CARNE ASADA STREET TACOS EXPLODING WITH FLAVOR AND YOUR FAVORITE TOPPINGS with just minutes of prep!
These Carne Asada Street Tacos bring your favorite street tacos into your own home! The warm corn tortillas are loaded with juicy, marinated and spice rubbed carne asada steak, creamy, bright homemade guacamole, fresh, vibrant pico de gallo, silky, tangy sour cream and salty Cotija cheese. These street tacos are melt-in-your mouth tender, juicy perfection boasting a symphony of flavors you will have to taste to believe! This street tacos recipe is easy to make with a marinade- then it’s less than 20 minutes on the grill OR I’ve also included instructions on how to make street tacos in the oven or the stove – because you are going o want to EAT them year round!
Street Tacos Recipe Video
I wanted to bring you this carne asada street taco recipe in plenty of time for Labor Day because it will be the HIT of the day/season/summer/year! It is also fabulous for crowds because you can prep everything ahead of time and line up a taco bar so everyone can make their own street tacos which saves you time assembling and serving – winning.
So, let’s talk street tacos. My husband, Patrick, and I consider ourselves somewhat of street taco connoisseurs – seeing as we consume more Mexican food than any other cuisine. Not only do we live in Carlsbad (north San Diego), but we grew up in San Diego where authentic Mexican food dots every corner and grew up making day trips to Tijuana (back in the day when it was safe).
Today, we frequent Cabo and Patrick loves his surfing trips to Ensenada – which is actually where we met (you can read our Love Story here). So, I think it’s safe to say we’ve consumed our fair share of street tacos (or more) – and we know what good street tacos should taste like. So, let me assure you – this carne asada street taco recipe is the best of the best and will transport you to your favorite taco stand. I cannot wait for you to try them!
What’s a street taco?
Street tacos are characterized by their small, soft corn tortillas, opposed to crunchy shells or larger tortillas. The tortillas are usually double stacked and small enough to easily maneuver with one hand. The street tacos are served open faced so you can pile them high with your favorite toppings then fold them in half before you devour them.
Street tacos can be filled with grilled or pan-fried chicken, beef, pork or fish. The most well-known street tacos that you need in your life (clickable links to recipes included) are:
- Carne Asada Street Tacos: what we’re serving up today! In Spanish, Carne literally means “flesh/meat/beef” and Asada means “roast/broiled/grilled,” so “grilled meat.” When it comes to “carne asada” in cooking, the term refers to grilled and sliced or chopped beef, usually skirt, flank or flap steak. The steak is associated with a charred flavor from searing the meat on the grill. Carne asada street tacos are stuffed with tender, juicy chopped carne asada steak, guacamole, pico de gallo, sour cream, cotija and salsa and/or hot sauce on corn tortillas.
- Baja Fish Street Tacos: made famous by Rubio’s, Baja Fish Tacos are always fried (never blackened), served on corn (not flour) tortillas, with thinly sliced cabbage, pico de gallo, creamy white sauce and plenty of lime.
- Street Tacos Al Pastor: pork is marinated in pineapple, chilies and spices then stacked and vertically roasted on a slowly turning spit with a pineapple on top which bathes the pork with its juices as it roasts. The outside edges of the pork become beautifully crisp and caramelized while the inside remains splendidly juicy. The Al Pastor is sliced off the spit-grilled meat to-order in thin slices accompanied by chunks of fresh pineapple, pico de gallo and avocados or guacamole cocooned in corn tortillas. You need this street taco recipe in your life.
- Carnitas Street Tacos: is traditionally made by simmering large chunks of cumin, chili, oregano, citrus seasoned pork in hot lard on the stove top then coarsely chopping to achieve the name Carnitas, translated as “little meats.” The carnitas are then piled in corn tortillas often with refried beans, pico de gallo, guacamole, and cilantro. I’ve made an easier, healthier cranitas recipe in the slow cooker which is then finished in the oven for gloriously crispy charred ends.
- Chicken Street Tacos: marinated, grilled pollo asada is piled in corn tortillas with guacamole, pico de gallo, sour cream, salsa. We love to use my chipotle chicken for chicken street tacos.
Street Taco Recipe
To make the best carne asada street tacos – you need the best carne asada! This street taco recipe utilizes my carne asada recipe which I perfected with 4 different attempts.
We didn’t mind the attempts as they were all tender, and charred and delicious. Still, they lacked a certain “oomph” of flavor – restaurant quality flavor. Finally, I decided to not only marinate the steak but also rub the steak with spices right before grilling – that did it – taste bud magic!
