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24 April 2019

The best tacos al pastor recipe takes flavorful pork shoulder seasoned in a zesty marinade and grills it to perfection, just like this one. Get the tortillas ready!

There is a Mexican restaurant right up the street from me that makes outstanding tacos al pastor. There is also a Mexican restaurant just on the other side of town that makes a mean one. And another about 2 miles away from me. My town isn’t hurting for great Mexican food.

I just can’t get enough tacos. There are so many types that I love, and absolutely one of my favorites is tacos al pastor. As much as I love going out for tacos, I love even more making them at home myself. It’s super easy.

If you’ve never tried making your own homemade tacos al pastor, now is the time to give it a go. I’m here to help.

It really is an easy recipe, my friends. It’s mostly about the marinade. Then it’s a bit of grilling and chopping and topping those tacos.

But first.

Tacos al Pastor with lots of fixings

What are Tacos al Pastor?

Tacos al Pastor is a recipe from central Mexico derived from shawarma introduced by Lebanese immigrants. Similar to Greek gyros, the meat is spit-grilled and sliced into tacos, though tacos al pastor uses pork. The dish is compared to recipes like tacos de adobada from Northern Mexico and tacos árabes from Puebla. “Al pastor” translates to “shepherd style”.

There are two components to tacos al pastor that make it unique compared to other taco recipes – the marinade and the grilling.

Tacos al pastor marinade can vary somewhat from cook to cook, but it boils down to a base of Mexican chili peppers, fruit juices and seasonings that make this dish a culinary favorite.

Let’s talk about how we make Tacos al Pastor, shall we?

Ingredients to make our tacos al pastor marinade

Tacos al Pastor Ingredients

  • FOR THE MARINADE
  • 2 ancho peppers
  • 2 guajillo peppers
  • 2 dried chiles de arbol (or more as desired)
  • 1 small yellow onion, roughly chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/3 cup crushed pineapple (or use pineapple juice)
  • 2 tablespoons chipotle sauce
  • 2 tablespoon achiote paste
  • Juice from 1 large orange (about 1/3 cup)
  • ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon Mexican oregano
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon salt (or more to taste)
  • FOR THE TACOS AL PASTOR
  • 3 pounds boneless pork shoulder
  • Olive oil as needed
  • 12 corn tortillas warmed
  • Garnish, such as pineapple slices, sliced peppers, fresh herbs

This is enough to thoroughly coat and marinate a 3 pound pork shoulder, which is the cut of meat you want for tacos al pastor. 

Tacos al Pastor on a plate, ready to serve

How to Make Tacos al Pastor – the Recipe Steps

First, dry toast the dried anchos, guajillos and chiles de arbol a couple minutes per side in a hot pan to release their oils. Cool, then remove stems and seeds. Set into a bowl and cover with hot water to soften for 20 minutes.

Drain the water and add the rehydrated peppers to a large food processor.

Add in the onion, garlic, pineapple, chipotle sauce, achiote paste, orange juice, vinegar, brown sugar, oregano, cumin, and salt to taste. Process until smooth.

Tacos al pastor marinade in a food processor

Next, slice the pork shoulder into long thin strips, about ½ inch thick. Make them large enough so they won’t fall through your grill grates.

Add the pork to a large bowl and cover with the marinade. Make sure to get all of the pork evenly coated.

Marinating the pork to make tacos al pastor

Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours, but overnight is better to develop more flavor.

When you’re ready to make your tacos al pastor, heat your grill to medium-high heat and lightly oil the grates. Alternatively, you can make this indoors in a grill pan on the stove top.

Grill the pork for 6-7 minutes, or until slightly charred and cooked through.

Grilling the marinated pork

Slice into bite-sized pieces and serve over warmed corn tortillas. Top with diced jalapeno, diced grilled pineapple or fresh pineapple, diced tomato, chopped onion, cilantro, lime wedges or lime juice, spicy chili flakes, hot sauce.

BOOM! Done! Quite easy, right? I love easy. And BIG FLAVOR.

Enjoy!

