Simple grilled steak tacos with big smoky flavor! These Tacos al Carbón feature grilled flank steak coated in a chipotle rub and a charred scallion salsa tucked into charred tortillas with tangy Mexican crema and fresh cilantro. Fresh, smoky, tangy, savory and slightly spicy—these grilled steak tacos have it all.

steak tacos in small sheet pans lined with parchment paper.

Tacos al Carbón vs Carne Asada

You’ve likely had tacos al carbón, carne asada and even tacos al pastor, in one form or another. But what are tacos  al carbón? And how are they different from carne asada and tacos al pastor?

Tacos al Carbón feature charred grilled meat, most commonly steak, cooked over hot coals. The meat is served in corn or flour tortillas (depending on the region) and topped with cooked peppers, onion and fresh cilantro.

Carne Asada means “grilled meat” in spanish, though it most often refers to grilled steak served as a taco filling. Like tacos al carbón, carne asada also commonly uses flank or skirt steak. But instead of using a spice rub, carne asada calls for marinating the steak for a few hours in a mixture of citrus juice, garlic, cilantro, and jalapeno. It’s then grilled over high heat until charred and juicy.

steak tacos in small sheet pans lined with parchment paper.

What Cut of Steak to Use

I opted for flank steak here, but you can also use skirt steak. Both are thin, quick-cooking, and deliciously beefy. 

Ingredients Needed for Tacos al Carbón

  • extra-virgin olive oil
  • canned chipotles in adobo 
  • kosher salt
  • ground cumin
  • garlic
  • lime
  • flank steak 
  • jalapeños
  • scallions
  • corn tortillas
  • fresh cilantro 
  • mexican crema (full-fat Greek yogurt, sour cream or creme fraiche are also great options)
raw steak, scallions, oil, chipotle, lime and tortillas set on a table
grid of three images showing raw steak rubbed with a chipotle rub, grilled steak and charred jalapeno and scallions

How to Make Tacos al Carbón

  1. Make the rub mixture by combining oil, chipotles, salt, cumin, garlic and lime zest. 
  2. Prep the steak by trimming some of the fat (not all of it! Keeping thin fat pockets = flavor and juiciness). Cut the steak into three long strips. 
  3. Preheat the grill. Gas and charcoal both work, but charcoal is more traditional. 
  4. Grill scallions and jalapenos until charred. Transfer to a bowl and cover with plastic wrap, this will steam and soften the scallions and jalapenos.
  5. Grill steak, turning every 3 minutes, until charred and cooked to medium-rare. 
  6. Transfer steak to a cutting board and let rest. 
  7. Char the tortillas on the grill then wrap in a kitchen towel or foil to keep warm.
  8. Chop the charred scallions and jalapenos, combine with olive oil, adobo sauce, and lime juice.
  9. Thinly slice the steak and serve in charred tortillas with charred scallion salsa, fresh cilantro and crema. 

What to Serve with Tacos al Carbón

steak tacos in small sheet pans lined with parchment paper.

If you make this tacos al carbon recipe, be sure to let me know! Leave a comment with a star rating below. You can also snap a photo & tag @zestfulkitchen on Instagram. I love hearing about and seeing your ZK creations, I hope you enjoy this steak taco recipe!

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steak tacos in small sheet pans lined with parchment paper.

Tacos al Carbón (Grilled Steak Tacos)

  • Author: Lauren Grant
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 30 minutes
  • Total Time: 45 minutes
  • Yield: 46 servings 1x
  • Category: Main Dish
  • Method: Grilling
  • Cuisine: Mexican
  • Diet: Gluten Free

Description

Juicy slices of grilled chipotle-lime steak get tucked into charred tortillas with a grilled jalapeno and scallion salsa and mexican crema. The ideal summer grilling recipe! 


Ingredients

Scale
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 ½ tablespoons minced canned chipotles in adobo sauce + 1 teaspoon adobo sauce
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic 
  • 1 lime, zested and juiced + lime wedges for serving
  • 1 (1½–1¾-pound) flank steak
  • 2 jalapeños
  • 20 scallions
  • 12 (6-inch) corn tortillas
  • Fresh cilantro 
  • Mexican crema, full-fat Greek yogurt, sour cream or creme fraiche 

Instructions

Combine 1 tablespoon oil, minced chipotle, 1½ teaspoons salt, cumin, garlic and 1 teaspoon lime zest in bowl. Trim fat deposits on steak to ⅛-inch thickness. Cut steak lengthwise (with grain) into three 2–3-inch-wide strips. Rub chipotle mixture evenly over steak on all sides; transfer to a baking sheet or large plate.

For a gas grill: turn all burners to high, cover, and heat grill until hot, 10–15 minutes. Turn off 1 burner (if your grill has more than 2 burners, turn off burner farthest from primary burner); leave other burner(s) on high.

For a charcoal grill: open bottom vent completely. Light large chimney starter mounded with charcoal briquettes (7 quarts). When top coals are partially covered with ash, pour evenly over half of grill. Set cooking grate in place, cover, and open lid vent completely. Heat grill until hot, about 5 minutes.

Brush grill grate clean, then brush grill grate with oil. Arrange scallions on cooler side of grill with white ends towards hotter end of grill. Arrange jalapenos on hot side of grill. Cook, covered, flipping scallions and rotating jalapeños every 2 minutes, until scallions are well-charred, 7–10 minutes, and jalapeños are blistered and charred in spots, 10–12 minutes.

Transfer scallions and jalapeños to a large bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap; set aside. 

Arrange steak on hotter side of grill and cook, covered, flipping steak, every 3 minutes, until meat is well browned and an instant-read thermometer inserted in the centers registers about 135ºF (57ºC) for medium-rare, 7–10 minutes total. Transfer steak to clean cutting board; tent with foil.

Arrange 6 tortillas on hotter side of grill and cook until lightly charred, 45–60 seconds per side. Wrap warmed tortillas tightly in foil or a clean kitchen towel. Repeat with remaining 6 tortillas.

Without peeling, stem and seed jalapeños; reserve seeds. Finely chop jalapeños and transfer to bowl. Chop scallions and transfer to bowl with jalapeños. Stir in remaining 2 tablespoons oil, 1 teaspoon adobo sauce, remaining ½ teaspoon salt, and 2 tablespoons lime juice. Season to taste with salt, extra lime juice, and reserved jalapeño seeds for spice.

Thinly slice steak across the grain; transfer to a serving platter. Serve steak in tortillas, with charred scallion salsa, lime wedges, cilantro, and crema separately.



Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 2 tacos
  • Calories: 402
  • Sugar: 2g
  • Sodium: 868mg
  • Fat: 18g
  • Saturated Fat: 5g
  • Carbohydrates: 25g
  • Fiber: 4.5g
  • Protein: 35g
  • Cholesterol: 62mg

Keywords: grilled steak tacos, tacos al carbon

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This sponsored post is in partnership with the Iowa Beef Council. As always the thoughts, opinions, recipe, photos and content are all my own.

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About The Author

Lauren Grant is a professional culinary food scientist, food writer, recipe developer, and food photographer. Lauren is a previous magazine editor and test kitchen developer and has had work published in major national publications including Diabetic Living Magazine, Midwest Living Magazine, Cuisine at Home Magazine, EatingWell.com, AmericasTestKitchen.com, and more.

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