Zesty marinated Carne asada mixed with light Mexican cheese. A lighter (but completely filling!) carne asada quesadilla to spruce up your quesadilla game! Naturally gluten-free with dairy-free swaps!
There’s nothing more comforting to me than a corn tortilla quesadilla. It has all of the heartiness of the ground corn, charred green pepper, the melty cheese, and this one: freshly marinated carne asada!
Eating clean for the past five years, my favorite recipes were those that use simple, fresh ingredients. I’m a huge proponent of making easy dishes that don’t skimp out on taste. For lunch & dinner recipes like this one, I prefer making one-and-done meals that don’t need sides. For other simple, delicious one-stop meals, try Spring Vegetarian Pasta with Butter Sauce or The Best Sheet Pan Halloumi Fajitas.
- Highlights of this Recipe
- What is Carne Asada?
- Ingredients & Substitutions
- Authentic Carne Asada Marinade Ingredients
- Step-By-Step Instructions
- How to Make These Quesadillas in the Air Fryer
- Perfect Toppings for a Carne Asada Quesadilla
- Tips & Tricks
- Frequently Asked Questions
- What to Serve with Carne Asada Quesadillas
- 📖 Recipe
- More Recipes to Try
- 💬 Comments
Highlights of this Recipe
This recipe is:
- Flexible to use in air fryer
- 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.
Ingredients & Substitutions
- Flank or Skirt Steak. Flank steak is more lean and has a more intense and meaty flavor. Skirt steak is more tough than flank steak.
- Cheese. I like to buy pre-shredded Mexican cheese, but you can use any type of mixed shredded cheese.
- Carne Asada Marinade. See Below.
- Corn Tortillas. Well, it’s no corn tortilla quesadilla without corn tortillas! Substitute for flour tortillas (non gluten-free) or your favorite plant-based or grain-free tortilla.
Authentic Carne Asada Marinade Ingredients
- Orange Juice (preference for freshly squeezed orange, but store-bought will suffice)
- Lime Juice (freshly squeezed)
- Cilantro (can omit if you don’t like cilantro)
- Jalapeño (can omit if you can’t handle spice or cooking for children)
The Best Tortillas for Quesadillas
I always like to use corn tortillas for quesadillas. They have more flavor than flour tortillas, and they are gluten-free! However, I will admit that flour quesadillas typically stay together easier.
You can use any type of tortilla that you prefer - even carb balance or vegetable tortillas work!
STEP ONE: Mix together all marinade ingredients in a bowl or resealable bag.
STEP TWO: Marinate the carne asada for 30-60 minutes. While marinating, prep the green pepper.
STEP THREE: Grill the steak and let rest for 5-minutes. While the steak rests, char the green pepper in the skillet.
STEP FOUR: Cut the carne asada steak in small cubes.
STEP FIVE: Cook the quesadillas in a pan - add shredded cheese, steak and green pepper on top of the corn tortilla.
STEP SIX: Flip quesadilla after cheese starts to melt.
STEP SEVEN: Remove from pan, cut into halves or quarters, and eat while warm!
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.
How to Make These Quesadillas in the Air Fryer
An air fryer is a great way to reduce oil usage for a quesadilla. Check out my Air Fryer Quesadilla recipe.
Perfect Toppings for a Carne Asada Quesadilla
Some great toppings ideas are:
- Avocado Lime Sauce
- Queso Fresco
- Pico de Gallo
- Sour Cream
- Fresh Cilantro
- Fresh Lime Juice
Tips & Tricks
Hot Grill Pan or Cast Iron Skillet
If you are cooking your carne asada steak inside, make sure the grill pan or cast iron skillet is really hot. This will allow for a charred outside, but keeping the inside juicy.
While grilled meat is going to create the most char, if you don’t have a grill accessible inside works just as well.
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.
Frequently Asked Questions
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.
Yes! You can always cook carne asada on a stovetop in a cast iron skillet or grill pan!
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!
What to Serve with Carne Asada Quesadillas
- Avocado Lime Sauce
- Vegan Mexican Rice
- Fresh Mexican Avocado Salad
- Healthy Mexican Street Corn (Elotes)
- 3 Ingredient Skinny Margarita
- the Best Mexican Mule (aka Tequila Mule)
Carne Asada Quesadillas
- 10 OZ Flank Steak
- 1 Green Bell Pepper
- 8 Corn Tortillas
- 2 Cups Shredded Cheese
Carne Asada Marinade
- ¼ Cup Orange Juice about 1 orange
- ¼ Cup Lime Juice about 2 limes
- 4 Cloves Garlic roughly chopped
- ¾ Cup Cilantro roughly chopped
- ½ Jalapeño diced
- ¼ TSP Salt
- ¼ cup cilantro roughly chopped
- ½ Lime cut into wedges
Prep Ingredients & Marinate the Carne Asada
- Mix together all of the marinade ingredients in a bowl or resealable bag.
- Add the flank or skirt steak (whole) into the bag or bowl with the marinade. Use tongs to evenly coat the steak with marinade.
- 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.
- 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 5-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 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 TSP of regular oil)
- Add ¼ cup of shredded cheese, 4-5 pieces of cubed steak, and 4-5 pieces 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!