Simple and Delicious: How to Cook Fajitas

What’s up all you party people! It’s that time of the month. (No, not that time of the month). It’s time to learn how to cook something new.

This time we’re going back to basics with our recipes with an easy peasy, Level One fajita recipe. With less than 10 ingredients, you’ll be done in 30 minutes. If you’re feelin’ hungry, and want to try something new and simple for dinner, you’ve come to the right place.

When you haven’t cooked in a while or you’re new to cooking, sometimes just one simple, delicious recipe can get you in the game. You start to cook that, maybe a few times within a couple of weeks, and then you find a more adventurous recipe. The effect keeps snowballing, and before you know, you’re regularly cooking a few times a week and have an array of recipes in your arsenal.

Fajitas were that door-opening recipe for me. They were one of the first things that I learned how to cook when I was beginning to fend for myself in the kitchen, and they still make an appearance in my regular dinner rotation. They’re delicious, they make great left-overs, plus they look fairly impressive if you’re having people over. Just look at those colors!

So today you’re going to learn the basics of this classic, go-to recipe for entertaining friends on movie night, game night, or whatever it is you crazy kids do for fun.

Enough chatter.

Let’s get to it!

Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes
Serves: 4-6

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Ingredients:

  • 1lb steak – flank or skirt steak works best. If you’re not a fan of beef or you’re on a budget, chicken thighs or breasts work great here too!
  • 2 bell peppers – your choice of color
  • 1 medium sized onion – I like red, but you can choose your favorite
  • 2 tbsp olive oil (split into 1tbsp portions – one for marinade and one for cooking)
  • juice from 2 lemons (or 3 limes)
  • 1 tsp red chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp pepper

To serve:

  • butter lettuce (or tortillas if you’re not feelin’ paleo or you have non-paleo guests)
  • pico de gallo
  • salsa
  • avocado/guacamole
  • cheese or sour cream (optional)

Equipment:

  • cutting board
  • knife
  • mixing bowl
  • fork
  • skillet
  • tongs

Instructions:

1. Make your sauce – Mix 1 tbsp of your olive oil with your lemon juice, red chile powder, garlic powder, salt, and pepper in a decently sized mixing bowl (you’re gonna put the steak in there too).

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2. Slice your steak against the grain -This is probably the MOST IMPORTANT tip in this whole recipe, so listen up! Slicing your steak against the grain will allow the steak to be more tender and tasty. If you slice your steak the wrong way, you’ll end up with long, stringy, chewy, and damn near inedible steak bits. You can still eat the steak, but your jaw will get a hell of a workout, and you’ll be sad.

“I thought there were no grains in Paleo! What do you mean slice against the grain?!”

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Take a look at that handsome hunk of beef on your cutting board. You’ll notice that there are a bunch of lines in the meat that are all facing the same direction. This is what is called the “grain”. You’re going to want to slice your meat perpendicular to those lines in the steak. Here’s what that’ll look like:

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In addition to slicing the meat against the grain, you’ll also want to slice it pretty thin. This is because we’re cooking this particular meat in a pan. If you slice it thin, you’ll be able to easily see when it’s cooked through, and the meat cooks quickly if it’s cut thin. You’re hungry. I’m hungry. Let’s hurry up and eat already.

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I’m not going to get sciencey on you. I’m here to cook. If you want a nerdy, in-depth exploration of meat slicing theory, check out this post from the wonderful Alton Brown.

3. Put those steak slices in the sauce and mix it well to coat. Go ahead and mix it with your hands. Don’t be shy. Just make sure you wash your hands after.

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Cover with plastic wrap or a plate or nothing at all and place your bowl of meat in your fridge – if you’re good at thinking ahead and marinading your meat ahead of time, you can leave this marinading for up to 4 hours. If you’re a last minute meal planner like myself, just keep the meat in the marinade while you’re prepping your other ingredients. This is long enough to help tenderize the meat and give it some flavor.

Don’t let recipes that require marinating deter you! Even 15-30 minutes is better than nothing.

4. Wash your knife and cutting board very well or switch them out. This is important! Nobody wants to make themselves sick with cross contamination. Some people even suggest keeping separate cutting boards for veggies and meats. Not a totally crazy idea since you’ll be 100% sure you’re not getting raw meat goo on your veggies!

5. Slice your onions and peppers. Do it like this:

Peppers:

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Onion:

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Note: I chose my onion poorly. It was a flat tire/donut shape instead of a round/sphere shape. There wasn’t much for me to hold on to while cutting, which means my fingers and the knife were hanging out pretty close together as I was slicing. Choose a more spherical onion when you’re shopping for this recipe. You’ll have less of a chance of chopping your fingies. (It happens to the best of us – careful with that link if you’re squeamish.)

