Best Al Pastor Recipes
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Top Rated Al Pastor Recipes
Pineapple's place in savory food is often, rightfully up for debate. We know this much; pineapple belongs in tacos al pastor. Packed with flavor, these pork tacos make for perfect spring or summer grilling. Recipe courtesy of Pati Jinich
Jeff Blows Our Minds with Backyard Tacos al Pastor
GZ says it’s the best thing he’s ever made on the show.
Jeff Mauro makes Charred Tacos al Pastor, as seen on Food Network's The Kitchen
If you’re a fan of Mexican food you’ve had Tacos al Pastor. To make this classic dish, marinated pork is piled high on a vertical rotisserie, like a Middle Eastern shawarma, slow roasted and shaved off the stack in thin ribbons. The juicy meat is then heaped on warm tortillas and topped with the classic taco toppings. You would probably never think of tackling this gravity-defying dish in your backyard but Jeff's easy method for Charred Tacos al Pastor makes this showstopper a reality.
Jeff takes marinated thinly sliced pork and stacks it into a plastic takeout container with pineapple slices on each end. Once the meat sets in the refrigerator, he pulls it out and skewers it to keep the pieces together. He then grills the stack. The result is a mini tower of meat that is easily sliced off onto waiting charred tortillas. GZ is floored saying, “You just put on a show with the food. This is magnificent. This is probably the best thing you’ve ever made on the show.” Just look at that!
- For the Pork:
- 2 whole ancho chiles, seeds and stems removed
- 2 whole pasilla or guajillo chiles, seeds and stems removed
- 1/2 cup homemade or store-bought low-sodium chicken stock
- 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
- 1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
- 1 teaspoon dried ground cumin seed
- 1 tablespoon achiote powder or paste
- 1 chipotle chile packed in adobo sauce, plus 2 teaspoons sauce from can
- 1/4 cup distilled white vinegar
- 3 whole cloves garlic
- 2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 2 pounds boneless blade-end loin or sirloin pork roast
- 8 ounces (1/2 pound) sliced bacon
- To Finish and Serve:
- 1 small pineapple, peeled, cored, and cut into quarters lengthwise
- 32 to 48 corn tortillas, heated and kept warm
- 1 medium white onion, finely diced (about 1 cup)
- 1/2 cup finely minced fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems
- 1 cup basic salsa verde or your favorite salsa
- 3 to 4 limes, cut into 8 wedges each for serving
Place chiles in a large saucepan over medium high heat and cook, turning chiles occasionally, until puffed, pliable, lightly browned in spots, and very aromatic, about 5 minutes. Add chicken stock (it should boil immediately), then pour contents of pan into a small bowl. Cover loosely and set aside.
Wipe out saucepan, add oil, and return to medium-high heat until oil is shimmering. Add cumin, oregano, and achiote and cook, stirring frequently, until aromatic but not browned, about 30 seconds. Add chipotle chiles and sauce and cook until aromatic, about 30 seconds longer. Add vinegar, salt, and sugar and remove from heat.
Scrape contents of saucepan into a blender along with garlic and chiles with their soaking liquid. Blend on high speed until completely smooth, about 1 minute, scraping down sides as necessary. Set sauce aside to cool slightly.
Using a very sharp chef's knife or slicing knife, slice the meat as thin as possible. If necessary, place meat in freezer for 15 minutes to firm it up. Split the sides of a heavy duty zipper-lock bag. Place one slice of meat inside bag and pound with the bottom of a heavy 8-inch skillet or a meat pounder until less than 1/4-inch thick. Transfer to a large bowl. Repeat with remaining meat.
Add marinade to bowl and toss with hands until every piece of meat is evenly coated in marinade.
Line the bottom of a disposable aluminum loaf pan with bacon. Add a layer of thin-sliced marinated meat. Continue layering in bacon and meat until all the meat is used up. (It may pile above the pan a little bit. This is ok.) Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours and up to 36.
To cook indoors: Preheat the oven to 275°F. Uncover aluminum loaf pan and place on a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet. Transfer to oven and cook until meat is completely tender (It will drip lots of fat), about 4 hours. Remove from oven, allow to cool slightly, cover with aluminum foil, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to overnight.
To cook outdoors: Light half a chimney of charcoal and allow to preheat until coals are mostly covered in gray ash. Spread out under one half of coal grate, and place cooking grate on top. Alternatively, set one set of burners on a gas grill to low and leave the remaining burners off. Unwrap aluminum loaf pan and place directly over cooler side of grill, placing a drip pan underneath if desired. Cover grill and cook until loaf registers 180 to 190°F in the center, about 4 hours, adding more coals to grill or adjusting burners as necessary to maintain an air temperature of around 275°F for the duration of cooking. Remove from grill, allow to cool slightly, cover with aluminum foil, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to overnight.
