Tacos al pastor

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Submitted by: gizmojumpjet

Tacos al Pastor

Tacos al pastor are probably my favorite variety of taco. When you get them from a truck or restaurant that does them properly, the meat will be cut fresh from a trompo, a vertical rotisserie like they use for making shawarma. In fact, tacos al pastor were originally derived from shawarma brought to Mexico by Lebanese immigrants. Or so Wikipedia would have us believe.

Even though most of us probably don't have a vertical rotissiere stuck away somewhere in our kitchen, we can still enjoy the delicious flavor of tacos al pastor prepared right in our own homes, and this is how you do it.

The Marinade 10-15 guajillo chiles 1-3 ancho chiles 1 head garlic, peeled and minced salt pepper ~1.5 cups water ~.25 cups vinegar

The Tacos 2.5 lbs Boston butt roast, cut into bite sized chunks.* 1 can (18 oz.?) pineapple chunks Corn or flour tortillas White onion, small dice Cilantro, rinsed and chopped Cheese of your choice (optional)

  • You can use other cuts, in fact I think I might start doings these with pork loin because there's an annoying amount of fat in butts and this cooking method doesn't do a good job of rendering it out.

Here are our chiles:


First, a note on the chiles. Don't feel compelled to use this exact combination of chiles, since I certainly don't. Don't be afraid to experiment. On the other hand, don't make a marinade out of 100% pequin chiles or you'll probably die.

To get started, we'll need to de-seed the dried chiles. I do this by cutting the stem off and then fingerfucking them, pulling out all of the seeds in the process. I then roughly cut them crossways into short lengths.

Here they are, de-seeded:


The next step is to transfer the chiles to a pot and add the water and vinegar. Bring this mixture to a boil, then cover, reduce the heat and simmer until the chiles absorb the liquid and plump up nicely, something like this:


Next, add your garlic cloves and allow the mixture to simmer, say 20 minutes or so, to cook the garlic through, then either transfer the mixture to a blender to blend, or whack them with a stick blender right in the pot. You'll notice my recipe calls for using a whole head of garlic. I like garlic! You can use less if you so desire.

The result of these efforts should be a reasonably thick marinade that looks like this:


Season the marinade to taste with salt and pepper and allow it to cool. Some recipes also call for cumin, cloves, or cinnamon. Although none of the locally produced al pastor tacos that I have eaten seem to use these flavors, I have been wanting to revisit my recipe to see if any of these flavors might improve what I feel is already a delicious dish. Since my current version currently does not, I can't make any suggestions as to ratios you might want to use. If you're the daring sort feel free to experiment and report back to us.

Next, get your Boston butt and cut it up into chunks, about 1 inch long by 1/2 inch wide or so. We're looking for bite-sized pieces here. Trim away as much fat as you can unless you like eating really fatty meat like some people do. Place the meat into an appropriately sized container, add the marinade and mix well.


It's up to you how long you want to let the mixture rest. Personally, I have some doubts as to the efficacy of long marinade times, so I generally go ahead and cook at least some of the meat right away and cook the rest as needed over the course of the next few days.

To make our tacos, put some of the meat mixture in a hot pan and cook it for a couple of minutes, until it's about halfway cooked through:


Then add some pineapple chunks along with a bit of the pineapple juice. This picture demonstrates the ratio that I use:


Continue to cook your meat/pinepple mixture until the meat is cooked through and the juice has thickened into a delectable glaze. Transfer to tortillas and garnish with cilantro, onion, salsa, and lime wedges.

If you're going to put cheese on your tacos like I did in these examples, put your meat and cheese on a tortilla, place it under a broiler briefly to melt the cheese, then add your vegetable garnishes and salsa. Bonus points if you're using flour tortillas and manage to get them a bit crunchy without burning them.

Here's an amateurish attempt at plating, I probably should have made another attempt but I was hungry!

TacosAlPastorGJJ8.jpg TacosAlPastorGJJ9.jpg

I hope you found this post helpful and I hope you enjoy your tacos al pastor.