The Best Carne Asada Fries Recipe (San Diego Style)
Delicious Southern California street food– Fries loaded with thinly sliced Carne Asada, cheese, guacamole, and sour cream. If you’re not near San Diego to grab these at a local restaurant or vendor, this homemade version is what you need! Recipe serves 4 to 6. Can be made vegetarian with plant-based steak bites.
I had been out to California at least 5 times before I actually ate Carne Asada fries. My husband (the SD native) and I would go to the beach around lunchtime and he would get an order but I would always opt for something else. I finally tried carne asada fries a few years ago and learned what Andrew had been raving about.
Carne Asada Fries are one of the best combos ever! They are shoestring fries topped with lots of meat, cheeses, guacamole + sour cream. An order usually comes in a clamshell tray and it’s always full (and cheap!) There are few places outside of SD to get an authentic order so we made this recipe for us to enjoy here at home.
San Diego-style Carne Asada Fries are deep fried and the juices from the meat and toppings kind of sink into them. But you can bake or air-fry your fries if you prefer. We recommend a neutral vegetable oil for these and definitely get shoestring fries (the thinner the better)!
- Carne Asada marinated flank steak, skirt steak, or skirt steak (very thinly sliced)
- Shoestring Fries (preferably deep fried)
- Cheeses: a blend of Monterey and Colby + Cotija for finishing
- Sour cream (can be scooped or thinned out a little and drizzled over)
That’s all! The best versions of this dish are simple and don’t add any extras like beans, rice, or other veggies (except maybe a little fresh pico). San Diego-style Mexican food is meat focused and so are these loaded fries.
In our opinion, the best toppings are the original ones (guac and sour cream)– they are a must to give the seasoned meat and salty fries a little creamy + cool contrast. If you’re looking for a good recipe for guacamole, here you go!
This recipe is also the base for a true California Burrito so if you’d rather wrap everything up in a very large + super thin tortilla, give that a try, too!
Carne Asada Fries
- 1½ to 2 lbs. flank or skirt steak sub hanger or sirloin
- 1 c orange juice
- 1/2 c lime juice
- 1/2 c rice wine vinegar sub white vinegar
- 1/2 c fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 tsp cumin
- 1/8 tsp salt
- 1/8 tsp pepper
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 bag shoestring fries about 28 oz.
- 1/2 c shredded Monterey Jack, Colby Jack, or Mexican cheese blend
- 2 to 3 tbsp Cotija cheese, finely grated
- sour cream and guacamole for serving
- For easier slicing: place meat in the freezer to firm up (approximately 15 minutes). Meanwhile, prep marinade: Combine orange juice, lime juice, vinegar, cilantro, garlic and spices into a gallon zip-top bag. Shake and set aside.
- Take meat from freezer and remove excess fat. Slice meat into 1/4 to 1/2 inch wide strips, preferably 2 inches long or shorter. Place slices into the zip-top bag with marinade. Refrigerate for 30 minutes (no more than 3 hours).
- Remove meat from the bag and discard marinade. Heat 2 tablespoons vegetable oil in a large skillet on medium-high and cook the steak, tossing continuously for approximately 4-5 minutes, or until done.
- Prepare fries according to package directions, timing to finish as the meat finishes cooking. Deep frying is the best method but baking the fries works well, too. See below.
- Toss cooked fries with a dash of salt and then plate, topping with shredded cheese, then meat, and finishing with a sprinkle of Cotija cheese. Top with guacamole and sour cream. Enjoy!
- Prep time for the fries will vary with your desired method of cooking them: Deep frying only takes a few minutes but if you prefer to bake or air fry the french fries, start those about 15 minutes before cooking the meat.
- No matter the cooking method, fries should be as hot as possible when preparing the dish so the cheese melts easily.
- Carne Asada fries are best enjoyed fresh. Storing leftovers is not recommended. The marinade can be made up to 2 days ahead, however.
June 2020: **Update to this post: I became a vegetarian in September of 2017 just two weeks after starting this blog 🙂 So…I don’t make authentic Carne Asada Fries with meat any longer– we make them vegetarian with Beefless steak tips following all the same instructions. I’m keeping this post on my vegetarian food blog because it’s a representation of my husband and his love for his hometown. I’ll add a vegetarian version of this recipe to the blog soon because it is a dish we make still. I believe in being authentic and sharing recipes I love to make and eat– and while I’m not eating real meat anymore– this is a dish still close to my heart.