Tacos Al Pastor (A Flavorful Journey Of Mexican Delights)

Tacos al Pastor is a mouthwatering Mexican dish that has gained popularity worldwide.

The combination of marinated pork, vibrant spices, and a touch of pineapple creates a burst of flavors that tantalize the taste buds.

As a food enthusiast, I have had the pleasure of indulging in these delectable tacos on numerous occasions, and each bite is a delightful experience.

Originating from the streets of Mexico City, Tacos al pastor has a rich history and cultural significance.

The dish draws its inspiration from Lebanese immigrants who brought with them their traditional shawarma-style cooking techniques.

Over time, this culinary influence blended with local Mexican flavors, resulting in the creation of Tacos al pastor as we know them today.

The name “al Pastor” translates to “shepherd style,” referencing the method of cooking thinly sliced marinated pork on a vertical rotisserie, similar to shawarma or gyro.

The tender and juicy pork, combined with the smoky aroma from the grill, makes these tacos truly irresistible.

In this blog post, I will take you on a culinary journey to explore the world of Tacos al pastor.

We will delve into the ingredients that make up these tantalizing tacos, learn how to prepare and cook them to perfection, discover various serving styles, and even explore some creative twists and adaptations.

So, grab a napkin and get ready to satisfy your taco cravings with the irresistible flavors of Tacos al Pastor.

Mouthwatering Ingredients for Tacos al Pastor

To create the mouthwatering flavors of Tacos al pastor, you’ll need a variety of ingredients that come together harmoniously. Here are the essential components:

  • Marinated Pork: The star of the show, tender and flavorful marinated pork is the key ingredient.

    Thinly sliced pork shoulder or pork loin works best for this dish. The marinade infuses the meat with a blend of spices, herbs, and tangy elements.

    Personally, I prefer using pork shoulder as it has a higher fat content, resulting in juicier and more succulent tacos.

    I marinate the pork in a mixture of achiote paste, garlic, onion, citrus juices like orange and lime, vinegar, and various spices.
Meat juicy with black pepper sauce.
  • Pineapple: The sweetness and tanginess of pineapple perfectly complement the savory flavors of the marinated pork.

    Slices of grilled or caramelized pineapple are a classic addition to Tacos al pastor, providing a delightful contrast.

    I grill pineapple slices until they develop charred edges and caramelization, bringing out their natural sweetness.

    The smoky-sweet pineapple adds a burst of freshness to every bite.
Fresh delicious pineapple cut into pieces on white plate on a wooden table
  • Achiote Paste: Achiote paste is a vibrant red seasoning made from annatto seeds and various spices.

    It adds a beautiful color and earthy flavor to the marinade, giving Tacos al pastor their signature hue.

    I combine achiote paste with other ingredients like garlic, vinegar, and citrus juices to create a robust marinade that permeates the pork, infusing it with layers of complex flavors.
Annatto in a bowl, achiote paste
  • Seasonings and Spices: A blend of spices is essential to achieve the authentic taste of Tacos al pastor.

    Common seasonings include cumin, oregano, paprika, cinnamon, and chili powder.

    These spices contribute to the rich and aromatic profile of the dish. Personally, I like to add a pinch of cayenne pepper for a subtle kick of heat.

    The combination of spices creates a tantalizing flavor that will keep you coming back for more.
herbs and spices include paprika, coriander seeds, cumin, turmeric, basil, star anise, oregano and thyme
  • Tortillas: The vessel for your flavorful fillings, tortillas play a crucial role in Tacos al pastor.

    Corn tortillas are the traditional choice, adding a slightly sweet and nutty taste that complements the pork and toppings.

    For example, I warm the tortillas on a skillet until they become soft and pliable, ready to be filled with the succulent marinated pork and vibrant toppings.
Homemade White Corn Tortillas in a Stack
  • Toppings and Garnishes: Tacos al pastor come alive with an array of toppings and garnishes.

    Common options include diced onions, chopped cilantro, fresh lime wedges, and a drizzle of tangy salsa or hot sauce.