5. Heat up your skillet.

6. Once it’s hot, toss your veggies on the stove with 1tbsp olive oil. Cook 3-4 minutes until they’re a little bit soft and shiny. Remove from heat and set aside.

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7. Let your skillet heat up again, and then toss your meat in. Now, don’t just dump the whole bowl of meat in the skillet. I did this and I ended up having to drain it – not hard, but always makes me go “uuuuugh”. Learn from my mistakes! Use your tongs to place it in there nicely. You’re not going to want to put that extra marinade in the pan or else your meat will sort of boil and take longer to cook.

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Cook that for 5-10 minutes or until steak is cooked thoroughly. How do you know it’s cooked? It’ll change color from red/pink to brown.

8. Toss the veggies back in the pan and mix them up with the meat. (I probably should have used a bigger pan).

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9. Serve on tortillas or butter lettuce cups with pico de gallo, salsa, guacamole, or whatever else your heart desires.

Ta da!

Crushin’ it!

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You made some damn tasty fajitas that look beautiful! Pat yourself on the back. Take a bow. You rock!

If you want your fajitas spicier, try adding red pepper flake or a dash of cayenne pepper into the marinade. Or you can pour on the hot sauce as a topping when you’re assembling.

If you’re a vegetarian, eliminate the meat and use portobello mushrooms or tempeh.

Need more calories or a side dish? Serve with some beans and rice. Or try a Mexican cauliflower rice.

Now I know some of you seasoned cooks might be offended by the fact that I cooked this recipe in a pan. It is summer-time in the northern hemisphere and that’s prime grillin’ season.

But this recipe is intended for all you level 1 folks out there. (Yes, you.) It only takes about 30 minutes and uses a new cook’s most basic skill set (cutting and cooking stuff in a pan). If you want to grill your fajita meat and veggies, be my guest! I know it’s delicious, but unfortunately not all of us have access to a grill. Plus, for beginner chefs: the possibility of under or over cooking increases significantly when cooking over an open flame.

Veterans of the kitchen, what tips did I miss to make this meal tastier for newbies?

  • Do you have a secret fajita sauce recipe?
  • Do you add an unconventional vegetable to your line-up that’s out of this world?
  • Do you use shrimp instead of beef or chicken?

Do you do something different with fajitas, or just have a question about the recipe? See you in the comments!

-Noel

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  • FastEddie

    For a flat onion like that – it is easier and safer to cut it in half ( through the North and South Poles ) first – also easier to peel. Then the flat cut half goes down on the board and you can make the rest of your cuts. Great recipe!

  • Jozette

    If you’re lazy, you can compile all the fajita ingredients on a cookie sheet (I usually put onions on the bottom followed by peppers and then meat). I then drizzle with oil of choice and then sprinkle with seasoning (you could mix together in a bowl in advance, but why dirty another dish). I then cook at 350 for 20ish minutes or until the meat is cooked. It keeps some of the mess in the oven as opposed to in the open air.

  • Moxie~girlFriday

    Mmmmm Fajiiiitas! Fajitas and stir-fry are my favorite go-to meals because I can scan the fridge, pick whatever meat is defrosted (pork, chicken, beef…. or quickly defrost some shrimp), whatever veggies need to be cooked up, toss together fairly fast and easy, and have something fresh and hot to serve quickly. I do my walks and workouts right when I get home from work, so I can chop up meat, throw it in a marinade, do my walk/workout, and it is ready to go when I get back – easy peasy! Best part – it is freaking HOT here in So Cal during summer… and fajitas and stir-fry don’t require turning on the oven… SCORE!

  • Katie

    I like to add a shot of tequila to my marinade. The alcohol makes the most of a short marinating time as it gets the other flavors into the meat faster.

  • LeeatMG

    Lime juice, not lemon. Always lime juice.

  • pyrewoman

    Tips: if you slightly freeze the meat you can slice it easier, and they also sell instant (quick) marinade vacuum containers online at amazon-just bought one and it’s awesome for blank slate items like skinless, boneless chicken breasts when you don’t have time or the planning ahead skills for dinner 30 mins instead of hours is pretty slick and a good marinade can really cut calories/salt and boost flavor.

  • DocRuth

    I usually grill our meat when we make fajitas – marinate the whole flank steak or whole pieces of chicken and place them on the grill intact, then slice across the grain once cooked. I always use lime in my marinade and often use a little tequila. I also use garlic cloves rather than powder. Once they’re peeled, you can use a microplane to make something like a garlic paste. Canned chipotle chiles along with some of the adobo sauce from the can also adds a really good flavor to the marinade.