So, not only does the carne asada marinate in orange juice, lime juice, soy sauce and a splash of liquid smoke, it gets marinated with and then rubbed with cumin, chili powder, smoked paprika, garlic and onion. And that is when “good” became Patrick’s approved “best” carne asada.
To transform the best carne asada into the best street tacos, make sure to use quality, warmed corn tortillas, guacamole, sour cream and pico de gallo – they all add that something-something which translates to undeniably sensational.
All the tips, tricks and details below about how to make the best street tacos or you can use the “jump to recipe” button at the top of the page.
WHAT TYPE OF MEAT SHOULD I USE FOR CARNE ASADA STREET TACOS?
Carne asada is traditionally made using skirt or flank steak. I prefer flank steak with its wide, flat shape, rich buttery flavor and melt-in-your-mouth texture. Flank steak is a little leaner than skirt steak but because we are using a marinade to maximize the flavor, it emerges wonderfully juicy and flavorful.
CARNE ASADA TACOS MARINADE InGREDIENTS
The dynamite carne asasda marinade transforms this flank steak into a juicy, flavor bomb worthy of your street tacos. Marinades need to accomplish three things: tenderize the meat, infuse it with flavor and chemically change the structure so it retains juices and actually becomes juicier. I’ve outlined how the ingredients below adeptly accomplish this:
- Citrus: orange juice and lime juice tenderize the meat by breaking down the tough connective tissue. They also infuse the meat with bright floral tones characteristic of carne asada that complement the earthy seasonings.
- Soy sauce: enzymatically breaks down the proteins to further tenderize while also adding a rich depth of grounding flavor.
- Seasonings: ground cumin, garlic powder, smoked paprika, chili powder, salt, onion powder, ground coriander, pepper and cayenne. 3 tablespoons of this Spice Mix are added to our marinade and the rest gets rubbed all over our steak before grilling. This allows the seasonings to both penetrate the meat inside and out and is the key to this best carne asada street tacos ever.
- Oil: is crucial as it spreads the oil-soluble flavors more evenly across the meat and also promotes even browning when cooking.
What are the Best Tortillas for Street Tacos?
Quality tortillas are a HUGE part of quality street tacos, and can make or break the taco in my opinion. Street tacos are traditionally served on corn tortillas but you may use flour if you prefer.
I love La Tortilla Factory Corn Tortillas – not an affiliate, just affection. They are thicker, homemade tortillas that never break or tear even when charred and piled with toppings. I find mine at Sprouts. They come in 8 per package which means you will need 2 packages for this carne asada taco recipe. They are definitely more expensive BUT less than dining out!
Also, be aware that this brand of corn tortillas is not gluten free as it does contain corn AND wheat.
HOW TO MAKE STREET TACOS
STEP 1: Pound Steak
Using a meat mallet or side of a can, pound steak to an even, thin thickness.
STEP 2: Make Spice Mix
- The spice mix is a dynamic blend of seasonings that gets used both in the marinade and then in the wet rub. You only have to measure the seasonings once but get double the flavor.
STEP 3: Marinate Steak
- Add all Marinade Ingredients (except steak) to a large freezer bag and whisk to combine.
- Add 3 tablespoons Spice Mix to Marinade and whisk to combine.
- Add steak, squeeze out excess air, seal and turn to evenly coat.
STEP 4: Wet Rub
- The wet rub is my secret to the BEST carne asaada street tacos so please don’t skip! When ready to grill, mix remaining Spice Mix with 2 tablespoons olive oil to create a Wet Spice Rub.
- Rub steak evenly all over with Spice Rub and let rest at room temperature for 30 minutes. I use this time to make guacamole.
STEP 5: Cook Steak
- I want you to be able to make these carne asada street tacos year-round, so I’ve included how to make carne asada on the grill, in the oven and on the stove.
- My preferred, and most authentic method, is definitely the grill as it delivers the smoky flavor characteristic of street tacos, but you can use the other methods if you don’t have a grill or when it’s not grilling season.
STEP 6: Let Steak Rest
- Remove steak and let rest 10 minutes before chopping into small pieces.
STEP 7: Warm tortillas
- Warm tortillas in the microwave, in a skillet or char on the grill or open gas stovetop flame until warm but still pliable (detailed directions below).
STEP 8: Assemble!
- Assemble Street Tacos by layering warmed corn tortillas with carne asada steak, pico de gallo, guacamole, sour cream and cotija. Serve with optional lime wedges and hot sauce.
