tacos al pastor recipe

The Best Tacos al Pastor Recipe (2024)

Tacos al pastor, a symphony of savory and sweet, is a cornerstone of Mexican cuisine. Its vibrant red meat, kissed by smoke and pineapple, nestles in a warm tortilla, inviting a chorus of flavors with every bite. This recipe takes you on a delicious adventure, from prepping the marinade to assembling the perfect taco.

Prep Time Cook Time (Oven) Cook Time (Grill) Total Time (Oven) Total Time (Grill) Servings
30 minutes 2-2 ½ hours Grill method – time varies depending on grill heat 30 minutes + 2-2 ½ hours = 30 minutes + 2-2 ½ hours 30 minutes + Grill Time (variable) = 30 minutes (variable) 20
#Tacos al pastor recipe


  1. For the Pork:4 pounds of pork shoulder, which is also known as Boston butt, with no bones
  2. For the Marinade:5 guajillo dried peppers, seeded and roughly chopped
  3. Three ancho-dried peppers, seeded and roughly chopped
  4. Three cloves garlic
  5. 1/2 white onion, roughly chopped
  6. 1 tsp ground cumin
  7. 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  8. 1/4 tsp ground achiote paste (annatto paste)
  9. 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  10. 1/4 cup pineapple juice
  11. 1/4 cup orange juice
  12. 1 tbsp soy sauce
  13. 1 tsp dried thyme
  14. 1 tsp black peppercorns
  15. 1/2 tsp whole cloves
  16. One cinnamon stick (optional)
  17. Salt to taste
  18. For Assembling the Tacos:1 small pineapple, peeled, cored, and cut into wedges
  19. One white onion, thinly sliced
  20. Cilantro, chopped fresh
  21. Limes, cut into wedges
  22. 20 corn tortillas


  1. Prepare the Marinade: Toast the guajillo and ancho peppers for a few minutes over medium-low heat in a dry pot until they smell good. Take it off the heat and put it in a bowl. Put hot water over the peppers and let them soak for at least 30 minutes until they get soft.
  2. Blend the Marinade: While the peppers soak, combine the garlic, onion, cumin, oregano, achiote paste, vinegar, pineapple juice, orange juice, soy sauce, thyme, black peppercorns, cloves, and cinnamon stick (if using) in a blender. Add the softened peppers with some of their soaking liquid and blend until smooth—season with salt to taste.
  3. Marinate the Pork: Trim any excess fat from the pork shoulder. Cut the pork into thin slices, ideally around 1/4-inch thick. Place the pork in a large bowl and pour the marinade over it. Toss well to coat the pork evenly. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight, for maximum flavor.
  4. Assemble the Trompo (Optional): Always cook tacos al pastor on a trompo, an upright rotisserie. Great if you have a trompo at home! Stack thin slices of pineapple and pork pieces marinated on top of each other on the trompo. Use skewers to hold the meat in place to make a cone form.
  5. Cooking the Al Pastor:
    • Oven Method: Preheat your oven to 275°F (135°C). If you don’t have a trompo, thread the marinated pork slices and pineapple chunks onto skewers. Place the skewers in a roasting pan and bake for 2-2 ½ hours or until the pork is tender and cooked. Baste the meat occasionally with the pan drippings.
    • Grill Method: Make the grill warm, but not too hot. When you use a trompo, cook the meat on the grill and flip it over a lot until it’s done and browned. The pork and fruit that have been marinating can also be grilled for a few minutes on each side until they are golden brown and cooked all the way through.
  6. Crisp Up the Al Pastor (Optional): You can add more taste and texture to the cooked al pastor by making it crisp. Set a grill pan or cast iron pot over medium-high heat. A little oil should be added, and the cooked al pastor pieces should be seared for a few minutes on each side until they are slightly browned and crispy.
  7. Assemble and Enjoy!:  You can heat up your corn tortillas in a dry pan or the oven for a short time. Cut the cooked al pastor and pineapple into thin slices. Place a small amount of alpastor in the middle of each tortilla. Then, add chopped onions, fresh cilantro, and a squeeze of lime juice. Serve right away and enjoy the huge range of tastes in every bite!
#Tacos al pastor recipe


  • Before chopping, you can freeze the pork shoulder for 30 minutes to an hour in parts. Putting it this way will help you cut small slices.
  • If you don’t have achiote paste, substitute it with paprika or a touch of cayenne pepper for a hint of smokiness.
  • For a smoky flavor without a grill, you can add a chipotle pepper in

Tacos Al Pastor FAQ

What can I substitute for pork shoulder?

Pork shoulder is the traditional cut for tacos al pastor because of its marbling and ability to become tender after slow cooking. However, here are some substitutes:

  • Flank steak: Marinate it for a similar amount of time and cut it against the grain for maximum tenderness.
  • Chicken thighs: Skinless, boneless chicken thighs can be a healthier option. Adjust the marinating time to 2-3 hours.
  • Jackfruit: For a vegetarian option, use young jackfruit. Shred it and marinated it for a few hours to absorb the flavors.

Can I use pre-made adobo sauce for the marinade?

You can use 1 cup of chipotle sauce instead of the marinade. Change how much vinegar or lemon juice you use depending on the brand because adobo sauce can be very sour.

How long will the leftovers last?

You can keep cooked al pastor in the fridge for up to three days in a container that won’t let air in. Heat it up in a pan or the microwave until it’s hot again.

What are some other toppings for tacos al pastor?

  • Sliced avocado
  • Chopped fresh pineapple
  • Pico de gallo (a salsa made with chopped tomatoes, onions, cilantro, and lime juice)
  • Guacamole
  • Sliced jalapenos (for a spicy kick)
  • Crumbled queso fresco cheese

Where did tacos al pastor originate from?

The origins of tacos al pastor are debated. Some believe they emerged from Lebanese immigrants in Mexico who adapted their shawarma recipe using local ingredients like pork and achiote paste. Another theory suggests the Greek gyros inspired them. Regardless of their origin, tacos al pastor have become a beloved staple of Mexican cuisine.

Can I make tacos al pastor without a trompo?

Absolutely! While the tempo creates a visually stunning presentation, you can achieve delicious results using skewers or a baking dish. The key is to marinate the meat well and simmer it until it is tender and flavorful.


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