Tacos Al Pastor — Learn to make this staple Mexican recipe that includes thinly sliced pieces of pork marinated in a tangy, sweet pineapple sauce AT HOME! Juicy, flavorful, tender pork served in tortillas with onions, cilantro, lime juice, and salsa! You’ll want every night to be taco night!
What Are Tacos al Pastor?
If you’ve ever wanted to learn how to make tacos al pastor at home, my recipe will show you just how to do it! The traditional method of cooking pastor on a spit is changed to a more convenient method in the oven.
Thin slices of pork meat are marinated in a tangy, sweet pineapple sauce. After oven roasting, you’re left with super flavorful and tender pork that rivals a taqueria.
Nestle the juicy pastor in a tortilla topped with salsa, onions, cilantro, lime, and be prepared for a flavor explosion. The finger-licking Mexican pork tacos will have everyone asking for seconds!
Ingredients for Al Pastor Tacos
Aside from a small baking pan, foil, and a wooden skewer, you’ll need the following ingredients to make this tacos al pastor recipe.
Have on hand the following ingredients for the al pastor marinade, tacos, and toppings:
- Achiote paste — Very important for the full flavor for these tacos. You can find this in the Mexican aisle of the grocery store or use Amazon.
- Guajillo chili powder — Gives delicious flavor but there really isn’t any heat.
- Ancho chili powder — If you cannot find both chili powders, you can use all of just one of them, but using both.
- Garlic powder
- Mexican oregano — If you cannot find it, regular dried oregano is fine.
- White vinegar — Tenderizes the meat
- Pineapple juice — For flavor
- Orange juice — For tenderizing
- Pork loin or shoulder — Loin is much leaner, but shoulder is juicier
- Pineapple — Fresh is strongly preferred to canned rings
- Lime juice
- Onion — Red is best but use your favorite
- Salsa — this pineapple salsa is great, or chipotle salsa or your favorite store bought salsa
Most should be available at well-stocked grocery stores in the Mexican section. If you live in an area where there’s a Mexican market, without a doubt you can find everything there.
And for those of us who are lazy, Amazon is your best friend.
How to Make Tacos Al Pastor
Making al pastor pork tacos is easier than you might think, but it does require some elbow grease. The recipe starts with a homemade al pastor marinade, then the pork is stacked onto a wooden skewer to create a tower of sorts before it all gets baked off.
Just stay with me here! It’s easy, promise.
- Make the al pastor marinade: Begin by adding the achiote paste, chili powders, garlic powder, oregano, cumin, salt, pepper, vinegar, pineapple and orange juices in a blender and blend until combined. (You could also whisk them together although the blender is faster to make the al pastor marinade.)
- Thinly slice the boneless pork shoulder or loin, place it in a large ziplock bag, and pour the marinade into the bag, seal, and squish everything around to coat evenly.
- Marinate for at least 4 hours, or up to 3 days, in the fridge.
- Assemble the tower: Line a baking pan with aluminum foil and place an oven rack on the lowest rung. (Because of the height of the tower of meat you’ll be building, known as a trompo in Spanish, no other oven racks will fit above it so remove those.)
- Cut a wooden skewer in half or so that it fits in your oven and then stack two thick slices of pineapple in the middle of the pan and poke the skewer through them. (See photo collage below)
- Add slices of marinated pork to the skewer in a layered fashion, distributed evenly around the skewer, and discard the marinating bag.
- By using a fresh pineapple and preserving the core, it doubles as a sturdy locale for the wooden skewer.
- Bake the pork: Bake for one hour, remove from the oven and add a thick slice of pineapple to the top, and bake for 30 more minutes.
- Allow the meat to rest before slicing and serving in tortillas with the toppings of your choice. I always serve it with lime wedges!
Tip: By using a fresh pineapple and preserving the core, it doubles as a sturdy locale for the wooden skewer.
What’s the Best Pork for Tacos Al Pastor?
Pork loin is much leaner, but shoulder is juicier. It’s up to you but I tend to opt for boneless pork shoulder.
Using Fresh Pineapple vs. Canned Pineapple
Using fresh pineapple makes all the difference for me and I strongly recommend it. However, canned pineapple rings may be used as well.
