Al Pastor is a Mexican dish that has become increasingly popular in both Mexico and the United States. It is made of marinated pork, which is cooked on a vertical spit and served with a variety of accompanying proteins, salsas and garnishes. In its classic form, it is seasoned with a delicious blend of adobo and guajillo chiles, garlic, spices and pineapple. The flavour is intense yet balanced and the texture is tender and lightly charred.
The dish is believed to have originated from shawarma, a popular street food from the Middle East. This influence can be seen in the marinade, as well as in some of the ingredients and condiments used in this dish.
In Mexico, Al Pastor is most famous in the state of Tlaxcala. There, local restaurants serve it in tacos, quesadillas and burritos. This dish has become so popular that some towns in the region even open up “Taquerías al Pastor” (taquerias specializing in Al Pastor).
Al Pastor spices include chile peppers like guajillo, chipotle, adobo or annatto, cumin, Mexican oregano, and garlic. Fresh ingredients would include pineapple juice, apple cider vinegar and water. Tortillas can be either corn or flour and in most restaurants, they use corn tortillas. The heat and spiciness of an Al Pastor taco come from the salsa added on top. These chiles give the dish a characteristic smoky and spicy flavour that makes it so unique and delicious. With all the right Al Pastor spices you can easily make it at home.
Ready to make Al Pastor Tacos for Taco Tuesday? Get your Al Pastor Spices ready!
To prepare Al Pastor at home, you will need a flavorful marinade for traditional pork or chicken Al Pastor. If you’re looking for a vegan Al Pastor version, you can use ingredients like jackfruit, or a plant-based meat substitute. Have your corn tortillas and toppings such as onions, cilantro and spicy salsa, Well, spicy to your taste.
Don’t have a grill, no worries you can cut an onion in half, place it in an oven-safe dish, pierce 2 long wooden soaked (in water so it doesn’t catch fire in the oven), pierce the marinated meat through the skewers and bake in the oven. Don’t forget to char some of the outsides. Grilling is also an option, as is a cast iron skillet for the stovetop.
To make the marinade you will need chilis and some spices. Don’t have everything you need? Get the Al Pastor Spices kit for convenience and just the right amount of ingredients you need. Now all you need is some pineapple juice, apple cider vinegar, and fresh garlic and you are all set to make Al Pastor marinade.
Now that you have your Al Pastor spices and ingredients ready, let’s make it!
- Prep – with scissors cut chilis below the stem and deseed through the opening. Leave seeds in for a spicier marinade. Dice a ¼ yellow onion. Measure 2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar, and measure 1 cup pineapple crushed or juiced (fresh pineapple not recommended). Separate and deskin 3 garlic cloves. Have salt handy.
- Cook – Toast whole chilis in a dry skillet over medium-high heat. Keep tossing until chilis become really fragrant. About 2-3 mins. Be Careful not to burn the chilis.
- In a large bowl, soak chilis in 4 cups of hot tap water for 20-25 mins until chilis become tender and pliable.
- In a blender add softened chilis, spice packet, pineapple, apple cider vinegar, yellow onion, garlic, and salt to taste. Blend until smooth for about 2 mins. The marinade will be thicker if using crushed pineapple. Allow mixture to cool.
- Now you are ready to make Al Pastor. Use 2-2.5 lbs of chicken thighs or pork butt. Marinade 4hrs or overnight. Then grill or saute in a cast iron skillet. Be sure to put some char on it. For the Vegan option marinade, 14oz can of jackfruit and ½ cup of marinade. Be sure to squeeze the water out of the jackfruit. Saute in a skillet.
- Get your toppings ready and now you are ready to enjoy your Al Pastor tacos.
Let’s serve it up!
Warm up the corn tortillas, dice up a white onion, and chop some cilantro. Get your lime wedges, avocado and spicy to-taste salsa. Optional grilled pineapple adds great flavour. Assemble and enjoy!