One of the most popular cuts of beef in the US, flank steak is a tough cut of beef that comes from the cow’s abdominal or lower chest muscle. This delectable lean cut is a staple of Tex-Mex cuisine and Southwestern cooking, but it also works best in recipes that call for marinating the meat or cooking it at a high temperature.
Want to make a recipe with flank steak but can’t find it at your local supermarket? Try these flank steak substitutes instead. They cook and taste just like the real deal and are some of the best substitutes to use in a pinch.
1. Skirt Steak
Skirt steak is one of the most popular flank steak replacements. It’s a relatively thin cut that comes from the plate of the cow, has marbled fat on the surface, and is super juicy but has a tendency to get tough if not prepared well.
While skirt steak is not as lean as flank steak, that doesn’t take away from the flavors it offers — especially when the cooking method requires grilling, cooking over high heat, or broiling. Ideally, you should marinate the steak before cooking and make sure you always cut against the grain into thin strips.
2. Top Round
The top round cut, which is lean and tough, is commonly referred to as “London broil.” This is a broad cut of meat from the top of the hind legs or hindquarters. Since it is a thick cut of muscle, it has very little fat.
Because of its texture, flank steak and top round can be used interchangeably. Especially in marinade-based dishes, the seasonings will infuse the top round steak with robust flavors while also tenderizing it. If you don’t want to marinate the meat, use a dry rub of garlic cloves and pepper and set it aside at room temperature for at least an hour before grilling on medium heat.
3. Hanger Steak
Typically thinly sliced like flank steak, hanger steak has a higher fat content, which gives it a little more juiciness and tenderness than flank steak. This meat comes from the cow’s underbelly, closer to the loin. It is incredibly flavorful, making it a favorite among hardcore meat-lovers.
Hanger steak is a good stand-in for flank steak in almost all recipes, especially ones that require basting with a marinade. If you decide to grill the meat to bring out its exquisite flavors, look for recipes that require minimal cooking time because hanger steak can become quite tough if overcooked. Anything over two minutes on each side will turn it into tough, chewy meat.
4. Tri-Tip Steak
This boneless, triangular cut of beef is a budget-friendly alternative to flank steak. It comes from the bottom (or tip!) of the sirloin and is usually one inch thick. The tri-tip steak has a fatty edge that is easily trimmable but makes sure to trim it only after cooking as that will help melt all the flavors together nicely.
Tri-tip steak works best in preparations like grilling and pan-searing — basically, anything that requires quick cooking. Because this is a lean meat cut, marinating it before cooking may be necessary to tenderize the meat and make it more adaptable to recipes.
5. Flat Iron Steak
Flat iron steak is a rich, delicious, and tender cut of meat that comes from the chuck primal/shoulder of the cow. This steak cut is connected to the top blade cut with fatty connective tissues. Once you pare down the connective tissues, you get two cuts — top blade and flat iron.
When substituting for flank steak, make sure to cook it just right as flat iron steak can easily become chewy and tough if overcooked.
6. Flap Steak
Flap steak is a thin and rather lean cut of beef that comes from a cow’s belly. Because of its texture, when grilling the flap steak, you need to char the steak’s edges to keep it crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. This may take some time to master.
It has a coarse grain and thus shines best in flank steak recipes that involve marinating the meat or grilling it, delivering an explosive burst of flavors. Make sure to also check the internal temperature of the steak to ensure it is cooked perfectly; undercooking will result in a chewy steak while overcooking will result in an unappealing dry steak.
7. Top Sirloin
Top sirloin, also known as top butt steak, hip sirloin steak, and center-cut sirloin, is more tender than bottom sirloin and makes a good flank steak replacement.
Much like the rest of the cuts on this list, top sirloin is best used to replace flank steak in stir-fries and recipes that call for rubs or marinades. This meat cut is also great for grilling; just be careful not to overcook it or it will become tough.
8. Chicken Breast
Is beef not your choice of meat? Consider using the boneless, skinless chicken breast as a substitute for flank steaks instead. It’s low in fat, high in protein, absorbs the flavors of the marinade and rubs quickly, and, most importantly, it’s cheap and readily available.
Use it in flank steak stews, stir-fries, grilled preparations, or any recipe that calls for the use of Mexican seasonings for layered flavors.
9. Portobello Mushrooms
This vegetarian alternative to flank steak has a meaty texture and a delicious earthy flavor. These mushrooms are also large, typically 5-6 inches in length, and can perfectly mimic the size of most meat cuts.
However, portobello mushrooms cannot offer the same flavor as flank steak, but they are extremely versatile and can work wonderfully with marinades. Use them in tacos, enchiladas, and fajitas to replace flank steak on your vegetarian menu.
Tofu is an incredibly satisfying vegan substitute for flank steak. It is made with soy milk that has been curdled to create a rectangular treat. Tofu is very rich in protein, has a high-fat content, and is low in calories.
As it is incredibly bland, the preparation for cooking tofu involves combining it with a blend of seasonings and flavorings to create “steaks” for meat dishes like fajitas, quesadillas, and pot pies.