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Tacos Al Pastor: A Delicious Mexican Dish

by Rafał Porada 19 Apr 2024

Tacos al pastor belong to a distinguished family of dishes that include Turkish doner, Greek gyro, and Middle Eastern shawarma. These mouthwatering creations are all cooked on a vertical rotisserie, which gives each portion a crusty end cut. However, most people, myself included, don't own a vertical rotisserie. But fear not, because I have a workaround for you. In this blog, I'll show you how to make delicious tacos al pastor without a special rotisserie.


For the marinade:
6 guajillo chiles, soaked in 4 cups of warm water for 1 hour, or 1/2 cup pure chili Powder
1/4 cup distilled white vinegar
3 tablespoons achiote paste (optional)
3 tomatillos, husks removed, washed, and rough-chopped
2 cloves garlic, rough-chopped
2 bay leaves, crumbled
1 tablespoon coarse salt (kosher or sea)
2 teaspoons fresh ground black pepper
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon aniseed
1 teaspoon dried thyme
4 to 5 pounds boneless pork shoulder, quartered, then thinly sliced against the grain
2 sweet onions, peeled and cut crosswise into 1/4-inch slices
1/2 fresh ripe pineapple, peeled, cored, and cut crosswise into 1/2-inch slices

For serving:
20 corn tortillas (preferably freshly made—available at Mexican markets)
Sliced purple cabbage
Sliced or diced avocado
Pico de gallo or other salsa (optional)
1 bunch fresh cilantro, washed, dried, and stemmed


Tacos Al Pastor: A Delicious Mexican Dish - Fireplace Trends Culinary Inspirations

The Marinade

Like many Mexican dishes, tacos al pastor start with a flavorful marinade. The marinade for these tacos is made with guajillo chilies, dried chilies with an earthy, almost fruity flavor. To prepare them, soak the chilies in water for one hour until they're soft and pliable. Then, make a slit in each chili and scrape out the seeds. You can find guajillo chilies at any Mexican market or order them online. Place the soaked guajillo chilies in a blender. Another unique ingredient in the marinade is achiote annatto seed, which has a minerally tangy flavor and a beautiful vivid orange color. Add the annatto seeds to the blender as well. Next, add ground cumin, dried oregano, ground cinnamon, and aniseed for a touch of sweetness and a licorice flavor. Finely chopped garlic, fresh thyme, fresh bay leaves, and chopped tomatillos are also added to the marinade for depth of flavor. Finally, add freshly ground black pepper, salt, guajillo chili soaking liquid, and distilled white vinegar. Place the lid on the blender and puree the ingredients to a thick paste.

Preparing the Pork

For the pork, boneless pork shoulder is the best choice. Pork shoulder is well marbled and intrinsically tender. Cut the pork shoulder in half, then cut each half in half again. This will make it easier to slice the pork thinly. Stand each piece on its side and cut the pork across the grain into slices that are one quarter inch thick. Pour a little marinade into a baking dish and layer the pork slices on top. Spread some thinly sliced onions on the pork, pour on more marinade, and repeat the layers until all the pork and onion are used. The last layer should be marinade. In the Yucatan, this marinade is known as a recado rojo. Marinate the pork for at least four hours or overnight for optimum flavor.

Tacos Al Pastor: A Delicious Mexican Dish - Fireplace Trends Culinary Inspirations

Cooking the Tacos

To cook the tacos al pastor, a grill set up for direct grilling works best. Clean the grill grate with a stiff wire brush and oil it with a half onion dipped in oil. Arrange the marinated pork slices on the hot grate, giving each slice a quarter turn after a minute or so to ensure even grilling. Grilled pineapple is another element that makes tacos al pastor unique. Arrange pineapple slices on the grill grate alongside the pork. Turn the pork slices and pineapple slices over once they are browned on the bottom. When the pork is firm to the touch, transfer it to a wire rack to prevent it from getting soggy on the bottom. Warm the tortillas on the grill for 20 seconds per side and keep them covered until ready to serve.

Assembling the Tacos

To assemble the tacos al pastor, start by setting out three warm tortillas. Take a slice of grilled pork and a slice of grilled pineapple. Cut the pork and pineapple into thin slivers, imitating the carving of the edges off the pork and pineapple on a vertical rotisserie. Place the slivered pork and pineapple on the warm tortilla. Top the taco with diced avocado, purple cabbage, chopped fresh cilantro, and pico de gallo, a basic Mexican salsa. Roll up the taco and enjoy the explosion of flavors. The crusty pork, sweet pineapple, aromatic spices, creamy avocado, and tangy salsa create a perfect balance.


And there you have it, a delicious and authentic recipe for tacos al pastor. With this workaround, you can enjoy this flavorful Mexican dish without the need for a special rotisserie. The marinade adds depth and complexity to the pork, while the grilled pineapple adds a touch of sweetness. Topped with fresh ingredients like avocado, cabbage, cilantro, and pico de gallo, these tacos are a culinary delight. So gather your ingredients, fire up the grill, and transport yourself to the taco stands of the Yucatan with these mouthwatering tacos al pastor. vIDEO
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