Cooking Like A Mexican

Tacos al Pastor

Tacos Al Pastor

Tacos Al Pastor are widely popular throughout Mexico as well as other countries, such as the United States. This dish typically consists of shaved spit-roasted pork, pineapple, onion, and cilantro all on top of a cooked corn tortilla. Of course there are slightly different variations of tacos al pastor in the different regions, however the preparation and cooking style of the pork remain relatively the same throughout Mexico. Tacos al pastor is prepared by first marinating pork slices in a marinade that usually contains fruit juices, chilies, and spices such as oregano, achiote, cumin, and more. After the pork is thoroughly marinated, it is then placed on a vertical spit called a ‘trompo’ (A Trompo is a top which is spun by winding a length of string around the body, and launching it so that IT lands spinning on its point. If the string is attached to a stick the rotation can be maintained by whipping the side of the body.) As the pork spins on the trompo, the pork fat heats up and drips down to create a crispy exterior. On top of the trompo, it is common to see either a pineapple or onion that is sliced off and placed into the taco as the waiter serves each taco. You have certainly seen the vertical hunk of pork twirling around at the front of the restaurant, it’s a focal point.

. Along with the pineapple and/or onion, cilantro is a common ingredient that is packed into the taco al pastor. Depending on the region, chef, and family recipe, the tacos’ toppings vary.

The origins of tacos al pastor are linked to Lebanese immigrants who migrated to Mexico during the 1930’s. These immigrants migrated from the Ottoman Empire due to a multitude of different reasons such as draft dodging, escaping violence, and searching for better economic opportunities.

The use of the trompo was inspired by the method used to prepare Shawarma, which is spit-roasted lamb on pita bread. *Shawarma was a very popular dish in the Ottoman Empire and its popularity spread throughout the empire. The vertical spit was invented in the Ottoman Empire during the 14th century and was quickly accepted as the only way to prepare Shawarma*. During the 1930’s, some of the Lebanese immigrants opened their own restaurants in which they served the popular Middle Eastern dish.

There was also a variation of shawarma that popped up called tacos arabes which was lamb on a flour tortilla. Later, during the 1960’s in Puebla, the Mexican-born children of these immigrants opened their own restaurants and put a Mexican twist onto the popular Lebanese dish. Lamb was switched out for pork, which was then marinated in a variety of spices and chilies that are popular in Mexican cuisine. The pita bread and/or flour tortilla were then switched out for corn tortillas. At one point, pineapple began to be included to the taco al pastor recipe. The origins of the inclusion of pineapple remain a food mystery to this day. It was also during the 1960’s when tacos al pastor found its way into Mexico City and gained immense popularity. Since then, tacos al pastor have become a long-lasting part of Mexican cuisine and a go-to street food choice.

To begin, thin slices of pork are marinated for three or four hours in spices and chiles like guajillo, achiote or adobo; they're then stacked onto a long trompo, or spit. Trompo is a traditional Mexican toy, from where the name comes from, it’s the same shape. As the meat cooks, the outside layer gets crispy from exposure to the heat. The taquero, or taco maker, shaves off the outer layers, catching it into the tortillas and might top the pork with sliced onion, cilantro and salsa, or leave that part up to you. The vertical skewer is a key part of the equation, facilitating fat and juices to drip down onto the stack of meat, basting it as it crisps. As they shave off and serve the outside crispy part, the next layer of meat gets crispy for the next customer.



For the Al Pastor Meat/Marinade

2-3Loin cut into thin slices

4 Chile, de-seeded, and cleaned.

1Chile, de-seeded, and cleaned.

4 Cloves garlic


1/2 orange juice

3/4 pineapple juiceis better

1 Oregano

1 Thyme

1 Pepper

1 Cumin

1-2 Achiote powder or paste

1-2 Salt


For the Roasted Tomatillo Chipotle Sauce

3 Tomatillos


2 cloves of garlic

1-2 on level of spiciness you want

3 Tablespoons Pineapple juice

Salt and Pepper to taste


For the Tacos

Corn Tortillas

Chopped cilantro

Chopped Onions



Grilled pineapple

Tacos al pastor meat


For the Al Pastor Meat/Marinade:

Blend all of the ingredients together until completely combined.

Strain the liquid over a bowl to end up with a smooth marinade.

Add one layer of meat in a large bowl or baking dish and cover with the marinade, and then repeat in layers until all of the meat and marinade have been used.

Cover with aluminum foil and refrigerate for at least 4 hours (overnight is best)

Remove from the refrigerator and grill the meat until cooked through.

Remove from grill and cut into thin slices to serve on the tacos.

For the Roasted Tomatillo Chipotle Salsa:

Roast the tomatillo, onion, and garlic in the oven on baking sheet at 450 degrees for 8-10 minutes, remove from oven.

Blend with the rest of the ingredients except the salt and pepper until well combined.

Put in a bowl and season with salt and pepper to taste.


For the Tacos:

Heat the tortillas.

Add the meat, the pineapple, the salsa, the lime juice, the cilantro and onions, and enjoy!