Tacos al Pastor is definitely one of my favorite kinds of tacos. The tender pork is marinated in a delicious sauce. Then it is slowly grilled, thinly sliced, and served with fresh pineapple, cilantro, and chopped onions.
Tacos al pastor is a perfect meal for any day of the week, especially for budget-conscious moms and dads.
It is no secret that the best tacos in the world come from Mexico. On every street corner and at every restaurant in Mexico, you can find many different varieties depending on your tastes.
All tacos in Mexico have a few common elements, such as fresh corn tortillas, freshly chopped cilantro and onions, lime, and a pinch of salt. The meat is really the main part that varies.
What Are Tacos Al Pastor?
Some of you may be asking, “what are tacos al pastor?” Lucky for you, I am going to show you! The traditional way to make tacos al pastor is to take thin slices of marinated pork and pile them on top of each other.
Next, the meat is placed on a large trompo, which literally means “spinning top.” The meat then spins around in front of an open fire until it begins to cook through.
When the outer layer of meat is grilled, the taquero (the person preparing the tacos) cuts off layers of meat so that inner layers cook as well. As he cuts the meat, it falls off the trompo in small pieces directly onto the tortilla that the taquero holds with his other hand.
As you can see, being a taquero requires more skill than one might think! The taco is then served with finely chopped onions, cilantro, pieces of pineapple and either salsa rojaor verde.
Here in the United States, it can be difficult to find authentic tacos al pastor. I only found one place a few years ago that actually prepared them in the traditional way using a trompo. Unfortunately, they closed down not too long ago.
Even though it can be hard to make tacos al pastor in the 100% traditional way, that is no reason not to try to replicate the flavors with what we have. Although this tacos al pastor recipe does not use a trompo, the flavors are close to perfect!
How To Make Tacos Al Pastor
The secret to having the right flavor is in the marinade. Tacos al pastor have a distinct flavor and you have to make them right to achieve the “al pastor” flavor.
A secret to making tacos al pastor is to include pineapple juice in the marinade, as well as fresh pieces of grilled pineapple on the tacos themselves. One bite of this flavor combination and you will be coming back for more!
Normally this would be the step where you pile the meat on top of each other and put it on the trompo, so that it can be cooked slowly while spinning. Since I don’t have a trompo, we grilled the meat and then stacked the pieces on top of each other before cutting.
You will want to grill the pork until it has nice grill marks and is cooked all the way through. It should still have a red color to it when it is ready to eat. After you take the meat off, go ahead and grill the pineapple too.
After the meat and the pineapples are fully cooked, you will cut the meat into thin slices and the pineapples into bite-sized chunks. Of course, all tacos need to have a homemade salsa to serve them with, and tacos al pastor is no exception.
Serving Tacos Al Pastor With Salsa
My favorite salsa to make for tacos al pastor is this chipotle and tomatillo-based salsa. It also has pineapple juice and goes perfectly with this meal. It is easy to make, and it will really make a huge difference in your tacos.
The last step in the process is, of course, to pick the taco up and enjoy it! These tacos are truly perfect for any occasion, and since they don’t cost a lot of money to make, you won’t have to feel bad about eating as many as you can.
I hope that you enjoy this delicious recipe that I grew up eating on a regular basis in Mexico. My husband fell in love with these tacos the first time he went to Mexico. He said that these taste just as good as the ones that he tried there, and I have to say that I agree!
Gas Grill: You will need a good gas grill to cook the meat. This one is less expensive than others and will definitely do the job.
Knife Set: When you make tacos al pastor, you want to make sure that you have a sharp knife to slice the meat perfectly. If you don’t have a sharp, high-quality knife set yet, I recommend this one. It will last you for years and will result in perfect slices of meat.
Tortilla Press:Although you can make these with store-bought tortillas, homemade tortillas are always best. You can make them easily with this tortilla press.
I have guajillo and ancho chile powder. Are those viable substitutes to the actual chiles? Would you have a recommendation on how much of the powders to use?
Thursday 14th of May 2020
You can find authentic al pastor tacos in Columbus OH at Los Guachos. They are soo good. I hope to try this recipe soon and see if it is a decent substitute. We live 5 hours from the Columbus OH so we only get these tacos once a year or so.
Friday 8th of May 2020
I went ahead and blended everything up together last night. and the meat has been marinating since then. I'm going to grill the pork tonight.
Do you have any advice for grilling it? How hot does it need to be, and how long do I grill it for?
Thank you. I am so looking forward to dinner tonight!
Friday 8th of May 2020
Hi Joey, I usually try to get the grill pretty hot, and then cook the pork through. It shouldn't take too long, but it depends on how thin or thick you cut the pork. I try to cut it pretty thin, so it only takes a few minutes on each side.
Let me know how it turns out and good luck!
Wednesday 6th of May 2020
This is a wonderful recipe and so incredibly forgiving! If you're considering using it as a base but are intimidated please use it anyway. I have no doubt that if I had followed it closely the results would have been even better, but I have to work with what I've got, right? For the marinade I used canned crushed pineapple in pineapple juice with some lemon juice added, along with the listed herbs and spices (I did have those). I used red pepper flakes to give it heat.
I had some good quality pork chops which I sliced thinly and marinated for two hours.
Once the marinating was done, I cooked the sliced pork in a pan, and once it was done I added the crushed pineapple as well as some leftover pork tenderloin (which I happened to have) and once it was heated through I chopped the meat to make it better for tacos.
I used store-bought tortillas (but pretty good ones) and served it with my own pico de gallo and guacamole.
My sincere apologies for taking such liberties, but your recipe was a wonderful base and the tacos were amazing. I have indeed had real tacos al pastor and this was a very good version. You've gotta work with what you've got!
Wednesday 6th of May 2020
Hi, I'm planning on making this dish tomorrow night, and I was hoping you could clarify something for me.
When you say "Blend all of the ingredients together until completely combined." Does that mean in a blender? Or just in a bowl?
If it doesn't mean in a blender, then does the pork not marinate with the chilis and the cloves?
Thank you for the help, this recipe looks delicious. Can't wait to try it.
Friday 8th of May 2020
Hi Joey! Sorry for any confusion. Yes, the first step in the marinade section is the blend the marinade ingredients in a blender. You will want them to be mixed very well, so the blender is the best choice. Then you strain that liquid into a bowl and then add the pork so that pork will marinate in the resulting liquid.
Please let me know if you have any other questions.