Tacos Al Pastor

You’ll find al pastor on the menu at all your favorite taco spots for a reason! It’s a simple taco, but there’s so much flavor in the meat. A little pork, a little pineapple–it’s just an amazing combination. While we aren’t cooking ours on a spit like you see all over Mexico, we’re still bringing the flavor to your home kitchen with options to cook it up on a skillet on the stove, or outside on the grill.

Make it a complete restaurant-style meal with sides of Mexican Rice and Black Beans.

Why Our Recipe

  • Easy marinade made in a blender that’s full of intense flavor.
  • Cooks up super fast in a skillet on the stove or out on the grill for even more flavor.
  • Simple serving with nothing more than tortillas, onion, cilantro, and a hit of lime juice with that delicious pork and pineapple.

Thin slices of pork are marinated in a pineapple-based sauce and then grilled to perfection for the perfect street taco you can make at home. Al pastor is believed to have originated in the early 20th century when Lebanese immigrants introduced the concept of spit-roasting meat to Mexico. The immigrants used a traditional Middle Eastern method of marinating meat in spices and cooking it on a spit and adapted it to use pork instead of lamb or mutton. So al pastor is a fun fusion between the Middle East and Mexico.

Ingredient Notes

An overhead view of the ingredients needed to make our recipe for tacos al pastor.
  • Pork: use either a pork loin or pork butt/shoulder roast. Slice into 1/4-inch slices.
  • Pineapple: fresh pineapple is the absolute best option for this recipe. Canned pineapple works for the marinade, but doesn’t cook up in the same way for topping.
  • Onion: use white or yellow.
  • Chipotle in Adobo: these are sold in cans with other canned peppers like jalapenos and green chiles.
  • Mexican Oregano: is often available in the Latin section of your grocery store and has a distinct flavor, but it can be left out if you don’t have access.
  • Tortillas: corn are the traditional choice, but you can also use flour. We like using a street taco size.
  • Toppings: let the meat and pineapple shine on this and keep toppings limited to red onion and cilantro.

Pork Options: Loin or Shoulder

When it comes to making al pastor, the type of meat that you use can have a big impact on the flavor and texture of the dish. Traditionally, al pastor is made with pork, and there are several different cuts of pork that can be used to make it. We recommend using either a pork loin or a pork shoulder.

Pork loin: Pork loin is a lean and tender cut of meat that comes from the back of the pig. This is your lean option with no fat or possible gristle. It cooks up super fast, but without the fat and marbling, it can dry out quickly.

Pork shoulder: Pork shoulder, also known as pork butt or pork Boston butt, is a tougher and fattier cut of meat that comes from the front of the pig. It’s got all that fat and marbling running through it which gives it more flavor and keeps the meat juicy.

A collage image of four different parts of the process for making tacos al pastor including the sliced pork, the marinade ingredients before blending, the pork marinating, and the pork being grilled.

Grill or Skillet

Grilling al pastor gives it more of that authentic traditional spit-fired flavor, but it’s not required. Not everyone has a grill, and we’ve all run out of propane at some point and had to scramble. When using a skillet, you want to use a heavy nonstick option or cast iron for best results.

Adjusting the Heat Level

This recipe uses chipotle in adobo which you buy in a can. Chipotles are smoked jalapenos so there is definitely some spice there. Even one goes a long way! You can control the amount of heat in your marinade by adding more or less chipotle peppers. As written, this recipe has a medium heat level, leaning towards mild.

A closeup view of tacos al pastor on a platter surrounded by lime slices and grilled pineapple.

Instead of tacos…

Al pastor is typically served in tacos, but there are many other creative ways to enjoy it. Here are a few serving suggestions for al pastor:

  • Al pastor salad: For a lighter option, try serving the al pastor meat over a bed of mixed greens. Top the salad with sliced avocado, cherry tomatoes, corn, black beans, and a drizzle of your favorite dressing.
  • Al pastor burrito: For a heartier meal, try wrapping the al pastor meat in a large flour tortilla with refried beans, cheese, and your choice of toppings.
  • Al pastor nachos: For a fun party snack, layer tortilla chips with al pastor meat, cheese, and your favorite nacho toppings. Bake until the cheese is melted and bubbly, then serve with salsa, guacamole, and sour cream.
  • Al pastor quesadillas: For a quick and easy meal, try making quesadillas with al pastor meat and cheese. Simply place the meat and cheese on a flour tortilla, top with another tortilla, and cook in a skillet until the cheese is melted and the tortillas are crispy.

Storage and Reheating Instructions

Refrigerate leftover meat in an airtight container for up to 3 days. All toppings should be stored separately.

Reheat the roughly chopped pastor in a skillet over medium heat. Cook, stirring frequently, until the meat is heated through and slightly crispy on the edges, about 3 to 5 minutes. Alternatively, you can place the al pastor slices on a baking sheet and heat them in the oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit until heated through. Avoid reheating the meat in the microwave, as this can cause it to become tough and rubbery.

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