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Tacos Al Pastor, The Best Tacos In The World!

by Spicie Foodie on June 5, 2011

Authentic Tacos Al Pastor Recipe by @SpicieFoodie | #TacosAlPastor #Mexican #tacosThe Spanish word pastor means shepherd, so these tacos translate to shepherd style tacos.

Have you ever tried tacos al pastor? If you have then I’m sure you’d agree that they are the best tacos in the world! Those of you that have never tasted these scrumptious flavours have been missing out. These tacos are unlike any other both in taste and origin. First let’s talk about their origin, tacos al pastor are the new world cousin to the Lebanese shawarma. Lebanese immigrants introduced the method of cooking meats on vertical spits to Mexico. The method is a traditional way of cooking meats like shawarma or kebabs in the Middle East.  The immigrants cooked lamb that was marinaded with local Mexican herbs and spices that then had pineapple placed on top of it before being roasted on the spit. Once the meat had cooked through it was sliced thinly and served on top of a corn tortilla. Over time the meat changed from lamb to pork, more typical of Mexican cuisine, to end up with what we now know as tacos al pastor.

Authentic Tacos Al Pastor Recipe by @SpicieFoodie | #TacosAlPastor #Mexican #tacos

The popularity of these tacos grew and overtime spread around the country. Different regions of Mexico will incorporate or change the recipe to use ingredients typical to the region. Tacos al pastor are one of those dishes where everyone has their own guarded personal recipes. In fact taquerias (taquerias are restaurants specializing in tacos), highly guard their recipes and will never share what makes their tacos unique from the taqueria down the street. The tacos can have an array of ingredients such as oregano, cumin, cloves, chile guajillo, chile ancho, vinegar, pineapple juice, or fresh pineapple, orange juice, soda and/or achiote paste. It is these combinations of herbs, spices, juices, and cooking methods that give tacos al pastor their unique taste. They are mild, tender with a hint of sweet pineapple and guaranteed to satisfy every palette.

Authentic Tacos Al Pastor Recipe by @SpicieFoodie | #TacosAlPastor #Mexican #tacos

My recipe is a slightly evolved one based on one I was given by my sister. This is a 2 day process and I highly recommend that you do not cut the marinading time short. The flavors of the chiles and spices will be best absorbed by the pork if allowed to sit overnight. Additionally the long marinading time allows the bromelain in the pineapple to tenderize the pork. Since the tacos are mild I will, depending on my mood, add a few chiles de arbol to spice it up. I’ve also read some recipes where people have used chipotle peppers to make the tacos extra spicy — I wouldn’t recommend them because while they taste great, they will overpower the other chiles and spices and not taste how tacos al pastor should. Another ingredient I will occasionally add to give the pork a more vibrant colour is achiote paste, this is totally optional and will not affect the taste either way. You all know that Mexican tacos are always topped with finely chopped cilantro and onion, the same applies here. Some people also like to add fresh finely chopped pineapple to the tacos, I never do but it’s your choice. Oh yes, and don’t forget to serve a salsa on the side — green will go great. What the heck add an ice cold Corona for a truly heavenly experience.

Authentic Tacos Al Pastor Recipe by @SpicieFoodie | #TacosAlPastor #Mexican #tacos

Authentic and Easy Tacos Al Pastor Recipe
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Tacos al pastor have Lebanese origins and are among the best tasting tacos in the world. Try this easy authentic homemade recipe.
Author:
Recipe type: Tacos, Dinner, Lunch
Cuisine: Mexican
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • 1 kilo or 2.2 lb pork meat: boneless and all extra fat removed, chopped into bite size pieces
  • 3 dried chile guajillos
  • 2 dried chiles anchos
  • 2 dried chiles de arbol, for an extra spicy option (fee free to omit)
  • 1 medium tomato
  • 1 tsp whole cumin seed
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 small white onion, peeled and halved
  • pinch black pepper
  • 1 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1 cup fresh pineapple, finely chopped*
Toppings and Additional Ingredients:
  • fresh finely chopped cilantro
  • finely chopped white onion
  • lime wedges
  • salsa of choice
  • corn tortillas
Instructions
Marinade Instructions:
  1. Soak chiles in hot water for 15 minutes. In mean time blacken the tomato, onion and garlic cloves on top of a hot griddle or grill. Peel the tomato skin and remove seeds, place in blender. Add the onion and garlic cloves to the blender as well as the spices. Remove the chiles from the hot water and reserved the water. Remove the stems and seed from the chiles then place in blender. Add about ⅓ cup of the boiling water to the blender. Blend into a smooth salsa.
  2. Place the bite size pork pieces and pineapple inside a container. Pour the salsa over the meat and add the pineapples. Stir until well combined, cover and place in the refrigerator overnight.
  3. Next day, drain extra liquid from the meat. Heat a little bit of oil in a large pan and cook the pork until it has cooked all the way through, about 20 minutes. Allow to simmer under low heat until ready to serve.
  4. Scoop a small amount into the middle of a corn tortilla, top with finely chopped onion, cilantro and lime wedges on the side. Please notice that a standard Mexican taco tortilla is smaller than a more common commercial sized corn tortilla, if using the smaller tortillas two can be stacked on top of each other before topping with the filling. The stacking prevents breakage and a messy eating experience.
Notes
* I highly urge you to use fresh pineapple instead of canned. If you absolutely must used canned make sure it is unsweetened.




