Chipotle Skirt Steak Tacos & The Parking Adventures of La Taqueria

Chipotle Skirt Steak Tacos

Note: I was not responsible for slicing the skirt steak…that would be another person who resides at the Steamy household. We shall keep him nameless. Anyways, the skirt steak was cut incorrectly – they should have been sliced perpendicular or ACROSS the grain. Cutting it WITH the grain, like above, makes the skirt steak chewy.

Practically every other shop in San Fran’s Mission District features grilled steak tacos, and often on Sundays, we’d sleep in until 10am and lazily work our way towards the corner of Mission and 25th to La Taqueria for an early lunch. Of course, we’d always arrive the exact same time as the caravans of hungry families just getting out of church. Since the city boasts 423,468 automobiles and only 29 parking spots, it was a fierce game of strategy.

Approaching 3 miles from your destination, you start scanning in a steady, sweeping motion: left-center-right-center-left. No, you aren’t looking for parking spots – that’s totally hopeless and you’d just waste your eye-energy. You’re observing for people walking who have a high probability of returning to their cars to leave the area. Here’s the key – you’re looking for someone who is strolling slooooowwllly, belt buckle loosened, tell-tale lunch drippings on shirt and a satiated, dreamy look on their face. Of course they are dawdling  – they are relishing, savoring in a temporary moment of superhuman power: I have a parking spot that YOU GUYS ALL WANT.”

So herein starts the game. Five cars follow this person, each taking a different route trying to guess which car is hers. “Look, she’s wearing Manolo pumps from two seasons ago – that Mercedes SL600 is so not her car. Go for the Audi A3 with the big dent! Whoops….she’s heading left! Oh- here she is….turn here! She stopped! SLOW DOWN!! Wait – she’s walking between cars to the next isle. HURRRY! GO!!”  At this moment, all of the contestants reposition and are jockeying to be as close as they can to her without inflicting bodily injury to said target. Because if you get too close and hit the mark, you’re slapped with a 15-yard penalty and a “Dumb-Ass” bumper sticker. Not cool.

Despite all the trouble, the tacos at La Taqueria are worth every single scratch, dent, ticket and tow. After finally scoring a parking spot, you’d proceed on foot, guided by the aroma of seared steak with hints of cumin and coriander. As you got closer to the door, you’ll hear the cooks throwing the meat on the flaming grill, each time landing with a shocking sizzle. Finally, the prize,”dos carne asada tacos con queso y aguacate por favor”

I’m not even going to try replicate those tacos exactly- because that would just cheapen my memories of hoping, fighting, praying wishing, waiting 3 hours to park for 2 tacos each. But, I’ve created a recipe that uses the same cut of meat (skirt steak) and the same cooking technique (grilling) and introduced a spicy, smoky flavor with a chipotle con adobo marinade.

Chipotle peppers are red jalapeños which are ripened, dried and smoked. On the richter scale of chili heat, they are considered medium. Canned with an adobo sauce, which is a mixture of spices, vinegar, garlic, tomato sauce and other chilies, the concoction becomes mighty marinade for steak tacos. If you’ve never used chipotle con adobo before, make the marinade with a single pepper first, taste and then add additional if you like more heat. The canned product can be found at any grocer in the Latin foods section.

Chipotle Peppers


Chipotle Skirt Steak Tacos

Servings: 4 Prep Time: Cook Time:
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2 lbs skirt steak
1/4 onion
2 cloves of garlic
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp coriander
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
canned Chili en Adobo: 1-3 chipotle peppers + 2 tsp of adobo sauce (use more peppers if you like the heat)
1 Tbl chopped cilantro
accompaniments: corn tortillas, shredded cheese, avocado, sour cream, lettuce, lime wedges, salsa


Puree a single chipotle pepper (not the whole can) + 2 tsp of the adobo sauce with the onion, garlic, cumin, coriander, salt and pepper. Taste and add more chipotle if needed. Stir in the cilantro. Throw it all in a zip lock bag with the skirt steak for at least 2 hours. Grill medium-rare. Cut the skirt steak into thin strips across the grain. Serve with taco accompaniments.

