Tacos Al Pastor Homemade Recipe

Learn how to make authentic tacos al pastor with this easy recipe. You don’t need special utensils or techniques because this recipe is for uncomplicated, yet delicious, homemade soft tacos just like the ones you find in Mexico!

What are tacos al pastor?

Tacos al pastor is one of the most popular street food from Mexico. The dish consists of small-sized tacos with spiced pork served with various toppings. Those tacos are for sure one of a kind because they are prepared differently from other types of tacos.

To begin with, the meat is first cut into thin slices and marinated in a sauce with chili peppers and various spices, then it is skewered onto layers. A large piece of fresh pineapple is placed on top to help add even greater flavor.

Traditional al pastor trompo in an authentic Mexican taco stall.

The meat is cooked slowly, on a turning vertical Trompo, a kind of large skewer that rotates on itself, very similar to the one used to cook kebab; it is named for its great resemblance to the Mexican toy called trompo.

Tacos al pastor are then served by slicing the meat into small bites and placing it on a small tortilla previously greased and heated with the juices and fat released by the meat.

Finally, chopped fresh onion and cilantro are added and tacos will be served with the sauce of your choice: Guacamole sauce, Green tomatillo sauce, etc.

The recipe origin

The origin of this popular dish in Mexico is uncertain and there are many legends that surround it, but the most “authentic” story is that it is a variant of the famous Arabian tacos, originally from Puebla and that was introduced to the country thanks to Turkish immigrants back in the 19th century.

Ingredients

Pork Meat – Choose a cut that has a good amount of fat, such as pork belly, shoulder, or ham. For this particular recipe, we need the meat cut into 1-inch chunks.

Chilies – A variety of Mexican chilies is needed for the recipe. Those chiles can be found at any Mexican store or Amazon. Make sure to use both types as each of them add a particular taste on their own.

Spices – garlic, oregano, thyme, pepper, whole cloves, and cumin. Also, Achiote is listed, it can be found at any Latin American store but if you can’t find it just leave it out or replace it with the quick recipe I leave you below.

Related: What Is Achiote?

TortillasCorn tortillas are the ones you need. You can buy them online (Amazon) or make them at home. Typically small tortillas are used to make al pastor Mexican tacos but feel free to use any size you have available. Or you can also use flour tortillas which are easier to find/make.

Salsas – Use any salsa you prefer, even store-bought works fine. But if you want to make them at home, check out our suggestions below. Any of those are perfect to serve with those al pastor Mexican tacos.

Easy Tacos Al Pastor Served on a Turquoise Colored Plate.

How To Make Homemade Tacos Al Pastor At Home

Start with the al pastor marinade:

Cut the chiles lengthwise and discard the seeds. Wash through the chilies and place them in a bowl with hot water. Let chilies soak for about 15 minutes.

Preparing and soaking chilies for pastor sauce.

Drain the chilies and place them into a blender. Add achiote (see notes), garlic, pepper, whole cloves, cumin, thyme, and oregano.

Pour in pineapple juice and blend until smooth. If you see is needed, add 1 or 2 tablespoons of soaking water to help the ingredients to blend together.

A collage with pastor sauce adobo preparation.

In a large bowl place the meat and add salt (about 2 tsp). Pour in the chili sauce and coat evenly turning the meat with tongs. Cover with cling film and leave it to marinate preferably over night, or at least 2 hours (see notes).

Pork meat for tacos al pastor marinating in a bowl.

Cut the pineapple into chunks the same size as the meat. Also, if you using wooded skewers soak them in cold water for 20 minutes before continuing with the recipe.

Now, thread the marinated pork chunks into the skewers placing one chunk of pineapple at both ends of each skewer.

Prepared skewers with al pastor pork.

Cook the meat

Heat a grill until smoky and then cook the meat from all sides until nicely charred and cooked through. It will take from 20 to 25 minutes, turning over the skewers as needed.

Al pastor skewers grilling on a griddle.

Place the cooked al pastor meat on a plate or container and keep it covered while you finish. Covering allows the meat to keep moist and tender.

Once all meat is cooked, take a skewer standing up and slice it into small bites with a sharp knife. You need to do this step while the meat is still hot as it will be easier to slice.

Slicing the meat with a knife.

Cut into bites also the pineapple chunks and keep everything well covered to prevent the ingredients from drying out.

Assemble Tacos

  • Heat the tortillas in the same grill until soft and pliable.
  • Make tacos placing first the meat in the middle of a tortilla.
  • Top with chopped onions, cilantro, and pineapple bites.
  • Pour in your favourite sauce and a squeeze of lime. Enjoy!
A plate with two tacos al pastor and a salsa bowl on the side.

Recipe Notes

  • Replace Achiote with: 2 tsp paprika + 1 tsp orange juice + garlic clove + 1 tsp lemon juice. Blend it to make a paste to use in the recipe.
  • The longer the meat marinate, the stronger and delicious the flavor.
  • You can use store-bought flour tortillas instead of corn tortillas
  • Replace fresh pineapple with canned pineapple if you want. Do not add them to the skewers as they will fall apart during cooking, grill the slices separately and then cut them and top your tacos with.