To Serve: Preheat oven to 350°F. Remove cooked meat from aluminum tray, scraping off any fat or jellied juices from its sides. Use a spoon to collect fat and juices from tray, reserving each separately. Using a sharp chef's knife or slicing knife, slice meat as thinly as possible to create fine shavings of meat and fat. Transfer to a bowl.
If fat from meat is solid, heat gently in the microwave or in the oven until melted. Transfer pineapple pieces to a rimmed baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Brush with fat. Transfer to oven and roast until completely tender, about 25 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly.
About 10 minutes before pineapple is done roasting, transfer meat and 1 tablespoon of fat to a large cast iron or non-stick skillet. Heat over medium high heat, stirring occasionally, until meat crisps and deeply browns in spots. Add any reserved juices and toss to combine, allowing it to cook until reduced to a moist glaze. Transfer meat to a warmed serving bowl.
Chop roasted pineapple into large chunks. Serve meat and pineapple immediately with warmed tortillas, onions, cilantro, salsa, and lime wedges. Meat will be very moist and should be packed into double-stacked tortillas for serving.
- 8 dried pasilla chiles, seeded and torn to pieces
- 8 dried guajillo chiles, seeded and torn to pieces
- 8 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 teaspoon achiote powder
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- 5 whole cloves
- 1 cup white vinegar
- salt to taste
- 2 pounds pork tenderloin, thinly sliced
- ½ cup chopped pineapple
- 32 (5 inch) corn tortillas
- 1 small onion, chopped
- ½ cup chopped fresh cilantro
- 4 limes, cut in wedges
Soak pasilla chiles and guajillo chiles in a bowl with hot water until chiles are softened, about 10 minutes drain. Mash chiles, garlic, achiote powder, cumin, and cloves in a saucepan with a fork.
Pour vinegar into sauce pan and bring to a boil cook and stir until mixture becomes a thick paste. Season with salt. Rub chile paste over sliced pork, stacking meat on a plate. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for 8 hours to overnight.
Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat cook and stir marinated pork and pineapple until pork is browned, 7 to 10 minutes. Divide pork over stacks of two corn tortillas and serve with onion, cilantro, and lime wedges.
Pork Tacos al Pastor
Make the marinade. Place the garlic in a small microwaveable dish, cover with water and microwave for 1 minute. Drain and place in a blender jar. Add the ancho powder along with the spices and herb, vinegar, 1 ¼ cups boiling water and 1 ½ teaspoon salt. Blend unt il smooth. Measure out 1/3 cup. Scrape the remainder into a container with a tight-fitting lid and refrigerate for another use.
Scrape the red chile adobo mixture back into the blender jar. Break up the achiote into the blender and add the oil and 1/3 cup water. Blend until smooth.
Marinate the meat. Use a heavy mallet to pound the meat to about half its thickness—this will ensure tenderness. Smear or brush marinade over both sides of each slice of pork—I like more than just a light coating. Ref rigerate any unused marinade for another round of taco making. Cover and refrigerate the meat for a couple of hours for the flavors to penetrate.
Make the salsa and sauce. Toast the chiles in an ungreased skillet over medium heat, turning them for a minute or so until they are aromatic and toasting smelling. Scoop into a small bowl, cover with hot tap water, weight with a plate and soak for about 30 minutes.
In the same skillet, roast the unpeeled garlic, turning from time to time until blackened in spots and soft, about 15 minutes. Cool and peel .
Roast the tomatillos on a rimmed baking sheet about 4 inches below a broiler until blackened and blistered on one side, about 5 minutes, then flip and roast the other side. Cool.
Drain the chiles and scoop into a blender jar with the garlic and tomatillos (and all their juice). Blend to a coarse puree. Add enough water to give the salsa an easily spoonable consistency, then taste and season with salt. A little sugar can help to bring out the chiles’ natural fruitiness. Pour about 2/3 of the salsa into a serving dish. Pour the remainder into a small saucepan and add the orange juice and chicken broth. Bring to a simmer. Taste and add a little more salt and sugar if you think the sauce needs it. Keep warm on the side of the grill .
Grilling. Heat a gas grill on medium-high to high or light a charcoal fire and let it burn until the coals are covered with gray ash and very hot. Brush or spray the onion and pineapple slices on both sides with oil. Grill , turning regularly for several minutes, until they are richly colored and softening —you w ant them to still have nice texture . Cut the core out of the pineapple, then c hop the onions and the tender p ineapple into small pieces. K eep warm on the side of the grill .
