Pappasito’s Fajita Steak Marinade

If you live in the Atlanta area, there’s a chance you may have been to Pappasito’s. The restaurant is best known for their amazing fajitas on homemade tortillas. Having been to Mexico, I can tell you the food is not exactly authentic, but it is incredibly delicious. Their steak fajitas are to die for, and I always leave wondering, “how did they make that steak so good?” It is always tender and indescribably flavorful.

Well, the secret is out! I recently came across a “copy cat” recipe online and decided to give it a try. I was a bit skeptical but figured it was worth a shot, considering I can get a flank steak at Costco for a quarter of the price that Pappasito’s charges. Plus, the marinade itself is SO SIMPLE–but you will have to scroll down to see the ingredients. : ) Anyway, I was very pleased with the results!


Hot off the grill, this really did remind me of the steak from Pappasito’s. It was tender, juicy, and flavorful. If you make this you should taste some of the meat by itself because it is uncanny how similar it is!

Make sure to marinade the steak for at least 5-6 hours. Everything I read online advised not to marinade overnight, so I didn’t try it. I suggest 6 hours so the flavor is infused. I only let mine marinade for about 4 hours, and it was not quite enough.  When eaten as a fajita (in a tortilla with pico de gallo, lettuce, guacamole, pinto beans, or whatever other toppings you enjoy), the flavor did get a little lost. This probably could have been prevented if I had allowed the steak to marinade for the full 6 hours!



So, are you ready for the secret ingredients?

Pineapple and soy sauce! 

It makes perfect sense because both tenderize the meat. The soy sauce adds saltiness, and the pineapple juice adds a little bit of sweetness. So simple!

Pappasito’s Fajita Steak Marinade


1.75-2 lb flank steak


  • 1 cup pineapple juice
  • 2/3 cup soy sauce
  • 1/3 cup water

1). Combine marinade ingredients with flank steak in a ziplock bag and allow to marinade for at LEAST 5-6 hours, but not overnight.

2). Preheat a grill over medium-high heat. Cook steak for 8-10 minutes on each side for medium to medium-well. Slice into thin strips and serve.

Servings: 4-6 depending on size of steak Nutritional Information per 3 oz serving: Calroies: 180 Carbs: 0g Fat: 9g Protein: 23g Fiber: 0g



22 thoughts on “Pappasito’s Fajita Steak Marinade

    • Using concentrate, removes said enzymes from the juice. Use only fresh, bottled, pineapple juice. The heat process involved in making concentrate does the same thing as heating to can.

      • I agree Dr. Always use fresh pineapple juice if you can find it. Many of the good juice manufacturers use vacuum extraction to concentrate their juice and don’t heat it, thus preserving the live enzymes. But it’s hit or miss as to the brand. Heck, sometimes it’s hard to find the frozen concentrate pineapple juice no less the fresh.

  1. FRESH PINEAPPLE JUICE ONLY!! Very important. Either fresh or frozen from concentrate. The caned variety heat packs and kills the enzymes that tenderize the meat. It will be tough if you don’t use fresh or frozen pineapple juice. Also add chopped up onion and garlic and a little lemon and lime juice. I didn’t get these tips from a copy cat recipe, I got them from the horse’s mouth.

    • I worked for the Pappas family for years, and opened the first Pappasito’s restaurant, on Richmond, in Houston.
      Their food is authentic Mexican food, simply specific to the western coastal regions.
      The recipes talked about here are absolutely correct, however the grilling method at the restaurants is obviously a bit different. Grill to you own taste.
      A side note: Using concentrate, removes said enzymes from the juice. Use only fresh, bottled, pineapple juice. The heat process involved in making concentrate does the same thing as heating to can.

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  5. Well I worked at Pappasito’s and I can tell you that you are 100 percent correct. Pineapple juice soy sauce and water… Also mesquite charcoal. Enjoy

  6. I worked at a pappasitos and the manager showed me the recipe once. It is exactly as you have found, pie apple juice, soy sauce and crushed ice. Except they use a huge tank that rotates round and round like a compost bin. Also before they start they close the bin and pull a vacuum on the tank to help infuse the meat for the duration of the marinade process.

    • Um, Chad, what’s with the pie apple juice? They use FRESH pineapple juice. It has to be fresh because if they heat pack it, it will kill the enzymes and the enzymes are key to tenderizing the meat. Yes, they do tumble the meat under a vacuum and here’s a fun fact. A tiny bit of TSP is put in the solution. I got that from the guy at their HQ’s who’s in charge. But what do I know, perhaps in Atlanta they use Pie Apple Juice.

      • While you’re busy trolling Chad for his typo, you might notice your MSG ended up being TSP. What they put silverware in fajitas?

  7. Fajitas are from Texas. Not Mexico. In Mexico they have a similar thing called arrachera, but fajitas were made by vaqueros, in Texas. They are grilled skirt steak, cooked hot and fast, then sliced in strips. Faja is Spanish for belt or strip, which refers to the skirt steak. When they cut it into small pieces, it becomes fajita. The ranchers used to give the left overs to the vaqueros, after the slaughter. The head, the tongue, the stomach, skirt steaks, etc. That’s why we have barbacoa, lengua, menudo and fajitas. If you have grilled skirt steak on a tortilla, it’s authentic. That’s all the vaqueros had. This American Tex-Mex. Not Mexican.

  8. I live here in Houston and go to Pappasito’s often. I must tell you that you have to use skirt steak only. flank steak is horrible that is why your not getting the same flavor. Flank steak has no fat lines of marbling. Trust me on this one. Also you must find a way to tenderize your meat by pounding or vacuum tumbler. Do not use flank steak yucko.

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