Lupe Tortillas Fajitas Grandioso – Copycat Recipe

When we lived in Texas, our favorite restaurant BY FAR was Lupe Tortilla’s. It’s a fun family-friendly restaurant with good margaritas and great Tex-Mex food. Signs outside tell customers to expect a wait – if you are in a hurry you are encouraged to come back another time. The wait was always worth it, though, and each location has a children’s play area with sand and toys…conveniently located next to the outdoor bar. :)

Houston locals know not to bother with a menu. The regular food is good, but if you know the ropes, you order fajitas grandioso for two without bothering to look at the menu. (Heck, I even ordered them once when I dined alone, while traveling back to deal with bad renters in the house we still had there.) Honestly, these are the best fajitas you will ever eat. You can get chicken and/or beef in the restaurant, but beef is my favorite.

Skirt Steak
This is skirt steak. No, you may not substitute flank steak. They are not the same!

So God Bless Texas, and “Scott”, who posted the fajitas grandioso recipe over at Tastebook. I’ve made it several times now and I have to say, it’s REALLY close. I think the only reason it’s not the same is that my cast iron skillet isn’t very seasoned yet. Take note: cooking these fajitas on cast iron is a MUST. Any other cookware simply.will.not.do.

Skirt steak marinating
This is a good example of too much meat for the marinade. The marinade should mostly cover the meat.

The first step is the marinade. Scott’s recipe calls for marinade for 2 pounds of skirt steak; IMO this is enough for only about 1.5 pounds. You need to have enough marinade for the meat to settled into; otherwise the steak won’t be tender enough. It’s the citric acid in the lime juice that breaks down the meat, tenderizing it in the process, so you want enough marinade for the steak to sit in. It’s not just about the flavor.

Fajitas on the cast iron skillet
Use real cast iron. The more seasoned the pot, the better the flavor.

After that, you want to grill the steak on medium-high heat. If the temperatures is too high, the outside of the meat will get tough before the inside is cooked. And if it’s too low, there won’t be enough searing on the outside to really develop the flavor. The other thing I do differently is to cook the meat for awhile, then slice it against the grain and return it to the skillet to finish cooking. I think the flavor develops better this way.

Fajita and toppings
My favorite way to eat fajitas – homemade flour tortillas, meat, green onions, sour cream, shredded Mexican cheese, and homemade salsa.

Recipe (adapted from Tastebook)

  • 1.5 lbs skirt steaks
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and mashed
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil, plus
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 4 tablespoons tequila
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 bunch green onions
  • 4 tablespoons fresh lime juice (from real limes)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin

Make the marinade by combining the garlic, 1/3 c. vegetable oil, tequila, salt, lime juice, and cumin in a large glass or Pyrex bowl. Cut the steak into 5-6 inch sections, or whatever will fit in your skillet. Place steak in marinade and make sure the marinade covers the meat as thoroughly as possible. Marinade for a minimum of 2 hours; I usually let it sit in the marinade, in the refrigerator, overnight.

Heat your cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. When it’s hot, place the skirt steak pieces on the skillet and cook until medium-rare, about 10 minutes on each side. The meat should start to develop a slight “crust” on the outside. Remove meat, slice against the grain into strips, and return to pan to finish cooking. At this point, add the green onions (full length or cut in half; not chopped) as well and let them cook in the grease from the meat, along with the remaining 2 TS vegetable oil.

(You can also cook onions and peppers in the grease; I don’t like these on my fajitas so I leave them out.)

Serve on warm flour tortillas with Mexican rice, salsa, cheese, sour cream, lettuce, diced tomatoes, etc.

The finished fajita
Funny shot – the top edge of the tortilla is blurry because it started unfolding while I was attempting to take the picture.

Comments

  1. This may be a stupid question but: you said 1/3cup veg oil plus 2tbsp veg oil.
    You put the 1/3cup of veg oil in the marinade, what did you do with the other 2 tbsp?
    Did you put that in the skillet before cooking the meat?
    Thanks

  2. I cannot wait to try this. If this comes even close, you will be my forever hero!
    I miss Lupe soooo much.

    • Hope you like it as much as I do! BTW, the older and more seasoned the cast iron pan, the better. When Lupe’s opened their location on I-45 north, the fajitas didn’t taste as good for about six months, I presume because the pots were new!

