Ready for the best tacos al carbon in less than 20 minutes? You don’t need a food truck for this classic Mexican recipe so add these steak tacos to your menu! They are packed with all your favorite authentic flavors and the simple marinade recipe only needs a few minutes to sit while your grill heats up. And don’t worry, I’ve included my tips for cutting the flank steak so it is perfectly tender every time. So, heat up that gas or charcoal grill, and let’s get cooking!
Why I Love This Recipe
Steak tacos have always been my go-to order when we go out to dinner. Sometimes they are in the form of fajitas, sometimes as carne asada, but always steak. But as you are all well aware, the cost of going out to dinner is crazy expensive right now so I’ve been working to create my favorite restaurant dishes at home. I’ve recently mastered my favorite Thai Panang Curry and Hunan Beef since those take-out places went crazy expensive as well.
So, last week, I mastered tacos al carbon, and let me tell you…they were so much better than the ones I get at my local Mexican restaurant. And, it cost me less than $20 to make 12 steak tacos for our whole family to enjoy together. I’ll take those cost savings any day!
If you’ve been a reader of MKE for a while, you know that my Pork Carnitas is one of the recipes that shot my blog to where it is today. The only downfall of that beloved recipe is the amount of time it takes to create. This recipe for Tacos Al Carbon is my new go-to when I need authentic Mexican food but don’t have the time for Carnitas!
What are Tacos Al Carbon?
Simply put, tacos al carbon are steak tacos that are grilled over charcoal (aka carbon). While charcoal grilling is traditional, using a gas grill is also widely used and creates just as delicious results. The steak is marinated whole, then grilled before being sliced into thin pieces and going into a corn tortilla. Traditional toppings include red onion, cilantro, tomato, sour cream of Mexican crema, avocado, and lime juice.
Tacos al Carbon became quite popular in Texas in the 1980s. Ninfa Rodriguez Laurenzo ran a roadside taco stand where Tacos Al Carbon were her signature dish. Their popularity not only grew in local fame but attracted big-name celebrities. Soon the dish became a staple in restaurants around the country.
Tacos Al Carbon Recipe Ingredients
- Flank steak
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
- Ground cumin
- Kosher salt
- Black pepper
- Corn tortillas
- Toppings of red onion, cilantro, tomato, sour cream of Mexican crema, avocado, and lime juice
- Charcoal or gas grill
How to Make Tacos Al Carbon
Time needed: 20 minutes
If you have 20 minutes, you can make these amazing grilled steak tacos at home!
- Preheat your gas or charcoal grill
You need a very hot grill so bring it to the highest temperature and let it stay there before cooking on it.
- Prepare the marinade
Mix together all the ingredients in a small bowl. Be sure to mince the chipotle peppers very small so they will get into the grooves of the flank steak.
- Prepare the flank steak
To help cook the steak evenly and not overcook on the edges, cut the flank steak into 3 long, even strips, cutting with the grain of the meat. Massage the marinade into the meat using your hands.
- Grill the flank steak
Depending on the thickness of your steak, it will take 8-10 minutes. You want an internal temperature of 125 – 130 degrees.
- Rest the cooked flank steak
Loosely tent the cooked meat in aluminum foil and let it rest for 10 minutes before cutting. If you skip this step, the juices will run out of the steak and you’ll end up with dry steak.
- Char the corn tortillas
Not only does this soften the tortillas for the tacos, but adds a ton of flavor to the taco as well.
- Thinly slice the rested flank steak
Once the steak has fully rested, cut it into thin slices, cutting against the grain. Cutting it against the grain creates a very tender bite of steak.
- Serve inside the charred tortillas with your favorite toppings
Classic tacos al carbon toppings include diced red onion, fresh cilantro, diced tomato, avocado, sour cream, and fresh lime juice.
Tacos Al Carbon FAQs
The phrase “al carbon” in Spanish refers to foods cooked over coal, such as charcoal on a grill. Usually the protein is steak and while a charcoal grill is traditional, a gas grill can also be used to cook tacos al carbon.
Either flank or skirt steak is used to make tacos al carbon. This recipe uses flank steak because it is easier to find at most grocery stores. The flank steak is marinaded before going on a charcoal or gas grill, then sliced thinly to go inside a corn tortilla with toppings.
Why do You Cut the Flank Steak Into Smaller Pieces First?
The only downfall of using a flank steak in tacos al carbon is that it doesn’t have an even thickness across the large piece of beef. If it isn’t cut into smaller strips, it would cook unevenly and the outer edges of the steak would be overcooked by the time the interior of the steak reached the proper 125 to 130 degrees.
Can I Make Tacos Al Carbon with Chicken?
Absolutely! If you prefer to use chicken, go for it. Use the same recipe, subbing out boneless, skinless chicken thighs for the flank steak. Follow the directions exactly the same but when you put the chicken on the grill, reduce the heat to medium instead of cooking the chicken on high. You also need an internal temperature of 170 degrees for chicken thighs, not the 125 degrees in the recipe.
Cutting the Meat Properly for Tender Steak
The key to cutting a flank steak is to cut it against the grain once it has cooked and rested. If you look at the photo below, you can see the tendons of the muscle of the flank steak that run in the same horizontal direction. That is “with the grain.” You will cut the cooked flank steak “against the grain” so what you have are small little pieces of the muscle that will be tender and easy to chew. If you cut with the grain, you have long tough pieces of the muscle to chew through.
Tacos Al Carbon Pronunciation
If you aren’t a Spanish speaker, no need to be hesitant to speak this simple recipe’s name. In short, Tacos Al Carbon is pronounced phonetically like this: tah-kohs ahl kahr-bohn. Add the emphasis on the bolded syllables as you say the word.
Looking for More Great Taco Recipes?
If this tacos al carbon recipe hit all the right notes for you, be sure to check out these other delicious recipes. Click on the picture below for the recipes!Print
- 1 1/2 pounds flank steak
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 3 canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, finely minced
- 3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 12 corn tortillas
Toppings: avocado, red onion, cilantro, tomatoes, sour cream, and cilantro
- Heat your gas or charcoal grill on high. Let it preheat for 15 minutes so it is very hot.
- In a small bowl, mix together the marinade ingredients.
- Cut the flank steak into 3 long, even strips, cutting with the grain of the meat. Doing this helps the steak to cook evenly without overcooking on the edges if you were to grill it whole.
- Spread the marinade all over the steak and massage it into the meat with your hands.
- Cook the steak for 8-10 minutes on the very hot grill, flipping every 2 minutes to encourage even cooking. The internal temperature should be 125-130 degrees when finished. Set the cooked steak on a clean plate and loosely tent with foil for 10 minutes to allow it to rest before cutting.
- Char the corn tortillas on the grill and wrap them in a clean towel to keep them warm.
- After the steak rests, slice it thinly against the grain. Sprinkle on a bit more kosher salt over the slices and serve inside a tortilla topped with red onion, tomato, avocado, sour cream, and fresh cilantro.
- Prep Time: 10 minutes
- Cook Time: 10 minutes
- Category: Main Dish
- Method: Grilled
- Cuisine: Mexican
- Serving Size: 1 taco
- Calories: 152 kcal
- Sugar: 1 g
- Sodium: 362 mg
- Fat: 6 g
- Saturated Fat: 2 g
- Unsaturated Fat: 1 g
- Trans Fat: 0 g
- Carbohydrates: 10 g
- Fiber: 2 g
- Protein: 13 g
- Cholesterol: 38 mg
Keywords: tacos al carbon, taco al carbon, al carbon tacos
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