What Beef Should You Use for the Best Fajitas?

Fajitas are a popular Tex-Mex dish consisting of grilled meat, onions, and bell peppers served in warm tortillas. Traditionally made with skirt steak, they are flavorful, easy to make, and fun to eat. But with rising beef prices, skirt steak can be expensive and hard to find. This leaves many home cooks wondering – what is the best cut of beef for fajitas?

Traditional Skirt Steak

Skirt steak has traditionally been the preferred cut for fajitas. It is a long, thin cut from the diaphragm muscles of the cow. Skirt steak has a robust beefy flavor and becomes tender and juicy when grilled or pan-seared. When sliced against the grain, it provides the ideal texture for fajitas.

Skirt steak used to be an inexpensive cut, making it perfect for Mexican restaurants serving up sizzling platters of fajitas. But as its popularity grew, the price increased. These days, skirt steak can cost as much as $15-20 per pound.

If you don’t mind paying a premium, skirt steak is still the ideal choice for authentic fajitas with the best flavor and texture. Just be sure to slice it thinly across the grain after cooking.

Budget-Friendly Flank Steak

For a more budget-friendly option, choose flank steak. Flank steak comes from the abdominal muscles of the cow. It has a similar dense, meaty texture to skirt steak. While not quite as flavorful, flank steak makes an excellent, low-cost substitute.

Flank steak is around $7-12 per pound, making it roughly half the price of skirt steak. It also takes beautifully to marinades. When buying flank steak for fajitas, choose thinner cuts if you can find them. Be sure to slice thinly across the grain after cooking.

So if you want traditional fajitas but don’t want to splurge on skirt steak, flank steak is your best bet. You’ll still get tasty, tender results.

Everyday Sirloin or Ribeye

Sirloin or ribeye steaks make suitable substitutions when skirt or flank steak are not options. They are readily available at most grocery stores. However, these cuts come from different areas of the cow with different characteristics.

Sirloin comes from the hip and hindquarters. It is lean and moderately tender, though it can become tough if overcooked. Ribeye steaks are cut from the rib section and contain more marbling for richer flavor and tenderness. Choose ribeyes without too much fat marbling to avoid flare-ups on the grill.

Keep in mind that sirloin and ribeye do not have the same thick, meaty texture of traditional fajita cuts. They can turn out chewy if not sliced properly. Be sure to cut them across the grain into thin strips. Also consider marinating them longer to help tenderize.

Chicken or Shrimp Fajitas

If you want to avoid the high cost of steak altogether, chicken and shrimp also make delicious fajitas.

Chicken breast or thigh meat can be used. Cut or slice the chicken into strips before marinating. Be careful not to overcook.

Shrimp fajitas are also becoming popular. Simply buy raw, peeled shrimp and cook them quickly just until opaque. Then slice into pieces if large.

Both chicken and shrimp cook faster than beef, so adjust recipes accordingly. But the same recipes for fajita marinades and veggie mixes still apply.

How to Buy Beef for Fajitas

When shopping for beef, here are some useful tips for fajitas:

  • Look for well-marbled cuts with thin slices. Skirt or flank steak is ideal, but sirloin tip or flap meat works too.

  • Buy thinner cuts around 1⁄4 to 1⁄2 inch thick. Thicker cuts won’t cook as evenly and will be harder to slice.

  • For skirt, flank, or sirloin, choose Select grade for good marbling but avoid Prime with excess fat.

  • Ask the butcher to slice against the grain into thin strips for you

  • Plan on 4 to 6 ounces of uncooked beef per fajita serving

How to Prepare Beef for the Best Fajitas

Proper preparation and cooking methods are key to maximizing flavor and tenderness in fajitas:

  • Trim any excess fat or silver skin for better texture

  • Use a marinade with acid to help tenderize and add flavor

  • Allow meat to marinate for at least 2 hours, or up to overnight

  • Grill over high heat for just 3-5 minutes per side for medium doneness

  • Let meat rest 5 minutes before slicing across the grain into thin strips

  • Add any leftover marinade to the veggies, not directly to the cooked meat

  • Don’t overcook! Cook just until desired doneness to avoid toughness

Sample Fajita Marinade

A simple fajita marinade might contain:

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup lime or lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 tsp each: ground cumin, chili powder, smoked paprika, salt
  • 1/2 tsp each: black pepper, red pepper flakes

Combine all ingredients and marinate the meat for 2-12 hours.

Fajita Meat Alternatives

While beef is traditional, you can make tasty fajitas with all kinds of meats:

  • Chicken – Breast or thigh meat works well

  • Shrimp – Quick cooking and easy to use

  • Pork – Try thin cuts like pork loin

  • Lamb – Use leg or shoulder meat

  • Turkey – Ground or sliced turkey breast

  • Vegetarian – Try sautéed mushrooms, peppers, etc

So go ahead and get creative with the protein you use! Just remember to slice thinly against the grain for the best texture.

Putting It All Together

The beauty of fajitas is that you can adapt them to your tastes, budget and what you have on hand. Follow these steps for easy homemade fajitas:

  1. Choose your protein – Beef, chicken, shrimp, etc

  2. Prepare with a marinade – At least 2 hours, overnight is best

  3. Cook over high heat – Grill, broil, pan-sear, etc

  4. Slice meat thinly across the grain

  5. Sauté sliced veggies like onions and peppers

  6. Warm tortillas

  7. Let guests assemble their own fajitas with desired toppings

  8. Enjoy a fun, flavorful meal with family and friends!

The next time a craving for sizzling fajitas hits, don’t worry about tracking down expensive skirt steak. Use this guide to choose an affordable cut of beef, chicken, or shrimp. With the right techniques, you can enjoy delicious fajitas at home on any budget!

Restaurant Style Fajitas (Authentic Mexican Recipe)


What is the best cut of beef for fajitas?

Flank steak, rump steak, or skirt steak are the best kinds of beef for fajitas. I chose to use flank steak because it does well with marinades and is typically a low-cost option. Beef Fajitas Seasoning.

What kind of meat is used in fajitas?

Steak: Flank steak is what’s typically used for steak fajitas. But you can also use sirloin steak or skirt steak (similar to my carne asada recipe). Steak Fajita Marinade: A simple yet flavorful combo of lime juice, olive oil, garlic, ground cumin, chili powder, cayenne pepper, salt, and pepper — that’s it!

What cut of meat do Mexican restaurants use for fajitas?

Steak Fajitas: While skirt steak is the traditional cut of meat used in fajitas, other cuts of steak can also be used, such as flank steak or sirloin steak. The steak is marinated in a mixture of lime juice, garlic, and spices, then grilled with onions and peppers.

Which cut of beef is used in fajitas and stir fry?

Outside Skirt Opposite the Inside Skirt Steak, this cut is known for its robust flavor profile. Marinate and grill hot for fajitas or use for stir-fry.

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