Get ready to savor this delightful Tacos Al Pastor Recipe, which brings the zest and spice of restaurant-style dishes right to your kitchen! Prepared and cooked using traditional Mexican ingredients, you’ll enjoy the genuine taste and a tender, crispy texture that’s simply irresistible.
Tacos Al Pastor, a delightful Mexican dish, has its roots in Lebanese cuisine. Inspired by the flavors of lamb shawarma, this “shepherd style” meal is bursting with taste and offers various ways to prepare and savor it. The dish’s history can be traced back to the shawarma spit-grilled meat brought to Mexico by Lebanese immigrants, and it shares similarities with the Turkish doner kebab and Greek gyros. While shawarma typically features lamb (hence the “shepherd style” name), gyros and tacos al pastor in Mexico is made with pork.
In my tacos al pastor recipe, I include Mexican oregano, epazote, and achiote paste to capture that truly authentic taste. While these ingredients are optional, they bring a fantastic depth of flavor that you’ll surely appreciate. You can find them at any Mexican supermarket.
If you’d like, you can marinate the meat overnight – that’s what I usually do! But even just 4 hours is enough time to tenderize and infuse the pork with delicious flavors.
Keep reading to learn how to create this mouth-watering and authentic Mexican dish. Let’s get started on making some amazing al pastor tacos!
Ingredients of Tacos Al Pastor
- 5 lbs pork shoulder (boneless)
- 1 large pineapple (See Note 1)
- 1/3 cup chili seasoning (powder) (see below for a quick option)
- 2 tbsp achiote paste (optional, See note 2)
- 1 white onion peeled and halved
- 3/4 cup pineapple juice
- 1/4 cup white vinegar
- 5 cloves garlic
- 3 tsp salt
- 1 tsp Mexican oregano (See Note 3)
- 1/2 tsp ground cumin
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/8 tsp ground clove
- 2 tsp epazote (optional, See Note 4)
- flour or corn tortillas
- 1 1/2 cups fresh pineapple diced (from above pineapple)
- 1 white onion sliced or diced
- 1 bunch of cilantro chopped
- limes quartered
- Salsa Verde
- Roasted Tomato Salsa
- Pico de Gallo
HOMEMADE CHILI POWDER (OPTIONAL)
- 3 pasilla (negro) dried chiles (2.5 tablespoons ground/powdered)
- 3 dried Guajillo chiles (2.5 tablespoons ground/powdered)
- 2 dried chiles de arbol (1 teaspoon ground/powdered)
Instructions for Making Perfect Tacos Al Pastor
IF GRILLING OR ROASTING IN THE OVEN, SLICE PORK SHOULDER INTO 1/4-INCH SLICES. FOR OTHER METHODS, TRIM FAT FROM THE PORK SHOULDER AND CUT MEAT INTO 3 TO 4-INCH CHUNKS.
- If using your own chili powder, skip this step and make the marinade.
- Using gloves, remove the stems and scrape out the seeds from the dried chiles. Toast over low heat in a dry skillet for a few minutes.
- Allow chiles to cool, then grind to a powder in a spice/coffee grinder. Alternatively, soak the peppers in hot water for 20 minutes, then blend with the marinade ingredients.
- To a blender, add the chili powder, achiote paste, onion, pineapple juice, vinegar, garlic, salt, Mexican oregano, cinnamon, clove, and epazote (optional). Blend until pureed.
- If grilling or roasting in the oven, slice pork shoulder into 1/4-inch slices. For other methods, trim fat from the pork shoulder and cut meat into 3 to 4-inch chunks.
- Place pork in a sealable food storage bag or container that can be covered with a lid. Pour the chile marinade over the pork.
- Wearing kitchen gloves, use your hands to toss the chile marinade and pork together, then cover the container.
- Chill in the refrigerator for a minimum of 4 hours, or up to 10 hours.
- Allow meat to come to room temp prior to cooking.
FOR THE GRILL OR SMOKER: (SEE NOTE 5)
- Preheat grill to 250°F.
- Shake off excess marinade. Place cut pineapple bottoms into a cast iron skillet or shallow baking pan.
- Insert a wooden or metal skewer or long wooden chopstick through the center of the pineapple.
- Start layering slices of marinated pork, repeating until meat is used, or you have 1 inch of skewer left. Leave 1 inch of the skewer on top and cap it with a trimmed pineapple top.
