Grilled Steak Tacos

published Jun 22, 2022
4th of july
Steak Tacos Recipe

Flank steak marinated with chipotle, citrus, cilantro and onions.

Serves4

Makes8 tacos

Prep20 minutes to 25 minutes

Cook15 minutes

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Credit: Kelli Foster

Growing up in Southern California, I learned a thing or two about tacos. I grew up buying my carne asada from the carniceria (shout out to Primo Food Market in Vista!) because that’s where you went to buy the best. In the back of the shop, where all the pre-marinated meat was displayed, each variation was sitting in aromatics like onions, cilantro, and pieces of citrus. Primo made it easy: Buy the meat, grill it up, and have the best-tasting carne asada of your life.

Back then, I never really paid attention to why it was so good, only that it was. Now that I live on the East Coast, where really good SoCal/Baja-style Mexican food is scarce, I rely on my taste memories to recreate the flavors that I miss. This super-easy steak marinade comes together in minutes and brings me back to the hometown gatherings of my youth.

What Kind of Steak Is Best for Tacos?

I like to use flank steak for this steak taco recipe. It’s an inexpensive piece of protein that grills up nicely and has lots of flavor. After the chipotle salsa-citrus marinade, the steak grills up in minutes, making it easy for a weeknight. While it rests you can prepare your toppings.

Tips for Steak Tacos

  • While citrus juice will help tenderize the flank steak, be careful not to over-marinade the meat. Go for longer than four hours and the acid from the juice will break down the steak too much.
  • Brush the steak to remove all the marinade pieces. We don’t want burned bits of marinade on the steak.
  • For the most tender bites of steak, cook steak to medium-rare, let it rest then cut it against the grain.

What Toppings Should I Use for Steak Tacos?

For this recipe, I take the onions from the marinade and repurpose them as a grilled onion topping. I also add my favorite salsa and top it all off with crumbled cotija cheese and fresh cilantro leaves. Crema or sour cream goes great with steak tacos. Use whatever tortillas you prefer.

A lifetime of eating Mexican food has left its impression on me. I always volunteer to write taco recipes. Not feeling steak? Try my grilled shrimp tacos with tomatillo salsa.

Steak Tacos Recipe

Flank steak marinated with chipotle, citrus, cilantro and onions.

Prep time 20 minutes to 25 minutes

Cook time 15 minutes

Makes 8 tacos

Serves 4

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

For the steak:

  • 1 to 2

    large oranges

  • 2

    medium limes

  • 4

    cloves garlic

  • 1

    medium bunch fresh cilantro

  • 1

    (7 to 8-ounce) can or jar blended chipotle salsa (about 2 cup)

  • 1

    small red onion

  • 1 1/2 pounds

    flank steak

  • 2 teaspoons

    kosher salt

  • 1 teaspoon

    freshly ground black pepper

  • 4 tablespoons

    canola or vegetable oil, divided

For assembly:

  • 8

    5 or 6-inch) flour or corn tortillas

  • 1/2 cup

    avocado crema or sour cream

  • 1/2 cup

    pico de gallo or salsa fresca

  • 1/2 cup

    crumbled Cotija cheese

Instructions

  1. Prepare the following ingredients, adding each to the same 2-quart baking dish or large ziptop bag as it is completed: Using a vegetable peeler, remove the peel from 1 large orange and 2 medium limes. Juice the orange until you have 1/2 cup (juice the second orange if needed). Juice the limes until you have 1/4 cup. Finely grate 4 garlic cloves. Coarsely chop the stems from 1 bunch cilantro until you have 1/2 cup. Add 1/2 cup chipotle salsa and stir to combine.

  2. Slice 1 small red onion into thin rounds and add to the marinade. Add 1 1/2 pounds flank steak and turn to coat. If marinating in the baking dish, pile some of the marinade and onions on the top of the steak; cover the baking dish with plastic. If marinating in the bag, press out the excess air and seal the bag. Refrigerate for at least 1 and up to 4 hours, flipping the steak halfway through.

  3. Heat a cast iron grill pan or 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat for at least 5 minutes. Meanwhile, transfer the onion rings from the marinade to one side of a plate or baking sheet. Transfer the steak to the other half of the plate; discard the remaining marinade. Brush off any aromatics that are stuck on the steak and onions. Season both sides of the steak with 2 teaspoons kosher salt and 1 teaspoon black pepper.

  4. Drizzle 2 tablespoons of the canola oil into the pan. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until charred and tender, about 5 minutes. Push the onions to one side of the pan and place the steak on the other. Cook undisturbed until the bottom of the steak is dark golden brown and charred in spots, about 4 minutes. Transfer to a clean cutting board browned-side down.

  5. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons canola oil to the pan. Return the steak to the pan browned-side up and sear undisturbed until desired doneness, an internal temperature of 128ºF for medium-rare, 4 to 5 minutes, or 135ºF for medium. Return to the cutting board and let rest about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare the remaining ingredients.

  6. Pick fresh cilantro leaves until you have 1/4 cup. Warm 8 tortillas one at a time by holding them directly over a medium flame on a gas stove, or in a skillet over medium heat on an electric stove, flipping occasionally, until charred in spots and pliable. (Alternatively, wrap the stack of tortillas in a damp paper towel and microwave until warm, 20 to 25 seconds.) Stack together and wrap in a clean kitchen towel or aluminum foil to keep warm.

  7. Cut the steak across the grain into 1/2-inch thick slices. Cut any long slices of steak crosswise to fit into the tortillas.

  8. To assemble a taco, spread 1 tablespoon crema or sour cream on a tortilla. Top with a few slices of steak, a few pieces of onion, 1 tablespoon pico de gallo or salsa fresca, 1 generous sprinkle of Cotija cheese, and some cilantro leaves.

Recipe Notes

Outdoor grilling: To grill the tacos, heat an outdoor grill for direct, medium-high heat. Oil the grill grates with a paper dipped in vegetable oil. Add the onion rings in a single layer and grill uncovered until charred in spots and tender, flipping halfway through, about 5 minutes total. Transfer to a clean cutting board. Oil the grates again. Add the steak and grill uncovered until browned, charred in spots, and the center registers 128ºF for medium rare or 135ºF for medium, flipping halfway through, 9 to 10 minutes total. Transfer to the cutting board.

Storage: Leftover steak and onions can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 4 days.