Home Key Ingredients Beef San Diego Style Street Tacos

San Diego Style Street Tacos

San Diego Style Street Tacos with steak, onion, cilantro, salsa, and avocado creme

Having spent the majority of my young adulthood in Southern California, and specifically San Diego, I’m no stranger to a street taco. I grew up in the Midwest where the best taco in town was from Taco Bell⁠—that goes to say I didn’t know what a good taco was when, as an 18-year-old, I first set foot in SoCal. What happened when I ate my first San Diego Style Street Taco was flavor history for me.

Jump to Recipe | Print Recipe

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect and when I saw my first San Diego Style Street Taco I was underwhelmed and confused to say the least. Why was it so small, and why were there two corn tortillas for only one small taco? I had no idea, but it was certainly different looking than the hard-shell tacos from the fast-food joint I had been accustomed to. And the toppings…where was the cheese, lettuce, and sour cream?

Oh well, as they say, “when in Rome, blah blah blah.” So, I bit into the taco (actually took down half the taco in one bite) and I couldn’t believe it! The flavor on this steak (at that point in life I had no idea what carne asada was) combined with the simple toppings of onion and cilantro was what started my love affair with tacos.

Fast forward many years and a relocation to the East Coast and it became apparent to me very quickly that a San Diego Style Street Taco was just not available here. Sure, there are carne asada tacos, but nothing compared to those handfuls of flavor that I got so addicted to in SoCal. So, what’s a guy to do? Make them myself of course.

There are plenty of recipes that I make for the first time and just know it’s right. This isn’t one of them. I’ve worked and adjusted this recipe more times than I care to remember but it’s now perfect. The actual cooking of this recipe is quick, but you do need to prep it the day before and let the steak marinade overnight.

What Meat is Used for Carne Asada?

I’ve seen all kinds of meat used for this. Flap meat and flank steak are two very popular options. But the authentic carne asada from my favorite hole-in-the-wall in San Diego always used skirt steak. So, that’s what I’m using here. For those that are curious, there are TWO different kinds of skirt steak.

Two kinds of skirt steak

The recipe I use here can also be used for a California-style carne asada burrito as well. For burritos I like to use my pico de gallo recipe but for these street tacos we’re going with the restaurant-style salsa that you’ll find in the Mexican restaurants all over San Diego.

What Temperature Do I Cook Skirt Steak?

I’m generally a medium rare kind of guy, but for these street tacos I recommend taking the steak to a good solid medium: 140 degrees or so internal. To determine this, be sure you have a reliable quick read thermometer on hand. You don’t want to see too much pink on these tacos, and the extra time on the grill gives the flavors a chance to really caramelize together to form that perfect crust that makes these tacos so delicious. I like doing these on the grill, but if that’s not available to you a screaming hot cast iron skillet will work as well.

What Makes These Tacos San Diego Style Tacos?

San Diego tacos are known for simplicity, huge flavor, and the double warm tortillas. The marinated skirt steak is really the star of the show here, enhanced by the onion and cilantro with a scoop of homemade restaurant-style salsa and avocado. For this recipe I do a very simple avocado crema as opposed to a slice of avocado⁠—it’s the perfect touch for these tacos.

San Diego Street Tacos with Avocado Crema

Carne Asada San Diego Style Street Tacos

Serves: 4 | Prep time: 1 day | Cook time: 15 minutes

Ingredients

Tacos:
16 street taco size corn tortillas
2 lb skirt steak, trimmed

Marinade:
1 can beer, lager style
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 lime, juiced, then sliced
1 orange, juiced, then sliced
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp white pepper
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp Mexican oregano
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Topping:
1 medium sweet onion, finely diced
1 cup cilantro, finely chopped
1 cup restaurant-style salsa

Avocado Crema:
1 avocado
1/2 cup sour cream
1 tsp salt
1 tsp lime juice

How to Make Carne Asada San Diego Style Street Tacos

Step 1: Combine all ingredients for the marinade in a bowl and whisk together. Once orange and lime have been squeezed, slice them both and drop them in the marinade. Transfer marinade to a sealable plastic bag.

Step 2: Using a Jaccard or fork, pierce the surface of the steak and add it to bag. Remove as much air as possible and massage to ensure meat is completely covered in marinade. Place bag on a plate and put in refrigerator for at least 8 hours but preferably 24 hours. Flip bag occasionally to ensure even coating in marinade.

