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Qdoba Steak Marinade Recipe

How I miss Qdoba. When I lived in St. Louis, I would delight in a Qdoba salad with steak, romaine, fajita veggies, cheese, corn salsa, guacamole, and salsa roja. Now that I call Santa Fe home, I don’t have access to that flavorful Mexican salad I love so much.

Good thing I can cook, eh? Because that Qdoba steak salad is pretty easy to make at home — assuming you nail the Qdoba steak marinade recipe. A properly marinated and grilled steak is the star ingredient of that salad.

What I’ve also learned is that a Qdoba marinated steak is delicious on its own without the romaine and guacamole. I served it up with roasted potatoes seasoned with complementary Mexican flavors (paprika, cumin, garlic, pepper — the usual suspects) and it was a fabulous and satisfying meal.

So there you go. You can enjoy this marinated steak as an entree, as the protein in a copycat chipotle steak burrito, stuffed into taco shells, or on a bed of lettuce.

Ingredients for Qdoba steak marinade

To make Qdoba steak marinade, you’ll want to have these ingredients on hand:

  • Fresh limes
  • Fresh orange
  • Cilantro
  • Chili powder
  • Cumin
  • Fresh garlic
  • Dried oregano
  • Chipotle peppers in adobo sauce*
  • Ground black pepper

*Chipotle peppers in adobo sauce are easy to find in a 7-oz. can. Even Amazon has them. They have a ton of flavor, so you’d generally only use a couple peppers at a time. Divvy up the peppers you don’t use into tiny resealable bags, with 2 in each bag. Label the bags with a date and toss them in the freezer. Then you’re stocked up for the next 6 months.

What cut of steak to use

Qdoba uses sirloin steak, so that’s a good option. I like flank steak or skirt steak, so this recipe specifies those cuts. Flank and skirt cuts are generally less expensive than sirloin, which is a plus. They’re also very flavorful, particularly when marinated.

Here’s the caveat: Flank steak and skirt steak can be tough if they’re overcooked or not sliced properly. You can sidestep that outcome by cooking with a meat thermometer and removing the meat from the grill at 130°F or 54°C. That’s a medium-rare cook. Then let the steak rest for a few minutes before slicing it thinly, against the grain.

If you’re worried about it, splurge on the sirloin. It’s a more forgiving cut.

How to prepare Qdoba marinated grilled steak

There’s not much to this recipe. You mix up the marinade, pour it over the steak, then grill the steak.

1. Make the marinade

If you have a blender or food processor

Ingredients for Qdoba steak marinade in blender.
Qdoba steak marinade in process!

To start, juice 2 limes and 1 orange. Roughly chop 1/2 cup of cilantro and peel 3 cloves of garlic (or 5 if they’re small). Pour the fresh juice into your blender/food processor. Add the cilantro and peeled garlic. Then add:

  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper

Turn on the processor to chop and combine the marinade ingredients.

If you don’t have a blender or food processor

Juice 2 limes and 1 orange. Finely chop 1/2 cup of cilantro. Then peel and chop 3 cloves of garlic. Using a whisk, mix those ingredients in a bowl with:

  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper

2. Marinate the steak

Place the steak in a resealable bag or marinating container. Pour the marinade over. Seal or cover and move the container to the refrigerator. Let it hang out for 3 hours or more.

Steak marinated with Qdoba steak marinade.
Skirt steak in the citrus, cilantro, garlic marinade.

I like to make the marinade in the morning so the steak has all day to absorb those citrus and cilantro flavors.

3. Grill the steak

Once you’re ready to grill, clean your grates and turn on the flame. You can also remove the steak from the refrigerator at this time and let it sit out, covered, at room temperature. This will facilitate more even cooking.

Place the steak on the grill when it’s hot. Discard any remaining marinade — it’s not safe to eat. Grill for 6 or 7 minutes, then flip.

Skirt steak on grill.
Grilling marinated skirt steak!

You want to grill the steak to about 130°F (54°C) or 135°F (57°C), which is medium-rare. Use a meat thermometer to guide you. As noted above, skirt steak and flank steak can end up tough if you overcook them.

Steak marinated with Qdoba steak marinade.
Qdoba marinated skirt steak, cooked to 130°F or 54°C.

Once the steak reaches the desired temperature, pull it off the heat and let it rest for 3 minutes or more. Then, slice it thinly against the grain.

How to serve Qdoba steak

Flank steak prepared with Qdoba steak marinade recipe, along with potatoes on plate.

As you can see, I sliced the steak and served it alongside Mexican-seasoned, roasted potatoes. But you could also:

  • Stuff the marinated steak pieces in a burrito with black beans, roasted bell peppers, roasted onions, and cheese.
  • Chop the steak slices into smaller bites and serve them atop warmed corn tortillas with cilantro and diced onion.
  • Serve the steak slices atop a bed of romaine with a cilantro vinaigrette. Add black beans, corn, cheese, and tortilla strips.
Yield: 4 Servings

Qdoba Steak Marinade Recipe

Flank steak prepared with Qdoba steak marinade recipe.

This is a copycat recipe for Qdoba steak marinade. You can use the marinade with any cut of beef, but you'll get closest to Qdoba steak by using flank steak or skirt steak. Eat the steak as is, or chop it up and use it in tacos, burritos, or salads.

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 12 minutes
Inactive Time 3 minutes
Total Time 3 minutes


  • 1 lb flank steak
  • 2 limes, juiced
  • 1 orange, juiced
  • ½ cup cilantro (chopped)
  • ½ teaspoon chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 2 teaspoons oregano
  • 2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper


  1. Add all of the ingredients except for the steak in a food processor or blender. Blend well. If you do not have a blender, mince all of the ingredients and combine them in a bowl.
  2. Place the steak into a sealable plastic bag and pour the marinade over the steak. Seal the bag and refrigerate for several hours.
  3. Remove the steak from the marinade. Lightly grease the grates of an outdoor grill. Heat the grill to medium-high heat. Place the steak onto the grill and cook until it has reached your desired doneness (medium-rare preferred).
  4. Remove the steak from the grill and let it rest for at least 3 minutes. Slice the steak against the grain into thin strips.


You can substitute skirt steak for flank steak if that's all that's available (that's what I did last time I made this).

Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:


Amount Per Serving: Calories: 261Total Fat: 10gSaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 5gCholesterol: 90mgSodium: 92mgCarbohydrates: 11gFiber: 3gSugar: 4gProtein: 33g

Nutrition information isn’t always accurate.

Now I need to work on a Qdoba grilled chicken copycat recipe, right?

If you like this steak marinade recipe, take a look at my chicken wing marinade, adobo marinade, and carne asada marinade!

Qdoba steak marinade FAQs

Can I use the marinade on other meats?

Yes, you can. Try it with chicken, pork, or tofu.

Do I have to grill the steak?

Grilling the steak gives you the best flavor. But you could also broil it or cook it on the stove top.

Can I use the marinade as a sauce?

You can only use the marinade as a sauce if it hasn’t touched the raw meat. Try pouring off a small bit into a separate container, then use what’s left to marinate the steak. Keep what you poured off in the refrigerator.

How long should I marinate the steak?

Marinate the steak for at least 3 hours, or longer if you can.

Norma Reed

Thursday 12th of October 2023

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