Quick summary: Skirt steak, top round steak, beef hanger steak, tri-tip steak, and flap steak make great substitutes for a flank steak. But some other meat or non-meat suggestions might help you also.
With a quick cooking time and no bones to fuss with, flank steak is an affordable and versatile piece of beef. It is the go-to cut for making beef fajitas and is also used for stir fry dishes, salads, and beef tacos.
If it’s Fajita Friday and your local store is out of flank steak we’ll help you choose the next-best option as a suitable cut of meat. If you have some vegetarian or pescatarian guests joining you for a meal, you can cater to them just as easily by replacing the beef with a suitable option from the list below.
Before we get to the best flank steak substitutes, we look at what it is and the characteristics to look out for when choosing the best flank steak alternative.
What Is Flank Steak?
This cut of meat comes from the abdominal area of the cow, on the lower back end, below the sirloin. It is also referred to as London broil or bavette steak and is a muscular, lean meat cut, low in fat. The muscle is, however, surrounded by fat which is generally removed. It is a little chewier than some other cuts, but when cooked correctly it has a deep beefy flavor and is not tough.
The cut of meat is thin, ranging from ¾ to one-inch thick on one side and tapering down to ½ an inch on the thinnest side.
How to Use Flank Steak
This piece of meat is one of the most affordable cuts and is suitable for grilling, sautéing, roasting, and broiling. If you know it as a tough piece of meat, it’s probably because you aren’t cooking it correctly.
It’s important to cook it no more than medium and make sure it is sliced very thinly against the grain. Slicing it too thick or overcooking it will make it tough.
Flank steak is often marinated before cooking, regardless of the cooking method used. Besides adding flavor, the acid and salt from marinades help tenderize the meat.
When marinating the meat, do so only for a few hours. Since it is a thin cut, the ends may start to scorch if left in the marinade overnight.
Flank steaks can be stuffed and rolled, used for beef stroganoff, grilled and sliced for a salad or sandwich, used with pasta, noodles, Asian stir-fries, gyros, tacos, served with eggs for breakfast and so much more!
Best Flank Steak Substitutes
Although some people refer to skirt steak and flank steak interchangeably, they are not the same cut of beef. Skirt steak is however very similar and our number one choice if you need a replacement.
This thin cut comes from the diaphragm muscle. It has a slightly richer beef flavor and can be tough if not cooked correctly. An acidic marinade is also recommended to help tenderize it before quick cooking at high heat to lock in the juices.
Skirt steak is easy to overcook, so don’t take your eyes off it. You can replace it in any dish and use the same cooking method that your recipe calls for.
Top Round Steak
The top round comes from the top of the rear legs which also makes it a slightly tougher piece of steak. Your marinade will therefore work just as well on this cut to help tenderize the meat.
Top round is a thicker cut and also one of the more affordable types. Use a meat mallet to get the same flatness and then treat it just as you would the flank strips in your recipe.
Beef Hanger Steak
This cut has a higher fat content and comes from the loin area, on the underside of the cow. With more fat, it is more tender and has a slightly different texture. However, it still makes a very close match when it comes to flavor.
Its flat and wide shape is easy to cut into strips, making it ideal for fajitas, stir fry, and tacos. Although it has more fat, the thinness still makes it very easy to overcook and dry out, especially when grilling.
Also known as triangle steak, this cut is boneless. It generally has a single strip of fat on the side which makes it easy to prepare.
When cooking tri-tip, leave the fat on and only remove it before serving. This allows you to mimic the leanness of flank steak without drying out too much. It’s also a versatile piece of beef that loves to be marinated and grilled or oven-roasted.
Top Sirloin Steak
Where the tri-tip is the bottom of the sirloin, top sirloin is the counterpart. It has a similar flavor but has a higher fat content which makes it more tender.
It is a pricier cut of meat than flank steak, but is not one of the most expensive cuts. The higher fat content allows you to get a good sear on the meat without it drying out. This is a great option for grilling and sautéing which means it’s suitable as a replacement in almost any dish.
The best way to cook top sirloin is medium rare on the grill and cut along the diagonal into strips. It will probably be a little more tender than flank steak, but no one ever complained about that.
Flap steak is often used in similar ways to flank since it is also a thin, lean cut with a similar shape. It also comes from the abdominal area and has a coarse grain.
