These simple carne asada quesadillas are filled with traditional Mexican carne asada, cheese and charred green bell peppers. Tender, juicy asada makes these steak quesadillas all the better and more flavorful!
These are a little more time consuming than your traditional quesadillas. But, this classic carne asada marinade is worth every minute to get a juicy, delicious steak inside your quesadilla!
Why this recipe works
- This steak quesadilla recipe uses simple pantry ingredients.
- A flavorful twist on the classic corn tortilla quesadilla.
- No need for a grill, you can make this recipe all in one pan! You can also use your air fryer!
- The steps to making this recipe are so easy!
- This recipe is naturally gluten free.
What is Carne Asada?
Carne asada steak is a marinated flank or skirt steak that is grilled. It is a traditional Mexican recipe and packs a lot of flavor!
Fun Fact! Every state in Mexico (and even from household-to-household) has their own carne asada recipe. Marinade ingredients vary a lot. Some use beer, some use soy sauce. My boyfriend’s family from Guadalajara only uses salt and lime juice! I like to keep my marinade simple with fresh citrus juice, garlic and cilantro.
Flank steak is more lean and has a more intense and meaty flavor. It may be also under the label London broil at the grocery. Skirt steak is more tough than flank steak and therefore I highly recommend using flank if you can.
Substitute for: top round cut (sometimes also called London broil at the store), hanger steak, tri-tip steak, flat iron steak, or flap steak.
If possible, avoid purchasing pre-package, shredded cheese. Pre-shredded cheeses may have anti-caking agents so that shreds don’t stick together.
Instead, try a block of cheese (mozzarella or cheddar do great!) to shred yourself. If you can budget it, opt for an organic cheese.
Corn tortilla quesadillas are the best, because using corn tortillas adds a little extra flavor.
Substitute for: flour tortillas or grain-free tortillas.
Green Bell Pepper
Adding a green bell pepper creates a nice charred taste and helps make this quesadilla recipe more filling.
Substitute for: yellow or red bell pepper, poblano pepper, or omit.
Step One: Marinate the Carne Asada
The first step in making carne asada quesadillas is to make the carne asada. To do that, mix together all marinade ingredients in a large bowl or resealable bag.
Add the flank or skirt steak to the marinade. Marinade for 30-60 minutes only. To marinate any longer than one hour can tenderize the steak too much and break down its proteins. If marinating for over 30 minutes, place steak in the fridge.
While the steak marinades, cut the bell pepper and leave to the side.
Step Two: Sear and cut the steak, cook the pepper
When ready to cook the flank or skirt steak, remove the steak from the marinade. Pat dry and begin to heat the skillet.
Heat oil in the skillet on high heat, until very hot. You can test this by splashing a drop of water. If the water sizzles, it’s ready to sear.
Place steak on a heated skillet and sear 3-4 minutes for the first side. Flip steak and sear the second side for an additional 3-4 minutes, or until steak is cooked through, to 135ºF (medium-rare), 145ºF (medium) or 150ºF (medium-well), depending on cook preference.
The USDA recommends steaks be cooked through to 145ºF (medium) and to rest at least 3 minutes to avoid foodborne illness. Be sure to use a meat thermometer to confirm, as color is not always an indicator.
Remove steak from the skillet once cooked through, and let sit on a cutting board for at least 10 minutes if you can. This helps the juices of the steak redistribute, leaving a tender and juicy steak.
While the steak rests, add green pepper to the skillet and sear for a few minutes, until softened. Remove from the skillet and leave to the side.
After resting, cut the steak against the grain, into very thin slices. Next, cut slices into one inch cubes.
Step Three: Assemble and cook the quesadillas
Spray a skillet with neutral oil, like avocado oil. Heat skillet on medium, until warm.
Place one corn tortilla down on the skillet, add ½ cup shredded cheese, ⅓ cup of cooked carne asada, and ⅓ cup of cooked green peppers on top of the corn tortilla. Add a second corn tortilla on top.
Allow to brown the bottom side for 3-5 minutes, or until the tortilla is browned and the cheese has begun to melt. Flip the quesadilla and cook for an additional 3 minutes, until the cheese is fully melted.
Remove the quesadilla from the skillet and repeat with additional quesadillas, until done.
Cut quesadillas into halves or quarters, and eat immediately.
TIP! When cutting flank or skirt steak, make sure to cut against the grain! Look for the lines in the meat and cut perpendicular to them! This makes it less chewy and easier to eat.
Quesadillas are so delicious on their own, and this carne asada quesadilla recipe is based on having the carb, protein and vegetable all in one so that you don’t need sides.
With that said, in Los Angeles, every authentic Mexican quesadilla is served with sauces. Typically you will find quesadillas paired with pico de gallo (or for a sweet twist, try a mango pico de gallo)! Another common sauce pairing is guacamole.
If you like a little spice, try drizzling these quesadillas with a mango habanero salsa or serrano salsa verde.
