For these steak tacos, flavorful flank steak is marinated in a spicy paste of garlic, jalapeno, cumin, and cilantro and then seared until medium-rare. The tacos are garnished with pickled red onions and lime.
Finally, a marinated steak taco recipe that lets you determine whether you want the marinade to boast a little or a lotta heat. It’s entirely up to you. Simply scrape away and discard the seeds from the jalapeño if you prefer a touch less heat. It’s that easy.–David Leite
*What is flank steak?
Like skirt steak, flank steak is a long, thin cut that is often found in fajitas and tacos. Full of big beefy flavor, it can be a little tough but prepared correctly, it’s tender and rich. Sliced thinly against the grain and steeped in marinade, you’ll be rewarded with maximum tenderness.
For the marinade
- 1/2 cup packed cilantro leaves
- 3 medium scallions chopped coarse
- 3 medium garlic cloves chopped coarse
- 1 medium jalapeño chile (for a less intense heat, discard the seeds)* roughly or finely chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/4 cup mild vegetable oil
- 1 tablespoon juice from 1 lime
- One (1 1/2- to 1 3/4-pound) flank steak* trimmed and cut lengthwise (with the grain) into 4 equal pieces
- 1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
- Ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
For the tacos
- Twelve (6-inch) corn tortillas* warmed
- Cilantro leaves for serving
- Minced white onion or pickled red onion for serving
- 1 lime cut into wedges for serving
- Cotija cheese for serving (optional)
Make the marinade
- Pulse the cilantro, scallions, garlic, jalapeño, and cumin together in a food processor until finely chopped, 10 to 12 pulses, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the oil and process until the mixture is smooth and resembles pesto, about 15 seconds, again scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Scoop 2 tablespoons of the herb paste into a large bowl, stir in the lime juice, and forget about it until just before serving.
- Using a fork, poke each piece of steak 10 to 12 times on each side. Place the steak in a large baking dish, rub all sides of the steak evenly with 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, and then coat with the cilantro paste. Wrap the steaks with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 to 60 minutes.
- Scrape the cilantro paste off the steak and sprinkle all sides evenly with the sugar and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Heat the oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking. Carefully place the steak in the skillet and cook until well browned on the first side, 3 to 5 minutes. Flip the steak and sear until well browned on the second side, 3 to 5 minutes.
- Using tongs, hold each piece of steak so a cut side is against the skillet and continue cook, turning as necessary to brown all sides well, to the desired doneness. [Editor’s Note: We strongly encourage you to cook this only until medium-rare as flank steak tends to become really quite tough when cooked to medium or well done.] Place the steak on a carving board, loosely tent it with foil, and let rest for at least 5 minutes.
Assemble the tacos
- Meanwhile, warm the tortillas by placing each one over the medium flame of a gas burner until slightly charred, about 30 seconds per side, or by stacking them and wrapping them in aluminum foil and placing them in a warm oven. Keep the warmed tortillas wrapped in a kitchen towel or foil until ready to use or they’ll dry out.
- Slice the steak on the diagonal and against the grain into 1/8-inch-thick strips, then chop into smaller pieces, if desired. Dump the sliced steak into the bowl with the reserved cilantro-lime mixture and toss to coat. Season the steak with salt and pepper to taste. Spoon a small amount of the sliced steak into the center of each warm tortilla and serve immediately, passing the cilantro, onions, lime wedges, and Cotija cheese, if using, separately. Originally published August 31, 2009.
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Recipe Testers’ Reviews
I was instantly drawn to the Steak Taco recipe because it sounded like a great week night dinner, and a nice change from a typical taco.
I found the recipe to be easy to follow and execute. The flavor built from marinating the steak with the cilantro paste (which I chose for an hour because I had the time), and tossing the steak in the extra paste set aside at the end was so delicious.
I also used the pickled onions recipe that was recommended from Leite’s and it was the most perfect addition.
I think the only thing missing was some extra crunch. Maybe some sort of greens or shredded red cabbage may be a nice addition. Just needed something more than the steak and onions. But ultimately—definitely a recipe I will make again. My husband was a huge fan.
This steak was really delicious with quick-pickled onions, and we added some crumbled queso fresco as well. When I make it again, and I will be making it again, I’ll marinate it a bit longer because I want the steak to have a bit more punch. This was a wonderful change to the grilled skirt steak tacos that my friends demand almost weekly. Now at least I have some variety in my life.
I threw my salted, halved flank steak into a Ziploc bag and dumped the marinade on top of it. After sealing, I just massaged the steak through the bag to ensure it was totally coated. This probably isn’t going to go over well, but if I’m marinating meat for under an hour, I leave it on the counter so it’ll be at room temperature when it cooks. And while I’m being rebellious, I took exception to the recipe’s cooking method and walked outside to light my charcoal grill. I’m sure this steak is perfectly acceptable cooked inside, but wwwhhhyyy?
Fast, easy, tasty tacos. What more could you ask for? We couldn’t think of a thing as we were enjoying these for dinner. All of the timings listed in the recipe were accurate. I cooked the flank steak in one of our gorgeous cast iron skillets that are virtually non-stick.
The only thing that I didn’t do was hold the flank steak up with tongs in order to sear the sides of the meat. It was very unwieldy to hold the meat like that, and I didn’t want to cook the meat anything past medium-rare.
I served the tacos with pickled red onions, (I always have a jar of these in our refrigerator), cilantro, and refried beans on the side. The recipe would definitely serve 4 people, but we were happy that there were only the 2 of us. That way, we got to enjoy the leftovers the next night. I might sound selfish, but we didn’t have to share.
If you make this recipe, snap a photo and hashtag it #LeitesCulinaria. We'd love to see your creations on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
These steak tacos were absolutely delicious. I loved the flavors that came from the jalapeno, garlic, cilantro, cumin, and green onions. The lime gave it a nice freshness and I enjoyed the brightness that it lent when squeezed over the finished tacos.
I used some homemade salsa on ours and hubby and I also added some queso fresco in addition to the onion and lime juice. Hubby added sour cream to his. It took a bit longer than the 3 minutes per side to get ours to medium-rare, maybe about 5 per side, plus a couple minutes on each edge.
Hubby doesn’t like the pronounced flavor of cilantro, so I marinated all the steaks for 1 hour, but then after I cooked and sliced them I didn’t add his share of steak back to the reserved marinade. I’ll be making these steak tacos again and again.