Coffee-Marinated Flank Fajitas with Pico De Gallo

April 19, 2011
3 Ratings
Photo by Bobbi Lin
Author Notes

The fajita is a relatively new addition (1930s) to the Tex-Mex repetoire of deliciousness. It started as a griddled skirt steak but nowadays we make them out of just about anything, seasoned and garnished and wrapped in a tortilla. Extremely flexible and super-delicious, what's not to love? In this version, I used flank steak and my own chili powder ground from equal parts guajillo, ancho, and cascabel chilis. If you don't have access to bins of various dried chilis like we do here in the great state of Texas, you can use ancho powder, which is readily available in most areas. Just make sure you are using straight ground chilis and not the seasoned chili powder. Pico de gallo adds a fresh brightness to balance the rich coffee-marinated meat... —aargersi

Test Kitchen Notes

Coffee is working behind the scenes here—a silent but powerful player, tenderizing a typically tough meat to almost that of a filet (but with all the flavor and character of flank steak!). Either my butcher blessed me with quality raw materials, or the coffee enzymes truly do have transformative powers. For this test I had 1.95-pound flank steak, which marinated for 3 hours (turning over in the marinade at the halfway point). I used ancho powder, the recommend substitute for aargersi's own chili powder blend. I cut the steak in half and seared each piece in a 10-inch cast iron skillet with 2 tablespoons canola oil, 3 minutes on each side. The thinner half was a mid-rare, the thicker half-rare/mid-rare. The cooked meat had no hint of coffee flavor, just subtly sweet and spiced. The accompanying pico was simple, fresh and bright. My parents, native Texans, gave it two thumbs up and were eager to try it out on the grill back home. —Allison Bruns Buford

  • Serves 4 to 6
  • Pico de gallo
  • 2 cups diced tomato (I used red and yellow)
  • 1 cup diced red onion
  • 3 seeded and minced jalapeños (mine were mild—adjust according to heat to your taste)
  • Juice from one lime
  • 1/4 cup fresh chopped cilantro
  • Salt
  • Coffee-marinated flank fajitas
  • 1 1/2 to 2 pounds flank steak
  • 2 cups strong brewed coffee
  • 3 tablespoons molasses
  • 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons ground chili (see headnote on chili powder)
  • Olive oil, salt, and freshly ground black pepper
  • Sour cream and tortillas to serve
In This Recipe
  1. Pico de gallo
  2. Mix all ingredients together, add a pinch of salt, stir, and taste. Put it in the fridge for a while then stir and taste for salt again.
  1. Coffee-marinated flank fajitas
  2. Whisk together the coffee, molasses, garlic, cumin, 2 teaspoons salt, and chilis. Score your flank steak on both sides with a shallow criss-cross pattern. Marinate the flank steak for 3 to 4 hours in the coffee mixture—I use one of those large rectangle throw-away plastic containers and it's a perfect fit.
  3. Heat your grill to high heat (or, if you don't have a grill, you could broil or sear in a big, hot, preferably iron skillet). Remove the flank steak from the marinade and gently pat it dry. Season with just a bit more salt and a good amount of freshly ground black pepper. Now rub it all over with olive oil.
  4. Grill the steak until desired doneness—we grilled is 2 to 3 minues on one side, flipped, then back and forth again to create a criss-cross pattern (see photo—my pictures came out crappy but you get the idea) and ours was a good medium.
  5. Rest your steak for several minutes. When you are ready to serve, slice the flank across the grain (the short way), and wrap 2 to 3 slices in a tortilla with a good dollop each of pico and sour cream. Dig in!

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Bonnie Montgomery
    Bonnie Montgomery
  • Will Yeung
    Will Yeung
  • Kt4
  • Glynis Carpenter
    Glynis Carpenter
  • tweeter10
I work in databases by day, but creativity is my outlet. Food - imagining it, making it, sharing it. And art, I come from a family of artists and have been collaging in my garage studio. You can see my work on Etsy in my shop AbbiesGarage

    29 Reviews

    Bonnie M. July 13, 2019
    It’s funny that so many people say they love this recipe in the reviews but it only had one rating of 4 stars for a long time. I just gave it a 5 star rating because it’s one of our favorites! It’s a summer classic! It’s so unique and good! I was a little hesitant to waste coffee on a marinate but it’s worth it!
    Will Y. February 11, 2017
    Does Brewed Coffee mean, used coffee grinds?? That's edible?
    Author Comment
    aargersi February 11, 2017
    No not the grinds, use the coffee itself
    ibbeachnana February 12, 2017
    Brewed coffee, not brewed coffee grinds.
    Will Y. February 12, 2017
    That would have been awkward... Thanks!
    (from stay-at-home dad and newbie cook)
    Kt4 December 15, 2015
    Do you think this marinade would be good for pork or chicken?
    Author Comment
    aargersi December 15, 2015
    Sure! I might go with thighs for the chicken ...
    Glynis C. December 14, 2014
    Soooooooo good. My husband couldn't get over the marinade.
    Author Comment
    aargersi December 15, 2014
    Oh good I am so glad you liked it!
    tweeter10 July 7, 2012
    Tasty! Tasty! Tasty! This recipe Rocks! We did not have Ancho Chili Powder so we used reglar Chili Powder. We also sliced the flank stead before marinating it. No matter. The recipe was Perfect! I can hardly wait to make again.
    Lara T. October 11, 2011
    This was delicious! I knew from the ingredients that I would either love this or hate this, and we all loved it! Thanks for the great recipe!
    ibbeachnana August 17, 2011
    Finally made fajitas using your recipe. I started out a week or so ago, marinating and all ready to go, never happened so I guess that the marinated flank steak would be okay the following day. It was nicely sealed in a food saver bag and refrigerated...can I say that that dinner didn't happen either so on to the freezer until this morning. This marinade is so forgiving, it is perfect for us tonight, just off the grill...very tasty indeed, thank you.
    gingerroot July 20, 2011
    Love and yum!
    Sagegreen July 15, 2011
    Love! I wish I could give out gold stars!
    Lizthechef July 15, 2011
    OK, you v. dymnyno. I'm trying both and want you each to get the gold star...
    Author Comment
    aargersi July 16, 2011
    :-) I think we just got one! Thanks Liz!!!!
    MyCommunalTable July 15, 2011
    looking good. this is my kind of meal.
    ellenl June 5, 2011
    Please, what is your pickled onion recipe? I can't find it. Thanks.
    Author Comment
    aargersi June 5, 2011
    Hi there! It's on both my cochinita pibil and barbacoa beef cheek tacos!
    Perfect! And I agree your pickled onions go with everything!
    wssmom June 3, 2011
    Love everything about this, and I mean EVERYTHING!
    fiveandspice April 21, 2011
    Oh yum. I am definitely saving this to make soon!
    boulangere April 20, 2011
    Your pickled onions have become a staple. Don't know how I lived without them.
    MyCommunalTable April 19, 2011
    Love it. Wish I had some right now. I use your lickled onion recipe all the time. Of course, they would go with this. They go with everything.
    Author Comment
    aargersi April 20, 2011
    We had pickled onions with this too! They do go with just about everything ...
    boulangere April 19, 2011
    Gosh, this does look wonderful. Love the splash of molasses in the marinade.
    Author Comment
    aargersi April 20, 2011
    Thanks! Balances the coffee and chilis ...
    hardlikearmour April 19, 2011
    This makes me want to fire up the grill! Once again you've created a wonderful dish.
    Author Comment
    aargersi April 19, 2011
    Thanks HLA! that is a super nice comment! We would not survive without our grill.