Tacos al pastor have their origins in shawarma, the Middle Eastern meat preparation where thin slices of marinated meat are stacked on a vertical rotisserie. When Lebanese immigrants brought this method to Mexico in the early 20th century, they substituted pork for lamb and added a unique Mexican flare with pineapple, chiles, and corn tortillas. The resulting dish became a sensation, evolving into the tacos al pastor we know and love today.
Table of Contents
Here are the essential ingredients you’ll need for Homemade Tacos Al Pastor
For the Marinade:
- 3-4 dried guajillo chilies
- 2-3 dried ancho chilies
- 1 cup pineapple juice
- 3 cloves of garlic
- 1 small onion
- 2 tsp achiote paste
- 2 tsp ground cumin
- 2 tsp oregano
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp black pepper
For the Tacos:
- 1 pound pork shoulder, thinly sliced
- 1 small pineapple, sliced into rings
- Corn tortillas
- Chopped fresh cilantro
- Diced onions
- Salsa for serving
Be sure to use quality, fresh ingredients for the best flavor. The marinade is key!
Having the right kitchen tools will make preparing tacos al pastor easier:
- Sharp knife for slicing pork and pineapple
- Mixing bowls for marinade
- Skewers for stacking meat and pineapple
- Skillet or grill for cooking
- Cutting board and knife for chopping garnishes
- Tong for turning meat
You can even use a vertical rotisserie if you want an authentic taqueria experience!
Prepping the Pork and Pineapple
- Combine pork strips in a bowl with minced garlic, achiote paste, vinegar, olive oil, and chiles. Mix well to coat. Cover and marinate for at least 1 hour (or up to overnight).
- Cut the pineapple into spears or triangles no more than 1/2 inch thick. This will be grilled alongside the meat.
Cooking the Tacos Al Pastor
- Thread the marinated pork and pineapple alternately onto skewers, with pineapple at the top and bottom.
- Preheat a skillet or grill to medium-high. Add a bit of oil or cooking spray.
- Cook skewers for 8-10 minutes, carefully turning every 2 minutes. The pork should char and caramelize.
- Warm the tortillas on the skillet for 1 minute per side.
Serving Up Taco Perfection
Gently slide the pork slices and pineapple pieces off the skewers onto a warm tortilla. Top with diced onion, cilantro, and a squeeze of lime. Add your favorite salsa for a kick!
For a truly authentic experience, try adding grilled pineapple, onion, and cilantro directly into the taco. You get sweet and savory in each perfect bite.
Make Them Your Own
Add guacamole, queso fresco, or sliced radish on top. For braised pastor, simmer the cooked meat in pineapple juice until tender.
Can’t find achiote paste? Substitute ancho chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, oregano, and a pinch of cloves.
No grill or skillet? Roast everything on a sheet pan in the oven at 400°F.
Kids will love assembling their own tacos buffet-style with all the toppings. Throw a taco fiesta!
Handy Tips for Tacos Al Pastor Recipe Success
- Use fresh, good-quality ingredients for the best flavor.
- Make sure to slice the pork thin so it cooks quickly and absorbs the marinade.
- Let the meat marinate for at least 1-2 hours, but longer is even better!
- Grill over very high heat so the sugars in the marinade caramelize.
- Warm the tortillas before serving so they don’t crack or go soggy.
- Add your favorite salsas, garnishes, and sides to customize.
- For leftovers, keep meat and toppings separate. Reheat before assembling.
Bring the Taqueria Home
Tacos al pastor packs an incredible blend of savory, sweet, and spicy flavors in every bite. With this recipe, you can create this Mexican specialty right in your own kitchen.
For more authentic recipes to spice up taco night, be sure to subscribe to my blog. Let me know how your tacos al pastor turns out in the comments! I’d love to see photos of your delicious creations. Now go enjoy a taste of Mexico. Buen provecho!