Recipe Tips

  • On Slicing. I like to slice my pork shoulder into smaller thin strips for marinating. Some recipes call for you to slice the pork into thicker steaks, but cutting them smaller allows the marinade to better permeate and flavor the meat. Thin slices of pork is best for flavor. Just don’t cut them so small that they will fall through your grill grates.
  • On Marinating. When marinating, you want to marinade your sliced pork at least 2 hours, but longer is better for more flavor infusion. I like to marinate mine overnight for best results.
  • Make it Ahead. Get your sliced pork marinating the night before you want to make tacos al pastor. When you get home from work, dinner is on the table in a snap. All you need to do is prep your toppings, grill and slice the pork, then serve up tacos.

Are Tacos al Pastor Grilled?

Yes. It’s easier to use your grill to get the colorful char. I like to grill the pork on a charcoal grill to get that smoky, authentic wood flavor that takes this recipe to the next level.

However, you can make this recipe on a stove top with either a grill pan or even your every day pan. You’ll miss that extra flavor component, but it will still be satisfying and flavorful. You can use a gas grill as well.

That’s it, my friends! I hope you enjoy your easy tacos al pastor! Homemade!

Try Some of My Other Popular Recipes

Mike stealing a taco off the plate - bad Mike!

Got any questions? Ask away! I’m happy to help. If you enjoy this recipe, I hope you’ll leave a comment with some STARS. Also, please share it on social media. Don’t forget to tag us at #ChiliPepperMadness. I’ll be sure to share! Thanks! — Mike H.

Tacos al Pastor Recipe
Print Recipe
5 from 2 votes

Easy Tacos al Pastor Recipe

The best tacos al pastor recipe takes flavorful pork shoulder seasoned in a zesty marinade and grills it to perfection, just like this one. Get the tortillas ready!
Prep Time30 mins
Cook Time10 mins
Marinating Time2 hrs
Total Time40 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: pork, recipe, spicy, tacos
Servings: 12 tacos
Calories: 226kcal

Ingredients

FOR THE MARINADE

  • 2 ancho peppers
  • 2 guajillo peppers
  • 2 dried chiles de arbol or more as desired
  • 1 small yellow onion roughly chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic chopped
  • 1/3 cup crushed pineapple or use pineapple juice
  • 2 tablespoons chipotle sauce
  • 2 tablespoons achiote paste
  • Juice from 1 large orange about 1/3 cup
  • ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon Mexican oregano
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon salt or more to taste

FOR THE TACOS AL PASTOR

  • 3 pounds boneless pork shoulder
  • Olive oil as needed
  • 12 corn tortillas warmed

FOR SERVING: Diced jalapeno, diced pineapple, diced tomato, chopped cilantro, lime wedges, spicy chili flakes, hot sauce

    Instructions

    FOR THE MARINADE

    • Dry toast the dried anchos, guajillos and chiles de arbol a couple minutes per side in a hot pan to release their oils. Cool, then remove stems and seeds. Set into a bowl and cover with hot water to soften for 20 minutes.
    • Drain the water and add the rehydrated peppers to a large food processor.
    • Add in the onion, garlic, pineapple, chipotle sauce, achiote paste, orange juice, vinegar, brown sugar, oregano, cumin, and salt to taste. Process until smooth.
    • Next, slice the pork shoulder into long strips, about ½ inch thick. Make them large enough so they won’t fall through your grill grates.
    • Add the pork to a large bowl and cover with the marinade. Make sure to get all of the pork evenly coated.
    • Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours, but overnight is better to develop more flavor.

    FOR THE TACOS AL PASTOR

    • Heat your grill to medium-high heat and lightly oil the grates. Alternatively, you can make this indoors in a grill pan on the stove top.
    • Grill the pork for 6-7 minutes, or until cooked through.
    • Slice into bite-sized pieces and serve over warmed tortillas. Top with diced jalapeno, diced pineapple, diced tomato, chopped cilantro, lime wedges, spicy chili flakes, hot sauce.
    • Enjoy!

    Notes

    Heat Factor: Mild-Medium. You won't really get much heat from Tacos al Pastor, but you will get awesome flavor. Add in both heat and flavor with your favorite complimentary hot sauce and some diced peppers and/or chili flakes.

    Nutrition

    Calories: 226kcal | Carbohydrates: 17g | Protein: 27g | Fat: 4g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 68mg | Sodium: 297mg | Potassium: 550mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 375IU | Vitamin C: 3mg | Calcium: 44mg | Iron: 1.8mg

     

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