San Diego Style Street Tacos Marinating with Cilantro and Citrus

Step 3: Remove meat from marinade and blot dry with a paper towel. Allow meat to come up to room temperature while you prepare your grill. Discard marinade.

Step 4: Light grill and set up for direct high heat, getting coals as close to the cooking grate as possible to ensure the best searing of the meat.

Step 5: While grill is coming up to temp, combine all ingredients for avocado crema in a small blender and blend till smooth.

Step 6: Place meat directly over hot coals and grill for a total of 8 minutes, flipping every 2 minutes.

Step 7: Remove from grill and let rest for 5 minutes. While meat is resting, warm tortillas by placing them on indirect heat of the grill. (You can also warm in microwave if needed for 15⁠–20 seconds.)

Skirt steak, grilled and resting before adding to San Diego Style street tacos

Step 8: Place a double tortilla in a taco holder or on a plate. Slice steak across the grain and into small bite-sized pieces.

Double corn tortillas prepped and ready for San Diego Style Street Taco meat and toppings

Step 9: Place steak in tortillas and dress with onion, cilantro, salsa, and a drizzle of avocado crema.

San Diego Style Street Tacos with steak, onion, cilantro, salsa, and avocado creme

San Diego Style Street Tacos

If you tried this recipe and enjoyed it, please click the stars below to leave a rating | Print Recipe

5 from 2 votes
San Diego Style Street Tacos with steak, onion, cilantro, salsa, and avocado creme
San Diego Style Street Tacos
Prep Time
1 d
Cook Time
15 mins
 

Marinated skirt steak is the star of these street tacos: enhanced by the onion, cilantro, and homemade restaurant-style salsa and avocado.

Course: Main Course, Taco
Cuisine: Mexican, Tex Mex
Servings: 4
Ingredients
Tacos:
  • 16 street taco size corn tortillas
  • 2 lb skirt steak, trimmed
Marinade:
  • 1 can beer, lager style
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 lime, juiced, then sliced
  • 1 orange juiced, then sliced
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp white pepper
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp Mexican oregano
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
Topping:
Avocado Crema:
  • 1 avocado
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp lime juice
Instructions
  1. Combine all ingredients for the marinade in a bowl and whisk together. Once orange and lime have been squeezed, slice them both and drop them in the marinade. Transfer marinade to a sealable plastic bag.

  2. Using a Jaccard or fork, pierce the surface of the steak and add it to bag. Remove as much air as possible and massage to ensure meat is completely covered in marinade. Place bag on a plate and put in refrigerator for at least 8 hours but preferably 24 hours. Flip bag occasionally to ensure even coating in marinade.

  3. Remove meat from marinade and blot dry with a paper towel. Allow meat to come up to room temperature while you prepare your grill. Discard marinade.

  4. Light grill and set up for direct high heat, getting coals as close to the cooking grate as possible to ensure the best searing of the meat.

  5. While grill is coming up to temp, combine all ingredients for avocado crema in a small blender and blend till smooth.

  6. Place meat directly over hot coals and grill for a total of 8 minutes, flipping every 2 minutes.

  7. Remove from grill and let rest for 5 minutes. While meat is resting, warm tortillas by placing them on indirect heat of the grill. (You can also warm in microwave if needed for 15–20 seconds.)

  8. Place a double tortilla in a taco holder or on a plate. Slice steak across the grain and into small bite-sized pieces.

  9. Place steak in tortillas and dress with onion, cilantro, salsa, and a drizzle of avocado crema.

Recipe Notes

I’ve seen all kinds of meat used for this. Flap meat and flank steak are two very popular options. But the authentic carne asada from my favorite hole-in-the-wall in San Diego always used skirt steak. So, that’s what I’m using here. A quick call to my friends at Omaha Steaks and I had some amazing outside skirt at my door in no time. For those that are curious, there are TWO different kinds of skirt steak.

 

I’m generally a medium rare kind of guy, but for these street tacos I recommend taking the steak to a good solid medium: 140 degrees or so internal. To determine this, be sure you have a reliable quick read thermometer on hand. You don’t want to see too much pink on these tacos, and the extra time on the grill gives the flavors a chance to really caramelize together to form that perfect crust that makes these tacos so delicious. I like doing these on the grill, but if that’s not available to you a screaming hot cast iron skillet will work as well.