All chiles can be found and purchased by following these links.
Dried chiles de arbol, dried chiles guajillos and dried chiles anchos.

 

Authentic Tacos Al Pastor Recipe by @SpicieFoodie | #TacosAlPastor #Mexican #tacos

The process is really quite simple, all you need is a little planning ahead. Trust me you won’t mind spending the time because homemade tacos al pastor are a wonderful reward for your whole family and/or dinner guests. ¡buen provecho!

 

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in Mexican,Pork,Tacos

{ 42 comments… read them below or add one }

1 claudia lamascolo June 5, 2011 at 11:36 AM

As usual exquisite presentation and this looks hot hot hot! In a good good way!!!!

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2 Spicie Foodie June 5, 2011 at 11:48 AM

Hi Claudia, Thank you :))!

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3 Ruby June 5, 2011 at 11:53 AM

How have I never heard of these? I love tacos and I love shawarma – you just made my day!

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4 Spicie Foodie June 5, 2011 at 12:28 PM

Hi Ruby, They don't seem to be too well know by many non-Mexican. I'm not really sure why. But either way glad to hear it and I hope you will try them soon.

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5 Frank June 5, 2011 at 1:07 PM

Simply beautiful! I've enjoyed tacos al pastor before, or something called that, but it was much plainer than this, made with grilled meat much like tacos al carbón. Also good, but this is a must try!

By the way, I always wondered about the name… Shouldn't shepard's tacos be made with lamb?

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6 Spicie Foodie June 5, 2011 at 1:24 PM

Hi Frank, Yes the shepherd name stuck or comes from the original way they were made with lamb by the Lebanese immigrants to Mexico. But Pork is more common than lamb so pork is what became the standard meat to use.

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7 Lizzy June 5, 2011 at 3:07 PM

Stunning photos!! These tacos look amazing…and I love the use of pineapple to tenderize…mmmmm.

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8 Spicie Foodie June 5, 2011 at 3:37 PM

Hi Lizzy, Thank you :)

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9 pigpigscorner June 5, 2011 at 4:02 PM

Beautiful! One of the best tacos I've ever seen!

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10 Kulsum@JourneyKitchen June 5, 2011 at 4:17 PM

Wow I never knew this connection between mexico and lebanese! What would you suggest as meat of choice if one doesn't eat pig?

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11 Cooking Gallery June 5, 2011 at 4:32 PM

I've never tried making tacos myself, only burritos so far ;). Your tacos look simply divine…:)!!

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12 Spicie Foodie June 5, 2011 at 4:48 PM

@pigpigscorner, Thank you!

@Kulsum, You can try chicken, that should be a good substitute :)

@Cooking Gallery, Thank you and you should make some tacos soon :)

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13 Magic of Spice June 5, 2011 at 6:07 PM

Just gorgeous! The preparation is filled with love…the boys will be nuts over this :)
Hugs

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14 Erin June 5, 2011 at 7:57 PM

Love Tacos – these sound amazing! Your pictures are stunning!

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15 Belinda @zomppa June 5, 2011 at 8:05 PM

It's weird to salivate, is it? Too late. I am.

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16 KEcker June 5, 2011 at 8:32 PM

These look so delicious! You went through a lot of trouble to make these too:o) I love Tacos al Pastor, I will have to try making these sometime soon. Thanks for the inspiration!

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17 Michelle Chin June 5, 2011 at 9:20 PM

The pineapple sure adds a zing into the dish!

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18 Sandra June 5, 2011 at 9:35 PM

I got hungry right now looking at your photos! What an awesome recipe, really!! My kids will love this..I will have to try it soon!!! Yummy!

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19 muppy June 5, 2011 at 10:17 PM

Love the story behind it, these look so tasty :)

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20 Pola June 6, 2011 at 12:10 AM

I had no clue how tacos al pastor are made, this is all very interesting!

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21 Maria June 6, 2011 at 8:32 AM

They certainly look and sound so tasty!

