Flank steak is a superior cut from the animal’s flank in the section that covers the stomach. It’s made of long muscle fibers, and it shouldn’t be overcooked, or it will turn chewy and tough.
This is one of the most versatile cuts that you can use for different purposes in the kitchen. It has an intense flavor and should be thinly cut against the grain for the best taste. It’s also an inexpensive steak, although it’s packed with flavors.
When you can’t get access to flank steak, you’re in need of a good flank steak substitute. Luckily, there are several delicious replacements that you can use in your recipes.
The best substitutes for flank steak
Flank steak comes from the abdominal muscles of the animal, so it can be tough if not cooked properly. However, it’s one of the best cuts to marinade, and you can use a special marinade to tenderize it.
This meat is suitable for quick cooking at high heat. If you follow the proper cooking methods, this meat will always taste great. It can be sliced or cooked as a whole, and thanks to its low-fat content, it doesn’t have to be trimmed.
One of the most common uses of flank steak is using it to make steak fajitas. The meat is sliced thinly, so it’s not difficult to chew.
You can also cut flank steak into small pieces to make beef tacos or grind it to prepare ground beef that you can later incorporate into several recipes. You can also use the thin slices to make a delicious steak sandwich or a tasty steak salad.
If your meat is already cut into thin slices, you can marinate the meat for a couple of hours. Extend the marination time if the meat is thick to help it cook better.
Marination also helps prepare the meat for grilling. Flank steak tastes amazing when grilled and the marinate protects it from getting rubbery when exposed to high heat.
You need to be careful when you’re grilling flank steak because it’s relatively thin and cooks pretty fast. Flank steak tastes better when cooked to medium-rare or medium.
For the best results, the grill should be preheated and oiled. Flank steak can be grilled covered for 5 minutes on one side, then 3 minutes on the other one.
Although flank steak is an affordable cut of meat, it might not be available at your butcher’s. Luckily there are amazing alternatives that you can consider if you’re looking for a flank steak substitute that can work for multiple dishes.
1. Skirt Steak
Lots of people confuse flank steak for skirt steak. They look similar because the two cuts of meat are long and lean, but they’re two different cuts of meat.
Outside cuts from the skirt steak usually have a thin membrane around the meat. It’s thicker and more uniform in shape, unlike inside skirt steak, which tends to shrink when cooked.
Skirt steak is a large thick cut from the animal’s diaphragm. This is why it’s more marbled than flank steak.
Its flavor is more intense than flank steak, so it will work for you if you’re searing the meat. Unlike a flank steak, skirt steak doesn’t taste nice when it’s slow-cooked but can be grilled to medium-rare or medium, so it doesn’t get rubbery.
2. Hanger Steak
Hanger steak or butcher’s steak is rather hard to find, but it works as a tasty substitute for flank steak. This meat hangs from the diaphragm along the lower belly and is packed with rich and intense flavors. Because this muscle does little work, this piece of meat is super tender and highly prized.
This meat is thinly cut and is marbled with fats to add a delicious beefy flavor to several recipes. It even has a liver-like flavor that works well in several recipes.
You can grill or pan-sear hanger steak to enjoy its delicious taste. Grilling this steak for more than 2 minutes on each side can make it become too tough. It’s a good flank steak alternative if you’re preparing fajitas.
3. Top Round Steak
Unlike the flank steak, the top round steak comes from the well-exercised muscles of the leg of the cow. This meat cut contains no or very little fat, but it’s packed with delicious flavors.
Since this meat is a little bit tougher than flank steak, it’s usually slow-cooked or sliced into thin slices to be incorporated into various stew and casserole recipes. It can also be the perfect choice for your beef tacos or stir-fries.
If you’re looking for similar cuts to flank steak for grilling, top-round steak will work if you marinate it well. It usually needs more marination time to help tenderize the meat. It takes about 7 or 8 minutes to grill to medium-well.
4. Tri-Tip Steak
Tri-Tip steak comes from a small cut from the sirloin. It’s triangular, boneless, and has good marbling. It’s also an affordable option if you’re trying to find a substitute for flank steak.
It’s lean and tender but carries a lot of beefy flavors. You can cook it as a whole in a roast because it stays juicy. It’s also smooth, so it can be sliced to prepare tasty fajitas.
Overcooking tri-tip steak can turn it chewy and tough. This is why you need to grill it for 5 minutes on the side, then flip it to cook on the other side for about 8 minutes. Thanks to its tenderness, tri-tip steak can be the right choice for stews and slow-cooking dishes.
5. Sirloin Tip Side Steak
Despite the similarity in the name, sirloin tip side steak is not the same as tri-tip steak, although it can also work as a substitute for flank steak. Both meat cuts are part of the sirloin, but the sirloin tip comes from the top half, while the other cut comes from the top bottom.
It’s a lean meat cut that can be used to prepare ground beef. You can cut it into cubes and add it to your stew, marinate it for a stir-fry, or even grill it. Because it holds its shape, sirloin tip side steak can be used to make kabobs.
