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Carne Asada Marinade

The citrusy, smoky, and spicy Mexican-inspired flavors in this carne asada marinade penetrate right down to the center of the meat giving each bite the best taste and buttery texture. It enhances the flavor of the beef as it prepares to hit the grill!

Carne asada marinade in glass dish.
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Quick, Easy, and So Flavorful

Carne asada is all about the marinade. It’s how we flavor and tenderize the meat, making it so that each bite is juicy, melts in your mouth, and is full of flavor.

I do have the best flank steak marinade for other occasions, but this carne asada marinade is my family’s favorite way to season it for carne asada steak, especially when we’re using it to make carne asada tacos.

It’s made with the 3 main components of a really good steak marinade, including olive oil for fat, orange juice, lime juice and vinegar for the acid, and jalapeno, garlic, herbs, and spices for seasoning and spice.

All you need is to add all the ingredients to a bag or bowl, place the meat inside, and wait. It’s that easy!

Once it’s been given enough time to marinate, it’s ready for a sizzling grill!

Why This Recipe Works

  • Simple ingredients. Everything in the ingredients list is easy to find if you don’t already have it.
  • Foolproof tender meat. The acid helps to break down the fibers making the steak easy to eat and allowing more room for the absorption of flavors.
  • Easy and versatile. This carne asada marinade is great for all kinds of meat in Mexican recipes and non-Mexican recipes alike. It can easily replace an easy steak marinade or chicken marinade from time to time and be used throughout the grilling season on fish, beef, and pork too!

Marinade Ingredients

Carne asada marinade ingredients on counter.

Find the full printable recipe with specific measurements below.

  • Fat: Olive oil helps to keep the meat nice and moist as well as distribute the seasoning coating the meat evenly.
  • Acid: Lime juice, orange juice, and white vinegar break down the muscle fibers and proteins in the steak that give it structure. This makes it easier for the flavors to get into every crevice.
  • Herbs and spices: Crushed garlic, minced jalapeno, fresh cilantro, chili powder, cumin, salt, and pepper. A delicious combination of smoky, spicy, earthy, and herbaceous Mexican-inspired flavors. Remove the seeds from the jalapenos if you prefer a mild marinade.
  • Steak: We’re marinating flank steak, however for carne asada you can also use skirt steak if preferred. Flank steak is a lean, flavorful cut of beef that doesn’t cost much!


There are a few ways to switch up the ingredients to alter the flavors. It’s great to be able to be flexible in case you don’t have one thing or another.

You can replace the vinegar with apple cider vinegar or another citrus juice like lemon juice. Use chipotle pepper or ancho chiles instead of jalapeno. Add a little soy sauce for an umami flavor or brown sugar for a touch of sweetness and caramelization once grilled.

If you’re not a lover of cilantro, leave it out. Play around with the herbs and spices until you find a blend you love.

How to Make Carne Asada Marinade

Showing how to make carne asada marinade in a 4 step collage.
  • Combine the marinade. Add all marinade ingredients into a large bowl or sturdy gallon-sized zip-top bag. Mix together until combined.
  • Place steak in the bag. Add the meat to the mixture and remove any excess air before sealing the bag. If using a bowl, cover it with plastic wrap. Marinate for at least 1 hour at room temperature. If you’re not ready to grill, you can marinate it in the morning and keep it refrigerated for up to 12 hours.
  • Pat dry and season the meat. Remove the steak and discard the marinade. Pat the meat dry with a paper towel and season both sides with salt and pepper.
  • Cook the flank steak. Preheat the grill to medium-high heat and cook steak for 7-10 minutes or until your desired doneness, according to the reading on your digital thermometer. Let it rest for a few minutes and then cut it into slices against the grain, shortening the fibers.

Marinating Tips

  • Timing. You want to make sure the meat is fully coated in the carne asada marinade for a minimum of 1 hour at room temperature. If longer, place it in the fridge. There is quite a bit of acid in the mix, so do not allow it to sit for more than 12 hours, otherwise, it will start to break down too much forcing the meat to become mushy.
  • Even cooking. Remember to bring it to room temperature 30 minutes before grilling. Adding cold meat to a hot grill will cause it to stick and seize up.
  • Don’t skip salt and pepper. The meat will still need a bit of salt and pepper for seasoning just before grilling. Although the marinade gives the meat flavor, a little extra salt will help to draw out those flavors.

