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Living in Texas there are three recipes everyone needs to know how to make – frozen margarita, chili (no beans), and fajitas. This recipe of beef fajita tacos is made with skirt steak that is marinated in a Mexican Coca-Cola to add a ton of caramelization to the steak when it’s grilled. Served with grilled onions and peppers in warm tortillas and topped with guacamole and pico de gallo, this recipe for cola-marinated skirt steak fajitas is a must-have at your next weekend barbecue.
What are Fajitas?
Fajitas are a Tex-Mex dish made from marinated, grilled beef served on flour or corn tortillas along with grilled onions and peppers. Fajitas are similar to the traditional Mexican tacos al carbon (tacos made from meat cooked over coals). Initially created around 1930 by vaqueros and ranch hands, the skirt steak along with other throwaway parts of the cow was sometimes given to them as part of their pay. They would turn these pieces of beef into barbacoa, menudo, and what we know as fajitas. In the late 60s and early 70s, fajitas started to make their appearance on menus in various parts of Texas. Today fajitas are made from not only steak but also chicken, shrimp, and vegetables and then topped with salsa, guacamole, shredded cheese, and a variety of other garnishes.
Key Ingredients and Substitutions
The ingredients for beef fajita tacos are straightforward, either being pantry staples or easy to find at any supermarket.
The complete ingredient list and measurements are listed in the printable recipe below.
- Skirt Steak: This cut of beef, just below the rib section, can be tough if not marinated, tenderized, and cooked correctly. If you can’t find skirt steak, you can substitute it with hanger steak, tri-tip steak, top sirloin steak, flank steak, or flat-iron steak.
- Mexican Coca-Cola: You can use either regular “American” or Mexican cola. Mexican cola is made with real cane sugar compared to fructose corn syrup used to make American. The cola helps tenderize the meat and the sugar helps caramelize the steak as it cooks.
- Worcestershire Sauce: Besides adding umami flavor to the marinade, it is made with vinegar which adds more acid to help tenderize the meat.
- Dona Maria Adobo: This adobo sauce is similar to mole sauce – spicy and sweet, with roasted spices. It is commonly found in most major supermarkets, or try making it.
- Mexican Oregano: Traditional oregano that is used in Italian and Mediterranean recipes is a part of the mint family while Mexican oregano is not really oregano. It is part of the verbena family and has bright floral and citrus notes. You don’t want to substitute regular oregano for Mexican because of the difference in flavor.
- Peppers: We grilled poblano peppers for this recipe but also love serving it with grilled red and yellow bell peppers.
How to Make Beef Fajita Tacos
Here are the quick step-by-step instructions with visuals; you can find the full instructions with the exact ingredients in the recipe card below.
Pro-tip: If you have a vacuum sealer, you can cut the marinade time down to an hour. Follow the directions of your equipment for best results, and let marinate in the refrigerator.
1. Prep the Skirt Steak: The butchers usually fold up the skirt steak when they wrap it for you, so first you’ll want to unfold it and place it on a cutting board. Using paper towels pat both sides of the skirt steak dry then sprinkle salt and ground black pepper on both sides of the meat, patting it in and setting it aside as you prepare the marinade. To get skirt steak to end up tender fajitas, we both hand tenderized and marinated it for 4 hours. If the steak was not mechanically tenderized by the butcher, you can use a meat mallet to tenderize it before placing it in the marinade. Starting from the center strike the meat with the spiky or textured surface and work your way out to the edge.
2. Prepare the Skirt Steak Marinade: We recommend lightly toasting the cumin seeds in a small frying pan, moving it around frequently. When you begin to smell the warm flavor of cumin and first see a puff of smoke, they’re ready. In a medium bowl combine the cumin seeds and Mexican oregano, then add the agave nectar, Worcestershire, and hot sauces and stir to combine. Next, add the adobo in little pieces, and work it into the other ingredients with the back of a spoon until you have a consistent paste. Add the cola in batches using a whisk to incorporate it into the marinade. Finally, fold in the chopped cilantro and give it a final mix.
