Learn how to make tacos al pastor at home using your good old grill. Marinated using all the traditional ingredients, this al pastor recipe features the authentic Mexican flavor that comes with the ease of cooking the meat on the grill.
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Why you’ll love this Al Pastor recipe
Tacos al pastor is another Mexican dish that has conquered our hearts. It features pork shoulder slices marinated in pineapple juice. The meat is then grilled and sliced and served in tacos, for the most incredible flavor explosion!
- Explosive flavor. The marinade for al pastor meat is nothing like you have tried before. It’s smoky, hot, tangy, and sweet at the same time.
- Perfect for parties. If you are planning on having a taco bar for your next party, consider making some al pastor meat as it’s great for feeding a crowd (along with carne asada and sofritas!).
- Can be made ahead of time. You can cook the al pastor meat ahead of time and use it to make a quick lunch or dinner for the coming days.
- Works with any protein! As evidenced by chicken al pastor, this dish doesn’t need to just rely on pork.
What is al pastor
Translated from Spanish, al pastor means ‘shepherd style’. Developed in central Mexico, al pastor denotes spit-roasted slices of pork. It can also be used to refer to dishes made with al pastor meat, such as al pastor tacos.
Before being grilled, the pork is first marinated with spices, dried chili peppers, pineapple, and achiote paste.
If you have decided to make al pastor tacos, have a look at this list and shop for the ingredients you may not have at home.
- Pork. Boneless pork shoulder cut into ¼ inch slices.
- Pineapple juice. The key ingredient of the al pastor marinade. It gives the pork its signature tangy flavor.
- Pineapple. Fresh pineapple slices for grilling.
- Lime juice. To add a citrusy note to the marinade and help tenderize the meat.
- White vinegar. Apple cider vinegar will work too.
- Onion. Roughly chopped.
- Garlic. Adjust the number of garlic cloves depending on your preferences.
- Achiote paste. Another key ingredient for making al pastor. Achiote paste is a red-colored blend of spices. It contains annatto seeds, garlic, cumin, cinnamon, and clove.
- Spices. I use a mixture of cumin, cinnamon, black pepper, dried oregano, and guajillo chili powder for this recipe. The latter is moderately hot. Customize the amount you use depending on your level of heat tolerance.
- Salt. To taste.
How to make tacos al pastor
Step 1 – Slice and marinate the pork. Add pineapple juice, vinegar, lime juice, spices, salt, achiote paste, and guajillo powder to a blender. Blend everything together and pour the mixture over the slices of pork shoulder.
Massage the meat to coat all pieces with the marinade, then cover the bowl with cling wrap and refrigerate for around 4 hours.
Step 2 – Grill the pork. Remove the pork from the fridge and allow it to come to room temperature. In the meantime, preheat the grill to medium-high. Grill the pork slices for 7-8 minutes per side. Allow the meat to rest for 10 minutes before slicing it.
Step 3 – Assemble the tacos. Grill the fresh pineapple slices until charred on both sides. To assemble the tacos, put al pastor pork on the tortillas along with grilled pineapples and other common taco toppings, including avocado, cilantro, and lime.
What to serve with al pastor
If you have made al pastor meat for tacos, consider serving some toppings to go with it. Here are a few ideas.
To store. Store leftover al pastor meat in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-4 days.
To reheat. Reheat the sliced meat on the stove over medium heat. Add a dash of oil or fat to the pan if the meat seems to be too dry.
Recipe tips and tricks
- Choose the best cuts of pork. Pork shoulder or pork butt is essential (like in lechon asado and carnitas). These two cuts are the best to yield perfect al pastor.
- Don’t skip the marinating. Even if you are not using the authentic cooking technique for the meat, using pineapple juice creates the needed tangy sweet flavor.
- Bast the meat regularly. Don’t throw out any excess marinade. Use it to brush the meat as it is grilling.
- Let the meat rest. Allow five minutes of resting time once the pork is grilled to let the juices redistribute and yield super moist meat.
- Use bottled pineapple juice. While fresh pineapple juice sounds better in theory, it also contains powerful enzymes that may leave the pork mushy.
More delicious Mexican recipes to try
Frequently asked questions
Made with similar ingredients as the al pastor marinade, al pastor sauce is moderately spicy.
Usually, al pastor is always made with pork. However, chicken and steak can also be used.
While pineapple is a signature ingredient in the dish, you can switch it out for another citric fruit like oranges or lemons.
Al Pastor Recipe
- 3 1/4 lbs boneless pork shoulder cut into 1/4 inch sliced
- 200 mls pineapple juice
- 50 mls vinegar
- 2 tablespoon lime juice
- 1 large onion coarsely chopped
- 4 cloves garlic
- 2 teaspoons cumin
- 2 teaspoons oregano
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 2 tablespoons salt
- 1 tablespoon black pepper
- 2 tablespoons achiote paste
- 1/4 cup Guajillo chili powder
- 1 cup pineapple sliced
- In a blender, add pineapple juice, vinegar, lime juice, onion, garlic, cumin, oregano, cinnamon, salt, pepper, achiote paste, and Guajillo chili powder. Blend everything together.
- Pour the marinade over the meat and mix together. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 10 minutes or up to 4 hours. If chilling for 4 hours, remove the meat from the refrigerator 30 minutes before cooking.
- Preheat the grill to medium-high. Grill the meat for 7-8 minutes per side until slightly charred. Grill the pineapples afterward until lightly charred on both sides and set aside.
- Let the meat rest for 10 minutes before slicing into bite pieces.
- Serve the meat on tacos with sliced grilled pineapples, red onion, avocado, fresh cilantro, and lime.
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