You need a hot pan or cast iron skillet: If you are cooking your carne asada steak inside (aka not on the grill), make sure the grill pan or cast iron skillet is really hot. This will allow for a charred outside, but keeping the inside juicy.
Heat your pan for at least 4 minutes to make sure it’s hot enough. To check, you can splatter a drop of water and if it sizzles in the pan it’s hot.
Make sure to not over marinate: Don’t over marinate. Leaving a steak (or any protein) in an acidic marinade for longer than 4-hours can actually hurt it. That is because the acidity of the lime juice can actually negatively affect the steak. I recommend 30-60 minutes.
Marinate in the fridge: When you marinate the carne asada, you want to keep it in the fridge. Use a resealable plastic bag or even use a glass baking dish.
Cut the flank steak properly: When cutting flank or skirt steak, make sure to cut against the grain! Look for the lines in the meat and cut perpendicular to them! This makes it less chewy and easier to eat, especially in quesadilla form.
Use a meat thermometer: The USDA recommends steaks be cooked through to 145ºF (medium) and to rest at least 3 minutes to avoid foodborne illness. Be sure to use a meat thermometer to confirm, as color is not always an indicator.
Traditionally, carne asada uses skirt steak or flank steak. While skirt steak and flank steak are different cuts of meat, they are similar enough to use interchangeably in this steak quesadilla recipe.
I prefer to use a small amount of avocado oil for my quesadilla recipes. You can use any type of neutral oil.
You can use carne asada for steak tacos, carne asada fries, steak sandwiches, carne asada nacho, or even add to a burrito!
I always like to use corn tortillas for quesadillas. They have more flavor than flour tortillas, and they are gluten-free! Flour quesadillas can typically stay together easier.
An air fryer is a great way to reduce oil usage for a quesadilla. I do find it more difficult to use than the traditional pan-searing method. Check out my Air Fryer Quesadilla recipe if you’d like to use the air fryer.
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Carne Asada Quesadillas
- 10 ounces flank steak
- 1 small green bell pepper
- 6 corn tortillas
- 1.5 cups shredded cheese
Carne Asada Marinade
- ¼ cup orange juice, freshly squeezed about 1 orange
- ¼ cup Lime Juice about 2 limes
- ½ teaspoon Salt
- ¼ cup cilantro roughly chopped
Prep Ingredients & Marinate the Carne Asada
Pat the flank steak dry and sprinkle both sides with salt.½ teaspoon Salt
Mix together both of the marinade ingredients in a bowl or resealable bag.¼ cup orange juice, freshly squeezed, ¼ cup Lime Juice
Add the flank or skirt steak (whole) into the bag or bowl with the marinade. Use tongs to evenly coat the steak with marinade.10 ounces flank steak
- Marinate the carne asada for 30-60 minutes (in the refrigerator).
While the steak marinates, dice the bell pepper. First, cut the pepper off of the stem. Next, slice thin ½” strips of pepper. Lastly, chop each strip into cube-sizes. The result should be ½-1” thick squares. Leave to the side.1 small green bell pepper
- Once marinated for 30-60 minutes, take the steak out and pat dry.
Cook the Carne Asada & Peppers
- Pre-heat your cast iron skillet to medium-high heat. Allow it to preheat until hot.
- Place the marinated steak on the cast iron skillet. Let sit without touching for 3 minutes.
- Flip the steak to the other side. Let sear for an additional 3-5 minutes, until internal temperature is 135ºF for Medium-Rare to Medium.
- Remove the carne asada steak from the skillet and onto a cutting board and let the meat rest for at least 5 minutes. While the steak rests, toss the cubed green peppers into the cast iron skillet for 2-3 minutes, until slightly softened and charred. Remove from the pan and to the side.
- Once rested, cut the carne asada in 1” cubes.
Make the Quesadillas
- Preheat a large skillet pan on medium-high heat.
Spray neutral oil on the pan and place a corn tortilla on top of the pan. (If you don’t have spray oil, use 1 teaspoon of regular oil)6 corn tortillas
- Add ¼ cup of shredded cheese, ¼ cup of cooked steak, and ⅓ cup of charred pepper.
- Top the corn tortilla with another ¼ cup of cheese and the top half of the quesadilla (the second corn tortilla).
- When the cheese is semi melted and the quesadilla bottom is crispy and browned (about 3-minutes), flip the quesadilla to the other side. If you have issues with the items falling out, try cooking the quesadilla for longer on one side, or carefully use tongs and a spatula to flip.
- Once the second side is browned (about another 3-minutes), remove from the pan. NOTE: Quesadillas typically take longer at first as your skillet gets hotter. By the second or third quesadilla you may have to turn down the heat to prevent the tortilla from burning.
- Spray with more spray neutral oil, or regular oil. Repeat with additional quesadillas, following steps 2-6.
Once all quesadillas are complete, cut into halves or quarters, sprinkle with fresh chopped cilantro, and enjoy while warm!¼ cup cilantro roughly chopped