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Tacos Al Pastor are some of the tastiest tacos you’ll EVER eat!
This classic Mexican recipe came from Lebanese immigrants. It’s a play on lamb shawarma. Using their same cooking process, this deliciousness was born.
At taco stands, you’ll see vertical spits of meat cooking with a large pineapple on top.
Using a large knife, sometimes a machete, the meat is sliced off to make these insanely good tacos.
Table of Contents
- 1 Ingredients
- 2 How to Make the Marinade:
- 3 How to Marinate the Pork
- 4 Pro Tip:
- 5 How to Assemble the Al Pastor Trompo:
- 6 Frequently Asked Questions
- 7 What to Serve with Tacos:
- 8 Tacos Al Pastor
- 9 Other Cooking Method:
NOT PICTURED: ½ cup water
Mazola® Corn Oil – You’ll need this to toast the chiles and also in the marinade.
Pork – Either boneless pork shoulder or pork butt work best. For a leaner cut, try pork loin.
Achiote Bar – This is an absolute MUST ingredient. Look for it in the Hispanic aisle, or order online.
Apple Cider Vinegar, or substitute for white distilled vinegar.
Guajillo Chiles – If you can’t find them as dried chiles, look for ground guajillo.
Pineapple Juice, or substitute with orange juice
Fresh Pineapple – The thick cuts of the fruit will help stabilize the trompo.
Onion and Garlic – Fresh is best, but you can substitute for 1 tablespoon garlic powder and 1 tablespoon onion powder.
Mexican Oregano is citrusy, herby, and makes the perfect addition to the marinade.
Salt, Black Pepper, Cinnamon, Cumin – All of these herbs add richness and earthiness.
Diced onion and fresh cilantro
How to Make the Marinade:
- Pour some Mazola® Corn Oil into a skillet.
- Add the guajillo chile. Stir continuously for 2 minutes.
- Then add the onion and garlic.
- Add some water. Cook for 2 minutes.
Remove from heat and cover for 5 minutes, until the chiles are rehydrated.
Be careful not to burn the chile, or they will become bitter, and you’ll need to start all over again.
I prefer to cook the chiles in Mazola® Corn Oil as it is a heart-healthy* all-purpose cooking oil that you can feel good about using.
- To the blender, add all the marinade ingredients.
- Blend until smooth.
- Then set aside.
To make cooking easier, make the sauce ahead of time.
It will last for up to 3 days in the fridge and up to 4 months in the freezer.
How to Marinate the Pork
- Place the pork on a cutting board.
- Using a sharp knife, slice into thin pieces.
- Marinate each piece individually.
Feel free to trim up any fatty areas. Pork shoulder is an exceptionally fatty cut of meat.
Even if you trim some off, there will still be plenty of fat to give flavor to the meat.
For REALLY thin slices of pork shoulder, pound it into thinner slices.
- Cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge.
- Marinate the meat for a minimum of 4 hours, although overnight is best.
I highly recommend using gloves to marinate the meat. Achiote can stain your hands. Or worse, you might accidentally touch your eyes. OUCH!
How to Assemble the Al Pastor Trompo:
- Take a skewer and put it through the center of a thick pineapple slice.
- Layer the marinated pork until there is no more pork.
The vertical spit that you find at taco stands is called a “trompo.” Here, we are making a homemade version.
A cast iron skillet works best. It’s deep enough to pick up the drippings from the fat, and it can move easily in and out of the oven.
You can also use a baking sheet, but be extra careful when removing from the oven. You don’t want the drippings to spill and burn you.
The pineapple has a dual purpose here. (1) To fix the meat in place, but (2) it will be added to the tacos later for some sweetness.
- Add another big, thick chunk of pineapple on top of the trompo.
- Place in the oven until fully cooked.
Check your trompo. If it doesn’t feel secure, add another skewer.
Other Cooking Method:
(1) Heat oil in a hot skillet. Cook each slice individually. Chop into pieces and serve as tacos.
(2) Use skewers and cook them on a gas grill.
(3) Slow Cooker – Place meat inside the pot, cover, and set on low for 6 hours.
(4) Instant Pot – Place meat inside the instant pot, cover, close lid, move valve to SEALING, press pressure cook, set timer to 50 minutes, quick release.
- Carefully take the skillet out of the oven.
- Cover with aluminum foil to keep warm.
- Let rest for 10 minutes before slicing.