HOW LONG TO MARINATE CARNE ASADA?
4-12 hour is the optimal time to marinate carne asada. After 4 hours, the flank steak has absorbed a lot of the flavor but after 12 hours it will become even more tender. You definitely don’t want to marinate it longer than 12 hours though because the acid in the marinade will begin to change the structure of the meat to the point of mushiness – no Bueno!
HOW TO COOK STREET TACOS:
- GRILL: Take care to grease your clean grill grates well with oil. Next, close the lid and heat to the highest heat and WAIT to add your steak until the grill reaches temperature, this could take up to 15 minutes, so be patient. Add your steak and reduce heat to medium-high heat. This temperature ensures a smokey charred outside, and pink juicy inside. Grill steak for 5 to 6 minutes per side, turning once, for medium, depending on the thickness.
- OVEN ROASTED: You may also broil your carne asada which mimics the high directional heat of the grill. Place carne asada on a baking sheet. Broil 8 inches away from the broiler for 7-10 minutes on each side or until it reaches desired temperature.
- STOVE TOP: You may use the stove, but unless you have a large grill pan, your carne asada might not fit in your skillet and you may need to cut your steak in half and work in batches. Heat one tablespoon olive oil in a large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Cook for 6-8 minutes per side or until it reaches desired temperature.
How Do I Know When the CARNE ASADA IS Done?
Flank steak is a lean cut of beef, so it is best not cooked above medium or else it can be tough and chewy instead of juicy. I would aim for medium, meaning it will be pink in the middle. That being said, the marinade gives you a little wiggle room, but I wouldn’t push it.
To check the carne asada for doneness, insert an instant read thermometer into the center of the steak.
- Rare steak: 125 degrees F
- Medium rare: 135 degrees F
- Medium: 145 degrees F *RECOMMENDED*
- Medium well: 155 degrees F
- Medium Well (not recommended)
- Well done: 165 degrees F (not recommended)
HOW TO CUT STEAK FOR STREET TACOS:
Steak is usually sliced against the grain in order to shorten the tough fibers, but we are cutting in both directions – so it doesn’t really matter what end you start with. I recommend slicing the steak into ½-inch slices then ½-inches slices the other direction to create ½” cubes. You really don’t want pieces much larger than this as smaller pieces create the most melt-in-your-mouth texture.
TIPS FOR CARNE ASADA TACOS:
- Quality tortillas. try and use QUALITY corn tortillas – you can taste the difference! I’ve discussed this in greater detail below.
- Pound the steak to an even, thin thickness. Even if your steak looks even already, you’ll still want to give it a good pounding to tenderize it (works wonders!). Place steak in between two pieces of plastic wrap or I just place it in a freezer size plastic bag. Pound it evenly with a meat mallet or side of a can.
- Don’t over-marinate. The carne asada taco marinade is highly acidic which means you don’t want to marinate the steak as long as you would in a marinade without as much citrus. Don’t marinate much longer than 12 hours or the muscle fibers can break down and become mushy.
- Marinate long enough. I recommend marinating the carne asada for the maximum 12 hours. This will infuse the steak with TONS of flavor and optimal juiciness.
- Bring carne asada to room temperature before cooking. You always want to let any protein sit at room temperature before cooking in order for it to cook evenly so you aren’t left with an overcooked exterior and cold interior. This also relaxes the cold fibers for juicier results.
- Use a high smoking point oil. For the grill, generously grease the CLEAN grill with a high smoking oil such as vegetable oil, canola oil or peanut oil. I just use a wad of paper towels to grease the grill. NEVER use spray oils once the grill is on.
- Use a hot grill. Heat up the grill with the lid closed cranked to the maximum temperature so it can achieve temperature more quickly; plan on 10-15 minutes. Once the grill is hot, you can adjust the temperature. Don’t add the steak until the grill reaches temperature or it won’t sear as nicely.
- Don’t overcook. For the juiciest street tacos, don’t cook carne asada above medium.
- When to use high heat. If you like rare or medium-rare steak, then grill steak on high heat so it’s hot enough to get some color on the outside in a short amount of time.
- Let carne asada rest. After the carne asada is grilled, it is important to let it rest for 10 minutes before chopping. While the steak cooks, the juices are forced away from the heat to the middle of the meat. The resting time allows for the redistribution and reabsorption of the juices throughout the whole steak.