    These additions provide texture, freshness, and a burst of additional flavors.

    I top my Tacos al pastor with a sprinkle of finely chopped onions and cilantro, a squeeze of lime juice for a tangy zing, and a drizzle of creamy avocado salsa.

    These toppings elevate the overall taste and add a refreshing element.
Raw onion, chopped very small cubes on a wooden board

Now that we have covered the essential ingredients, it’s time to dive into the preparation and cooking methods for Tacos al pastor.

Get ready to unleash your inner chef and create these irresistible tacos in your own kitchen!

Preparation and Cooking

Tacos Al Pastor (A Flavorful Journey of Mexican Delights)

Recipe by Teal NotesCourse: Lifestyle, Recipes


Prep time


Cooking time






  • 1.5 pounds (700g) pork shoulder, thinly sliced

  • 4 tablespoons achiote paste

  • 4 cloves garlic, minced

  • 1 small onion, finely chopped

  • 1/4 cup orange juice

  • 2 tablespoons lime juice

  • 2 tablespoons white vinegar

  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin

  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano

  • 1 teaspoon paprika

  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder

  • Salt and pepper to taste

  • 8 small corn tortillas

  • Pineapple slices, grilled

  • Diced onions, chopped cilantro, lime wedges, and salsa, for serving


  • In a bowl, combine the achiote paste, minced garlic, chopped onion, orange juice, lime juice, vinegar, cumin, oregano, paprika, chili powder, salt, and pepper. Mix well to form a marinade.
  • Place the thinly sliced pork shoulder in a large resealable bag or container. Pour the marinade over the pork, ensuring each slice is coated evenly.

    Seal the bag or cover the container, then refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight for optimal flavor.
  • Preheat your grill to medium-high heat.
  • Remove the marinated pork from the refrigerator and let it come to room temperature.
  • Grill the pork slices for 3-4 minutes per side, or until cooked through and slightly charred.

    At the same time, grill the pineapple slices until they have grill marks and caramelization.
  • Transfer the cooked pork to a cutting board and let it rest for a few minutes. Thinly slice the pork into smaller pieces.
  • Warm the corn tortillas on the grill or stovetop until they are pliable.
  • To assemble the tacos, place a few slices of grilled pork onto each tortilla. Top with a grilled pineapple slice, diced onions, chopped cilantro, and a squeeze of lime juice.
  • Serve the Tacos al Pastor with your favorite salsa on the side and enjoy!

Preparing and cooking Tacos al pastor requires some time and attention, but the delicious results are well worth the effort.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you create these mouthwatering tacos:

  1. Marinating the Pork:

    Start by thinly slicing the pork shoulder or pork loin into strips or thin slices. Ensure that the slices are uniform in thickness for even cooking.

    In a mixing bowl, prepare the marinade by combining achiote paste, minced garlic, diced onion, citrus juices (such as orange and lime), vinegar, and a blend of spices like cumin, oregano, paprika, and chili powder.

    Adjust the quantities according to your taste preferences.

    Place the pork slices into the marinade and ensure they are thoroughly coated.

    Cover the bowl and let the pork marinate in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours, or preferably overnight, to allow the flavors to penetrate the meat.
  2. Cooking Methods for Tacos al Pastor:

    Traditional Vertical Spit: If you have access to a vertical rotisserie or spit, you can recreate the authentic method of cooking Tacos al pastor.

    Stack the marinated pork slices on the spit, layering them with slices of pineapple.

    Slowly cook the meat on low heat, allowing it to gradually cook and develop a juicy and tender texture.

    As the outer layer crisps up, shave off thin slices of the cooked pork and pineapple mixture.

    Grill: Preheat your grill to medium-high heat. Remove the marinated pork from the refrigerator and let it come to room temperature.

    Grill the pork slices on each side until they are nicely charred and cooked through.

    At the same time, grill pineapple slices until they develop a slight char and caramelization.

    Stovetop: Heat a large skillet or pan over medium heat.

