April 03, 2017

First, you hear them. Then you smell them. And then, oh boy, you get to dig in.

The auditory and aromatic rush of platter of sizzling fajitas making its way across a restaurant dining room has always been a key part of their appeal. Diners love the attention-grabbing rush of sizzling meat and caramelizing veggies, all served up on scorching cast iron. "Careful, it's hot," is the signal of a terrific meal about to follow.

When you order fajitas, or -- even better -- when you're serving up your own signature version of them at home -- you have the ultimate customizable meal. Use the filling, sauces and warm flour tortillas to mix and match your own perfect bitefuls.

Tex-Mex Origin

"Fajita" is the diminutive of "faja," the Spanish word for belt. It describes the long, thin cut of meat we now call a skirt steak. The term was used long ago by Rio Grande Valley ranch workers, who often received cuts of beef as part of their pay. They became masters and grilling, slicing and serving this particular cut. Over the years, "fajita" has evolved from a description of a cut of meat to the term for any protein-veggie combo that's grilled and served with soft flour tortillas. The toppings, sauces and side dishes served with fajitas can include shredded lettuce, sour cream, guacamole, pico de gallo and cheese, but creative cooks are always coming up with new combinations.

Photo by Meredith

Marinades and DIY seasoning

One way to get the most from your meat is to marinate it. A combination of oil, acidic juice and salty liquid will tenderize and add flavor to any protein. It's especially helpful in elevating a cheaper cut of meat to something that's worthy of "fajita night" at your house.

Classic fajitas include plenty of spicy seasoning, but there's no need to use a store-bought package in your recipe. Try this DIY version and customize it to your own desired heat level.

Photo by naples34102

Beef Fajitas

To create truly authentic fajitas, use skirt steak, a cut that's usually about 18 inches long and one inch thick. Other good cut options for fajitas include hanger, flap and round steak. This recipe, which calls for round steak, uses a marinade with red bell pepper, yellow bell pepper, onion, Anaheim chile peppers, fajita seasoning, olive oil, and garlic.

Photo by Meredith

Chicken Fajitas

Light and easy to prepare, chicken fajitas are an excellent weeknight meal.

Photo by Meredith

Veggie Fajitas

The great news about fajitas is that they're easy to customize to your own taste. If you'd like to try an all-veggie version, or to use plant-based protein instead of beef or chicken, you have lots of great recipe options.

Ready to Roll

Purchase your favorite soft flour tortilla brand and serve them warm with your finished fajita fillings. Or, if you're up for a culinary challenge, try making the tortillas yourself. Here's a video to get you started:

Get the recipe for Homemade Flour Tortillas.

Same Fajita, New Format

Creative cooks have taken the basic fajita concept and found plenty of fun twists on the classic dish.

Photo by bd.weld

Browse our complete collection of tasty Fajita Recipes.