The Roots

There are so many articles about the best fajitas and the best marinades, it’s not even funny. And some of them are very good! Yet, every passionate cook insists on developing their own, perfect to their taste recipe. Where all these marinade variations come from? What was at the beginning? Now that we know about basic adobo, let’s compare ingredients, shall we?

Basic Adobo
dry chile peppers
citrus juice or vinegar
Mexican oregano

Basic Fajita Marinade
chili powder
lime juice or vinegar
salt or soy sauce


There is an additional ingredient — oil — in fajita marinade. Almost the same ingredients, but different proportions result in different marinade consistency. Adobo is a paste, south-western fajita marinade is an liquid emulsion.

Story of My Life

For a long time, I didn’t bother to work on my own recipe for fajita marinade. Central Market had the best tasting Southwest Marinated Fajita meat, and I cooked it for all my friends visiting Texas. It was always perfect. Two years ago, I noticed CM fajita meat doesn’t taste the same. During the last two years it changed even more. Finally, I decided to talk to CM meat mongers and ask them directly. It was not my imagination, the recipe did change a number of times, because of customers who were worried about allergens — gluten, soy, etc.

The new recipe is completely safe, but unfortunately I don’t like it any more. Is it possible to make it tasting good and allergy-safe at the same time? What if we go back to the roots and base it on adobo?

Skirt, Flap, Flank, and Flat Iron Went to a Party…

Doesn’t it sound like roaring 20s? Good names for four notorious girls who smoked, drank, and “danced in a shockingly immodest fashion with a revolving cast of male suitors” are also names of beef flat steaks for fajitas.

From the top to the bottom: Skirt, Sirloin Flap, Flat Iron.

Meat for Fajitas
Meat for Fajitas

Marinate meat in a ziplock, refrigerated for 3-6 hours for best results. Scrape extra paste from the surface of the meat before cooking on a very hot grill. Flat steaks are the best (to my taste) when cooked to 127-135F inner temp.

My favorite way of serving fajita meat is with blue corn tortillas, cucumber guacamole (the same recipe minus seafood), strawberry pico de gallo (part of tomatoes replaced with strawberries, a killer!), classic seared onions and peppers.

Strawberry Pico de Gallo
Strawberry Pico de Gallo

Adobo-Based Fajita Marinade

Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time15 mins
Total Time4 hrs 30 mins
Course: Condiment, Main Dish
Cuisine: American, Southern
Keyword: adobo, beef, chili pepper, citrus, condiment, fajita, lycooking, lyukum cooking lab, marinated, meat, Mexican, recipe, sauce, spiced, vegetables
Servings: 2 cups


  • 1 oz dry red chili 2 ancho and 1 chipotle meco
  • 1/2 cup water hot, 205F
  • 3 oz onion
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 Fresno chili peppers
  • 1/4 cup avocado oil or other vegetable oil
  • 3 key lime zest and juice
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp cilantro dry
  • 1 tsp oregano Mexican, dry
  • 1/2 tsp cumin ground
  • 1 tbsp agave syrup or brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp tequila reposado (optional)


  • Measure all ingredients. Peel and chop garlic and onion. Zest and juice key limes. Remove stem and scrape veins and seeds of Fresno pepper.
  • Prepare dry chiles. Remove stems, veins, and seeds. Cut to small pieces, place them in a bowl, and pour hot water over. Make them submerge by pressing down. Leave for 20-25 minutes to reconstitute.
  • Place all the ingredients in a blender jar and blend into a smooth paste. Keep refrigerated in a closed container for up to 1 week.
  • Place 1 lbs of flat steak in a ziplock and add 1 cup of marinade. Remove air and close it, making sure meat is covered with marinade. Keep refrigerated for 3 to 6 hours.
    Ancho Adobo
  • Preheat grill very hot. Scrape extra paste from the surface of the meat and grill to 127-135F inner temperature. Let it rest for ~5 minutes before serving. Slice it thinly against the grain.