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Seriously Simple: These grilled steak tacos are perfect for a cookout

From the 5 cookout-ready recipes to try this week series
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It’ s best to marinate the flank steak up to 24 hours ahead of time.

These steak tacos are my choice for a small Memorial Day gathering. Chef Hugo Molina shared this recipe with me years ago, and I like to have it in my fridge for last-minute Mexican dishes.

Chipotle chiles canned in adobo sauce, which can be found in Mexican markets, are used here. The smoky, slightly hot salsa is just the right flavor for these steak tacos and adds spice to the dish, and it’s good on everything, from guacamole and chips to eggs and enchiladas.

Don’t worry if you don’t have time to make this salsa. You can always use a ready-made pico de gallo and add some chopped chipotle if you are pressed for time.

It’s best to marinate the flank steak up to 24 hours in advance and then cook it quickly to achieve a robust flavor and tender texture. Thinly slice the steak against the grain for best results.

The slaw makes the tacos more interesting, using cabbage instead of lettuce, creating contrasts of cooked and raw, and soft and crunchy, while the light dressing of lime juice, garlic, oil, and honey gives the tacos plenty of flavor. The brightness and crunchiness of the slaw also contrast with the chipotle-infused steak.

I prefer corn tortillas here, but you could use flour tortillas. If you’d like a bigger meal, make a pot of refried beans and serve them on the side. To drink? Your favorite chilled Mexican beer.

Grilled Flank Steak Tacos with Smoky Salsa

Serves 4 to 6

  • 1 cup Smoky Salsa (see following recipe)
  • 1 cup full-bodied beer
  • 1 pound flank steak
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/2 small green cabbage, cored and shredded
  • 1 carrot, peeled and shredded
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro
  • 8 to 12 heated corn tortillas
  • 1/3 cup sour cream
  • Thinly sliced avocado or guacamole
  • 2 tablespoons crumbled Mexican cheese
  • Lime quarters

1. Combine 1/2 cup of the salsa and 3/4 cup of the beer in a medium mixing bowl; mix until well blended. Flatten out the flank steak in a shallow large non-aluminum dish. Pour the marinade over it and marinate for 2 to 24 hours covered in the refrigerator; the longer, the more tender. In a small serving bowl, combine the remaining salsa and beer for the sauce and mix together. Taste for seasoning. Cover and refrigerate until serving.

2. In a medium bowl combine the garlic, lime juice, honey, oil and salt and pepper, and mix to combine. Add the cabbage, carrot and cilantro, and mix to coat the vegetables with tongs. Taste for seasoning. Reserve.

3. Prepare a barbecue for medium-heat grilling. Remove the steak from the marinade and grill it 3 inches from the heat for 5 to 7 minutes on each side for a medium-rare, depending upon its size. Place on a carving platter and thinly slice against the grain.

4. Arrange a few slices of steak on top of each tortilla; Top with shredded cabbage, salsa, sour cream, avocado and cheese; serve with lime quarters immediately.

Advance preparation: The tacos can be prepared up to one day ahead through Step 2 and refrigerated.

Smoky Salsa

Makes 2 cups

  • 5 large Roma tomatoes, halved
  • 1 small red onion, cut into thick slices
  • 3 scallions, white and light green parts only
  • 1/3 medium bunch of cilantro, bottom stems removed
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 teaspoon canned chipotle peppers
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup chicken stock

1. Prepare a barbecue for medium-high-heat grilling. Grill the tomatoes, onion slices and scallions until partially charred, turning occasionally. The red onions will take the longest. Transfer to a plate. Grill the cilantro for about 30 seconds, just to wilt and give off a slight smoky flavor.

2. With the motor running, add garlic clove to a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Process until pureed. Add the grilled vegetables and remaining ingredients, and process until all the vegetables are pureed. Taste for seasoning. (For a thinner consistency, add more chicken stock.) Serve with chips and guacamole or as a condiment for grilled chicken or meat.

Advance preparation: The salsa can be prepared up to one week ahead, covered tightly, and refrigerated.

(Diane Rossen Worthington is an authority on new American cooking. She is the author of 18 cookbooks, including “Seriously Simple Parties,” and a James Beard Award-winning radio show host. You can contact her at


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