Tacos Al Pastor

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Tacos Al Pastor

Cooking time:

  • 5,5 hours in total
  • 4 hours of preparation
  • 1,5 hours of cooking

Servings: 10-15


For the meat and marinade:

  • 1 tbsp cumin
  • 2 tbsp salt
  • 1 tbsp black pepper
  • 60 ml white vinegar
  • 125 ml orange juice
  • 250 ml pineapple juice
  • 1 pineapple, cut into 2 cm slices (save some of it for serving the salsa)
  • 1 thick, wooden skewer cut to fit into your oven (soaked in warm water to avoid splinters)

For the salsa:

For serving:

  • 10-15 corn tortillas
  • 1 white or red onion, finely chopped
  • 40 g fresh cilantro, finely chopped
  • Lime wedges


Tacos al pastor, a delicious fusion food. The Mexican street dish par excellence, with an origin from across the world in the the Middle East. In the 20s a large number of Lebanese immigrants arrived in Mexico, bringing numerous culinary traditions with them, among which was the "shawarma" made with lamb meat. This preparation of lamb meat marinated with different spices, cooked on a spinning spit and served on pita bread, is the direct antecedent of the tacos al pastor.
Mexicans 'tropicalized' the recipe by changing the lamb for pig, adding a mixture of guajillo, chipotle, and ancho chiles to the recipe to create the marinade - a sauce that gives the characteristic color to the trompo (the big chunk of meat rolling by the fire), and finally by changing the pitas for corn tortillas.

Most trompos have a pineapple set above them, both to add flavor and serve a sanitary purpose. As the pineapple is heated, the juices from the pineapple will slowly begin to release and cover the entire trompo, which actually helps protect the meat against unwanted fly incursions and other nefarious little bugs from the streets that might think that this trompo looks invitingly delicious. When the outer layer of the trombo is grilled, the taquero (the person making the tacos) thinly slices the meat with a knife directly into the tortilla in his other hand – talk about multitasking! The taco is then typically served with finely choppd onions, cilantro, small pieces of pineapple and salsa roja or verde.

It’s difficult to replicate the exact flavors you get from Tacos al Pastor cooked the traditional way in the streets of Mexico, but with this alternative method of making a trompo – the flavors are pretty close!


  1. Remove the stems and seeds from the dried chilies and fry on a hot pan for 1 minute on each side until it’s slightly charred, but not burnt. Bring 5 dl water to a boil, turn off the stove and let the chilies soak in the hot water until they’re nice and plumb (about 15-20 minutes).
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the achiote paste, oregano, cumin, salt, pepper, vinegar, orange juice, and pineapple juice until smooth. Add the rehydrated chiles to a blender with some of the boiling water, blend to a paste, and add to the same bowl.
  3. Slice the pork into 1 cm (¼ inch) thick slices and add to the marinade, then toss to make sure that all pieces are coated. Cover the bowl and let it marinate in the fridge for at least 4 hours or preferably overnight.
  4. Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Cut the pineapple into 2 cm (½ inch) slices and place two slices in the middle of the baking sheet.
  5. Place the wooden skewer directly in the middle of the pineapple slices and fill up the skewer with the pork slices until there’s about 4 cm left at the top. Place two more slices of pineapple at the top.
  6. Bake in the oven for 1,5 hours until the pork looks grilled on the outside of your “trompo” and rest the meat outside of the oven for 10 minutes.
  7. While the meat is resting, make your salsa! Peel and de-seed an avocado and cut into chunks. Add the avocado, juice of half a lime, a handful of cilantro, and 4-5 tbsp of Vera Mexicana Tomatillo Verde Sauce (add more or less depending on your spice tolerance) in a blender and blend until smooth. Taste for hot sauce, acidity and salt and fold in some finely chopped pineapple – then transfer to a bowl.
  8. Carve off the meat in thin slices with a sharp knife into a bowl or directly into the taco like a true taquero!
  9. Serve with warm tortillas, tomatillo-avocado salsa, finely diced onions, chopped cilantro, and lime wedges – maybe a margarita or two on the side. Buen Provecho and Salud!

Author notes

Achiote paste adds the distinct, red colors of the al pastor meat as well as some earthy, peppery flavor notes. You can get it at many Asian and Latin-American specialty shops or you could buy annatto seeds and make your own. If you can’t get a hold of either, you could add paprika for color and earthy flavor notes.