The nice thing about using a fresh pineapple is that because I recommend not coring it, the core makes a great secure resting spot for the wooden skewer.
Line the pan: Don’t skip the step of lining your pan with aluminum foil because the natural sugars from the pineapple and orange juices will cause the runoff liquid to burn as the meat cooks. Unless you want a massive scrubbing and cleanup project, line your pan.
Tortillas: It’s a nice touch to warm your tortillas before placing the pastor inside but it’s optional.
I can’t imagine eating pastor from a flour tortilla as it’s not very traditional and prefer corn tortillas. However, again, your choice which kind of tortillas to use.
Taco size: Traditionally, Mexican tacos from taquerias (taco shops) or from puestos de tacos (taco stands or street tacos) are not the big, oversized tacos you may find in an Americanized Mexican restaurant. Think palm of your hand, maybe a tiny bit bigger, but approximately a 4 to 5-inch taco.
I find I appreciate the al pastor more when it’s served with this kind of ratio of meat to tortilla, but of course, make your tacos any size you’d like.
Al Pastor Toppings
When ready to serve the al pastor pork tacos, cut vertically down the side of the meat trompo to remove thin slices. (See photo above).
Place in either corn or flour tortillas and top with onions, cilantro, lime juice, and your favorite salsa.
Serving tacos al pastor con todo means with onions, cilantro, and lime juice; along with your favorite salsa and possibly a slice of avocado.
All of these toppings or condiments really serve a purpose for the true depth of flavor that is an al pastor taco and I urge you not to skip any of them.
Make sure to cut a chunk of pineapple for each taco. The contrast of the pineapple with the pastor is heavenly!
What to Serve with Tacos al Pastor
To round out your Mexican feast, try serving one or more of the following side dishes with your al pastor pork tacos:
- Mexican Corn (Elote)
- Black Bean, Corn, and Avocado Salad
- Borracho Beans (Drunken Beans)
- Baked Tortilla Chips
- Grilled Corn and Bean Salad
- Rice and Beans
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Tacos Al Pastor
- 2 tablespoons achiote paste
- 1 tablespoon guajillo chili powder
- 2 teaspoons ancho chili powder
- 2 teaspoons garlic powder
- 2 teaspoons Mexican oregano
- 2 teaspoons cumin
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 2 teaspoons pepper
- ¾ cup white vinegar
- 1 cup pineapple juice
- ½ cup orange juice
- 3 pounds pork shoulder or loin*, cut into thin 1/2-inch thick slices
- 3 large slices fresh pineapple, canned slices acceptable, fresh strongly preferred, uncored
- 20 small corn or flour tortillas
- 2 limes, cut into wedges; optional and as desired
- ½ red onion, diced small; optional and as desired (yellow or white onion may be substituted)
- ½ cup cilantro, finely diced; optional and as desired
- 1 cup salsa; optional and as desired
- 1 avocado, sliced; optional and as desired
- To a large ziptop bag, add the pork slices, pour in the marinade, seal the bag, and squish the contents around to evenly coat. Place the bag in the fridge for at least 4 hours, or up to 3 days, to marinate.
- Preheat oven to 350F and line a baking pan such as a 9x9-inch pan with foil (don't skip lining your pan because the natural sugars from the pineapple and orange juices will cause the runoff liquid to burn as the meat cooks. Unless you want a massive scrubbing and cleanup project, line your pan).
- Place an oven rack on the last rung of the oven. This tower of meat (trompo) will be tall and no racks will fit above so you can remove those as well.
- Cut a wooden skewer to fit in the oven.
- Stack two thick slices of pineapple in the middle of the pan and poke the skewer through.**
- Layer the meat on the skewer, placing it around so it is evenly distributed. Discard marinade.
- Place the pan on the oven rack on the last rung and bake for 1 hour.
- Remove the pan from the oven, add a thick slice of pineapple to the top, return to the oven, and bake for 30 more minutes.
- To serve, slice vertically down the sides of the trompo, removing thin slices of meat and place them in the tortillas (optionally but preferably warm them up first).
- Garnish with lime juice, onion, cilantro, and salsa; all optional and as desired. Al pastor is best warm and fresh but will keep airtight in the fridge for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.
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