Carne Asada Marinade
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Carne asada marinade is your key to making the juiciest, most tender Mexican steak dinner! Use this marinade recipe for any cut of steak.
The Purpose of Marinating
Some steak purists say that the only seasonings a cut of steak needs are kosher salt and black pepper. In some cases, this is absolutely true. For example, as long as the quality of beef is good, I don’t think you need anything other than salt and pepper to create a spectacular grilled ribeye.
However, Carne asada steak is an exception to the “no seasoning” rule, and here’s why. The purpose of marinating is for more than just seasoning the food; it also tenderizes tougher cuts of meat.
The meat for carne asada is typically skirt steak or flank steak, and some people use flap steak.
All of these cuts of beef have cartilage and tendons running throughout the meat. Using a carne asada marinade helps to break down those fibrous connective tissues, creating asada that is juicy, tender, and loaded with flavor!
Carne asada marinade ingredients
Thankfully, when it comes to adding flavor to a Mexican steak, you only need to use a few pantry staples. This is because the flavor from fresh and dried chile peppers does most of the work!
- Citrus juice– The acid in orange juice and lime juice aid in breaking down tough connective tissues. Plus, they add a bright flavor that compliments the spicy heat of the chile peppers. Skip the bottled juices and use fresh citrus juice; you won’t regret it!
- Guajillo chili peppers– These dried peppers have a medium spice level and a fruity note. If you’re unable to find guajillos, you can substitute dried ancho chiles.
Because anchos have a smokier flavor, they aren’t exactly the same, but the end result will still be delicious.
NOTE: You’ll need dried chilies; powdered spices don’t provide enough flavor.
- Serrano chili peppers– Fresh serrano chiles add brightness to the carne asada marinade, while also adding a mild punch of spicy heat. The best substitute for serrano chili peppers are jalapenos, which are just a bit milder than serranos.
- Fresh garlic cloves– Fresh garlic is essential for flavor. If you don’t want to use whole cloves, you can substitute jarred minced garlic.
- Spices– A bit of cumin, onion powder, and kosher salt complete the flavor of the carne asada seasoning.
- Cooking oil– Olive oil in the marinade helps everything adhere to the beef, and it also aids in creating a delicious brown crust on the steak.
If you don’t have olive oil, any type of high smoke point oil will be fine. Grapeseed and avocado oil are good substitutes for olive oil.
How to make the Mexican steak marinade
You’ll need a food processor (4 cups or larger) or a high speed blender to puree the ingredients together.
- Prep and rehydrate the dried chilis.
Before you soak the chiles, you’ll need to break them in half to remove the seeds. You’ll also need to remove and discard the stems.
- Drain the water from the chiles, reserving 1/2 cup of the liquid.
You’ll use the water from soaking the peppers to help thin out the marinade. If you forget to reserve some, don’t worry; you can use plain water instead.
- Puree the ingredients to combine, then marinate the carne asada meat!
Technically, you could use the marinade for any type of meat, or even chicken, but I wouldn’t use it on lean cuts. The acid in the marinade will give lean cuts like filet mignon and top sirloin a mealy texture.
Yes, there is such a thing as marinating meat for too long. Remember that there is acid in lemon and lime juice. After more than a few hours, that acid will start breaking down the meat, leaving you with a gritty, mealy, or mushy texture.
Yes, carne asada marinade can be used for beef or chicken! Just be sure to marinate chicken no longer than 45 minutes as the end result tends to be mushy in texture.
The only way to safely use leftover marinade as a sauce is to boil it first. Boiling requires the marinade reaching a temperature of 212°F (100°C).
If you don’t do this, the bacteria from the raw meat could make you very sick.
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Carne Asada Marinade
- 2 limes (1/4 cup juice)
- 1 orange (1/2 cup juice)
- 1 Serrano pepper sliced, no seeds
- 4 guajillo chiles soaked reserve 1/2 cup liquid from peppers
- 3 garlic cloves
- 1 tbsp ground cumin
- 1 tbsp onion powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- Remove and discard stems and seeds from guajillo chiles, break chiles in half. Cover with boiling water and steep for 10 minutes.
- Juice the lime and orange. In a blender purée the citrus juice, Serrano pepper, soaked guajillo chilies and 1/2 cup liquid from peppers, garlic, cumin, onion powder, salt and olive oil.
- Pour over steak, turning to coat all over, and marinate 3 hours covered, in the refrigerator.
The information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
Can I use guajillo chili powder that I bought instead of steeping the guajillo chiles? If so, how much powder should I use? Please advise, thanks.
I would use 1 teaspoon guajillo chili powder per dried chili in a recipe Kyle.
A delicious recipe that I’ve used many-many times, (amongst many others from this site). This is a perfect marinade for carne asada, especially when grilled over mesquite lump charcoal. Thank you so much for sharing many of your great recipes.
Excellent, thanks so much for the ringing endorsement. Much appreciated!
This is a good recipe. I was looking for something that required real chilies/soaking/blender process and this one hit the nail on the head. It’s like the ranchera at the grocery store but better. Pleasantly surprised considering there’s hardly any reviews
Glad you stopped by, tried it and let me know! Much appreciated.
You said marinating too long is bad. Is 9 hours too long? I want to marinade just before I go to work, then grill when I get home.
I don’t recommend marinating for more than 12 hours total. Let me know how it turns out when you make it!
there is no mention of the lime juice in the instructions
Thanks for the assist in the error there Laura. Recipe card updated to reflect!
This was the best Carne Asada I have ever had. We had it for dinner in taco shells and then for lunch quesadilla. So incredibly good.