Grill the meat on the very hot grill, cooking it only on one side to duplicate the delicious crusty char every one associates with tacos al pastor . When the meat is cooked, which should take about a minute, cut it into short thin slices . Serv e with the onion and pineapple: I find it easiest to mix the meat together with the onion and pineapple , scoop a portion of the mixture into a warm tortilla, add splash on a little of the warm sauce, then top with a spoonful for morita chile salsa and a sprinkling of cilantro. I think tacos al pastor aficionados will be happy.
For the Easiest Al Pastor at Home, Put a Skewer in It
I've been thinking a lot about grilled skewers lately. It started with a conversation in the Serious Eats office with Sho about Japanese yakitori, and devolved into me going down a YouTube wormhole, watching hours of Abruzzese lamb arrosticini grilling videos. Once I finally managed to stop watching meat being packed and portioned in kebab cubes, I decided I wanted to develop a series of grilled meat-on-a-stick recipes.
Before tackling the food, I needed a better solution for at-home skewer-grilling. I ultimately came up with this low-cost, low-effort rig, which mimics the set-up of real-deal kebab cooking by bringing the food much closer to the coals, and does away with the traditional grill grate used in most recipes. Positioning the skewers closer to the heat shortens the time lag between outer browning and inner heat penetration, yielding more evenly cooked food. But it also forces the cook to pay more attention to the grilling process flare-ups need to be managed by moving the skewers away from flames as needed, and the skewers need to be turned more frequently to prevent ingredients from charring to a crisp.
During initial rounds of testing this set-up, the constant turning of skewers got me thinking of how the process is just a miniaturized version of large-format rotisserie cooking, like porchetta and roast chicken. Maybe I could Honey, I Shrunk The Kids one of those dishes that don't easily translate to home cooking. And that's how I decided to skewer-ify one of the best things to ever get cooked on a rotating spit: Mexican al pastor.
Lucky for me, Kenji had already taken care of the hard work when he developed his awesome at-home version of tacos al pastor a few years ago. His al pastor does away with the rotisserie-cooking component, cleverly packing slices of marinated pork into a loaf pan, slow-roasting them, and then crisping them in a hot skillet. In adapting his recipe to make skewers, I was able to do away with the two-step cooking process.
Both versions use the same marinade, but for the skewers, I switch up the pork slightly, doing away with the bacon that can cause excessive grill flare-ups, and slicing pork butt into strips that are better-suited for threading onto a stick. After marinating them overnight, I thread the pork pieces onto skewers, bunching each piece up tight. This helps mimic the contrasting textural effect that you get with al pastor cooked on a traditional trompo rotisserie—crispy in some spots and tender in others. Spearing pieces of fresh pineapple between the slices of pork provides that trademark juicy, sweet-and-sour contrast to the spicy, crispy, fatty meat. Make sure that the pork and pineapple pieces are packed tightly together to prevent the skewer from burning and breaking during cooking the only parts of the skewers that should be exposed are a two-inch handle at the bottom, and just the very tip at the top.
Once you finish assembling the skewers, all you have to do is set up the grill with foil-wrapped bricks for cooking. For these skewers, I prefer cooking them right over the coals without a wire rack underneath them, which more closely approximates the rotisserie cooking of real-deal al pastor.
Perch the skewers over the coals, balancing them on the bricks and turn them frequently as they cook, managing any flare-ups caused by dripping fat. In about 10 minutes, the pork and pineapple will be lightly charred, and the meat cooked through. From there, it's your call whether to serve them straight-up with some lime wedges as cookout kebabs, or de-stick the juicy pork and pineapple and stuff them into tortillas for a grilled taco party. You win at summer grilling either way.
Sweet and Spicy Tacos al Pastor
Tacos al pastor are to die for! They are sweet, savory, and just a tiny bit spicy. The juicy pineapple and zing from the lime make them impossible to resist.
Traditionally the pork marinades in an adobo-style red chile and vinegar marinade, and is placed on a vertical spit, called El Trompo, alongside a pineapple. The spit rotates and the meat is cut off of the spit as it cooks. This was originally brought to Mexico by Lebanese immigrants and is cooked in the same style as shawarma. Unlike carnitas, which is pork cooked in its own fat (often with more lard added), al pastor is cooked or grilled after it's marinated and is, therefore, lower in calories.
Since most of us don't have a giant vertical spit in our homes, this recipe uses a simple crockpot. You can also marinade a more tender cut like pork tenderloin and then grill it instead if you like. This recipe isn't exactly traditional, but the flavor is amazing and the super tender meat goes perfectly in warm corn tortillas.