    Add a small amount of oil and cook the marinated pork slices in batches until they are cooked through and slightly caramelized.

    Similarly, cook the pineapple slices until they are golden and caramelized.
  3. Assembling the Tacos:

    Warm the corn tortillas on a griddle or in a dry skillet until they become pliable and slightly toasted.

    Take a tortilla and add a generous portion of the cooked marinated pork to it.

    Top the pork with a slice or two of grilled pineapple and add your desired toppings and garnishes, such as diced onions, chopped cilantro, and a squeeze of fresh lime juice.

    Repeat the process for the remaining tortillas and fillings.

Now, you have a plateful of delicious Tacos al pastor ready to be enjoyed!

The combination of tender and flavorful pork, smoky grilled pineapple, and vibrant toppings create a delightful burst of flavors.

Serving and Enjoying Tacos al Pastor

Now that you have prepared the mouthwatering Tacos al pastor, it’s time to dive into the delightful experience of savoring these delicious tacos.

Here are some serving styles and recommended side dishes to elevate your Tacos al pastor enjoyment:

  1. Popular Serving Styles:

    Street-Style Tacos: Embrace the authentic street food experience by serving Tacos al pastor in small, doubled-up corn tortillas.

    This style allows you to fully appreciate the flavors and textures without overwhelming the taco.

    Taco Platter: Arrange the assembled tacos on a platter, presenting them beautifully for a visually appealing display.

    This style works well for gatherings or when you want to impress your guests with a tempting taco spread.
  2. Recommended Side Dishes:

    Mexican Rice: Serve Tacos al pastor with a side of fragrant Mexican rice.

    The fluffy rice, seasoned with tomatoes, onions, and spices, complements the flavors of the tacos perfectly.

    Refried Beans: Creamy and flavorful refried beans are another fantastic side dish to accompany Tacos al pastor.

    They add richness and heartiness to your meal.

    Grilled Vegetables: Lightly charred and smoky grilled vegetables, such as bell peppers, onions, and zucchini, make a fantastic side dish.

    Their vibrant colors and fresh flavors provide a refreshing contrast to the savory tacos.

    Guacamole and Chips: A classic combination, homemade guacamole with crispy tortilla chips is a refreshing and creamy accompaniment to Tacos al pastor.

    The creamy avocado adds a cooling element to balance the flavors.
  3. Beverage Pairings:

    Agua Fresca: Enjoy the vibrant flavors of Tacos al pastor with a refreshing Agua Fresca.

    Options like watermelon, pineapple, or hibiscus agua frescas complement the meal beautifully, providing a cool and fruity counterpart.

    Mexican Beer: Enhance the experience with a cold Mexican beer, such as a light and crisp lager or a Mexican-style craft beer.

    The effervescence and mild bitterness of the beer cleanses the palate between each flavorful bite.

    Horchata: This traditional Mexican rice-based drink, infused with cinnamon and sweetened with sugar, offers a creamy and soothing accompaniment to the bold flavors of Tacos al pastor.

By exploring different serving styles, pairing Tacos al pastor with complementary side dishes, and choosing the right beverages, you can elevate the enjoyment of this delectable Mexican delight.

The combination of savory, smoky, and tangy flavors will transport your taste buds to culinary bliss.

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What is pastor in a taco?

Al Pastor is a traditional Mexican dish made with seasoned and marinated pork.

The name translates to “Shephard Style,” which is derived from the origin of the cooking method.

Although al pastor is a Mexican meat, the style of cooking is an original of the Lebanese.

What does tacos al pastor contain?

Tacos al pastor are thinly sliced pieces of marinated pork that make for the best taco.

Serve them up with some sliced onion, pineapple, and cilantro and you have yourself a fantastic dinner your family will devour.

Tacos al pastor are thinly sliced pieces of marinated pork that make for the best taco.

What flavor is al pastor?

At first taste, you’ll experience the complexity of the chili peppers – smoky and just a touch of heat.

Then, you’re hit with spices like cumin and oregano, followed by subtle nuances of achiote and onion and some sweetness coming from pineapple.

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