There’s a reason Tacos Al Pastor are everyone’s favorite and I’m so excited to share my take on on these delicious Mexican tacos, adapted for home cooks to use a grill, stove or oven to cook the meat. Serve them on warm corn tortillas with tender meat, grilled pineapple, pickled red onions, and cilantro.
Looking for more taco recipes? Try my Birria Tacos, Ground Beef Tacos, Grilled Fish Tacos, or Shrimp Tacos!
I’ve wanted to share a Tacos Al Pastor recipe for years, ever since falling in love with them from various restaurants and street vendors in Mexico City, Puebla and several other states throughout Mexico. After lots of testing with cooking the meat a variety of ways, I’m so thrilled to share a recipe I think is an absolute winner!
This isn’t an authentic Tacos Al Pastor recipe, since they are traditionally made by roasting the pork on a vertical spit and cutting off thin pieces from it. Several recipes online try to mimic this method but I think end up overly complicated and messy. This recipe is easy, approachable, and results in incredibly flavorful, fantastic Al Pastor tacos.
How to make Tacos Al Pastor:
Prepare Pork: Remove any large pieces of fat. Slice the pork horizontally into long and wide, 1/4’’ thick pieces (you could ask your butcher to do this).
Soften Chilies: Remove seeds and veins from the dried chiles (wear gloves if desired) and add them to a small saucepan. Cover with water, bring to a boil and simmer for 15 minutes, to soften the chiles.
Make Marinade: Add softened chiles and ¼ cup of the water from the pot (discard the rest) to a high powdered blender with onion, garlic cloves, allspice, peppercorn, cloves, Mexican oregano, cumin, ginger, achiote powder, salt, apple cider vinegar, and juice. Blend until completely smooth.
Marinate: Add pork and marinade to a large bowl or ziplock bag, mixing to coat the pork all over. Cover and refrigerate, ideally for several hours, or overnight.
Grill: Remove pork from marinade and cook on a very hot grill for a few minutes on each side until just shy of 145 degrees F. Remove to a cutting board to rest for 5 minutes. Chop into small pieces for serving. (Grill pineapple if desired —see notes).
Assemble: Warm tortillas in a hot dry skillet, or toast them on the grill. Add a spoonful of pork. Top with chopped pineapple, onion, cilantro and a squeeze of lime juice. I also like to add Tomatillo Salsa or hot sauce.
Serve: Enjoy with a side of Mexican Rice, chips and salsa, and a glass of Horchata.
Make Ahead and Freezing Instructions:
To Make Ahead: The meat for this tacos al pastor recipe can be made hours or a day ahead to help prep this meal ahead of time. You can make the pickled red onions and slice the pineapple ahead of time too.
To Freeze: The meat can be frozen before or after cooking. Just make sure to remove as much air from the freezer bag as possible and seal tightly. Store in freezer for up to 3 months. Let thaw completely in refrigerator before heating.
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Tacos Al Pastor
- 3 lb pork shoulder , sliced into wide, thin pieces
- 4 pineapple spears
- 6 guajillo chiles
- 1 chile de arbol
- 5 cloves garlic
- ¼ of an onion
- 10 whole black peppercorns
- 1 teaspoon Mexican oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
- 2 packets Sazon Goya* , OR 1 Tablespoons ground achiote powder
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1/4 cup pineapple or orange juice
- 15 corn tortillas , white or yellow
- 1/2 cup pickled red onion OR chopped red or white onion
- 1/2 cup fresh chopped cilantro
- lime wedges
- creamy avocado salsa* optional, for serving
- Cut Pork: Remove any large pieces of fat. Slice the pork horizontally into long, 1/4’’ thick pieces (you could see if your butcher would do this).
- Soften Chiles: Remove seeds and veins from the dried chiles (wear gloves if desired). Add to a small saucepan cover with water. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 15 minutes, to soften the chiles.
- Blend: Add chiles and ¼ cup of water from the pot (discard remaining water) to a high powdered blender. Add onion, garlic cloves, allspice, peppercorn, cloves, Mexican oregano, cumin, ginger, achiote powder, salt, apple cider vinegar, and juice. Blend until completely smooth.
- Marinate: Add pork to a large bowl or ziplock bag and spread mixture all over pork, tossing to coat. Cover and refrigerate for several hours, or overnight.
- Grill Pork: Remove pork from marinade and cook on a very hot grill for a few minutes on each side until just shy of 145 degrees F. Remove to a cutting board allow to rest.
- Grill pineapple: Brush pineapple spears with olive oil and place on hot grill, cooking briefly on both sides. Remove and chop into pieces.
- Assemble Tacos: Chop pork into small pieces for serving. Warm tortillas in a hot dry skillet or on the grill. Top tortillas with a spoonful of pork some pineapple, onion, cilantro and a squeeze of lime juice.
- Serving Size: About 3 tacos per person (feeds about 5 people)
- Pineapple: Grilling is optional–fresh chopped pineapple may be used, or even canned pineapple cut into small pieces, if good fresh pineapple is not available.
- Sazon Goya should be easily found in the Mexican aisle at the grocery store and adds great flavor. Achiotte is more authentic for tacos al pastor but may be harder to find in the stores (or buy it online.)
- Avocado sauce or salsa: We love to serve these with a creamy avocado sauce or salsa on top, like this recipe. Or, this store-bought avocado hot sauce, or mild guacamole salsa.
- Spice level: Tacos Al Pastor are very mild in spice level. To add heat, serve with fresh sliced fresh jalapeño coins or a red hot chili pepper.
- Oven Method: To braise the pork, cut the pork into a few large chunks (instead of slicing it thinly) and marinate as directed. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Add oil to a large dutch oven over medium high heat. Once hot, add pork pieces (working in batches if needed) and cook for a few minutes on each side, until browned. Remove to a plate. Add 1 ½ cups of chicken broth to pot to deglaze the pan and scrape up any browned bits from the bottom. Return pork pieces. Cover with lid and place in oven. Cook for 2 ½ hours, until meat is tender. Shred meat, and serve.
- Slow Cooker Method: Cut the pork into a few large chunks (instead of slicing it thinly). Marinate for several hours as directed. Add pork to slow cooker with ½ cup chicken broth. Cook on low for 6-8 hours. Shred meat, and serve.
- Stovetop Method: Cook the meat in a hot cast iron skillet, grill pan, or non-stick skillet over medium high heat, with a little bit of olive oil in it.
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Absolutely love this recipe. You can easily make a huge batch and freeze for multiple easy dinners in the future. Not to mention, it’s super yummy and tastes really fresh with some chopped cilantro and homemade pickled onions. This is a homerun!
Winner for the whole family. Easy and tasty for my kids, but still sophisticated enough for dad. The marinade gives the pork a lovely test, and together with the crunchy tacos, sweet pineapple and pickled onion, you get a great combination. Just prepare and marinade the pork a day before making.
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