Insert your meat thermometer. You are looking for safe internal temperature of 145°F-150°F.
Please look at the fat drippings in the picture above. The cast iron skillet filled up almost halfway.
Use some of the drippings to baste the pork.
- Once ready, slice and chop into small pieces.
- Small enough to fit a tortilla.
The outer layer of meat will inevitably get dark and toasted, but the inside is full of tender pork.
Pour some of the drippings all over the chopped up meat to keep moist and warm.
Cover and set aside until ready to assemble your pork tacos.
Frequently Asked Questions
Literally translated, “al pastor” means shepherd. In short, shepherd style tacos.
Both recipes use pork, but the cooking methods and the flavor profiles are different. Carnitas are seasoned and traditionally fried. Al Pastor tacos are marinated and slow cooked on a spit.
The best tacos al pastor are made with thin slices of pork shoulder.
What to Serve with Tacos:
These authentic Al Pastor Tacos are next level delicious!
Next time you’re having a fiesta at your house, a Cinco de Mayo celebration, want to impress your Sunday guests, try this recipe.
One bite, and you’ll understand they are the BEST of the best in Mexican food.
HUNGRY FOR MORE?
Did you make this recipe? Please rate the recipe below!
Tacos Al Pastor
For the Marinade:
To Assemble the Trompo:
- 3 ½ lbs pork (butt or shoulder)
- fresh pineapple sliced
- wooden skewers
For the Tacos:
- 15 corn tortillas
- diced onion (topping)
- cilantro (topping)
- diced pineapple (topping)
- salsa (topping)
For the Marinade:
- Heat the oil in a large skillet.
- Add the guajillo chile and cook for 2 minute.
- Stir constantly.
- Add the onion and garlic.
- Cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly.
- Add the water.
- Cover and take off heat.
- Let it cool slightly. About 5 minutes.
- Then add to a blender along with the remaining marinade ingredients.
- Blend until smooth.
- Set aside until ready to use.
For the Pork:
- Rinse and pat dry the pork.
- Cut into thin slices.
- Coat each slice in the marinade.
- Cover with plastic wrap and marinate for 4 hours in the fridge.
- Overnight is best.
To Assemble the Trompo:
- Take a pineapple slice and pierce through the skewer to form the base.
- Add layers upon layers of the sliced marinaded pork.
- At the very top, add another pineapple slice.
- Heat oven to 400 degrees F.
- Cook for 1 ½ hours.
- Reduce heat to 350 degrees F.
- Cook for another 30 minutes, or until pork reaches an internal temperature of 145 degrees F.
- Remove from the oven.
- Let sit for 10 minutes.
For the Tacos:
- Chop pork into tiny pieces.
- Warm up tortillas.
- Add pork to tortillas.
- Top with cilantro, onion, pineapple (either fresh or from the trompo) and salsa.
- iBueno provecho!
Other Cooking Method:(1) Heat oil in a hot skillet. Cook each slice individually. Chop into pieces and serve as tacos. (2) Use skewers and cook them on a gas grill. (3) Slow Cooker – Place meat inside the pot, cover, and set on low for 6 hours. (4) Instant Pot – Place meat inside the instant pot, cover, close lid, move valve to SEALING, press pressure cook, set timer to 50 minutes, quick release.
- If you the pork is too charred after an hour and half, cover with aluminum foil. Bring oven temperature down to 350 degrees F, and return the pork to the oven until it reaches 145 degrees internal temperature.
*Corn oil is a cholesterol-free food that contains 14g of total fat per serving. See nutrition information on product label or at Mazola.com for fat and saturated fat content.
**Very limited and preliminary scientific evidence suggests that eating about 1 tablespoon (16 grams) of Corn Oil daily may reduce the risk of heart disease due to the unsaturated fat content in Corn Oil. FDA concludes that there is little scientific evidence supporting this claim. To achieve this possible benefit, Corn Oil is to replace a similar amount of saturated fat and not increase the total number of calories you eat in a day. One serving of this product contains 14 grams of Corn Oil.
Maggie Unzueta is the writer/blogger, photographer, recipe developer, videographer, and creator of In Mama Maggie's Kitchen. She has been developing easy and authentic Mexican food, Mexican-inspired recipes, and traveling tips since 2010. From family recipes to her extensive travels throughout Mexico, she brings traditional Mexican flavors from South of the Border and into your kitchen. Maggie has been featured in notable culinary websites and other media outlets. For more details, check out her About page.