Check out my Al Pastor Recipe for Tacos. This homemade version of pork & pineapple tacos is prepared with grilled tenderloin to get the result similar to traditionally used rotisserie, very quick in preparation and absolutely delicious.
The taco meat recipe includes the use of chipotle paste. However, if you have any traditional Mexican dried chilies like guajillo or ancho chilies, you can incorporate them into the marinade by rehydrating them, removing the seeds, and blending them into a paste.
For topping your tacos I recommend roasted tomato salsa, guacamole, pickled red jalapeño & pineapple, fresh coriander, and cheese.
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Discovering Al Pastor: A Blend of Traditions
The Origin of Al Pastor
Al Pastor, a cherished dish in Mexican cuisine, finds its roots from Lebanese immigrants who introduced shawarma, the spit-grilled meat, to Mexico. This culinary exchange eventually evolved into what we now relish as Tacos Al Pastor, a beautiful meld of Middle Eastern and Mexican flavors.
The Essence of Al Pastor Recipe
At the heart of Al Pastor lies marinated pork, traditionally bathed in a mixture of dried chilies, spices, and a sweet hint of pineapple juice. The marinated meat is then stacked onto a vertical rotisserie, much like the original shawarma, and slow-cooked to perfection as it twirls next to an open flame. The outer layer crisps to a beautiful golden brown, ready to be thinly sliced and nestled into warm corn tortillas.
The Serving Tradition
Typically, Al Pastor tacos are garnished with fresh onions, vibrant cilantro, a slice of pineapple, and a drizzle of spicy tomato salsa, embodying a delightful contrast of flavours and textures. Additionally, a scoop of creamy guacamole adds a smooth, rich element that balances the spiciness, while the pickled jalapeño with pineapple brings a tangy kick and a sweet undertone, enhancing the complex flavour profile of this traditional Mexican dish. Love it!
Unveiling the Spice Blend: The Soul of Al Pastor
The spice blend is the essence that breathes life into the Al Pastor, a mix of traditional ingredients that marry to create a burst of flavours in every bite.
- Paprika: Lends a sweet-peppery flavour and a vibrant red hue, embodying the colour that Al Pastor is renowned for.
- Ground Cumin: Imparts a warm, earthy, and aromatic character that’s quintessential to Mexican cuisine.
- Oregano: Adds a subtle, yet distinct herbaceous backdrop, complementing the robust flavours.
- Black Pepper: A touch of black pepper brings a gentle heat and a depth of flavour.
- Annatto Seeds or Achiote Paste: Traditionally, annatto seeds or achiote paste are used, which impart a slightly nutty, sweet, and peppery flavour along with a rich colour.
- Cloves: Their sweet, aromatic essence contributes to the complex flavour profile of the blend and it works great with pork.
- Epazote: Though optional, Epazote is a traditional herb that adds a unique, irreplaceable flavour, enhancing the authenticity of the blend. Epazote has a very unique flavour and aroma, often described as a combination of oregano, anise, citrus, mint, and even tar or creosote. It’s pungent, with a slightly bitter, earthy, and citrusy taste that can be quite bold and overpowering if used in excess.
How to make Al Pastor:
Al Pastor Recipe – Tacos
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Ingredients for Al Pastor:
- 1 lbs Pork tenderloin - (450g) thinly sliced
- 2 slices Pineapple - finely chopped
- 1 Onion, medium size - cut in half and sliced
- 1 Red bell pepper - sliced
- 5 Garlic cloves - minced
- 2 tsp Chipotle paste - (Instead you can use traditional Mexican dried chilies like guajillo or ancho chilies, rehydrate and use in the marinade)
- 2 tbsp Vegetable oil
- ½ tsp Salt
Ingredients for Al Pastor spice blend:
- 12 Small corn taco tortillas
- Pickled Red Jalapeño & Pineapple
- 1 handful Fresh coriander - (cilantro)
- Cheese - Choose: Oaxaca, Cheddar, Queso Fresco, Mozzarella.
- In a spice grinder, combine paprika, cumin, epazote (if using), oregano, black pepper, annatto seeds, and cloves. Grind into a fine powder.
- In a large bowl, combine the spice blend, minced garlic, half of the vegetable oil, chopped pineapple and salt. Add the thinly sliced pork tenderloin and toss until the pork is well-coated with the marinade. (While refrigerating overnight will enhance the flavour, it's not a necessary step.).
- Preheat your grill to 460°F (240°C). Place the marinated pork on a tray and grill for about 12-15 minutes or until the pork is cooked through and has a slightly charred exterior. Go to another step while waiting for pork.
- In a large skillet, heat the remaining vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Sauté the onion and red bell pepper until they are soft and slightly caramelized, about 5-7 minutes. Then add a splash of water, cover with a lid, reduce the heat to medium, and cook for another 5 minutes.
- Add grilled pork to the skillet with the sautéed vegetables. Add 2 tsp of chipotle paste to the mixture, tossing everything together well to ensure the flavours meld. Cook for an additional 2-3 minutes on medium heat, stirring occasionally.
- Warm the taco tortillas in a dry skillet over medium heat for about 30 seconds on each side or until they are soft and pliable. To serve, place a few slices of pork and vegetable mixture on each tortilla. Top with your choice of salsa, guacamole, pickled red jalapeño & pineapple, fresh coriander, and cheese. Serve immediately and enjoy your homemade Al Pastor tacos!
- Spice Blend: The spice blend is crucial for achieving the authentic Al Pastor taste. If you can’t find annatto seeds, substituting with achiote paste is a great option. The annatto seeds are less expensive option and they will last you for a long time.
- Pineapple: Pineapple is a traditional ingredient in Al Pastor. It adds a sweet and tangy flavour that balances the spices well. You don’t have to add it to the marinade, you can only use pickled pineapple as a taco topping only.
- Tortilla Selection: While traditional Al Pastor tacos are typically served on small corn tortillas, feel free to experiment with other types like flour tortillas or even grain-free options based on personal preference or dietary needs. Each type of tortilla will bring a slightly different texture and flavour to the dish, so don’t hesitate to try different varieties to find what you like best.
- Melting Cheese: For a delightful cheesy touch, consider placing your cheese directly on the pan first, followed by placing the tortilla on top of the cheese. Once the cheese begins to melt and adhere to the tortilla, carefully flip the tortilla so that the cheese is on top, allowing it to become slightly crispy as the tortilla warms. This method not only infuses the tortilla with a rich cheesy flavour but also adds a crispy, savoury crust to your tacos, complementing the spicy and tangy Al Pastor filling beautifully.
- Chicken Al Pastor: If you prefer a lighter meat or have dietary restrictions, chicken is a great alternative to pork in this recipe. Opt for boneless, skinless chicken thighs as they tend to be juicier and more flavourful than chicken breasts. Follow the same marinating and grilling instructions as with the pork. The chicken can absorb the Al Pastor marinade well, delivering a tasty and healthier option while still enjoying the traditional flavours of this dish.
Few words from Chef
I trust you had a delightful time crafting these succulent Al Pastor tacos! I’m curious to know, what sides did you pair them with? Your culinary adventures inspire me, so feel free to share your experiences and thoughts in the comments below!