How To Make Tacos Al Pastor

Tacos Al Pastor

Meaning “shepherd-style” in Spanish, al pastor is a spit-roasted pork dish from Northern Mexico. It was inspired by shawarma cooking which was brought to Mexico by Lebanese immigrants in the 1960′s. You know shawarma, like gyros, where they pack a bunch of marinated lamb meat on a huge sharp rod and roast it all day, slicing off paper-thin slices as needed? Right. It’s wicked delicious.

But in Mexico, lamb became pork, and chiles and pineapple sneaked in to the marinade. I can say with certainty I have never had a BAD al pastor taco; only good and amazing. Clearly, if they are that pleasing, we all need to know how to replicate al pastor tacos at home. Seriously lacking a huge rotisserie and a fire-place big enough to roast 50 pounds of meat at a time, I adapted the recipe for regular people in regular kitchens. Son of a gun, give me some onion and cilantro and I could eat this every day.

5.0 from 2 reviews

Tacos Al Pastor
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Recipe type: Main
Cuisine: Mexican
Serves: 4-10
Ingredients
  • 1.5 – 3 pound pork roast
  • 3 guajillo chiles
  • 1 ancho chile
  • 1 cup pineapple juice
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider or red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon each: cinnamon, oregano, black pepper, salt
  • ½ cup chopped onion
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • ½ teaspoon achiote (annatto) powder
  • For Serving:
  • Corn tortillas
  • Fresh cilantro, diced onion
  • Pineapple spears or chunks
Instructions
  1. Rehydrate the peppers by soaking in very hot water for 20 minutes. Discard stems and seeds. Put the peppers in a blender with everything but the pork. Whizz it until it’s smooth.
  2. Pour over your pork roast and cook it one of three ways:
  3. Grill: slice the meat thinly, marinate up to 4 hours and grill it with fresh pineapple spears over a hot fire.
  4. Crock pot: put the whole roast and marinade in there and cook on low for 8 hours until it’s falling apart. Add some pineapple chunks in the last hour.
  5. Bake: marinate whole roast up to 24 hours and roast at 350 degrees F, covered, until tender (2-4 hours depending on size). Shred it, add pineapple chunks and stick it under the broiler for a few minutes to crispy it up.
Notes
Remember that pineapple is a natural meat tenderizer. Fresh juice has much more of the active enzymes and can over-tenderize meat if left too long. A whole big roast will be fine marinating overnight, but small pieces of meat will disintegrate in that time. Four hours is enough. Using canned or jarred (pasteurized) juice, you needn’t worry about over- marinating.

These are wonderful served with refried beans and salsa verde!

Comments

  1. I love the combination of spices in this dish. Fantastic!

  2. Another great dish I’m going to have to try. Absolutely love guajillo peppers. You might like this sauce, based on a Rick Bayless recipe, I make with them.

    http://fightthefatfoodie.blogspot.com/2010/03/chicken-enchiladas-with-guajillo-sauce.html

  3. Awesome recipe. Make sure that’s “Mexican” oregano. ;-)

  4. Oh yum! I just made pulled pork…. they are just super yum

  5. This taco is fantastic looking!!! My husband would eat tacos everyday if I let him…This is a great twist on our normal taco dinner!

  6. Gosh, your taco looks great. I’m glad to see another use for my hardly-used crockpot.

    Congrats on your well-deserved Top 9!

  7. I like the crockpot style. It looks terrific!

  8. As entertaining as usual! Congrats on the top nine on Foodbuzz. I’m a bit jealous. At least I’m making Swedish princess cake tonight :D

  9. Thanks..I am trying it in my pressure cooker for tonight. I had some frozen porkchops I wanted to get rid off, but not the nice center cuts I like. So, in looking for a taco recipe on food buzz…wha-lah…there this was this in the daily top 10. So, I am improvising a little. Will let you know how the pressure cooker works out..

    • Hilah Cooking says:

      Hi Nancy! Please do let me know how it goes. I need more reasons to pull out my pressure cooker.

  10. My Favorite!!!

  11. Great recipe! My husband is working tonight on a version of lamb tacos- lamb shoulder stewed for several hours on very low then finished on the grill (tomorrow!). Your recipe made my wait even harder!