How to make Tacos al Pastor Recipe
- Place the peppers in a saucepan and cover with water. Simmer over a medium heat until they look soft. Let them cool and drain. (Please check the ingredients list below)
- Place peppers, vinegar, pineapple juice with the spices and achiote paste in your blender. Process it until you have a very smooth sauce. Pour the sauce slowly through a fine sieve to get a nice homogenous texture.
- Season the meat with salt and pepper. Place the sauce and steaks in a large bowl and marinate the meat or use a pastry brush.
- Marinade for at least 4 hours or overnight of hours, and then grill the steaks or fry in a skillet. Grilling some pineapple and onion slices on the meat to add to the tacos when serving.
Now for the cooking process:
- To cook in the Vertical Rotisserie stake the meat intercalating with some slices of onions and pineapple. Let any marinade drain for about 20 minutes before starting the timer. 1 Hr. is enough to cook 2 pounds. Shave the meat with a sharp knife and place it in an already warm skillet.
- The second option to make your tacos al pastor at home is using the broiler in your oven. Cut the meat as for Kabobs and insert into the skewer placing onion and pineapple slices between the meat. Since the meat is cut into smaller portions this method will take about 20 minutes to cook rotating at least 2 times while cooking.
- Now, this is the easiest since almost anyone has a frying pan or skillet at home. Once your meat has marinated cut into small fine strips. Make sure to remove any excess adobo sauce. Warm the frying pan and add 1 – 2 Tablespoons of oil until hot enough that when you place the meat it sizzles. Add onion and pineapple slices along the meat to cook. Turning as needed to avoid the meat to stick to the pan.
Slice the meat finely and make your tacos al pastor with warm tortillas, topped with chopped onion and cilantro, onion, pineapple and a salsa of your choice.
Vegan Tacos Al Pastor
One of my collabs with Mitú went up on Friday! You can watch me make a refreshing watermelon cocktail inspired by the spicy watermelon paletas I grew up with here.
The last time my parents came over to visit, my dad mentioned he wanted to take a family trip to Cancún, and to be completely honest I don’t know if I’d want to go. The last time we were there, we had an okay time..there was nothing about Cancún that left us wanting to come back. It’s been two years since we’ve visited, as it was my reward for losing the 40 lbs. I had put on during my last year in college.
I decided that February that I was going to finally make a change to my lifestyle, so I booked our flights and I told myself that I was going to take my shirt off at the beach regardless of what my body looked like. I was always the kid who never took his shirt off at the pool because I was super shy about my body, but I worked hard and trained my butt off and I actually managed to reach my goal weight a week before our trip.
Cancun has beautiful blue beaches and good food, but it is a very tourist heavy location and it lacked the feeling of being in Mexico. We decided to stay en el centro to get a more authentic experience while we were there but we never found quite what we were looking for. We did however, find amazing tacos al pastor. They were completely different than the ones I was used to. The pork was sweeter, and the taqueros really played up the pineapple, cinnamon, and the achiote notes which was different than the heavier guajillo flavor bomb I was used to.
We’re going to be recreating a vegan version of those tacos al estilo Cancún today because I finally started dipping my toes in the vegan pond. I have many friends who are vegan who’ve been asking me to write recipes for some of their favorite dishes and I was excited to finally incorporate TVP (meat substitute) into a recipe. As a non-vegan I didn’t really notice that the pork was missing, TVP has the texture of meat and stays moist and flavorful, unlike pork which can become tough and dry when it is slightly overcooked. If you’re vegan, I hope these tacos deliver an authentic experience, and if you’re not vegan, don’t be afraid to try something new. I promise you won’t be disappointed.
(Billy also has a recipe up today for tacos de pollo verde , you can check it out here)
I am a food blog
This al pastor sauce is the easiest sauce to make and keep in the fridge for when those al pastor cravings hit!
The first time I tried al pastor was in Mexico, at this tiny stand nowhere near the beach. It wasn’t a wander into a random taqueria kind of story though – I had did some hardcore research and decided that this particular stand was known as the best tacos al pastor in all the land. Mike and I went, not really knowing anything about it.
We ordered two tacos and then proceeded to order 10 more. They were that good. Juicy, smoky, savory rotisserie grilled pork, topped off with just the thinnest slice of roasted pineapple. We were hooked. From then, al pastor has been one of my favorite tacos. We eat them all the time now, both at taquerias and at home.
This is an easy 6 ingredient recipe that you can throw together in 5 minutes (minus the pepper soaking time). Traditionally al pastor is for pork, but there was a buy one get one free sale on drumsticks and I love drumsticks. They came out juicy and full of flavor. Perfect on their own, but even better tucked into tortillas.