3. Marinate the Skirt Steak: Place the skirt steak into the zipper bag, then add the marinade making sure there is good contact with all the surfaces. Press all the air out before sealing, and lay on one side in the refrigerator. For best results, marinate the beef for 3-4 hours and flip it over at least a couple of times. Remove it from the refrigerator 30-60 minutes prior to grilling to allow it to come to room temperature which promotes more even cooking.
4. Grilling the Fajita: This cut of steak works well in most grill settings. While we prefer to grill outside using hardwood lump charcoal, it will still taste great off of a gas grill or even on a cast-iron grill on the stove in your kitchen. Preheat the grill to medium-high. Cook skirt steak for approximately 10-12 minutes per side or until the internal temperature is 130ºF. Remove it from the grill and place the steak on a flat cutting board or baking sheet and tent it with aluminum foil. Let it rest for at least five minutes to prevent the juices from running out.
5. Slicing the Skirt Steak: Skirt steak is typically served sliced. Using a sharp knife slice it against the grain. People who prefer their beef on the medium side of doneness should get the pieces on either end. The middle section should be a near-perfect medium rare if you temp it and let it rest.
6. Serving: Over an open gas stovetop flame on medium/low heat the tortillas until lightly charred on the edges (approximately 10 seconds per side). Place the sliced grilled skirt steak and sliced peppers and onion on a serving platter and serve with the warmed tortillas and your favorite taco toppings such as guacamole, pico de gallo, sour cream, shredded cheese, salsa, chopped fresh cilantro, and lime wedges.
How to Slice Skirt Steak Against the Grain?
Skirt steak is a fibrous tough cut of meat so slicing it correctly is important. Cutting it against the grain produces a buttery, melt-in-your-mouth bite of beef. Slice it with the grain you will get a bite of beef that is tough, chewy, and almost inedible. The grain of a steak refers to the direction of the muscle fibers. The best way to slice skirt steak is by:
- Find the grain. It is easier to identify the grain when the skirt steak is still raw so before cooking the meat take note of the way in which the muscle fibers run.
- Place the steak on a cutting board. On a clean cutting board position the steak so that the muscle fibers are running parallel to the longest side of the cutting board and you.
- Cut against the grain. Using a sharp knife slice perpendicular to the steak, so that when you slice it’s against the grain. The slices should be thin (approximately half an inch thick) and on a bias to get the most surface area of each slice.
What to Serve with Fajitas
Fajitas are traditionally served with Mexican-style rice and beans along with toppings. But the toppings are what are going to take your beef fajita tacos to the level. Our toppings of choice are guacamole, pico de gallo, sour cream, shredded cheese, salsa, chopped fresh cilantro, and lime wedges. And don’t forget the appetizers and drinks. Our go-to’s are queso and chips along with either a traditional lime or strawberry margarita.
Make-Ahead and Storage
Make-Ahead: The marinade can be made up to 8 hours in advance. We recommend a marinade of at least 3-4 hours so you can make this in the morning and then grill and serve the fajitas for an easy 30-minute dinner.
How to Store: Marinated skirt steak can be frozen both cooked and uncooked. For uncooked steak, place it and the marinade in a freezer-safe bag and remove as much air as possible. An uncooked marinated skirt steak will last up to 3 months in the freezer. Cooked skirt steak can be stored in a freezer-safe container for up to 3 months as well. Leftover slices of skirt steak are great for fajitas but also make the BEST steak sandwiches. You can also use them to top a salad. Store leftover grilled skirt steak in an air-tight container for up to 5 days.
How to Reheat: For frozen uncooked marinated skirt steak, allow it to defrost in the refrigerator in its marinade. Then grill per instructions. Cooked marinated skirt steak is best reheated in the oven to preserve some of the pink in the middle. Reheat for about 20 minutes at 200ºF. Avoid using the microwave since this will overcook and dry out the meat.