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22 Meagan @ Scarletta Bakes June 6, 2011 at 3:58 PM

Nancy, I absolutely love your take on this classic dish.

Delicious and gorgeous as always. Thank you for the post!!

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23 Emily Malloy June 6, 2011 at 6:21 PM

Pure heaven.

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24 spcookiequeen June 6, 2011 at 7:15 PM

These are my husbands' favorite tacos. He would be so happy if I made these for him. Can't wait, I will make a special trip to the Mexican market for some supplies. Hope you have a wonderful week.
-Gina-

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25 Pachecopatty June 6, 2011 at 9:04 PM

Buen Provecho is right! The history of Tacos Al Pastor is an interesting one, they look beautiful and delicious. I would love to try them, maybe Gina will invite me over for dinner when she makes them for her husband;-)

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26 The Culinary Lens June 6, 2011 at 11:51 PM

People may think calling these The Best Tacos in The World an exaggeration but trust me it's not. This recipe strikes me as delicious.

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27 The Mom Chef June 7, 2011 at 2:04 AM

Yum, yum and more yum. It sounds like the way we like gyro meat. We won't eat it unless they carve it off a vertical spit. This looks so amazingly wonderful. Thank you for sharing the history and the recipe.

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28 Dulce Dough June 7, 2011 at 2:27 AM

I have never tried tacos al pastor before, but they look so good! Your post was so interesting and your photos are beautiful!

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29 FamilySpice June 7, 2011 at 10:33 PM

This looks amazing! Better than what we see in our restaurants here in San Diego!

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30 Tanantha June 7, 2011 at 11:13 PM

Man, this sounds really good! Taco pastor is one of my favorite tacos (and steak taco)! Meat in a sauce looks super appetizing. I know the hubs will go crazy over this!

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31 Amy June 8, 2011 at 4:35 AM

These look out-of-this-world delicious. I've always loved tacos al pastor, but I've never made them for myself. . . yet! ;) Thanks for the recipe–and beautiful photo tutorial.

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32 sweetlife June 8, 2011 at 10:46 AM

Tacos de pastor are my papi's favorite!! Every winter when we stayed with my grandmother in Matamoros we had these at least once a week. Thanks for sharing, I really should make these for father's day!
sweetlife

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33 Hester Casey - Alchemy June 8, 2011 at 12:34 PM

Nancy, this looks amazing and well worth the two-day marinade. Really interesting background on tacos too!

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34 Lazaro Cooks July 5, 2011 at 11:35 PM

Amazing that in the age we live in you have to warn people against skipping on marinading. Because we live in a 30 minute meal society. Sad.

The marinade, balance of spice, and cooking is on point.

Well done.

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35 Hester aka The Chef Doc July 26, 2011 at 3:34 PM

This is ridiculous! I LOVE tacos al pastor! They're way better than that shredded carnitas stuff. OMG, I can just taste the flavors. They're sooooooooo good! I must ask you–what kind of pork did you use in your recipe? Because you didn't specify what cut and I'd like to make some of this :-) I love a good pork shoulder.

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36 Spicie Foodie July 26, 2011 at 3:36 PM

Hi Hester, Glad to hear you love them too :) Really any cut that is lean will do but YES pork shoulder will work great. I hope you enjoy them.

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37 Andrew April 2, 2012 at 3:23 PM

We love tacos al pastor ….good recipe for pork.!!

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38 Spicie Foodie April 2, 2012 at 6:39 PM

Thanks!

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39 Katie | Healthy Seasonal Recipes October 24, 2013 at 4:57 PM

I fall to pieces over Schawarma and to then turn it into a taco! Oh boy! Looks and sounds amazing. I will be passing this on to my sister, she’ll love it too. So glad to have found your website through NoshOnIt.

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40 Tess January 8, 2014 at 6:45 PM

I am so happy I found this recipe!! I want to try it for Friday night – but one roadblock: my local Mexican grocer is out of dried chilies anchos but had ground anchos. Could I substitute and how much should I use?!
Thanks!!!

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41 Spicie Foodie January 8, 2014 at 8:07 PM

Hi Tess,

Yes, absolutely. I would use 1.5 to 2 tablespoons. You can taste the marinade before mixing it into the meat and adjust the seasonings if needed. Enjoy your tacos!

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42 Gregory Anderson February 8, 2014 at 5:02 PM

I’ve been buying Carne al Pastor from my nearest Mexican Meatmarket since we bought our previous home in Albuquerque. I now shop at La Michoacana, within a mile of our home. I love this recipe you provided, it sounds great. We’ll try it this next week. Thanks so much for your exploration and enjoyment of good food.

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