- Grill at 250°F for 3 1/2 hours, or until internal temp reaches 145°F-150°F. (See Note 5). Start basting with pan juices in the last hour.
- The outside should be caramelized and crispy. Use a sharp chef’s or serrated knife to slice meat in a downward motion. Put the pan back on the grill to crisp up the edges as you continue to slice the remaining meat.
OVEN METHOD #1: SLICES
- Remove all racks except the bottom one from the oven. Preheat oven to 250°F.
- Assemble meat onto skewers as described in the Grilling instructions, above.
- Slow roast pork in the oven for 3 1/2 hours, or until internal temperature reaches 145°F-150°F. Start basting with pan juices in the last hour.
- The outside should be caramelized and crispy. Use a large chef’s knife to slice meat in a downward motion. Put the pan back in the oven to crisp up the edges as you continue to slice the remaining meat if you’d like.
OVEN METHOD #2: CHUNKS
- Preheat oven to 250°F. Shake off excess marinade and cut pork into 3 to 4-inch chunks. Transfer to an 11×13″ roasting pan or stone bakeware dish
Slow roast at 250°F covered with aluminum foil for 5 hours, or until internal temperature reaches 145°F-150°F. Remove the aluminum foil and continue roasting for 1 hour or until completely tender when pulled with a fork.
INSTANT POT (PRESSURE COOKER)
- Shake off excess marinade and cut pork into 3 to 4-inch chunks. Place marinated pork chunks and remaining marinade in the pressure cooker. (See note 6). Attach the lid and set the valve to “sealing”.
- Press Manual and High-Pressure settings, then use the [+] button to choose 25 minutes pressure cooking time. When done, allow a Natural Pressure Release for 15 minutes, then release any remaining pressure from the pressure cooker.
- Remove pork chunks and transfer to a baking dish or stoneware pan. Broil in oven uncovered for 10 minutes to render fat and crisp up edges. Check that the internal temperature reaches 145°F-150°F.
SLOW COOKER METHOD:
- Shake off excess marinade and cut pork into 3 to 4-inch chunks.
- Place marinated pork chunks and remaining marinade in the slow cooker. Cook for 4 hours on high or 8 hours on Low, or until internal temperature reaches 145°F-150°F.
- Remove meat from the slow cooker and transfer it to a baking dish or stoneware pan. Broil uncovered in the oven for 10 minutes to render fat and crisp up edges.
Serve in small tortillas topped with chopped onion, cilantro, a squeeze of lime juice, and hot salsa. I like diced pineapple on top as well, but this is optional.
Tacos Al Pastor Recipe’s Notes
- I used 1 large pineapple. Trim the green top off and cut the top about 2 inches down and do the same from the bottom. These will be the bases for the skewers to stand in and the meat is then placed on top. Top the meat with 2 more 2-inch pieces of trimmed pineapple rings. The remaining is trimmed, diced, and used for serving (about 1 1/2 cups).
- Achiote paste can be found in most Mexican markets, or you can make your own achiote paste. It creates the authentic deep red color and flavor that Al Pastor is known for.
- Mexican oregano is a relative of Lemon Verbena and is native to Mexico, with notes of mild licorice and citrus.
Mediterranean oregano is a member of the mint family and most often is used in Greek and Italian recipes. Mediterranean oregano is the one most found in spice racks at supermarkets.
- Epazote is similar to oregano and fennel with minty notes. It’s found in Mexican cooking and is typically used in beans for flavor and to help reduce their tendency to cause flatulence.
- I grill in a Traeger smoker on the lowest rack because it allows me to fine-tune and control the heat at lower temperatures better than regulating a charcoal or gas grill. When grilling, times may vary depending on what type of grill you are using. Pork is done when the internal temperature of pork is 145°F to 150°F.
- I have an earlier model Instant Pot (December 2015) that is not as sensitive as newer models that show the BURN notice quite easily. If that happens to yours, add 1/2 cup to 1 cup of chicken stock if needed.
Nutrition Information on Tacos Al Pastor Recipe
Calories: 196kcal | Carbohydrates: 6g | Protein: 23g | Fat: 8g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Cholesterol: 77mg | Sodium: 478mg | Potassium: 524mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 475IU | Vitamin C: 35.6mg | Calcium: 31mg | Iron: 1.7mg