    If you can find it, Goya makes a pretty good seasoning blend (Sazon Goya con culantro y achiote) – I toss that in with cauliflower rice (or regular rice) and it makes a pretty good ‘Mexican rice.’ I make black beans by rinsing a couple of cans of Goya black beans and then tossing them into a pot along with the Sazon Goya, Goya’s Sofrito or Recaito, and enough chicken or beef stock to cover the mix. I’ll then just let them simmer for a few hours while the meat is soaking up the marinade. We’ll make up a giant batch of everything on the weekend and invite our neighbors over any put on Radio Margaritaville.

    If you have leftovers and you have tortillas, you can easily make quesadillas. I’ll take a tortilla and put it on a panini press and let it warm up. Then cover half of the tortilla with cheese, put some of your leftover meat and veggies on top of the cheese, and fold the tortilla over to cover that mix. Close the panini press and wait a minute or two, and instant quesadillas!

    Thanks for the great easy recipe, it can so easily be leveled up!

  • Nancy D

    My family has always used 2-3 limes, fresh squeezed with cumin, salt, ancho chile powder, and white pepper. If you have access to smoked sea salt- even better!
    Considering this is my main meal most of the week, there’s nothing better than having a basic recipe you can shift around to your whims.

  • thrstypirate

    That’s a great idea! I never thought of that. I’ve broiled steak plenty of times, but never have with fajitas and the veggies. I’m all down for saving some time here and there while cooking for my family, so I’ll have to try this. Thanks! 😀

  • Nikki Johnson

    Great receipe! Thank you for sharing! We also add: 4 garlic cloves crushed fresh; 2 limes, 2 lemons, 1 orange all fresh squeezed – with Garlic powder; Onion powder, cumin, salt, ancho chile powder, sea salt, pepper, and a shot of A1 sauce Put all of those into a Gallon size baggie and put the meat in with it. I put enough water for all the meat to intake the spices. I marinate in the fridge overnight. and its AMAZING!!! So juicy and tender!

  • Keith Owen

    When you get an onion like that stick a fork in it near the root end. If the onion is on it’s side on the board the tines of the fork should be perpendicular to the board right in front of the root end. Hold onto the fork and cut the onion. Works great. Just be careful not to run the knife down the fork times. when you get to the end.

  • doumkatek Z

    Definitely a bigger pan or do in two batches, so the meat will get a better crust/carmelization going on I also like to cook the steak whole and let it rest a bit while the veggies cook, then slice it..against the grain as you said. Makes it juicier.

  • D_chelyst

    Bell pepper hack: Put the bell pepper on the cutting board so that it’s stem up. Hold it by the stem, and place your knife on top, kinda so that the knife makes a line connecting one rib to another. Cut downward, trying not to cut into the ribs. A nice chunky section should come off. Continue all the way around. If you did it right, the ribs and seeds stay attached to the pepper, leaving you with nice chunks that you can slice or dice, etc. It takes maybe all of 30 seconds to cut a bell pepper this way, plus you waste very little of the pepper.

  • D_chelyst

    *ribs and seeds stay attached to the pepper’s stem

  • Taylor Wacker

    For onion slicing try https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_NQ3MrWbuoA
    For Fajita seasoning try http://allrecipes.com/recipe/232967/fajita-seasoning/ you can make extra and store in a resealable container.
    For non-paleo eaters mexi or cheddar cheese is a good addition

  • http://thesewildacres.com Amy Thiessen

    Great tip! I find this work really well for chicken fajitas too!

  • http://www.yankified.com Yankified

    I love fajitas!! The only issue I have is the husband does not like onions or peppers (i know, weird) so fajitas are a bit tricky.

    Amy | http://www.yankified.com

  • http://www.naturopathicwellness.com.au/ Naturopathic Wellness

    Fajiiitaaas Yummm. Great tips and recipe shared here. Will surely try it.

  • Danielle

    Just finished dinner. This was delicious! Thanks Noel!
    One issue: I bought skirt steak, and it had a fatty/connective tissue layer on one side that didn’t tenderize. Is that typical? Should I cut it off? Does flank steak have it too?

  • JohnnycharlieAD

    If you’re going to eat something Mexican in my house you better bet there will be lime juice and cumin in there. If I had it my way there would also be Chipotle chile powder (because I love that stuff so much), but my wife isn’t a big fan… she’s a woman… who doesn’t like Chipotle chile powder… Anyway, if you’re feeling adventurous add a little cinnamon (also one of my favorite borderline obsessive things).

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