Note: I throw the corn tortillas directly on the grill 30 seconds, flip, add cheese, grill 30 seconds, remove. This melts the cheese oh-so-perfectly and chars the tortilla edges just a tiny bit for that crunch. Heating it also takes away some of the "rawness" that corn tortillas have when they are straight out of the bag.

Chipotle Skirt Steak Tacos Recipe

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Comments 22

  1. simcooks

    Are chipotle peppers as hot as the mini chilli padis? I would also use just one chilli padi for say one fish… and sometimes I even remove all the seeds and still my tongue gets burnt.

  2. SteamyKitchen

    Sim- No not that hot – but I’m a wimp. I really use the pepper for the flavor, not the heat. Plus my kids eat the tacos so I have to keep it tame. If you like heat, I’d use 2 or even 3 of them. Well, let me take that back. I have a feeling that you can handle super super hot. So go ahead, throw in the whole can Sim!!! 🙂

  3. gattina

    *lol* the story cracked me up:D
    cooking meat, esp beef, isn’t my department, I will hand this recipe to my husband, and sure his mouth can’t stop watering just by seeing your gorgeous photos!

  4. tigerfish

    Oh lady, SF parking is a nightmare almost any time of the day except maybe before 6am or what…those parking garages are charging $12-14 per day even if you just want a 2-hr meal nearby. Heck!
    It’s raining here this moment and my…I could have this to spice me up for lunch :p

  5. Kristen

    Hilarious! I was laughing so hard…especially when you were trying to figure out the car based on the shoes. Too funny!

  6. SteamyKitchen

    Gattina- what a nice team…you bake, husband grills!

    Tigerfish- sometimes risking the dreadful ticket is better than paying $15 for parking!!! you can always bribe the ticketing officer with an extra taco.

    Kristen- and it SO WORKS!!! I rarely am wrong. Either I look at the shoes or the handbag/backpack!!!

  7. Harry L

    Hmm. I grew up in the S.F. area and have recently relocated to
    Sarasota. I didn’t think I would ever see authentic Mexican food again, but there are a couple of good places on Washington. (Not quite Mission district, but pretty good)

    Before moving here i most recently lived in New York City close to Chinatown, and I developed a love for Siu Lon Pau as well.
    Is there any decent Chinese food in the area?

  8. Harry L

    OK, I’ll be over at 11 am Sunday!

    Actually there is one good Chinese place in Hyde Park, Tampa.
    They have dim sum at lunchtime.

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  11. armin hammer

    I have the good fortune to be living 2 blocks from La Taqueria, and recently discovered the Chipotles in Adobo. I use the adobo from that can to marinate catfish filets.

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  14. russ

    i found your website about an hour ago looking for a new way to tenderize some cheaper steaks. so of course now i’m waiting for my french bread dough to rise before i can even salt my steaks! looks like a great site! i saw several recipes i can hardly wait to try! keep up the good work…. russ

  15. veins

    I want a meat grinder bad! We are only talking about this issue at the exact accessories! Now I know who has it, I would like it even more! Looks awesome tortillas.

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  17. Bev

    Love your site. was looking for a quick tendorizer for a cheaper cut of meat. thanks for the info.

  18. Scott

    This Method was amazing! Hands down the most juicy and tendor steak I have ever made! It was perfection! I bought NY strip cuts that were 1″-1.25″ thick and sea salt. I was in a hurry and didn’t realize that the salt was in a grinder. I couldn’t get it out so I had no choice but to grind the sea salt on my cuts. I was worried it would be too salty but I went ahead and grinded generously on the meat. As with any grinder there were bigger pieces of salt mixed with smaller graines but it worked out perfectly! I actually started the process at my house and hauled the meat to my sisters house. It ended up being 1 hr 38 mins before I was able to rinse and dry the cuts but it still worked just right! All 7 people who ate a steak claimed that it was the best home grilled steak they have ever eaten. Very pleased! Thanks for sharing this!

    Question: how will this work to tenderize a cut of fajita meat? They’re typically and inch or so thick. Traditional fajitas are tenderize by marinating overnight. Personally I prefer to just season and grill fajitas but sometimes would like the meat to be a little more tendor.

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