- Let pico de gallo rest. After you combine the Pico de Gallo ingredients in a bowl, let them sit at room temperate in order for the flavors to meld together. If you taste it right away, I guarantee you will be disappointed. The salt draws out the flavor from the tomatoes, which we desperately want in this recipe. Sitting also tones down the raw onion as it mingles with the lime. Give your Pico de Gallo at least 30 minutes for the magic to happen.
- Add something creamy. In addition to pico de gallo, you will want to add something creamy to these carne asada street tacos to marry all of the textures together. I love both sour cream and guacamole or you can use sour cream with chopped avocados or my beloved avocado crema.
- Hot sauce to taste. The carne asada tacos aren’t spicy but plenty flavorful. If you are your guests like a kick, make sure to serve the street tacos hot sauce on the side.
WHY HEAT TORTILLAS for street tacos?
Before you pile your toppings into your carne asada street, tacos, I HIGHLY recommend warming the corn tortillas.
Warm tortillas elevate any street tacos to a whole new level. Not only are they softer and the ideal non-jarring, melt-in-your mouth temperature, but the flavors are accentuated when warmed. If you attempt to use room temperature or cold tortillas, you’ll find their temperature isn’t nearly as appetizing and they aren’t as pliable and soft. Lower quality corn tortillas are also likely to break if not warmed.
You can easily warm your tortillas for these carne asada street tacos in SECONDS using any of my below methods: open flame, skillet, microwave or oven, with the microwave being the quickest.
How to Warm Tortillas for Street Tacos
- Open Flame (gas stove or grill): this method is how I achieve the smoky char you see on the tortillas and is best with FRESH/homemade tortillas as previously discussed. I simply add the tortillas directly to the burner of my gas stove then flip with tongs once they are charred on one side. You can also accomplish this on the grill as well. If you are using lower quality tortillas, you will want to take special care not to over-char or they will become brittle and break. You still want the tortillas soft and pliable.
- Skillet: heat a skillet (or griddle if you have one) to medium high heat (do not grease). Working with one tortilla at a time (more for a griddle), heat each side of the tortilla for approximately 20-30 seconds until warm and soft. You are not looking for char marks with this method.
- Microwave: working with about 5 tortillas at a time, stack tortillas on a microwave safe plate and cover with a damp paper towel. Microwave for 20 seconds on high, then repeat at 10 second intervals if needed until warmed through.
- Oven: create separate stacks of about 5 tortillas each, then wrap each stack in foil. Bake at 350 degrees F for 15-20 minutes or until heated through (you can bake all stacks at once).
Once your tortillas are warmed (with any method), keep them warm and pliable by stacking on a plate and covering with a slightly dampened, paper towel or clean towel.
TOPPINGS FOR CARNE ASADA TACOS:
The toppings for carne asada tacos are pretty minimal classic fair, but add SO MUCH YUM to the street tacos. I particularly love the cooling sour cream and fresh pico de gallo against the juicy, robust carne asada.
- Pico de gallo: is a MUST for carne asada tacos or any street tacos in my opinion. It is fresh tomato salsa that adds a vibrant, punchy freshness. It is made with tomatoes, onions, cilantro, jalapenos, lime juice and salt. I’ve included my pico de gallo recipe (which we use all of for these street tacos) or you can use your favorite recipe or even store bought. You can make the pico de gallo ahead of time and store it in an airtight container in the fridge. Bring to room temperature before serving.
- Guacamole: I’ve included my favorite homemade guacamole in the street taco recipe or you can use your fav.
- Sour Cream: You can use easy sour cream or you can get creative and use the Crema I use in my Baja Fish Taco recipe here. But honestly, I think sour cream works great because the carne asada tacos are already so flavorful. If you are trying to save some calories, you may also substitute plain Greek yogurt. Although not authentic, it gets the job done and you don’t have to feel guilty about piling it on.
- Cheese: Cotija or queso fresco. Cotija is found with the specialty cheeses and is delightfully salty. It is often called the “Mexican Parmesan.”
- Lime: use lime wedges to add freshly squeezed lime juice if additional tanginess is desired.
- Cilantro: if you skip the pico de gallo, you can load on fresh cilantro and tomatoes instead.
- Spice: adjust the heat of your street tacos by adding chopped or sliced jalapenos or hot sauce.
- Salsas: salsa or salsa verde are optional but add yet another layer of flavor.
STREET TACO RECIPE VARIATIONS
This carne asada street taco recipe is classic and fabulous in its simplicity. I honestly don’t think it needs any bells and whistles. That being said, there aren’t many street tacos that corn salsa wouldn’t make better. Here are some more topping ideas:
- Add Beans. Add your favorite beans – warmed refried beans, black beans, kidney beans etc.
