I have no idea why it’s taken me this long to post a venison fajitas recipe. Probably because I needed it to be flank steak fajitas — because they are way better than regular steak fajitas — and for that I needed not deer, but elk.
Elk flank steak is about the same size as beef flank steak, and you need that to make proper fajitas. Maybe if you had a bruiser of a buck deer you could pull it off, but your life will be easier with elk, caribou, nilgai or moose flank steak. Not a hunter? Beef flank steak is perfectly fine.
There’s another reason why it took me a long time to develop a recipe for venison fajitas: The way everyone wants to see them, the way that you see them in these pictures, is all wrong.
Yes, I said it. Fajitas as we know them are stupid — if we’re talking tacos, which is how most people eat fajitas. Why? Think about it. Those strips of meat and peppers? Pack them into a taco and take a bite. Yep, you just pulled out half the meat and a big slab of bell pepper, unless you chomp down hard.
Far better to chop everything up right before it goes into the tortilla, especially for flank steak fajitas. Flank steak is super flavorful, but can be a little tough, which makes it prone to pulling out of a taco.
And since fajitas are much more of a Texas thing than a Mexican thing, flour tortillas are a must. Even where it exists south of the border, you’ll mostly see it on flour. You can buy decent flour tortillas in most supermarkets, but if you know how to make flour tortillas, your life will be better.
There are a few tips to making great venison fajitas. First, dry rub your flank steak overnight, then add lime juice a few hours before searing. Second. scrape off most of the marinade, then pat the meat dry before coating it with oil. Wet meat doesn’t brown.
You will want your flank steak to be cold, right out of the fridge. Why? It’s a thin cut of meat, and by the time you get a nice sear on it, if it were room temperature the center of the flank steak would be overcooked. Slapping it on the pan or grill cold buys you time.
As for the fajita vegetables, multicolored bell peppers are the key — they’re sweet and pretty — and you will want to just coat your vegetables with oil rather than oiling the pan. Fajitas are low fat, and you want a bit of char. Too much oil prevents that.
Finally, toss the cooked vegetables with lime juice, cilantro, a little Mexican oregano and/or garlic powder, maybe add some slices of avocado, and you’re golden. Venison fajitas: Simple. Easy. Amazing.
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon cayenne
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Juice of a lime
- 1 pound flank steak
- 3 tablespoons canola oil or other high smoke point oil, divided
- 1 green bell pepper, cut into strips
- 1 red bell pepper, cut into strips
- 1 orange or yellow bell pepper, cut into strips
- 1 onion, sliced
- 1/4 cup chopped cilantro or parsley
- Juice of a lime
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 8 to 12 Flour tortillas
- 1 Avocado, sliced
- Mix all the dry ingredients for the marinade together, then rub them into the flank steak Put this in a bag or plastic container in the fridge for up to a day, and no less than 2 hours. If you are only going to let it marinate 2 hours, add the lime juice right away. If not, add the lime juice with 2 hours to go.
- You will need a large frying pan, ideally cast iron. Start getting it hot. Take the meat out of the fridge and wipe it dry with paper towels. You want it pretty dry. Coat it in 1 tablespoon of the canola oil. When the pan is hot, I mean hot as in starting to smoke, about 500°F to 600°F, lay the flank steak in the pan. If you happen to have a bacon press, put it on the meat, If not, no big deal. Let it sit there for 3 minutes. Turn the meat and let it cook another 2 to 4 minutes, depending on how you like your meat. I only give it the 2 minutes because the flank steak will cook a bit more via carryover heat when it's on the cutting board. Move it to the board.
- Coat the vegetables in the remaining canola oil and add them to the hot pan. Stir fry a minute, then let them sit a bit to get some char. Move them once a minute for 3 minutes. You want them soft, but not mushy, and with some browned or even blackened bits. Turn off the heat and mix in the lime juice and cilantro, as well as salt and lots of black pepper.
- Slice the flank steak against the grain, and serve with the vegetables in tortillas and topped with avocado.
Keys to Success
- You will definitely want a variety of colors for your fajitas. It's prettier and the ripe ones add sweetness.
