Al pastor tacos are a pork taco marinated in a sweet and smoky sauce. The pork is sliced into thin flat pieces, marinated, then skewered and sandwiched between two large pieces of a pineapple rind and cooked. Once the al pastor meat is cooked, slice off pieces and assemble a taco filled with salsa verde, onions, fresh pineapple and cilantro!
Hands down one of my most favorite tacos. It's a bit sweet, a bit smoky (from the chile peppers) and just has the best flavor. These al pastor tacos will not to be spicy like chicken tinga tacos are.
Traditional al pastor calls for an ingredient called achiote but I have a hard time tracking that down and frankly I'd rather substitute with spices. So if you are looking for an al pastor taco recipe without achiote, you've come to the right place!
To make it easy I've just built in to the recipe the extra spices to substitute out the achiote. If you are interested in what exactly that substitute looks like, see the section with a header titled achiote substitute.
Since this recipe is made with an achiote substitute this is what my recipe is for that. I've just built it into the recipe to save time and so you don't have to double measure a few of the ingredients. But if you are curious or looking to use it in another recipe, here it is.
- 1 tablespoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ tsp cumin
- ⅛ tsp cloves
Here is a rundown of the ingredients you will need. For the full list of ingredients make sure you follow the recipe card at the bottom of the post. This is a good place to find information about an ingredient or answer why I chose a certain ingredient.
- pork shoulder butt - your store may call it this full name, or just a pork shoulder or just a pork butt
- pineapple - a whole pineapple
- California chile pods - these are dried chiles, found in the hispanic section of the grocery store
- white onion
- garlic cloves
- canned pineapple juice - used to make up the sauce for marinating the meat
- white vinegar
- bay leaves
- Mexican oregano - Mexican oregano differs from regular oregano, Mexican oregano has hints of citrus in it, you can also find this in the Hispanic aisle
How To Make Al Pastor Tacos
These al pastor tacos are going to cut in the oven. But unlike birria quesa tacos which are braised, the al pastor meat is cooked as a stacked tower and open in the oven not in a pan with a lid.
Step 1 - Rehydrate the chile pods. Fill a bowl of steaming hot water and submerge the chile pods, you can use something to hold them down so they don't float to the top. They only need about 10 minutes until they become pliable. Once they are done, remove the seeds and add them to a blender.
Step 2 - Seasonings and ingredients. To that same blender add all of the seasonings as well as the white onion, garlic cloves, pineapple juice, vinegar and bay leaves. Blend this a few times until the sauce is silky smooth and has no lumps.
Step 3 - Cut the meat. If your pork shoulder butt has a bone in it you'll have to cut around it. You can also trim the fat off, there will be a large amount on one side and you don't need it. Slice the meat so it is ¼" in thickness and large flat pieces.
Step 4 - Marinate. Put all of the meat in a bowl or ziploc bag and pour the sauce on top. Marinate for 6 hours.
Step 5 - Assembling the meat tower. Cut the outer spiky rinds off the pineapple and then cut the very top and bottom so you have large flat disks of pineapple (see photo). This will be the top and bottom of your meat tower.
Line a baking pan with tin foil.
Stick 2-3 skewers in the pineapple and start layering the meat on, you want to have half the meat on one and half the meat on the other. If you try to put it all on one then it's a 90% chance your meat will fall over in the oven from being too heavy.
Top each one with the pineapple round you cut. Cook in the oven for 1 ½ hours at 350 degrees. While it bakes, open the oven door and baste the meat with any drippings in the bottom of the pan. Do this every 20 minutes. Make sure to use a thermometer to make sure the meat is done before taking it out of the oven.
Step 6 - Assembling the taco. Use a sharp knife to slice the edges of the meat. Use a corn tortilla and fill it with the al pastor meat, chunks of fresh cut pineapple, white onion, salsa verde and cilantro.
More Mexican Recipes
- Bubbly Hot Mexican Street Corn Dip
- 10 minute Avocado, Corn and Tomato Salad
- Barbacoa Tacos
- Strawberry Margaritas
- Summer Chicken Taco Salad
- Tomatillo Salsa
- Chicken Street Tacos with Chipotle Aioli
- 7 lb pork shoulder butt
- 1 pineapple
- 4 California Chile pods, seeds removed
- 2 bay leaves
- ¼ white onion
- 5 garlic cloves
- 6 oz canned pineapple juice
- ¼ c vinegar
- 1 tbsp paprika
- 2 tsp Mexican oregano
- 1 ½ tsp cumin
- 1 tsp salt
- ½ tsp garlic powder
- ½ tsp pepper
- ⅛ tsp cinnamon
- ⅛ tsp ground cloves
- 4-6 wooden skewers
- Diced White onion
- Pineapple chunks
- Salsa verde (recipe in notes)
- Lime Wedges
- Rehydrate the Chile pods by soaking them in very hot water for 10 minutes, also add in the bay leaves
- In a blender add the white onion, garlic cloves, pineapple juice, vinegar, paprika, Mexican oregano, cumin, salt, garlic powder, pepper, cinnamon and ground cloves
- Add the rehydrated chiles and bay leaves to the blender
- Blend until smooth
- Slice the pork shoulder to ¼” thickness, large flat pieces
- Put all the slices in a large baking dish or bowl and pour the sauce from the blender over top, coat all the pieces in sauce
- Cover with plastic wrap and marinate for 6 hours
- Preheat the oven to 350 (once the meat is done marinating)
- Cut the rough rind off the pineapple then cut two large, thick, slices for the bottom and two slices for the top
- Poke 2-3 skewers into the middle of each pineapple slice then place the slices onto a baking sheet lined with foil
- Piece by piece, slide the marinated pork on to the skewers (half on each one, if you load it all on one skewer it will be too heavy and fall over in the oven)
- Place the other pineapple slices on top
- Bake for 1 ½ hours, scooping up the juices at the bottom of the pan and basting the meat with it, every 20 minutes
- Check with a thermometer that the meat is cooked through (180 degrees)
- Pull from the oven and cut slices off the edges and build your taco with onion, salsa verde, pineapple chunks and cilantro
- Salsa Verde Recipe
- The achiote substitute seasonings were already added in to the recipe, for a break down of what those measurements are, see the post section titled "achiote substitute"
- Alternative cooking method (flat top grill) - cut all the pork into bite sized pieces, place in a ziploc bag with the sauce and marinate 6 hours. Heat up the flat top grill on medium, drizzle with oil then dump all the meat on top, cook until done.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 25 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 399Total Fat: 27gSaturated Fat: 10gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 15gCholesterol: 114mgSodium: 194mgCarbohydrates: 7gFiber: 1gSugar: 5gProtein: 30g
This information comes from online calculators. Although moderncrumb.com attempts to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures are only estimates.