Tacos Pastor, also known as Al Pastor Tacos, are a mouthwatering Mexican dish that has gained popularity worldwide. This flavorful dish is a staple in Mexican cuisine and is loved for its tender, marinated pork, vibrant spices, and unique cooking technique. In this article, we will explore the history of Tacos Pastor, the traditional recipe, and some tips to make the perfect Tacos Pastor at home.

The History of Tacos Pastor

Tacos Pastor have a fascinating history that dates back to the 19th century. The dish is believed to be a Mexican adaptation of the Middle Eastern shawarma, brought to Mexico by Lebanese immigrants. These immigrants settled in the Puebla region of Mexico and introduced their culinary traditions, including the vertical spit-roasting technique used to cook the meat.

Over time, Mexican cooks began to incorporate local flavors and ingredients into the dish, resulting in the birth of Tacos Pastor. The dish became especially popular in Mexico City, where it quickly gained a reputation as a delicious street food. Today, Tacos Pastor stands as a symbol of the fusion of Mexican and Middle Eastern cuisines.

The Traditional Tacos Pastor Recipe

To make the perfect Tacos Pastor, you will need the following ingredients:

  • 2 pounds of pork shoulder, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup of pineapple juice
  • 1/4 cup of white vinegar
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon of achiote paste
  • 1 tablespoon of dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon of ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon of paprika
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon of ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper (optional, for heat)
  • 1/4 cup of vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup of finely chopped onion
  • 1/4 cup of chopped fresh cilantro
  • 16 small corn tortillas

Now, let’s dive into the step-by-step process of making Tacos Pastor:

Step 1: Marinating the Pork

In a large bowl, combine the pineapple juice, white vinegar, minced garlic, achiote paste, dried oregano, ground cumin, paprika, salt, black pepper, ground cloves, ground cinnamon, and cayenne pepper (if desired). Mix well to form a marinade.

Add the thinly sliced pork shoulder to the marinade, ensuring that each piece is well coated. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, or preferably overnight. This allows the flavors to penetrate the meat and tenderize it.

Step 2: Cooking the Pork

Preheat your grill or broiler to medium-high heat. If using a grill, make sure to preheat it for at least 10 minutes to ensure even cooking.

Remove the marinated pork from the refrigerator and thread the slices onto skewers. If using a vertical spit, stack the slices onto the spit, ensuring that they are tightly packed together.

Place the skewers or spit on the grill or under the broiler, positioning them so that the meat is about 6 inches away from the heat source. Cook for approximately 10-15 minutes, or until the pork is cooked through and slightly charred on the edges. Rotate the skewers or spit occasionally to ensure even cooking.

Step 3: Assembling the Tacos

While the pork is cooking, heat the vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the finely chopped onion and sauté until translucent and slightly caramelized.

Once the pork is cooked, remove it from the skewers or spit and transfer it to the skillet with the sautéed onions. Mix well to combine and allow the flavors to meld together for a few minutes.

Warm the corn tortillas on a separate skillet or griddle until pliable. Fill each tortilla with a generous portion of the pork and onion mixture. Top with chopped fresh cilantro and any additional toppings of your choice, such as diced pineapple, salsa, or guacamole.

Tips for the Perfect Tacos Pastor

To elevate your Tacos Pastor to the next level, consider the following tips:

  • Use fresh, high-quality ingredients for the best flavor. Opt for organic, pasture-raised pork if possible.
  • Invest in a vertical spit or skewers for authentic Tacos Pastor. The vertical cooking method allows the pork to cook evenly and develop a delicious charred exterior.
  • Experiment with different toppings and salsas to customize your Tacos Pastor. Traditional toppings include diced pineapple, chopped onion, cilantro, and a squeeze of lime juice.
  • For a vegetarian or vegan twist, substitute the pork with marinated tofu or seitan. The marinade and cooking technique will infuse the plant-based protein with incredible flavor.
  • Pair your Tacos Pastor with a refreshing Mexican beverage, such as horchata or agua fresca, to complement the flavors and cool down the palate.


1. Can I use a different type of meat for Tacos Pastor?

While pork is the traditional choice for Tacos Pastor, you can experiment with other meats such as chicken or beef. However, keep in mind that the marinade and cooking times may vary depending on the type of meat you choose.

2. Can I make Tacos Pastor without a grill or broiler?

If you don’t have access to a grill or broiler, you can still make delicious Tacos Pastor using a stovetop grill pan or a cast-iron skillet. Simply cook the marinated pork slices on the grill pan or skillet over medium-high heat until cooked through and slightly charred.

3. How long can I marinate the pork?

For the best flavor and tenderness, it is recommended to marinate the pork for at least 4 hours, or preferably overnight. This allows the marinade to penetrate the meat and infuse it with delicious flavors.

4. Can I freeze the marinated pork for later use?

Yes, you can freeze the marinated pork for later use.


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