Compared to flank steak, this cut has a more subtle flavor. If you find the taste of flank taste and other substitutes too overpowering, sirloin tip side steak might work for you.
6. Flat Iron Steak
Also known as butler’s steak, flat iron steak is another meat cut from the shoulder of the animal. It’s not as lean as flank steak because it contains a membrane that makes it a little tougher. Flat iron steak is a little bit more challenging to find and slightly more expensive than flank steak.
Flat iron steak is packed with a delicious beefy flavor and pairs well with several ingredients when soaked in a marinade. This meat cut is versatile enough to be cooked in multiple ways. It’s an excellent choice for beef fajitas, stir-fries, sandwiches, and even salads.
When sliced thin, flat iron steak will slow-cook for a tender and delicious taste. The marbling adds a nice flavor when you grill or broil this meat. However, don’t overcook it past medium-rare or medium because it can become tough.
7. Ground Beef
Although you can’t grill ground beef, you can use it to prepare burgers, fill tacos, or cook delicious beef chili. Ground beef is made of leftover trimmings of different roasts and steaks, so it can be a versatile option that works for several recipes.
Lots of people prefer to use ground beef to substitute flank steak because it’s cheap and easy to find. It absorbs flavors and seasonings, so it will taste amazing in a stew or slow-cook recipe.
If you want to replace flank steak with ground beef, you need to make sure that it contains some fat. Otherwise, the meat will be too dry.
8. Ready-Made Beef Fajitas
If you’re already late for dinner and craving beef fajitas, you can buy a ready-made mix at the grocery store. The meat is already sliced and marinated, so you can quickly start preparing a delicious meal.
Grocery-store beef fajitas are made of slices of flank and skirt steak. You can also use this mix to prepare beef tacos or sprinkle it on top of your salad.
9. Chicken Breast
Whether you don’t fancy beef’s flavor or have no access to any type of steak that works as a replacement for flank steak, you can always try to use chicken breast meat instead.
When cut into moderate slices and marinated, chicken slices can be used to prepare a delicious taco filling. It can also be used in sandwiches or salad. You can also skip slicing it and grill or pan-sear it. For the best results, you should avoid overcooking the chicken because it becomes tough and rubbery.
10. Vegan Steaks
For a vegetarian or vegan-friendly version of a casserole, you can try a vegan steak as an alternative for flank steak.
There are different types of vegan steaks that are made of tofu, soy protein, wheat protein, potato protein, mushrooms, or chickpeas. You might be surprised by how much these options actually taste like the real flank taste because they’re well-seasoned.
Vegan steak alternatives can be cooked in multiple ways to replace flank steak. You can grill the steak or even cut it into slices for vegetarian tacos or fajitas because it imitates the flank steak’s taste.
Mushrooms can substitute flank steak in several casserole dishes, stews, and other recipes that call for ground beef. Mushrooms have delicious umami, meaty flavor, with delicious savory notes.
They also absorb marinades well, so you can prepare your own spice mix and enjoy a delicious recipe without the meat. Their earthy and slightly sweet taste compliments several vegetables.
Shiitake mushrooms, portobello mushrooms, and porcini mushrooms are the best mushroom types to use as a substitution for flank steak because they have a rich meaty texture. You can cut and sauté mushrooms and add them to your stir-fries.
Tofu is a healthy and vegetarian-friendly flank steak replacement. This versatile soy-based meat substitute is extremely absorbent of other flavors and aromas, so you can use it to replace flank steak if you need ground meat or thin slices to prepare fajitas.
If you can’t consume meat or not that fond of its flavor, you can add tofu to boost the taste of other ingredients in your stir-fries. Even if you like meat, this protein-based replacement will add new flavors to your recipes.
How to choose a flank steak substitute
Flank steak is a delicious meat cut despite its affordable price, but when you can’t find it easily, there are other options that you can use instead.
Skirt steak is the most common flank steak substitute as it delivers almost the same taste and flavor. Hanger steak can be grilled for a short period or sliced to make fajitas because it’s tender.
If you need an alternative to a flank steak that provides more texture to your beef chili recipe, a top-round steak will work fine. Tri-tip and sirloin tip side steak can replace flank steak in stews, slow-cook recipes, or stir-fries.
Flat iron steak is a delicious flank steak alternative in stir-fries, fajitas, and sandwiches. If you’re preparing a stew or slow-cook recipe, ground beef will provide the needed texture. For fajitas, you can buy store-bought fajitas that have been sliced and marinated in advance.
If you don’t eat red meat, chicken breasts can be the perfect substitute for the flank steak to prepare fajitas, stir-fries, and taco fillings.
There are several vegetarian and vegan-friendly flank steak substitutes that you can use with your slow-cooked vegetables and casseroles. Vegan steaks are packed with flavors and imitate steak’s flavor, thanks to the added seasonings.
Mushrooms and tofu can also replace flank steak in stir-fries and fajita mixes if you’re trying to prepare a vegetarian version.