and let it rest for 5-10 minutes, without slicing. Then, slice very thinly against the grain (perpendicular to the grain) and serve immediately with your choice of toppings.

Notes

*You may want to add a pinch or two of table salt to the marinade if using Tamari soy sauce, as it tends to be less salty than regular soy sauce.

*Carne asada is delicious with tortillas, rice, or try our favorite lime rice.

Nutrition

  • Serving Size:
  • Calories: 465
  • Sugar: 3.1 g
  • Sodium: 419.5 mg
  • Fat: 37 g
  • Carbohydrates: 19.9 g
  • Fiber: 4.1 g
  • Protein: 18.9 g
  • Cholesterol: 49.5 mg
  • Author: Amy | Chew Out Loud
  • Category: Main
  • Method: Grill
  • Cuisine: Mexican
  • Diet: Gluten Free

Keywords: carne asada

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Recipe rating

48 comments

    • Cheri Wischmeyer

    My family and I absolutely love this recipe. I read it and wondered about the kiwi, but was I ever amazed at how tender the steak came out with the kiwi marinade. Don’t worry that it will flavor it like the fruit. It is just as good, if not better than any carne asada I have ever had in a Mexican restaurant. Also, this is so easy to make. Simply mix the marinade together and put the meat in to soak. I used a gallon plastic bag because I didn’t have room in my fridge for a large pan. It worked just fine. Just make sure that all the meat is coated well and shake it up every so often. The grilling only took about ten minutes and the meat came out so tender. The hardest part was waiting the 5-10 minutes before you slice it. Be sure to go against the grain and you will have a recipe you will want to make over and over.

      • chewoutloud

      Awesome, Cheri! So happy your family loves this dish 🙂

    • Theresa

    Love the kiewe, I usually use pineapple but your way was one of best .

      • chewoutloud

      Awesome, Theresa!

    • Don

    After I do the kiwi for 30 minutes do I remove the kiwi before grilling the steak or keep it on. It says that any longer than 30 minutes with the kiwi can make the meat mushy so I’m a little confused if I keep the kiwi on during cooking or not. Thank you. I have been looking for a recipe like this. It looks amazing.

      • chewoutloud

      You can leave it on for cooking; just don’t marinade longer than 30. SO excited for you to taste this!

    • Shweta

    Such a yummy treat! I need to make them for my cheat meal

    • Yanitza

    I don’t eat meat but all the information here is very interesting.

    • Heidi

    That meal looks so yummy! I will have to try this!

    • Celebrate Woman

    The sauce and fresh greens make the meal.

    • Renata Feyen

    That sounds like a recipe for success, I am certain I will love eating meat prepared that way

    • Emily Fata

    This sounds like good information for people who eat meat

    • Ari Augustine

    What kind of side dishes would best compliment the Carne Asada?

      • chewoutloud

      Hi, Ari…there’s a short list of recipes above that would work great!

    • Sonja

    I was craving something tasty. This recipe does not disappoint! Man oh man! So tasty and so tender! The Kiwi were definitely an important ingredient! I put the mashed up kiwi on the flank steak 30 minutes before grilling, no more, no less! Then, I rinsed the kiwi off and patted the meat dry, and grilled just like you recommended! Thanks for sharing this recipe!

      • chewoutloud

      You’re so welcome, Sonja! Happy that you all enjoyed this!

    • Chey

    HELP!!!!! Okay that was bit dramatic! I’m definitely making this for the 4th of July cookout. I have the MOST difficult time being confident that I know I’m cutting against the grain. In your picture of the cooked steak – w/parsley? on top on the cutting board with the knife resting next to the steak – would you slice starting from a narrow end or the long side? Thank you SO much for any help you can give me on this. I’m definitely grain-challenged. 🙂 I love your site and your recipes are ALWAYS delicious.

      • chewoutloud

      So excited for you to try it this weekend, Chey, and thanks for the amazing compliments 🙂 To slice across grain: let cooked meat sit on cutting board for 5-10 min before slicing (helps to retain juices.) Use a very sharp knife and slice perpendicular to the “striations” or “strands” you see that are along the cooked steak. Do not slice parallel to those. Cut thin slices, perpendicular to those muscle strands, and you’ll be golden! (It doesn’t matter which side of steak you start from…as long as you are never slicing parallel to those meat strands.)

    • Yeah Lifestyle

    This dish looks amazingly delish and I am curious to try making it as I have never used the kiwi fruit in a marinade or for cooking

    • MyHealthyishKitchen

    i love carne asada but steak is not always my strength! I can’t wait to give this a shot 🙂

    • Daisy Blue

    Adding a kiwi is an interesting secret! I’d never guess. I followed you on Pinterest and I’m looking forward to more of your posts… 🙂

    • Gervin Khan

    Another new and great recipe to make for the family. It look so easy to make and so delicious. I am sure they will love it.

      • Cindy S

      This recipe looks so good! I definitely going to save it! Never made it before

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