- Add Veggies. Grilled bell peppers, corn, zucchini, sweet potatoes, etc. all would be delicious as would tangy radishes if they’re your thing. Pickled red onions are also commonly served with street tacos.
- Corn Salsa. I’m obsessed with sweet, smoky, crunchy, juicy corn salsa. I’ve already used in my pork tacos and think it belongs on everything! OR you can just serve it on the side with some chips.
- Add pineapple or pineapple salsa. Freshly chopped pineapple or grilled sweet and smoky pineapple salsa pair beautifully with carne asada like I do in my California Burritos.
- Mexican French Fries. Serve your carne asada fries in a warm tortilla with your favorite toppings – because fries make everything better.
Street Taco Recipe Shortcuts
This street taco recipe is very simple to make! Just marinate the meat, spice rub the meat, grill and then serve with toppings. It is the toppings that can take a minute to prep – especially chopping the pico de gallo ingredients – but you don’t want to skip the pico de gallo. To cut down on topping prep, you can purchase store bought pico de gallo (usually at the deli counter) as well as store bought guacamole. Now, all you have to do is load up your street tacos!
wHAT TO SERVE WITH STREET TACOS?
- Chips and salsa. Every Mexican recipe needs chips and salsa! Up your salsa game with homemade salsa, grilled corn salsa, pineapple salsa, mango salsa, or avocado corn salsa.
- Rice: is a must in my book for any street taco recipe. We love serving these carne asada tacos with cilantro lime rice, Mexican rice, or avocado rice. You can also serve with quinoa, or low carb cauliflower rice.
- Salads: salad is always a win and a great way to stretch your street tacos if you’re serving a crowd. These carne asada tacos pair well with: southwest salad, corn salad, or southwest orzo salad.
- Veggies: I HIGHLY encourage you to go with authentic elote (Mexican Grilled Street Corn) – you will not regret it! Other alternatives include grilled corn on the cob, baked asparagus, roasted broccoli, roasted potatoes, roasted cauliflower.
- Fruit: you can keep it simple and serve these street tacos with watermelon or grapes or any of these fabulous options: pina colada fruit salad, fruit salad with honey lime vinaigrette, grape salad, summer fruit salad or caramelized grilled pineapple.
- Carbs: add some green chiles and or/ jalapenos to my sweet cornbread recipe and watch it disappear (one of my all-time favorite recipes I bring to everything!). Mexican Street Fries are also a favorite that disappear in a flash.
WHAT CAN I MAKE AHEAD?
While the carne asada is marinating, you can prep the pico de gallo and the guacamole – then all that’s left to do is grill the steak and warm the tortillas.
I don’t recommend prepping the guacamole more than 6 hours ahead of time for the best results. To store guacamole, store in an airtight container with a piece of plastic wrap pressed directly onto the surface of the guacamole. This will help decrease the speed at which the avocados brown due to oxidation.
HOW LONG DO CARNE ASADA TACOS LAST IN THE FRIDGE?
- steak: store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
- pico de gallo: is best consumed the same day it is made as the tomatoes will continue to release juices BUT it can be stored for up to three days.
- guacamole: is best consumed the same day it is made as the top layer will begin to oxidize and turn brown. This doesn’t mean the guacamole has gone bad, but it can be unappetizing.
CAN I FREEZE CARNE ASADA STREET TACOS?
You can freeze the carne asada meat cooked or uncooked:
- Uncooked carne asada: add marinade and steak to a freezer bag per recipe instructions. Squeeze out excess air, seal and freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator before cooking. It will marinate as it thaws. You will still want to use the spice rub on the steak before cooking.
- Cooked carne asada: transfer chopped carne asada to an airtight container or plastic freezer bag and squeeze out any excess air. Freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator before reheating. You can also defrost in the microwave but take care to defrost slowly so your steak doesn’t overcook or get rubbery.
HOW TO REHEAT CARNE ASADA TACOS
- Cover the chopped carne asada with a damp paper towel to keep it from drying out.
- Microwave at 30 second intervals until warmed through.
- Heat one tablespoon oil or butter in a nonstick skillet over medium high heat. The fat will help the carne asada stay tender; you may substitute with water.
- Once hot, add steak and cook undisturbed for a couple minutes, then begin to cook and stir until warmed through.
- Take care not to overcook or it can become dry.
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