How To Make Steak Fajitas

Steak Fajitas

I’ve finally nailed my fajita recipe. This has been my go-to dish at Mexican restaurants for years, like ordering spaghetti and meatballs at an Italian restaurant: If they can’t get this right, they can’t get anything right.

Funny thing is, I could never get it right myself. Until now.


NOTE: What you see in the pictures is double the steak and the marinade ingredients listed. I wanted leftovers.
1 pound flank steak or skirt steak
1 large yellow onion
2 large bell peppers
olive pomace oil (for frying, can substitute bacon fat)


juice of 1 lime
2 cloves garlic
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 fresh jalapeño pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro, including stems


shredded cheese (see below)
pico de gallo



Start with the marinade. I’ve seen recommendations to marinate the meat for up to two days before cooking. Seems a bit excessive to me. But everything I’ve seen suggests you go for at least an hour. I figure if you get the meat into the marinade first, and then clean up the dishes from breakfast, you should be okay. (If you don’t have dishes left from breakfast, well good for you. Some of us are lazy on the weekend. So there.)

Start by peeling and mincing the garlic. That just means chop it up really fine.

Juice the limes in with the garlic.

Split the jalapeños and remove the pulp and seeds. We don’t want the heat in the steak. You can add it later with the pico de gallo.

Dice the jalapeños very fine and add to the garlic.

Chop the cilantro roughly. Don’t worry about whether you get stems in or not. The stems are very flavorful, and this is just for a marinade anyway.

Add the cilantro in with the garlic and lime.

Add the cumin and mix.

If you’ve got a large, flat dish with a tight-fitting cover, you can marinate in that. I prefer using a zip-top bag. You’ll see why in just a second. Lay the meat out in a single layer in the bag. If you doubled or tripled the recipe and it won’t all fit in a single layer, use two or more bags. Divide the marinade evenly on both sides of the meat. (Or on all sides, if you’re using multiple bags.)

Then spread it around with your fingers. The cilantro soaks up most of the lime, so this is not the kind of marinade where you can just tip the container back and forth and it will slosh around. Get in there and really give the meat a massage.

Set the meat aside. Since I was only doing about an hour, I left it on the counter. Except for Beef Wellington, you always want to start cooking with the meat already at room temperature. If it’s cold when you startn the outside can be burned or tough before the inside is cooked. Turn the meat over and rub again about halfway before cooking.

While the meat is marinating, slice the onion into shreds and slice the peppers lengthwise.


Heat a couple of tablespoons of pomace oil — or other high-heat oil like peanut or canola, but definitely not extra virgin olive — over very high heat in an uncoated pan.

Leaving the marinade in the bag, remove the steak and lay it in the pan. Be very careful of splatter. You can’t hear it in this picture, but that thing sizzled like crazy when I laid it in there. It wouldn’t hurt to use tongs for that. Turn it over after no more than two or three minutes. Don’t crowd the pan; I had to do two batches.

When the steak is well browned on both sides, pull it out and slice thin slices against the grain. That means if the fibers of the meat are running toward you, cut across. If they’re running side-to-side, cut straight away. Long fibers are tough. You don’t want tough.

Set the steak aside and toss the peppers and onions into the same pan you did the steak in. Pour any remaining marinade from the bag into the pan to help deglaze — scrape up the brown bits from the pan.

Toss the onions and peppers frequently until the onions are translucent and the peppers are soft. If any of the cooked on bits didn’t come loose when you added the marinade, add about a quarter cup of warm water and scrape it all up. Keep stirring over high heat until all the water is absorbed or cooked off.

Transfer the onions and peppers to a serving dish and add the steak back in. Toss quickly to reheat it and brown up the cut edges. (If the cut edges weren’t still red, you cooked way too long in the first step. Don’t do that next time.)

Transfer the meat to a serving dish or, if you’ve got it, a pre-heated cast iron skillet. That’s how they serve this at restaurants. It’s unreasonably impressive when you can get the dinner to the table and it’s still sizzling.

I was serving this family style, and didn’t want a hot pan on the table within reach of the girls. So it all went into various plates: steak, onion/pepper mixture, pico de gallo, shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese, and warmed flour tortillas.