Recipe Tips and Notes
- Don’t skip the marinade. Skirt steak is a lean cut of beef and needs to be marinated or braised to increase tenderness. Marinating skirt steak gives it flavor but also breaks down the tough muscle fibers to produce a tender steak.
- The steak needs to rest. Resting allows the juices to redistribute and reabsorb into the meat. Cut too soon and all those juices will seep out resulting in drier slices of beef.
- Get a good sear. To achieve the best sear make sure your grill is hot before adding the steak. Also, make sure the grill has been well-cleaned. Grease the grill well with oiled paper towels using tongs.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes! Using either a cast-iron skillet or indoor grill will yield the best results for stove-top cooking, but it’s important to heat the pan up prior to cooking the steak over a medium-high flame or setting. This will allow for a nice sear on the outside, cooking both sides for about 4 minutes each and until the internal temperature is at your desired doneness.
Other Recipes to Try
If you enjoy this grilled beef fajita taco recipe, we recommend checking out some of these other recipes from the grill:
Let’s Connect! If you make this recipe or any other recipe on Casual Epicure, please don’t forget to rate the recipe and leave a comment below. It helps others who are considering making our recipes and we love hearing about your cooking experiences. And if you snapped some shots, share them on Instagram, and be sure to tag @casual.epicure so we can feature them in our stories.
Mexican Coca-Cola Marinated Beef Fajita Tacos
- 1 Grill
- 1 Medium-Sized Bowl
Mexican Coke Marinade
- 2 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1 tablespoon Mexican oregano, dried
- 1 teaspoon agave nectar
- 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tablespoon hot sauce
- 1 tablespoon Dona Maria Adobo
- 1 liter Mexican coca cola
- ¼ cup cilantro, chopped
Marinated Skirt Steak Fajitas
- 2 pounds skirt steak
- 2 small poblano peppers
- 1 medium white onion
Tacos and Garnishes
- 12 corn or flour tortillas
- shredded or crumbled cheese
- pico de gallo
- sour cream
Mexican Coke Marinade
- Pat the skirt steak dry using paper towels. Add salt and pepper to both sides patting it in. Set aside while you prepare the marinade.
- Lightly toast the cumin seeds in a small frying pan, moving them around frequently.
- In a medium bowl combine the cumin seeds and Mexican oregano, then add the agave nectar, Worcestershire, and hot sauces and stir to combine.
- Add the adobe in small pieces, and work it into the other ingredients with the back of a spoon until you have a consistent paste.
- Add the cola in batches using a whisk to incorporate it into the marinade. Finally, fold in the chopped cilantro and give it a final mix.
Marinated Skirt Steak Fajitas
- Place the skirt steak into the zipper bag, then add the marinade making sure there is good contact with all the surfaces. Press all the air out before sealing, and lay on one side in the refrigerator. For best results, let marinate for 4-6 hours, flipping it over a couple of times.
- Remove skirt steak from the refrigerator 30-45 minutes prior to filling to allow it to come to room temperature.
- Preheat the grill to medium-high and cook each side of the skirt steak for approximately 10-12 minutes or until a meat thermometer reads 130°F. Remove from heat.
- Grill the poblano peppers and onion for 3 to 5 minutes or until onions begin to caramelize and peppers develop grill marks.
- Allow the grilled skirt steak to rest for 5 minutes and then slice it against the grain. Slice the grilled peppers and onions into strips.
- Over an open gas stovetop flame on medium/low heat the tortillas until lightly charred on the edges (approximately 10 seconds per side).
- Place the sliced grilled skirt steak and sliced peppers and onion on a serving platter and serve with the warmed tortillas and your favorite taco toppings such as guacamole, pico de gallo, sour cream, shredded cheese, salsa, chopped fresh cilantro, and lime wedges.