    • Hilah Cooking says:

      Thanks! I checked out your blog and those recipes look great, too! I hope you post the lamb tacos.

  12. Nice! I’ve been looking for a walk through for this recipe since I was knee high to a taco stand. Any thoughts on the “silver part” part of the pork loin? In other words, should you leave it on or trim it?

    You get mad props for heating your torts over gas. You are like an honorary Hispanic for that move alone. No microwaves. Comal, grill, or gas is the way to go with torts.

    Full Mexican citizenship is granted when you swap out that fancy marble mortar and pestle for a old fay-shoned molcajete.

    Great site!

    -Mical Trejo

    • Hilah Cooking says:

      Hola, Mical! I leave the silver part on with no adverse effects, mostly because it’s tedious to remove and I am lazy. I’ve never used a real molcajete – seems too big for grinding small amounts of spices which is mostly what I’d use it for. On the other hand, it would be cool to have full Mexican citizenship.

      • Yolanda says:

        Hola Hilah…you know…they do make the small molcajete’s….lol…but I’m with you on removing the silver part…besides…if grilling, it will either add to flavor/moisture or burn off…so why not just leave it on….

    • Yolanda says:

      I totally agree Mical…in my house, you are ‘banned’ from using the micro for tortialla heating…my step son loves to ‘yank’ my chain and sends me text pics of his tortillas in the micro….lol told my hubby…next house we buy will definitely have a gas stove…just for that reason…
      Hilah…loved your video…first one of you I see, but you just gained a follower…

      • Thanks, Yolanda! The gas stove is the BEST way! I’m so glad you like the show and hope to hear from you again!

  13. Thank you for not saying “me llamo ES Hilah” LOL! My students make that error all the time. When I saw you put the tortillas on the stovetop and stacked them, I instantly fell in love with you. You are too hilarious!

    Your tacos al pastor looks absolutely fantastic. I will be trying out this recipe on my (Mexican) girlfriend soon. I hope she likes it. She is picky, especially since this dish is her favorite.

    • Hilah Cooking says:

      Ha! I guess my Spanish hasn’t totally left me yet. I hope your girlfriend approves of the tacos. I’m all nervous now!!! Eek!

  14. tacos never looked so good!

  15. Thanks for the recipe! I had tacos el pastor (con queso y pina!!) in Chihuahua and was in love. There has been a little empty hole in my heart… or stomach… ever since I left ; ) I will have to try this recipe!

  16. What do you think I could sub for pineapple juice, if anything? I’m allergic to pineapples :(

    • Hilah Cooking says:

      Hmm. How about papaya or mangoes? Papaya will tenderize it like fresh pineapple does, but mangoes would grill better. Maybe a little of each? Let me know what you end up doing.

  17. Howdy! Love yer hillbilly accent (fellow billy here)…..the only thing I like better is tacos al pastor. I eat them several times a week at my favorite hometown taqueria. I definetly will have to try yer recipe………thanks for sharing….only thing you forgot, but I think I said in yer video? The ever so important squeeze of lime juice right before you inset said taco in mouth! OK my mouth is waterin’ now…….SB Waco,Tejas

  18. ahhhh good recipe that i must try! you’re funny as phok too! don’t edit me out bc of my lingo! lol
    dang, i’d like to have one of those vertical spit thingies so i can make the real deal!

  19. Hiyah, Hilah! (see what I did there? Am I the first to do that? :o)

    Quick question – I’ve got my pork merrily chugging away in my crockpot at this exact moment. Once its done, would you shred it like pulled pork?

    Bigger question: if yes, yould you put the shredded pork back into the crock with the marinade to soak up the juices? Or is that just crazy talk?

    Thanks Hilah – this is exciting!!

    • Hilah Cooking says:

      Hey Graham! I would just dice it and throw it back in there with some more pineapple chunks if you have them. Shredding it and mixing with the sauce would make it too wet, me thinks. But chunky cubes of meat with juice sounds good. I wish I was at your house right now!!!