Cooking Time

This will always be determined by the thickness of your steak and how well you like yours done. Below are the temperature guidelines to follow. Use a meat thermometer for accuracy.

  • Medium-Rare (130°-140°F) 
  • Medium (140°-150°F) 
  • Medium-Well (150°-160°F)
  • Well (Over 160°F)
Carne asada marinade in a glass bowl.

Recipe FAQs

Can I make this carne asada marinade ahead of time?

Absolutely. Make it up to 3 days ahead and allow the flavors to marry even more. Just don’t add the meat until 12 hours or less prior to grilling.

What should I do with the leftover marinade?

Nothing. Discard it as soon as you’re done marinating the meat. Once it’s come into contact with raw meat, it’s no good.

What to serve with carne asada?

Oh, let me count the ways! Serve it with rice and beans and an extra lime wedge. You can wrap them in flour tortillas for a burrito or corn tortillas for tacos and top them with salsa, sour cream, guacamole, or pico de gallo.
Beef enchiladas can also use a carne asada steak filling!

Can I marinate the meat for too long?

Yes! The acid can break down the meat and change the texture too far the other direction. That’s why I say no more than 12 hours!

Carne asada marinating in glass dish.


Keep leftover carne asada steak in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days.

Sliced carne asada on a wooden board.

Need more steak recipes? Check out steak fajitas, chimichurri steak, and grilled flank steak.

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Carne asada marinating in glass dish.

Carne Asada Marinade

5 from 6 votes
↑ Click stars to rate now!
Author: Jamielyn Nye
The citrusy, smoky, and spicy Mexican-inspired flavors in this carne asada marinade penetrate right down to the center of the meat giving each bite the best taste and buttery texture. It enhances the flavor of the beef as it prepares to hit the grill!
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Marinate + Rest Time: 2 hours 5 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours 30 minutes
Servings: 8



  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 2 limes , juiced
  • ½ cup orange juice
  • 2 Tablespoons white vinegar
  • 1 jalapeno , minced and seeded (for less spice)
  • 4 cloves garlic , crushed
  • 1 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt , plus more for grilling
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper , plus more for grilling
  • 2 pounds flank steak


  • In a large bowl or a gallon-sized zip-top bag, add the olive oil, lime juice, orange juice, vinegar, jalapeno, garlic, cilantro, chili powder, cumin, salt, and pepper. Seal, if needed, and mix together until combined.
  • Add the steak and cover with plastic wrap or press out any excess air before sealing. Marinate at room temperature at least 1 hour or in the refrigerator up to 12 hours. If refrigerating, set out 30 minutes before grilling.
  • Remove the steak from the marinade and pat dry with paper towel. Season each side with salt and pepper.
  • Preheat the grill to medium-high heat. Place the steak on the grill and cook 7 to 10 minutes, or until a digital thermometer reads 140°F. You can also cook longer to your desired doneness. See notes for cooking temperatures.
  • Let rest 5 to 10 minutes. Slice the carne asada steak against the grain.


Pound the steak. To tenderize the meat, Place steak in between two pieces of plastic wrap or in a large zip-top bag. Using a mallet or a rolling pin, pound the steak to an even thickness. 
Steak temperature: 
  • Medium Rare (130°-140°F) 
  • Medium (140°-150°F) 
  • Medium Well (150°-160°F)
  • Well (Over 160°F)
Make-ahead: This marinade can be made up to 3 days in advance, however don’t add the meat longer than 12 hours, since the acid in the marinate can break down the meat too much. Typically I’ll add the meat in the morning and grill that evening. 
Cook steak in the oven: Preheat the broiler. Place steak on a baking sheet. Broil 8 inches away from broiler, turning once halfway through, until cooked to desired doneness (6 to 8 minutes per side for medium). See below for internal temperatures. 
Storing: Discard any leftover marinade and do not reuse after it has touched the meat. You can store leftover meat in an airtight container in the refrigerator up to 3 to 4 days. 


Calories: 233kcal | Carbohydrates: 4g | Protein: 25g | Fat: 13g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 7g | Cholesterol: 68mg | Sodium: 357mg | Potassium: 466mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 271IU | Vitamin C: 16mg | Calcium: 39mg | Iron: 2mg

Nutrition provided is an estimate. It will vary based on specific ingredients used.

Course: Main Dish
Cuisine: Mexican
Diet: Gluten Free

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