For me it’s all about the steak. That’s why there’s so much.

Mexican food traditionally comes with a soft, meltable white cheese called queso blanco — literally “white cheese”. If you can’t find that you can use Monterrey jack. But I prefer extra-sharp cheddar. The sharper the better. Don’t know why. But I’m not a snob for “tradition” so I go with what I like. So should you. Put a good layer down the center of a warm flour tortilla.

Cover with steak, onions and peppers.

A little pico de gallo …

… wrap it up like a burrito, except open on one end …

… and that’s it.

Steak Fajitas

Steak Fajitas


  • 1 pound flank steak or skirt steak
  • 1 large yellow onion, sliced in long strips
  • 2 large bell peppers, sliced in long strips
  • oil or bacon fat (for frying)
  • Marinade
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ fresh jalapeño pepper, minced
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro, including stems


Combine all ingredients for marinade. Place in zip-top bag with steak and rub the marinade into the meat. Refrigerate overnight, or leave out on the counter for at least an hour.

Heat the oil or fat over high heat in an uncoated pan -- not non-stick. When the oil just starts to smoke, add the steak. Cook for about a minute or two, until a crust forms and it releases from the pan easily. Turn over and do the same on the other side. Remove from pan.

Add the onions and peppers to the same pan and turn heat down to medium-low. Deglaze the pan, adding a little water if there's not enough liquid from the vegetables.

Slice the steak thin, across the grain. When the onion is translucent and the peppers are soft, remove them to a serving dish and put the steak back in to brown the cut sides.

Serve with tortillas, pico de gallo, and shredded cheese.


  1. I LOVE FAJITAS (minus the cilantro). And I have everything for this. If I can deep-sea-dive into the chest freezer and find the flank steak under the hundred pounds of lamb on the top, we are SO going to have this soon . . . YUM.

  2. OMG, I’m so drooling over the last pic…. Drew, I CAN hear the sizzle and SMELL the onions and peppers…. Now to go find a flank steak…..

  3. Speaking of leftovers … (No, nobody was speaking of leftovers. It’s called a segue.)

    Remember the leftovers I mentioned several times? That and a couple of eggs turns this into a killer breakfast burrito.

  4. That looks f*&$%@g amazing. Fajitas are my go to thing at Mexican places too and I usually get a large order so I will have leftovers. Typically I make omelets with them, but a breakfast burrito would be awesome too.

  5. Love fajitas, simple recipe that sounds amazing.

  6. says:

    Since half of my family is in New Mexico, and the other half is in Texas… (with a few stragglers all over the other parts of the US)… mexican food is a VERY important part of our family heritage.

    My granny fries tacos… not just the tortilla but with ground meat (held together with a touch of flour) inside. It’s SO tasty. DELICIOUS. And we’re not just Tex-mex people.. we love genuine Mexican food. I could eat it every day. In fact, when I first married, the only thing I could make was tacos… I mean, it’s hard to screw up ground beef.

    Tacos are so easy to mix up- you can use all sorts of meat, vegetables, herbs. And, I always load up with the cilantro and green onions like I would lettuce.

    Now you’ve got me thinking… and drooling.. and remembering.


  7. says:

    Oh, and btw…

    Did you know that most people in Mexico don’t eat their fajitas wrapped up like that? They eat the meat (with all the toppings) and use the tortilla like you would Italian bread (when eating pasta)… to push around the food and soak up the juices!

    Of course, its MUCH more convenient to eat it wrapped up.. and less messy (and less silverware to wash).

  8. Mandy, I found out about using the tortilla not as a wrap in San Antonio back in the 90s. I had breakfast at a diner. The sausage was chorizo, the cheese in the scrambled eggs was pepper jack, and instead of toast I got a stack of thick tortillas with butter. So much better than toast. I didn’t see tortillas like that again until the brief “gordita” craze a few years ago.

  9. I googled “steak fajita recipe” because I didn’t want to make them with a sodium-filled seasoning packet, and I was directed to your blog.
    All I can say is…
    Looks like I may have to become a regular visitor. Love your explicit directions – excellent!