- You can skip bell peppers if you want and use poblanos, Italian frying peppers, Anaheims or really any pepper that isn't super hot.
- The meat must be cold when it hits the pan, otherwise you run a real risk of it overcooking by the time you get some good char -- and char is key for fajitas.
- Flour tortillas are traditional, as this is Tex-Mex, but corn are fine, too.
- Guacamole is a good choice for a salsa here. So is my tomatillo-avocado salsa.
Absolutely incredible. Restaurant worthy. Or better! Try this recipe, you won’t be disappointed.!!
Sarah Snelgrove says
Delicious!! Best tasting venison we’ve ever had. Looking forward to lunch leftovers. Thank you.
John Shutter says
I made your elk flank steak fajitas recipe but since I did not have an elk flank steak I used a small roast from my elk. Since the roast was thicker than a flank steak (about 3 inches at the thickest part) I had to sear it a bit longer than the recipe called for. After wiping off the marinade I put the roast in my gas grill preheated to at least 600 degrees, I am not sure of the heat because the thermometer on the grill lid is pegged at 600 degrees. After I rubbed the roast with oil I put it on the grate of the grill for 4 minutes on the first side and flipped it and seared if for 4 minutes on the other side. It came out beautifully browned all over with wide dark grill marks on it. I put it on my cutting board and covered it with foil and got to searing the onions and bell peppers, yellow, red and green. I followed the recipe to the letter. After a 15 minute rest I uncovered the roast and put it on the table with the peppers and onions and warmed tortillas. I sliced the roast very thin, it was perfectly medium rare We spread some sour cream on the tortillas before adding the meat and peppers and added a few shakes of hot sauce. The flavor was fantastic. My wife loved it. The next day we made cold sandwiches with the thinly sliced meat topped with the onions and peppers and sour cream and a shake of hot sauce. It was delicious. There is no doubt I will make the recipe again in the future.
This is probably the best fajitas I’ve had. EVER. Had some complications to figure through. Using whitetail backstrap and it being 2 pounds of meat I stayed of 1. The thicker cut made it take longer to cook and the fuming from the cayeene in the very hot cast iron almost killed us, but amazing results! New fave, just on the grill next time.
Jeff Loomans says
Good call Hank, sort of accidentally made the same thing (breast of turkey though, but I did marinate and do it on a 550 flattop under a grill press) and it was great for Cinco de Mayo. Which is sort of fitting since the holiday is probably more celebrated in Texas than Mexico… I did follow your recipes both for corn tortillas and your flour tortilla recipe, had some old pig belly lard I’d rendered from a whole pig a bit back, and the wife said they were the best tortillas she’d ever had. That’s high praise for a recipe around here.
I just want to say this is absolutely fabulous! Normally venison flank roast is more chewy and tough. This recipe was so good! Everyone in my family was so surprised and delighted with the outcome. Because of the size of my roast 2.25 lbs I doubled the spices and had to cook it longer so I learned something there. But the flavor and tenderness was incredible. There was hardly any left. Going to make this again for sure.
Cole Devine says
How do you think this would work with a goose breast pounded thin like in your duck/ goose taco recipe?
Hank Shaw says
Cole: it would work very well, just keep the meat cold before you sear it.
Tim Suchocki says
Damn, I’ve got some deer flank in the freezer so I was super excited to see this one. Although after reading, I think I’ll hold onto it and try this one with beef first.
I appreciate your attention to detail in your recipes. Particularly things like keeping your flank steak cold until it hits the pan and oiling the veggies first rather than cooking them in oil. I find when I listen to your advice and pay attention to these details it’s always the difference between “pretty good” and “Man, that was effing amazing!”
Thanks for everything you do for the hunting/fishing community and also for my kitchen skills. You make me almost seem like I know what I’m doing!
Greg Frohn says
Hank, you’re right on the money again! Chopping the meat before placing in tortilla. Who knew! Just like an omellete with left over steak strips. Who puts them in an omelette whole? I’ll be cooking up some elk fajitas for our Covid break out camping trip next weekend.
Speaking of camping, can you provide us cast iron nuts a Dutch oven recipe or two???