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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.

Ingredients to make our tacos al pastor marinade

Tacos al Pastor Marinade Ingredients

Tacos al Pastor marinade is made from a mixture of dried chili peppers that have been rehydrated, chipotle in adobo, crushed pineapple or pineapple juice, orange juice, and a piquant blend of seasonings.

My recipe includes the following:

  • 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
  • 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)

This is enough to thoroughly coat and marinate a 3 pound pork shoulder, which is the cut of pork you want for tacos al pastor. More on how to make the marinade below.

Are Tacos al Pastor Grilled?

Yes. Get your grills ready to make this recipe. Talk about a flavor builder. Today 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.

Let’s talk about how we make it, shall we?

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, 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 thin steaks, but cutting them smaller allows the marinade to better permeate and flavor the meat. Thinly sliced 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.

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

Try Some of My Other Popular Mexican 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.

Easy Tacos al Pastor Recipe
Prep Time
30 mins
Cook Time
10 mins
Marinating Time
2 hrs
Total Time
40 mins
 
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!
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: pork, recipe, spicy, tacos
Servings: 12 tacos
Calories: 226 kcal
Author: Mike Hultquist
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
  • 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
  1. 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.
  2. Drain the water and add the rehydrated peppers to a large food processor.
  3. Add in the onion, garlic, pineapple, chipotle sauce, orange juice, vinegar, brown sugar, oregano, cumin, and salt to taste. Process until smooth.
  4. 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.
  5. Add the pork to a large bowl and cover with the marinade. Make sure to get all of the pork evenly coated.
  6. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours, but overnight is better to develop more flavor.
FOR THE TACOS AL PASTOR
  1. 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.
  2. Grill the pork for 6-7 minutes, or until cooked through.
  3. 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.
  4. Enjoy!
Recipe 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 Facts
Easy Tacos al Pastor Recipe
Amount Per Serving
Calories 226 Calories from Fat 36
% Daily Value*
Fat 4g6%
Saturated Fat 1g5%
Cholesterol 68mg23%
Sodium 297mg12%
Potassium 550mg16%
Carbohydrates 17g6%
Fiber 2g8%
Sugar 4g4%
Protein 27g54%
Vitamin A 375IU8%
Vitamin C 3mg4%
Calcium 44mg4%
Iron 1.8mg10%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

 

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! #MexicanFood #Tacos

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