      • I fixed them tonight and was in food heaven. I seared the meat on the grill since my cast iron is still pretty new… It was amazing. Thanks for sharing the recipe!
        Anne

  3. Best tortilla fajita is with lots spices, like cajun
    In my kitchen i use always mix spces

  4. Courtney says:

    We live right down the street from a Lupe’s (not to rub it in), and we love their beef fajitas. However, it would be AWESOME if we could make them at home for a fraction of the price for our friends and family. We’re going to try this out tomorrow for a bbq. Crossing my fingers. Thanks for sharing!

  5. Wow those you have their look just like Lupe’s. Where on earth did you find those tortillas? The closest i’ve found are HEB’s homemade ones. Theyre definitely good, but not lupe caliber. By the way, and i’m going to keep posting on here because i’m not a chef, and right now this is the only food that I care about making (fajitas),

    I called Lupe and simply asked them what kind of marinade they use. They said pepper-lime marinade. I actually felt stupid because the next time i went their their menu said as much. So i guess i’m wondering if this might should include some normal black pepper, maybe even red peppers? Obviously i can add those myself, as they’re good flavors, but in terms of getting it exactly like Lupe, any thoughts?

  6. lenny osborne says:

    What does the Tequilla do for the maridade? Can I leave it out or will it change the taste of the cooked meat?
    thanks

  7. Yes– thank you! I, too, lived very close to the Katy Freeway location a number of years ago and loved Lupe’s. Thank you for posting the recipe.

  8. hey thanks alot for the input Susan,

    I like to squeeze the limes directly, would the pulp mess with the absorption of the marinade, because i know that is what fibers purpose is at least. Also, something seems counterintuitive about oil in marinade, doesnt oil repel aqueous marinade so as to not help absorb?

    • I squeeze fresh limes too, and it works. I’m not experienced enough as a chef to know if you’re right about the oil; the only thing I can suggest is to try it both ways and see what you think. If you test it out, let me know please!

  9. I believe the chefs at Lupe Tortillas run all of their skirt steak through a meat tenderizing machine before they marinate it. If you look closely, you can see where the meat has been almost perforated in a regular pattern. This helps to tenderize the meat and any connective tissue, obviously, but also helps the lime marinade to penetrate the meat. I think that step would be essential.

  10. Definitely not Lupe’s! That was disgusting…tequila was way too overpowering.

  11. Hi Susan,
    I just found your amazing looking recipe for the Lupe fajitas and it looks great. I’ll be trying them in a couple days. Thank you for sharing.

    Reading the recipe, it reminded me of a recipe I made quite a while ago, Tequila-Lime Fajitas, which I found again after rummaging through my bookshelf of cookbooks. It was from the August 1998 issue of Better Homes and Gardens Special Interest Publications Simply Perfect Hot & Spicy magazine (maybe they should add more words to the title!). Anyway, to the main point, their marinade is: 1/2 cup lime juice; 1/4 cup Tequila; 1/4 cup cooking oil; 1 4-ounce can chopped green chile peppers, drained; 1/2 teaspoon bottled hot pepper sauce; 1/4 teaspoon salt; 1 medium onion, thinly sliced. Mix all together, then place steak in a plastic bag and pour marinade over, seal and marinate for 6 to 24 hours. It is very similar, but I think your recipe’s addition of garlic and cumin is a great idea!

    About making tortillas, I recommend the Homesick Texan cookbook by Lisa Fain. The author describes various styles of tortillas, use the Houston style for Lupe-esque tortillas. Follow the directions and with a little practice (1 or 2 tries) they turn out just like Lupe’s, though I don’t like them as large.

    One last note about marinades, I was reading Steve Raichlen’s Barbecue Bible and remembered him discussing the theory of marinades. He wrote that every marinade has 3 parts: acids (Lemons, Limes, vinegar, yogurt, etc), oils, and aromatics (vegetables, herbs, spices, condiments, etc). He claims the oils seal in flavor and keep foods most during grilling. He has a few marinade recipes with alcohol in them and didn’t mention any issues or concerns about it.
    Thanks again!

    • Thank you Kirk! What awesome information. I’ve had my eye on that Homesick Texan cookbook…might be time for me to grab a copy.

  12. This is great! Thank you! I asked the waiter at Lupe Tortilla one time what was in the marinade and he said the secret was the tequila.

Speak Your Mind

*