The sizzling sound of fajitas, with its billowing plumes of steam and savory smells of grilled peppers and onions has caused many a head to turn in Mexican restaurants as servers glide by with black cast iron skillets on wooden platters to deliver the dish to its excited recipients.

While the delivery of the dish is a glorious production, the taste is often no less spectacular.

Tuesday is National Fajita Day and despite learning about it last minute, everyday is a good day for sizzling steak.

In honor of National Fajita Day, the Rio Grande Mexican Restaurant, 825 9th St., is releasing its recipe for the savory dish to the public for the first time.

The restaurant has been preparing fajitas for more than 30 years, said Emily Tracy with ROOT Marketing and PR. The popular Mexican chain has served over 24,000 orders of steak fajitas a year, making the dish the restaurant’s most popular entrée since they opened.

Don’t have time to make your own fajitas or want to avoid the kitchen? Grab some fajitas from the Rio in downtown Greeley. (Photo courtesy Rio Grande)

So what’s the difference between a fajita and a taco?

Well, according to, while both dishes utilize tortillas and many of the same toppings, “fajitas” is the actual filling, typically made from marinated and grilled skirt steak.

The term “fajita” translates to “little sash” and comes from the Spanish word “faja” meaning belt, strip or band — referring to the strips of cut skirt steak.

The meat in fajitas is often mixed with strips of grilled or sautéed peppers and onions while the vegetables in tacos are often chopped and eaten raw.  Another difference between the two is that tacos arrive already filled with meat and fixings, while diners at the table create their fajitas with what they want.

“Compared to the ease and portability of tacos, fajitas are more of an event,” the website chimed.

A steaming platter of grilled chicken, peppers and onions is a great way to celebrate National Fajita Day. (Greeley Tribune file photo)

Fajitas can be made with chicken, shrimp, salmon, pork or even just vegetables for a vegan or vegetarian option. Diners also have a choice between soft corn or flour tortillas that are served separately from the grilled meat and veggies.

Kristin Chessman with has some tips for making standout fajitas.

  1. Use a protein with a medium-to-high fat content. The fat helps the meat withstand the high heat while cooking.  Tuna and swordfish are great options for seafood fajitas.
  2. Always marinate your meat to enhance the flavor.
  3. Throw in some spirits to kick up the flavor of your marinade. Tequila, gin or bourbon are great options. The spirits also aid in tenderizing the meat.
  4. Experiment with different types of peppers and onions like red jalapenos or red onions.
  5. Serve fresh citrus like limes, oranges and grapefruits to add unique flavors to your dish.
  6. Add a little spice to your sour cream by mixing in ground cinnamon for a “spicy, earthly kick.”

So is your mouth watering yet? If not, check out the Rio’s recipe as well as a few others for some great fajita options.

This makes two portions of fajitas and plenty of marinade. It is a wonderful recipe for a dinner party. One pound of skirt steak will feed two hungry people, so just scale up the meat if you want more servings.

Marinade Recipe

Makes six cups

1.5 cups pineapple juice

1 cups soy sauce

1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce

1 Tbsp chopped garlic

2 and 3/4 Tbsp brown sugar

9 fl oz orange juice

1 and 3/4 fl oz lime juice

1 and 3/4 cups water

1 and 3/4 Tbsp kosher salt


1 pound of skirt steak

Fixings (optional)

Warmed tortillas, black beans, rice, pico de gallo, guacamole, grilled vegetables


Mix all marinade ingredients. Set aside a portion of marinade to drizzle on top of your meat after cooking.

Marinate the meat in four ounces of the marinade for one hour. (For every pound of meat, use four ounces of marinade.)

Remove meat from marinade and grill on a hot grill until medium/medium rare or your doneness preference. Keep in mind that residual heat will continue to cook the meat as it rests.

Remove from grill and let rest for 10 minutes.

Cut meat against the grain, drizzle with some reserved marinade and serve with your favorite accompaniments like a “build your own fajita taco.”

Serve alongside grilled vegetables. We like sweet yellow onions, red and green peppers, and roma tomatoes.

At the restaurant, we also serve our fajitas with warmed homemade tortillas, black beans, Spanish rice, pico de gallo and guacamole.

For more fajita recipes, take a look at these options:

Taste of Home has a flavorful recipe for chicken fajitas. Check out the ingredients at

Substitute steak or chicken fajitas with pork. Go to for the full recipe as well as how to make your own guacamole.

If you’re hankering for some seafood fajitas, take a peek at this quick and easy recipe from

Go meatless with this vegetarian fajita recipe that includes zucchini, cauliflower, broccoli, corn and carrots at

Celebrate National Fajita Day with the Rio’s iconic recipe

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