  10. Gail, glad you liked them. Why don’t you go ahead and subscribe, the link is near the top of the column on the right.

  11. No mushrooms? BOOOO!!!!!

  12. I’ve got this thing about mushrooms. They’re either the centerpiece, or they’re filler. For example, the filling in the beef wellington was mushroom based. It was all about the mushrooms.

    But in fajitas, chili, stew … anything where the mushrooms are one of many equal players, I find that they take up space without really adding much to the taste. Sort of like cauliflower. Either make it the main component of a dish, or leave it out.

  13. Monster's Mom says:

    Drew I’m so glad I stumbled across your site. Fajitas are my passion but I can’t seem to make them like the restaurant. Question though…do I have to use flank steak to get the flavour? It is so hard to get in my city and VERY expensive ($30 for 1/2 what you used). Thanks!!!

  14. Trudy, I checked out your Blogger profile, which says you’re in Canada. $15/lb for flank steak? Holy cow, that’s ridiculous. (Heh, I said “holy cow” … about steak … I kill me.)

    Well, skirt steak works also, or pretty much anything that you’re able to slice across the grain like this. Beef that’s cooked appropriately for the cut — low and slow for thick, lean roasts; grilled or pan-fried for thin steaks — will always be better than any cut cooked the wrong way.

    Best bet is to go to a good butcher — I really hope you have a good butcher — and ask what they’ve got that would work for fajitas. They’ll hook you up, and possibly even slice it for you.

  15. If you can find brisket, it’s pricey too up here in Canada…

  16. I thought Canada produced a decent amount of their own beef. I wouldn’t have expected it to be expensive. But then again, Canada is much more sparsely populated than the U.S., so there are many more people in what we’d consider “remote” locations.

  17. Monster's Mom says:

    Our city (Fredericton, New Brunswick which borders on Maine) is sooo conservative that even the butchers keep only the basics on hand. I wanted to prepare lamb for the first time and it had to be specially ordered! The funny part is there are at least 20 beef farms around me but they sell the basic items (burger, tbones, etc). I’m going to try the farmers market on the weekend and see what I can find. I agree with Beth Ann on the brisket too. I am anxious to try it but can’t bear the price, even for my family. We won’t even get into the argument on trying to buy organic. Oh the stress.

  18. Trudy, that sucks. Oh, you knew that already, didn’t you?

  19. Flank, skirt, brisket, these are all “foreign” cuts in Canada. I’m in Ontario… I’m hoping farmers are doing better in Canada than the U.S. gauging by the price of beef. Now, pork… that’s another story. When I see cryopac pork tenderloin at $1.99 to $2.99, I stock up and freeze. Now to find a “good” Tex Mex restaurant….. I love Canada, but I do miss “some” things…..That’s why I cook at home and don’t eat out that often anymore….

  20. Beth Ann, so what do they do with those cuts. I mean, skirt is in there. What do they do with it when they cut it out?

  21. I don’t know…make hamburger, dog food? It is very frustrating.

  22. I absolutely love this site… i love the step by step with pictures. Im a novice cook so that really helps! :)

  23. Kayla, have you signed up for the free course at the top right of the page? Give it a try.

  24. I did a Google search for steak fajita recipes and stumbled across your blog. I made it tonight and it was so easy and ridiculously delicious. And thanks for the step by step directions with pictures! My husband wants this again tomorrow night! He just might get his wish!

  25. Hmmm … I wonder if my wife has decided what she wants tonight yet. We may be having this again, too.

  26. You did a wonderful job explaining this! Not sure if you’re a teacher, or if you really like teaching about cooking, but this is a great page. I will be using your recommendations! :)

  27. These fajitas are awesome!!!! Today is the third time I am making them for dinner since I found this recipe. Delicious!!!

  28. I didn’t have a lime so I used a little lemon and I did not have jalapeno or fresh cilantro (only dried)…. lol … Anyway, these were incredible. They taste really similar to the Mexican restaurant in our town. Delicious and easy to make. I have 5 teenage boys and they all loved them!! Thank you sooo much for this wonderful recipe. I had never attempted fajitas from scratch, so today I set out looking for a recipe and thank heavens I found yours!! I will be making these often. Thanks again!

