For these quick and easy carne asada tacos, we skip the long marinade but keep the traditional flavors to make this the easiest of weeknight dinners.
Carne asada usually has a long marinade time, making it less than ideal for a weeknight. For this quick version, I’ve skipped the marinade and instead put some chipotle chili and garlic into a dry rub directly on the skirt steak, and then orange and lime citrus flavors go into a quick sour cream crema sauce. Pile it all into toasty corn tortillas for Taco Tuesday, or whenever you get that beef taco craving.
Learn more about making carne asada tacos below or click here to head straight to the recipe.
What Is Carne Asada?
Carne asada is grilled and sliced meat, most often chuck steak, flank steak, or skirt steak. In the U.S. it’s typically skirt steak marinated for hours in a combination of chili peppers, citrus, salt, and garlic before grilling.
It’s pretty amazing and you can absolutely make my more traditional carne asada recipe for your tacos, but I’ve come up with a shortcut version. Less prep time makes it perfect for any night of the week.
Making Quicker Carne Asada
The typical carne asada recipe involves marinating the meat for awhile. Our classic version has it in the marinade for a minimum of 3 hours. That’s not ideal if you want carne asada for Taco Tuesday or any busy weeknight. And so, I’ve done away with the long marinade and have instead put those flavors partly into a dry rub and partly into an easy sauce to serve on the meat in the tacos.
The flavors on the meat are smoked paprika, garlic, and chipotle powder (or use chili powder) and the sauce is made of sour cream, lime, and orange juice. The recipe below has you putting the dry rub on the skirt steak and then cooking it in a skillet on the stove. But if you’re in the mood for grilling, by all means, head outside with your dry-rubbed beef.
While the skirt steak cooks and rests, you’ll make the sauce and also prep any other toppings (like chopped tomatoes or pico de gallo, guacamole, cheese, salsa, green onions, etc.). Then you just need to heat up your tortillas, slice the beef, and dinner is served.
What Kind Of Tortillas To Use
You can use any kind of taco shells for these tacos. Store-bought hard corn tortilla shells, soft flour tortillas, or soft corn tortillas.
To heat the soft flour tortillas, the easiest way is to put a stack of them onto a microwave-safe plate with a couple of sheets of damp paper towel, which will create some nice steam. Top with an inverted plate and microwave 30 seconds at a time until heated through. They’ll stay warm for a bit with the paper towel and plate on them.
For soft corn tortillas, in my opinion, the easiest way to heat them is under the broiler. It’s quicker, and I really think better, than in a skillet. There’s a video below showing how to do it, but basically, put them on an ungreased baking sheet in a single layer. Put them under the broiler 6-8 inches form the heat source, just until starting to brown in places, about 2 minutes. Take the pan out and use tongs to flip the tortillas over, but don’t put them back in. You’ll put your fillings on the untoasted side, which is nice and soft and makes them easy to fold.
Can You Use Chicken Instead Of Beef?
Yes, you can absolutely use chicken in these carne asada tacos instead of beef. I prefer boneless skinless chicken thighs because they’re nice and juicy. But chicken breasts will work too.
It’s going to be easiest to slice the chicken before cooking it, then toss it with the rub ingredients, and cook in the skillet just until it’s no longer pink. Pile it into your tortillas with the sauce and toppings, and you’re done!
Adding Taco Toppings
You can use whatever your favorite taco toppings are, but I do have some suggestions. Fresh pico de gallo or my corn and bean salsa is always a crowd-pleaser. One of the easiest things to do is to use a store-bought Tex-Mex chopped salad mix for the veggies like I do in my easy shrimp taco recipe, but skip the dressing in the package since the sauce we’re making for these carne asada tacos is so good.
Other than those, I love crumbled cotija cheese or queso fresco, avocado, and fresh cilantro. If you have extra limes, I recommend serving with lime wedges to be squeezed on top of your tacos. That last bit of acidity really brings all the flavors together. Enjoy!
Want another great taco recipe? Try my easy shredded beef tacos too!
Podcast Episode On Making Carne Asada Tacos
Listen to learn how to make this recipe, along with some great tips from Christine:Print
This is the easiest recipe for carne asada tacos because we’ve swapped the marinade for a dry-rub and flavorful crema sauce, used some pre-made toppings, and broiled the tortillas in 1 super-easy step!
- 3 tsp. smoked paprika
- 2 and 1/2 tsp. salt
- 2 tsp. garlic powder
- 1 and 1/2 tsp. ground chipotle or chili powder
- 1 and 1/2 lb. outside skirt steak*
- 3/4 cup sour cream
- 1/4 cup orange juice
- 1 lime, zested and juiced
- 1 tsp. cooking oil
- 12 soft corn tortillas
- In a medium bowl mix together paprika, salt, granulated garlic, and ground chipotle.
- Remove half of the spice mixture from the bowl and set it aside for making the crema later. Rub the remaining half of the spice mixture evenly onto both sides of the steak. Cut steak into 4-inch pieces and set aside.
- Make the crema sauce by mixing together the sour cream, orange juice, lime zest, lime juice, and the spice mix you set aside. Refrigerate until time to serve.
- Preheat a very big skillet over medium-high heat (you might need to use two skillets if your pieces of steak won’t fit comfortably in one). Add oil, spread evenly on bottom of pan.
- Add steak pieces to skillet. Cook 4 minutes each side for medium. Transfer steaks to a cutting board to rest and turn on the broiler.
- Place corn tortillas on a baking sheet in a single layer (you may have to do two batches) and put under the broiler for about 2 minutes, until starting to brown in places. Flip over but do not return to under the broiler. Instead, you’ll fill the softer top side. If tortillas are done before you’re ready, pile them up and put them in some aluminum foil to stay warm. This also softens them.
- Slice steak into thin strips against the grain. Divide steak strips evenly among tortillas. Drizzle about 1 tablespoon of the crema onto each taco. Serve with your favorite taco toppings.
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*Outside skirt steak tends to be more tender. But, if you can only find inside skirt steak, that will work too.