Vegan carne asada fries made with plant-based protein, is one of those odd but really delicious dishes popularized on regional menus — and it’s so easy to make at home.
The first time I had vegan carne asada fries was at a lively Mexican eatery not far from where I live; the last times were at home — it’s such an easy dish to replicate, and we’ll be getting to that in a flash.
Carne asada fries is a perfect example of how an offbeat local food trend can take off and go national. A unique combination of french fries, avocado, sour cream, and, in its original form, strip steak, this dish originated in San Diego in the 1990s and soon became a standard in casual Mexican restaurants in the American Southwest before spreading nationwide.
What is carne asada, and how can it be made vegan? Carne asada refers to beef strips marinated in citrus juices and grilled or in another way cooked over high heat. This plant-based version replaces the meat with plant-based beefy strips or, it can be equally good made with seitan. I’ve made it with both, to great success.
What are the best plant proteins to use? For this particular round I used plant-based Very Good Steak from The Very Good Butchers, a Canadian company. They craft what might be called artisanal plant-based “meats” incorporating interesting ingredients like jackfruit, beets, and mushrooms. But you can use any plant-based “beefy” product that can be cut into strips (or comes that way), or, as mentioned just above, seitan.
What about the fries? This dish is usually made with regular fries, and you can definitely use them if you prefer. But sweet potato fries add another lovely layer of flavor, not to mention color, to the dish. You have a choice of using prepared fries or making your own.
The “carne” asada
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 tablespoons lime juice
- 2 tablespoons orange juice
- 1/4 cup salsa, your favorite variety
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 8 ounces plant-based beefy strips or seitan, cut into strips
- 20-ounce bag organic fries (regular potatoes or sweet potatoes; or see Note)
- 2 medium ripe avocados, pitted, peeled, and mashed (see Note)
- Juice of 1/2 lime
- 1/2 cup halved cherry tomatoes or diced tomato
- Cilantro leaves
- Vegan sour cream
- 1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and sliced
- Salsa, your favorite variety
- Lime wedges
- Combine the oil, lime and orange juices, chili powder, and chili powder in a shallow container and whisk together. Add the beefy strips, stir together, and allow to marinate while doing the next steps.
- Preheat the oven to 425º F.
- Arrange the fries on a parchment-lined roasting pan or baking sheet. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or as instructed on the package.
- Meanwhile, combine the mashed avocados with the lime juice in a small bowl and stir together. Prepare the rest of the toppings and set aside.
- About 10 minutes before the fries are done, heat a medium skillet. Add the beefy strips and marinade and cook over medium-high heat until the marinade has mostly evaporated and the strips are sizzling hot.
- To assemble, transfer the fully baked fries to a serving platter. Scatter the beefy strips over them, followed by the tomato and cilantro.
- Traditionally, a dollop of the mashed avocado and sour cream are placed side by side on one side of the platter, but if you prefer, you can put those in small bowls for everyone to take and embellish their servings.
- Put the jalapeño slices, salsa, and lime wedges in separate small containers.
- Distribute the fries and carne asada to individual plates along with a little avocado mash and sour cream, and pass around the extras.
Using frozen organic sweet potato fries makes it all easy and convenient, but feel free to use fresh potatoes or sweet potatoes. You’ll need about a pound and a half; scrub (peel if you’d like) and cut into fry shapes, toss with a little olive oil, and bake as directed in step 3.
If you can’t find avocados that aren’t just right for mashing, you can substitute prepared guacamole.
If you like this recipe, you might also enjoy …
In a way, carne asada fries are a cousin of the yummy Canadian oddity Poutine, an amalgam of melted cheese and gravy on fries. And yes, we have a recipe for Vegan Poutine.