  20. Hello Hilah. Ive just moved back to my really small home town from Phx AZ with my Hubby & 2 boys and I tried al pastor tacos for the first time over there and fell in love! I have to travel out of town to buy the meat in bulk just to satisfy my taco fix. Any way tomorrow is my hubbys B-Day & im going to suprise him with these tacos! Thank you for the great recipe!

    • Hey Lil! That’s great that you found the recipe in time for his birthday! I love this recipe and I hope y’all have a great dinner tomorrow!
      Let me know how they turn out. :)

  21. Francisco Colmenero says:

    Hi Hilah, I don`t Know if you`re still active doing this teaching show on the internet, I`m a Mexican chef and out of many people who make or do mexican cuisine on the internet; you are a piece of work, besides being so cute, congratulations; your reciepes are not complicated, and they usually come out very delicious.

    • Hi Francisco!
      I can’t tell you how much that means to me! Thank you so much!
      Yes, we are still making a video every week, plus posting other recipes under the “Blog” tab twice a week. It’s so much fun and hearing from people like you make it so worthwhile.
      Thanks for writing. :)

      • Francisco Colmenero says:

        You`re very welcome Hilah, cooking it has been part of my life since I was a kid; now is the way I do my living, after almost 17 years working in many different restaurants and very for good and famous chefs, I started working in my own mobile-food cart a year ago, I like to cook using my own recipes, but I also like to use some other people recipes, the Michelada looks very delicious, so i`m gonna go to start using your recipe… if you don`t mind. Thank`s for answering my comment, and sorry for taking so much of your space, time and my grammar.

        • I’m honored that you like my michelada recipe so much! Use it however you like.
          Where do you live? Maybe I could come visit your food cart someday!

          P.S. You have nothing to apologize for – I love hearing from people. :)

  22. Francisco Colmenero says:

    I live in Lakewood Co. and I work my mobile food cart on Evergreen farmer marquets on tuesdays, also on Broadway and Irvington 2 or 3 nights a week, mainly on Friday nights. Thanks again for your time; Francisco

  23. Veronica W. says:

    I just make al pastor tacos, YOUR al pastor tacos for my son Vito, (4 year old b-day),what can I say :freaking delicious.Thank you Santa Hilah.xoxoxoxoxo Vero.

    • Hi Vero!
      Thanks for writing! I’m happy they turned out so well for you and Vito. I’m impressed that a 4 year-old has such a grown-up palate! ;)
      xoxoxo,
      Hilah

  24. Saw your video. The only thing cooler than you is your recipe. I’ve had great al-pastor and I want to try this out. Simple, fresh, awesome ingredients. I love your cooking options, I don’t have a grill right now, but I’ll try this in the oven and maybe crockpot. Thanks.

    • Hey Jon!
      The crockpot is perfect for this time of year! I hope you try the recipe and let me know how you like it. Al pastor is one of my favorites of all time.

  25. OK Hilah, crock pot it is! I just took a 2.76 lb. boneless pork shoulder that’s been in my freezer for about 6 months and put it in the fridge to thaw so I can make this recipe this weekend. I”ll marinate it for a few hours and then cut it into 2 or more large chunks and slow cook it.

    Once the meat is cooked, do you ever crisp it up a bit in a skillet or the oven? Just wondering. In any event, I’ll get back on how it turns out.

  26. That’s some mighty fine tacos you got there!

  27. Great video, followed it exactly and it came out great. Thank you!

  28. Hi Hilah,
    It’s twice now I’ve run into cool recipes of yours online. This was the first one. I’ve made al pastor before but this time I used your recipe and it was the best. The guajillos and anchos really make a rich paste. Used the achiote paste with the little sombero guy on it. I marinated country style ribs overnight and threw them on the grill. Also grilled some pineapple slices. Reaally good, I want to make some tortas out of them next.

    • Thanks, Tracy! I’m glad you liked this recipe the best. I love guajillo chilies. Sounds awesome on a torta, especially shredded up and topped with some salty cheese and avocado. Mmmm…

  29. Just made these tacos al pastor, soooo good! My bro got crazy and fried up an egg to go on top of one. Win! Can’t wait to try another recipe. Thanks.

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