When Steph and I want tacos at home (about once a week) our number one choice is al pastor. Is there anything as satisfying and delicious as making your own al pastor tacos at home?
Your local Mexican place will always have the best taco al pastor, but for those times when you can’t go out, this recipe is so good, you’ll feel like you’re back where your taco heart belongs.
My taco heart lives in small seaside towns in Yucatán, where I first had tacos al pastor with Steph sitting on plastic chairs in restaurants without walls. We died from the summer heat, but we loved every moment of the biggest bites we have ever had up to this point in our lives.
What is a pastor
Al pastor, if you’ve never heard of it, is a Mexican dish with vertical spit slowly roasted pork. Vertical spits are often associated with Middle Eastern food and this is no exception. Legend has it that Lebanese immigrants introduced the cooking method to Mexico, where they combined it with the traditional adobada to publicize the genius style al pastor.
It’s served in all kinds of dishes, from tortas / sandwiches, to pizza and even over rice, but the most famous way to serve it is in tacos al pastor. The crispy smoked pork is sliced to order with a razor sharp knife while flame crisp by the vertical spit. The meat falls directly into each taco and is topped with a slow roasted pineapple blossom. It is paradise.
There is no doubt the best al pastor tacos are across the street.
Because you probably don’t have a flame-powered vertical spit at home, you can’t reproduce it 100% perfectly. But that doesn’t mean you can’t have an amazing and equally good version at home, especially if you’re far from Mexico or the south right now. This recipe makes, in my opinion, the best al pastor tacos possible at home.
Why this al pastor recipe
This is the best homemade al pastor recipe you’ll find. It’s smoky, sweet, and super easy. I’ve tried a lot of recipes on the internet and none of them come close to what I love about al pastor – the smoky finish and crisp edges.
I have had this recipe in my back pocket for a long time. It’s our choice for taco nights, but I’ve never put it together until now because I’ve always thought the ingredients were a bit esoteric. Well worth it, this recipe is simple, tasty and really comes close to the real deal of the street.
Ingredients Al Pastor
Dried mirasol peppers, sweet, smoked and not very spicy. One of the most common chili peppers for Mexican cuisine and one of our favorites. I have found that the easiest way to buy the best quality chili peppers is online, where it is far superior to anything outside of a good Mexican grocery store.
An annatto spice blend that goes well in everything. Not at all spicy, just deeply flavorful. My favorite brand is El Yucateco. Be careful not to stain your clothes or surfaces if you can help it.
Chipotle peppers in adobo
These are spicy smoked dried chipotle peppers (chipotle is smoked jalapeno) in an adobo sauce – a sweet mix of tomatoes, vinegar and spices. This recipe uses an entire box. Most people won’t find the chipotle in the very spicy adobo, but if you don’t prefer the spice level of jalapeno, it may be best to skip one or two of the pepper pods inside the box. – the adobo part is however a must.
Al pastor is traditionally served with roasted pineapple cut from the top of the vertical spit. This recipe needs pineapple juice anyway, so I’d rather use canned pineapple chunks and roast them, rather than processing a whole pineapple. Most 398 ml / 13.5 oz cans will make exactly 1/2 cup of juice, which is called for in this recipe.
Corn or flour tortillas
A lot of people prefer corn, but if you live in Sonora you know flour is great. When I’m not around large flour tortillas, I buy locally made white corn. And if it’s gonna be the mass market, I’m going for Mission. Look for a street taco size.
How to make a pastor
- Soak your peppers. The guajillos are dried and soaking them makes them soft and easy to seed.
- Slice and season your pork. I try to choose a slice as thin as possible, so that there is more surface to absorb the marinade.
- Prepare the marinade. Toss the guajillos with the garlic, sugar, achiote, adobo and pineapple juice until smooth.
- Marinate. Marinate your pork for at least 30 minutes, but better yet, overnight.
- Roast. You probably don’t have a vertical skewer at home, so the best way to achieve this combination of the supple, soft interior and the crisp, smoky edges is to arrange the pork in a single layer and broil it over. 500 ° F until cooked. Don’t forget to roast your pineapples as well (on a separate baking sheet).
How to make tacos al pastor
- Prepare your toppings. Dice your onions, chop your cilantro, cut your jalapeno peppers and spread your salsas.
- Chop it up. Roughly chop your pork so that the majority of the pieces are about 1/2 “x 1/2”.
- Crunch your pastor. Frying is optional but really intensifies the flavors, not to mention making it nice and piping hot.
- Prepare your tortillas. If you are using flour tortillas, you should bake them now. If you have corn, cover 10-12 at a time with a damp paper towel and microwave for 30 seconds (or use a tortilla warmer like we do).
- Build and enjoy! Top with roasted pineapple and any other toppings you like.
If you eat Mexican food it is not a spicy dish, but if you are not used to spices (i.e. black pepper is just borderline spicy for you ), you may want to leave out a chipotle or two. can. If you really, really hate spices, you’ll want to seed guajillos as well. We use them for the smoky flavor in this recipe, so you can remove all the seeds however you want. Larger peppers are easier to seed. Once softened, just flip them over and remove the stem, and 80-90% of them should fall off right away.
What to serve with tacos al pastor
Recipe Al Pastor
Super easy sweet and crispy smoked roast pork tacos, garnished with grilled pineapples.
- 8 dried guajillo peppers
- 2 kg pork shoulder / butt cut into ~ 1/4 “slices, boneless
- 8 cloves Garlic peeled
- 7 oz chipotle peppers in adobo 1 box
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 2 tablespoon achiote paste 1.75 oz / half pack
- 13.5 oz pineapple chunks separate fruits and juices, 1 box
- corn or flour tortillas warmed up, as required
Soak the guajillos in a small bowl filled with hot tap water for 15 minutes. You can either remove the stems and seeds ahead of time or wait until the peppers are tender and pliable, hold them by the tips, upside down, over the sink and cut off the stems. The seeds should fall off right away.
Meanwhile, generously season the pork with salt.
Add the guajillos, garlic, chipotle in the adobo, sugar, achiote paste and 1/2 cup pineapple juice in a blender and toss in a smooth marinade.
Marinate the pork for at least 30 minutes and up to 24 hours in the refrigerator.
Preheat your oven to 500 ° F. Arrange the pork in a single layer on another baking sheet. Grill pork until edges and corners start to char, about 20 minutes.
While you wait for your pork to finish, arrange the drained pineapple pieces in a single layer on a foil-lined baking sheet. Remove the pork and grill the pineapples until charred, another 15 minutes.
Slice meats, fry them and make tacos.
Makes approximately 16 tacos (2 oz per taco). For 8 people when combined with other foods, or 4 for taco nights. Estimated nutrition does not include tortillas, toppings or sauces (if applicable).
Recipe Al Pastor
Amount per serving (2 oz)
Calories from Fat 93
% Daily Value *
Large 10.3 g16%
Saturated fat 3.3 g21%
Cholesterol 51 mg17%
Sodium 237 mgten%
Potassium 212 mg6%
Carbohydrates 5.1 g2%
Protein 15.4 g31%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.