Tacos Al Pastor feature marinated pork, fresh pineapple and spices slowly grilled in your kitchen to juicy perfection. Make this recipe for an authentic Mexican dinner!
This dish was initially developed in Central Mexico, most likely as a result of shawarma spit-grilled meat brought by Lebanese immigrants to Mexico. It’s also similar to the Turkish doner kebab and the Greek gyros. Where the shawarma is usually lamb based, gyros and tacos al pastor are made from pork.
Just imagine the aroma of marinated pork shoulder, flavored with various chiles, pineapple, onion, garlic and cinnamon slow roasting. Sound good?
I for one don’t see why carnitas needs to get all the attention. Tacos Al Pastor is one to try!
However you choose to make this, know that your house will have the absolute best aroma to entice anyone for a delicious meal. Al Pastor is replacing carnitas for the best Mexican dinner.
While I LOVE me some carnitas, this dish is another house favorite that needs the spotlight.
I enjoy the process of creating in the kitchen. One of my favorite cuisines is Mexican, it’s culinary flavors excite and usually with long patient roasting, it turns out to always be worth the effort and wait.
- 5 lbs pork shoulder (boneless)
- 1/3 cup chili powder (see below)
- 2 tbsp achiote paste (optional, See note 1)
- 1 white onion (skin removed and halved)
- 3/4 cup pineapple juice
- 1/4 cup white vinegar
- 5 cloves garlic
- 3 tsp salt
- 1 tsp Mexican oregano (See Note 2)
- 1/2 tsp ground cumin
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/8 tsp ground clove
- 2 tsp epazote (optional, See Note 3)
- corn or flour tortillas
- 1 1/2 cups fresh pineapple diced
- 1 white onion sliced or diced
- 1 bunch cilantro chopped
- limes quartered
- Salsa Verde
- Roasted Tomato Salsa
- Pico de Gallo
Homemade Chili Powder Blend (optional)
- 3 dried Pasillas chiles
- 3 dried Guajillo chiles
- 2 dried De Arbol chiles
If Making Chile Powder Blend:
- If making your own chili powder blend, otherwise go to Marinade below: Using gloves, remove the stem and scrape out the seeds from the dried chiles. Toast over low heat in a dry skillet for a few minutes. Allow to cool and then grind to a powder in a spice/coffee grinder. You could alternately soak the peppers in hot water for 20 minutes, then blend with the remaining ingredients and marinate the pork overnight.
- 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, slice pork shoulder into 1/4 inch slices. For all other methods: Trim fat from the pork shoulder and slice meat into 2 to 4 inch chunks. Place pork in a plastic bag that seals or container that can be covered with a lid and pour the chile mixture over the pork. Using gloves, mix the chile marinade and pork then chill in refrigerator, covered, 4 hours or overnight. Allow meat to come to room temp prior to cooking.
For the Grill: Thinly Sliced
- Preheat grill to 250°F. Shake off excess marinade. In a cast iron skillet or baking tray place the cut pineapple bottom(s). Insert a wooden or metal skewer or long wooden chopstick in the center of the pineapple. Start layering pieces of marinated pork, repeating until meat is used, or you have 1 inch of skewer left. Leave 1 inch of skewer on top and cap it with trimmed pineapple top.
- Slow roast at 250°F for 3 1/2 hours (we want an internal temp of 145°F-150°F). Start basting with pan juices in last hour. Outside will be caramelized and crispy, cut with knife in downward motion (See Note 4). Put back on grill to crisp edges as you continue to cut outside edges if you like.
- Oven Method #1 (Same as Grill Method above)
- Remove all racks except bottom one from oven. Preheat oven to 250°F.
- Slow roast at 250°F for 3 1/2 hours (we want an internal temp of 145°F-150°F). Start basting with pan juices in last hour. Outside will be caramelized and crispy, cut with knife in downward motion (See Note 4). Put back in oven to crisp edges as you continue to cut outside edges if you like.
Oven Method #2: 2 to 4 inch chunks
- Preheat oven to 250°F. Shake off excess marinade and place pork chunks in a 11×13″ roasting pan or stone (Pampered Chef stone bakeware).
- Slow roast at 250°F covered with aluminum foil for 5 hours. Remove the aluminum foil and continue roasting for 1 hour or until completely tender when pulled with a fork.
- Instant Pot (Pressure Cooker) Method: 2 to 4 inch chunks
- Place marinated pork, remaining marinade (See Note 5) in the Instant Pot (Pressure Cooker) and close lid and lock. Press (Manual) and at the High Pressure setting, then use the [+] button to choose 25 minutes pressure cooking time. When done, Natural Release (15 minutes), remove from pressure cooker and place pork chunks in a 11×13″ baking pan or stone. Broil uncovered for 10 minutes in oven to render fat and crisp up edges.
Slow Cooker Method: 2 to 4 inch chunks
- Place marinated pork and remaining marinade in the slow cooker for 4 hours on high or 8 hours on Low. Remove from slow cooker and place pork chunks in a 9×13″ baking pan or stone. Broil uncovered for 10 minutes in oven to render fat and crisp up edges.
- Serve in small tortillas topped with chopped onion, cilantro, squeeze of lime juice and hot salsa. I like diced pineapple on top as well, but this is optional.
- Achiote paste can be found in most Mexican markets and adds that authentic deep red color and flavor. Read more about it here.
- Mexican Oregano – A little information for you on the two different oreganos: Mexican oregano is a relative of Lemon Verbena and is native to Mexico. Similar in that it’s pungent like Mediterranean oregano, Mexican oregano has 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 and supermarkets.
- Epazote is similar to oregano and fennel with minty notes. It’s found in Mexican cooking and is typically used in beans, helping reduce their tendency to cause flatulence.
- I grill on a Traeger Smoker 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 you are using. Pork is done when internal temperature is is 145°F to 150°F when meat thermometer is inserted.
- 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.
- The information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
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