Who doesn’t like Mexican food? Seriously, is there anyone out there who doesn’t? Anyway, I know my family sure does. These beef and rice bowls are one of our busy weeknight favorites. And the kids are always excited about a guacamole snack. And if we can have taco-truck-delicious tacos at home, then it’s a definite win.
Tacos al pastor are a great mix of tangy, salty, sweet, and spicy. I marinate pork in a sweet and spicy marinade, cook it, and shred it to put in tacos. My kids give it two thumbs up and say you should give it a try.
What Are Tacos Al Pastor?
Translated, tacos al pastor are shepherd tacos. Maybe Irish shepherds eat shepherd’s pie and Mexican shepherds eat shepherd’s tacos?
Seriously though, traditional tacos al pastor don’t resemble shepherd’s pie at all. The meat is more like a Mexican version of Lebanese shawarma or Greek gyros. Toss the meat in a tortilla with some other toppings and you have tacos al pastor.
To make it, marinate pork in a pineapple and adobo pepper marinade for at least an hour. Then choose a cooking method. The pork for traditional tacos al pastor is roasted on a spit.
I don’t have a spit that I roast meat on. Most home cooks don’t. But there are other ways to get a similarly delicious flavor at home. These are the three methods I’ve used:
- Smoker/pellet grill: My favorite method. It takes a lot longer than any other method but is the closest to spit roasting and tastes amazing.
- Instant Pot: The Instant Pot is a great tool for hands-off cooking and cooking large cuts of meat quickly. If you choose this method, broil the shredded pork for a few minutes to achieve the crunchy roasted texture you’d get from spit roasting.
- Stovetop: This method is the fastest because you will be slicing the marinated pork and pan-frying it.
Assembling Your Tacos
One of my family’s favorite things about tacos is that everyone can top their own however they like. I put out different topping options depending on what I have on hand and what’s in season. Our fish tacos, crispy pork carnitas, and fish taco salad are different every time we have them.
Usually, tacos al pastor are served with additional fresh or grilled pineapple, diced red onion, cilantro, and avocado. We also really like this taco slaw.
Mexican Style Al Pastor Tacos Recipe
- 5-6 lbs boneless pork shoulder (or boston butt)
- 1 pineapple (cored and chopped, divided)
- 1 medium onion (peeled and chopped)
- 2 cloves garlic (or 1 tsp garlic powder)
- ½ cup pineapple juice
- ¼ cup coconut aminos
- 1 TBSP vinegar
- ½ cup orange juice
- ½ cup maple syrup
- 1 lime (juiced)
- 2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
- 1 TBSP cumin
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp pepper
- 2 TBSP taco seasoning
- red onion (diced)
- cilantro (chopped)
- avocado (sliced)
- Trim the excess fat from the pork.
- Place the pork in a medium bowl and set aside.
To make the marinade:
- In a blender, puree 1 cup of the chopped pineapple and all the remaining ingredients.
- Pour the marinade over the pork and marinate in the refrigerator for at least an hour or up to 8 hours, turning every few hours.
To cook the pork:
Instant Pot: (easiest method)
- Add the pork and marinade to the Instant Pot.
- Cover and set to seal.
- Cook at high pressure for 45 minutes and let the pressure release naturally.
- Use two forks to shred the pork and place it on a large baking sheet.
- Finely chop another cup of the pineapple and add it to the pork.
- Place the baking sheet under the broiler of the oven for 5-7 minutes, until browned and pineapple is starting to carmelize.
- Remove and serve.
Pellet Grill: (tastiest method)
- Preheat a pellet grill or smoker to 250°F.
- Place the pork directly on the rack.
- Cook for 5 hours to an internal temp of 160°F.
- Remove and place on a large piece of foil.
- Brush with extra maple syrup and add 1 cup of fresh pineapple, finely chopped.
- Wrap the pork tightly in the foil and return it to the grill.
- Cook another 3-4 hours at 275°F until the internal temperature reaches 200°F.
- Remove and let rest for half an hour.
- If desired, grill fresh slices of pineapple directly on the grill until caramelized and serve on top of the pork.
Stovetop: (fastest method)
- Cut the pork into thin (½ inch or less) slices.
- Heat a large skillet or grill pan to high heat.
- Working in batches, sear each piece for 3-4 minutes per side until charred and cooked through.
- Remove and set aside.
- Sear an additional 1 cup of pineapple in the same skillet until caramelized and set on top of the pork.
- Let both rest for 5 minutes and then chop roughly.
- Serve in tacos.
- Top with extra fresh pineapple, red onion, cilantro, avocado, and other toppings of choice.
Have you made tacos al pastor before? How does your family like the toppings?