Easy salsa recipes for al pastor tacos

  • Avocado salsa. A creamy salsa made of avocados, cilantro, and fresh chili peppers (photo below).
  • Tomatillo red chile salsa. Made with boiled tomatillos and dried red chiles.
  • Salsa verde. The famous Mexican salsa made with fresh green chiles and tomatillos.
Avocado salsa on a jar.

How To Heat Tortillas For Tacos

Use this small trick to make your tortillas super soft and scrumptious just as the ones in the taquerías:

  • Heat a non-stick pan over medium-high heat.
  • Pour 1 cup of water onto a large bowl and add 1 tablespoon of oil. Mix well.
  • Submerge quickly a tortilla (even straight from the fridge).
  • Add it to the pan and heat on both sides flipping two or three times.
  • Use your super soft tortillas to make your tacos al pastor.

Make Ahead, Store, and Reheat Instructions

To reheat the meat already cooked, don’t use the microwave or oven but use this easy method: Heat over high heat a large sauté pan, add pork lard or oil and allow to heat, add the meat plus 3-4 tablespoons of water, sauté for 1 or 2 minutes at high.

Reheating pastor meat on a pan.

Cooked meat for tacos al pastor stores nicely also for 5 days in the fridge in plastic or glass containers, or freeze for 2-3 months.

Toppings like cilantro and onions can be made a day ahead and kept well in airtight containers in the refrigerator. While salsas can be made 3 days ahead or even freeze for up to 3 months.

You can make the sauce, marinate the meat, and store it in the fridge for up to 4 days in a glass container with a tight lid on. Or your can place it in bags and freeze it for up to 3 months.

Tacos al pastor recipe.

Tacos Al Pastor Homemade Recipe

author Maricruz
16 tacos
How to make tacos al pastor at home in a super-easy way. You don’t need special utensils or techniques because this recipe is for uncomplicated, yet delicious, homemade al pastor tacos.
prep 15 minutes
cook 15 minutes
Resting Time 2 hours
total 2 hours 30 minutes

Ingredients 

  • 2.2 lb Pork shoulder (cut into 1-inch chunks )
  • 5 Guajillo chilies (stem and seeds removed)
  • 2 Ancho chilies (stem and seeds removed)
  • 3 Garlic cloves (peeled)
  • 2 Whole cloves
  • ½ tsp Black peppercorns
  • ½ tsp Ground cumin
  • 2 tsp oregano
  • ½ tsp thyme
  • 1 Tbsp Achiote paste (see notes)
  • 1 cup Pineapple juice
  • Pork lard (or any oil you prefer)
  • Salt

For Tacos

  • 16 small Corn Tortillas (see notes)
  • 1 cup Pineapple (diced, see notes)
  • 1 large White Onion (chopped)
  • 1 bunch Fresh cilantro
  • Limes
  • Mexican sauce (see notes)

Instructions
 

  • Wash through the chilies and place them in a bowl with hot water. Soak for 15 minutes.
  • Drain the chilies and place them into a blender.
  • Add achiote (see notes), garlic, pepper, whole cloves, cumin, thyme, and oregano.
  • Add pineapple juice and blend until smooth.
  • In a large bowl place the meat and add salt (about 2 tsp).
  • Pour in the chili sauce and coat evenly turning the meat with tongs.
  • Cover with cling film and leave meat to marinate preferably overnight, or at least 2 hours (see notes).
  • Cut the pineapple into chunks the same size as the meat.
  • Thread the marinated pork chunks into the skewers placing one chunk of pineapple at both ends of each skewer.

Cook

  • Heat a grill until smoky and then cook the skewers from all sides until nicely charred and cooked through. It will take from 20 to 25 minutes, turning over the skewers as needed.
  • Once all meat is cooked, take a skewer standing up and slice it into small bites with a sharp knife.
  • Cut into bites also the pineapple chunks and keep everything well covered to prevent the ingredients from drying out.

Assemble Tacos

  • Heat the tortillas in the same grill until soft and pliable.
  • Make tacos placing first the meat in the middle of a tortilla.
  • Top with chopped onions, cilantro, and pineapple bites.
  • Pour in your favourite sauce and a squeeze of lime.

Notes

  • Leave out Achiote or replace it with: 2 tsp paprika + 1 tsp orange juice + garlic clove + 1 tsp lemon juice. Blend it to make a paste to use.
  • The longer the meat marinate, the stronger and delicious the flavor.
  • If you can’t find or make corn tortillas, use flour tortillas instead. 
  • This amount of meat serves 16 small tacos or about 10-12 regular tacos (with larger tortillas)

Sauces Recipes:

Nutrition Information
Calories: 218kcal
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8 Comments

  1. These look great! I have been on a taco journey through my neighborhood in Queens, NYC this past year, but I have never tried making al pastor tacos at home. Thanks for the inspo! This looks like a fun recipe to try.

    1. It is very easy and you can even replace the chilies for Paprika if you don’t have a Mexican store near to you :)