It’s a good choice as a grilling meat since the edges crisp up for added texture and flavor, however, it can be very temperamental and needs to be cooked with care. Overcooking will make it dry while undercooking it will result in a chewy texture.
This is a shoulder cut, and although less common, if you have some in the fridge or freezer you can easily use it as a substitute. It’s generally on the pricier side and is sometimes referred to as butler steak.
Filled with fine marbling, it is packed with flavor and doesn’t dry out as quickly as leaner cuts. Keep it to medium rare to get the best flavor and texture.
Ground beef is easy to come by, affordable, and incredibly versatile. It’s pretty simple to cook and makes a great filling for tacos, quesadillas, fajita, sandwiches, and so much more.
While it has a similar meaty flavor, it can’t be served in strips which makes it unsuitable for salads. If it’s what you have available, don’t hesitate to use it as a replacement for a delicious meal.
Of course, using chicken breast will make a noticeable difference in flavor and color, however, it can make an easy substitute for a last-minute dinner.
You can slice it in the same way and it’s incredibly versatile in terms of flavor pairings. It will very likely pair well with whatever other ingredients your recipe contains.
The white meat has a similar grain and fat content. This means that it can dry out just as quickly and that marinating the skinless chicken breast before cooking will be very beneficial.
You can always reheat chicken breasts and make them tasty again if you have leftovers.
If you don’t eat red meat, you may want to consider tuna filet. Searing the exterior well in a pan while leaving the interior pink allows you to cut thin strips, making it ideal for salads, tacos, and a range of other dishes.
When cooking it like this, it will have a more delicate texture. Overcooking tuna will cause it to become dry and flaky which is not what you want.
Consider whether the flavors of your recipe pair well with tuna. In most cases, it will work as a good flavorful alternative.
Best Vegan Flank Steak Substitutes
Tofu will soak up any surrounding flavors which makes it a great flavor carrier for whatever spices, marinade, or sauces you are cooking with.
You won’t get the same meaty flavor, although, as a vegan, this is probably a good thing. You will, however, be able to get a similar texture and deliciously flavored strips.
The key here is to make sure your tofu is seasoned well. A medium to medium-firm tofu will work best. Cut it into strips and brush it with the marinade.
Soy-based marinades are popular with tofu, but you can use your regular steak marinade as well. Bake it in the oven for 30 minutes at 350°F (180°C)
If you’re only rarely using it, you can freeze tofu and preserve it for a longer period.
Portobello mushrooms are often used as a meat alternative in vegan dishes due to their ‘meaty’ texture, large size, and cooking versatility. These large fresh mushrooms can be grilled, sauteed, baked, or roasted, and sliced for stir fry or fajitas.
They are much lower in fat and have a high water content. You can use the same marinade on the mushrooms that your recipe calls for since their earthy taste pairs well with most flavor profiles.
Cauliflower is a good vegan option, especially when charred on the grill, roasted, or pan-fried. Cut it into wide slices, marinate or season, and place it on the grill to get beautiful char stripes.
As with other vegan options, the seasoning is important to impart the taste you’re after. Soy-based marinades or Worcestershire sauce help develop umami flavors, although cauliflower is also versatile and pairs well with most flavor profiles.
Can I tenderize flank steak with Worcestershire sauce?
Yes, you can tenderize flank steak with Worcestershire sauce. The high vinegar content in Worcestershire sauce helps break down the fibers and adds depth of flavor.
Will pounding flank steak tenderize it?
Yes, pounding flank steak with a meat mallet will tenderize it. It will break up the muscle tissue and make it more tender. It will cause the meat to become flatter so cooking time will be slightly shortened.
Can I use Coca-Cola to tenderize meat?
Yes, you can use Coca-Cola to tenderize meat. Cola has a high acidity which makes it a good tenderizer. It will also add a bit of sweetness so add other flavors to balance it out.
If you can’t find flank steak at your local grocery stores, there are a range of other beefy cuts you can use instead for taco fillings, beef fajita strips, and a variety of other dishes.
Alternatively, you can make chicken fajitas by simply swapping out the beef for chicken. For vegan steaks with a juicy texture, opt for Portobello mushrooms.
Whichever option you choose, you can ensure you have tender meat by keeping your cuts thinly sliced and not overcooking them.
*image by fahrwasser/depositphotos