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Carne Asada with a Spicy Annatto Sauce and Onion Cilantro Salsa


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Rate this recipe 4.4/5 (11 Votes)


  • For the Spicy Annatto Sauce:
  • 1/4 cup annatto seeds
  • 1 cup canola oil (you can use olive oil if you prefer)
  • 6 to 8 chile de arbol (you can use 1 full tablespoon of red chile pepper flakes if arbol chiles are not available)
  • 1 serrano pepper, sliced
  • 4 to 6 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1/4 white onion
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 2 tablespoons fresh oregano or 1 teaspoon dried
  • 1/4 cup cilantro
  • Juice of 3 key limes or 1 large lime
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • Salt to taste
  • For the Onion/Cilantro Salsa:
  • 1 1/2 cups white onion, finely diced
  • 1/3 cup cilantro, finely chopped
  • 1 to 2 habanero pepper, sliced
  • 1 teaspoon crushed chile pequin or red chile flakes
  • 3/4 cup white vinegar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/3 teaspoon fresh cracked pepper
  • Salt to taste
  • 3 to 4 whole allspice, optional
  • You will also need:
  • 2 pounds round steak pounded thin or your favorite cut, sliced into 6 equal portions
  • Granulated garlic
  • Ground cumin
  • More salt and pepper
  • Oil for brushing on grates of grill


Adapted from


Step 1

1. For annatto sauce, in a saucepan, combine the the oil and annatto seeds. Heat on low/medium heat for 5 to 7 minutes or until the oil turns a bright red. Don't let it boil and stir it now and then.

2. Strain out the seeds and add the chiles, garlic, onion, cumin and oregano. Return to low heat and let them steep for 10 minutes. Again, do not boil. Remove from heat and let cool. Once cooled, transfer to the blender, add cilantro, lime juice, vinegar, pepper and salt to taste. Blend on high until smooth and emulsified. Taste for salt, divide into 2 airtight containers or a large plastic squeeze bottle until ready to use. Yields about 2 1/2 cups.

3. For onion cilantro salsa, combine all of the ingredients in the order listed in a glass bowl. Stir well to combine, taste for salt. Cover tightly and let marinate for at least 2 hours or overnight is even better.

4. Remove the meat from refrigerator 30 minutes before grilling. Season on both sides with salt, pepper, cumin and granulated garlic. When ready, preheat your outdoor grill on high. Right before adding the meat, brush the grates with oil. Grill the beef for 12 to 15 minutes, turning as needed and basting with annatto sauce every time. Remove beef from grill, tent with foil for a few minutes. Slice thin against the grain or serve whole. Top with onion/cilantro salsa and serve with remaining spicy annatto sauce.

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