  29. Cool, glad you liked them.

  30. No one ever told me that cutting Jalapenos would leave my hands BURNING. Great recipe, but someone should leave a warning message about the peppers.

  31. Linda Newton says:

    Drew.. these are the best!!!! We lived in Monterrey, Mexico for a few years and they taste just like the authentic restaurants.. Loved the flank steak.. This is a no fail recipe if you follow the instructions. I actually used my al-clad non stick pan (did not have any other on hand) and with cooking 3 minute per side even browned the meat, I was shocked… I used the canola oil and waited until it was hot!! When the meat hit the pan I was glad to have my spatter shield close… the smell is delicious..the taste even better… thank you. love your site and will be back..

  32. Liss, sorry about that. I must have tough fingers or something, because I’ve never had a problem with jalapeños. I should still give the warning, though. For normal people.

    Linda, I usually don’t worry too much about “authentic” as long as it’s good. But it’s nice to hear that these are authentic.

  33. great, EASY recipe and soooo delicious
    Thanks for sharing!!

  34. Made these tonight for my good friend who also has a food blog. I was nervous to cook dinner for her since I am not a chef by any means. I messed up and cut the meat before cooking it, but they still turned out wonderful! It was a pain to get all the extra cilantro off the meat before I put it in the pan. Would have been super easy if I’d followed the instructions.

  35. Can I just say this has to be my favorite recipe? I don’t mean to be praising you, but I assure you it’s completely well-deserved. I’m only a sophomore in college, but surprisingly enough, I’m finally able to cook and you just made it ten times easier! Thank you so much for the step-by-step instructions. I love making them with my mom because now I’ve been passed down the responsibility of cooking for the family (my mom has been for more than 40 years and I thought she could finally use a break). This recipe has been a hit twice now and I can’t wait to try more!

  36. Nansy, that’s okay, you can feel free to praise me any time you want. :-)

  37. To put it quite simple I love love fajitas and have never cooked them before. I use elk or deer because I know where it came from and how it was prepared. My wife can’t cook a lick but I love good food and this looks fantastic. Will be cooking this tomorrow.

  38. Trying your marinade tonight, looks yummy!

  39. Wow! Finally NAILED steak fajitas, could never get them right before

  40. Tim Henderson says:

    Cheddar Cheese on fajitas. No wonder you think spaghetti and meatballs are Italian. forget the marinade and put the lime and cilantro on the fajitas when you eat them — that’ll get you closer to the real thing.l

    • I prefer cheddar on my Mexican. Are you suggesting I should eat something I don’t like as much because it satisfies your sense of authenticity?

  41. I don’t have the right cut of meat, I have meat
    for beef stew and I don’t have the stuff for
    the marinade…can I still wing it?

    • Never pass up the chance to try something new just because you don’t have the exact “right” stuff.

      Wrong cut of beef? Okay, how should you cook it differently? Maybe cut it thin since it isn’t as tender as what the recipe calls for.

      No cilantro? Use parsley. No it’s not the same, but it will still be good.

      No fresh garlic? Use powder.

      No lime or cumin? Well … those are kind of important. Wait, scratch that. You can still make a delicious beef wrap, but it won’t taste as “fajita-y” as it would otherwise.

  42. Malgosia says:

    Hey Drew,

    My boyfriend loves steak cooked medium rare… I noticed that after you initially cooked the steak and then the veggies, you tossed the steak back in for a second go. Is that a necessary step when trying to get “medium rare” fajitas?


    • Malgosia, I like medium rare, too, but I usually have my fajitas a bit more done than that. The delicious caramelized finish on steak only happens on the surface, and there’s much more surface area after it’s been sliced.

      If you really want to make sure you don’t over-cook it, slice it before cooking the first time. I don’t do that because it’s much easier to slice after it’s been seared first.

      Either way, it’s hard to go wrong as long as you keep an eye on it.

  43. David Ruth says:

    Okay, I don’t have the lime or cilantro handy, so I’m going to try the parsley. However, methinks those two items makes this good, tho. I’ll report back. I really googled to find the meat cooking technique, which you explain wonderfully here.

    – A Yankee living in Tex-Mex Houston.

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