Easy Grilled Pork Tacos al Pastor
Succulent, smoky, and sweet with just the right amount of spice, my easy Grilled Pork Tacos al Pastor are destined to become a grilling season favorite.
Made with only simple, easy-to-find ingredients and fewer than 30 minutes of active kitchen time, these pineapple pork tacos are my go-to summer comfort food.
What are tacos al pastor? What does “al pastor” mean in English?
Tacos al pastor translates to “shepherd-style tacos,” which is a reference to its cross-cultural roots.
Authentic pastor tacos are made using a spit-roasting method that Lebanese immigrants introduced to Puebla, Mexico in the 1930s. Super thin slices of marinated pork are piled high on a vertical spit, then roasted over fire like a shawarma or doner kebab.
These pineapple and pork tacos are a prime example of fusion food at its best — a cross between Middle Eastern spit-grilled meat (usually made from lamb), and the guajillo-rub grilled pork served by Mexican street vendors. They’re a match made in culinary heaven!
Why You’ll Love This Recipe
While I’m a big fan of the authentic style of trompo al pastor (“shepherd’s-style spinning top”), I wanted to create an easier, at-home version that anyone with a grill could replicate — no rotisserie or spit required.
I couldn’t be happier with the results! This simple recipe requires just 14 simple, easy-to-find ingredients, several of which you probably already have on hand. Better still, this marinated pork tacos al pastor recipe takes just 10 minutes of prep and about 15 minutes of cook time. The rest is done with the magic of marination!
Feel free to whip up your marinade several days (or even months!) in advance and pop the meat in the fridge or freezer until you’re ready for a fiesta. When the time comes, the quick roasted pineapple salsa will bring an added hit of juicy acidity and sweetness your guests won’t be able to resist.
And, despite the brightly colored orange-red tinge on the meat, these are not super spicy pork tacos. They’re deeply flavorful and you can taste the chiles, but the pineapple makes them very approachable.
In fact, even the kiddos will gobble them up with surprising eagerness. Trust me on this one — you may even want to double the recipe if you’re inviting a crowd of good eaters. 🤓
Ingredients & Substitutions
As promised, these roasted pork tacos are made with just a handful of ingredients you can find at nearly any grocery store. Here’s what you’ll need:
- Guajillo Chiles – Interestingly, guajillos are the second-most popular dried chile (anchos are the first) in Mexican cuisine, and it’s not hard to taste why. With a Scoville heat index of 2500-5000 SHUs, they are roughly the same level of spicy as jalapeños. Their flavor profile is somewhat sweet and fruity with the perfect amount of fire. Feel free to swap in New Mexico or California chile peppers if that’s what you have on hand.
- Chipotle Chiles in Adobo Sauce – Chipotles are actually dried, roasted jalapeños, and these canned beauties are ALWAYS in my pantry. They’re deliciously spicy, smoky, and inexpensive to boot! If you have any sauce and chiles left over, I suggest freezing them in a separate ice cube tray (don’t use the one you actually make ice in) so you can pop out just what you need at a time. They’ll keep for upwards of 6 months!
- Olive Oil – Just your normal cooking oil will work perfectly here.
- Orange Juice – Do yourself a favor and grab a real orange for the best, freshest flavor.
- Red Onion – Red onion is traditional, plus it looks extra pretty in the roasted pineapple salsa. Feel free to swap in yellow or white onion if needed.
- Pineapple – Choose a fresh, fragrant pineapple whose leaves release easily from the crown. In a pinch, you can also use canned pineapple, but make sure to reach for the kind that is packed in juice rather than syrup.
- Garlic – Fresh cloves are best, but you can swap in jarred minced garlic or garlic paste if needed.
- Kosher Salt – The large, coarse flakes of kosher salt make it easy to season meat without overdoing it.
- Dried Oregano – If possible, opt for Mexican oregano or even marjoram over Greek or Italian oregano. The flavor of Mexican oregano is more citrusy, which lends itself well to this fruity marinade.
- Ground Cumin – Just a pinch, for warmth. If you only have whole cumin seeds on hand, you can lightly toast them in a dry pan on the stovetop and pulverize them in a mortar and pestle or spice grinder.
- Pork Loin Sirloin – This boneless cut is much easier to handle than the traditional pork shoulder (used in authentic tacos al pastor trompo), which can be quite unwieldy.
- Corn Tortillas – There’s nothing quite like a pile of warm, homemade corn tortillas fresh from the comal. Feel free to swap in your favorite store-bought version to save time.
- Jalapeños – Optional for serving, but delectable for added crunch and flavor. Feel free to remove the seeds and inner white membranes to take down the spicy level a few notches.
- Lime Juice – As with the orange juice, you’ll do better to use real limes than the bottled stuff.
What is the best cut of pork to make al pastor?
If you have a restaurant setup complete with a spit, al pastor should be made with a pork shoulder. However, what makes a pork shoulder particularly delectable (fat, bones, connective tissue, and lots of well-used muscle) also makes it difficult for a less-experienced home cook to handle.
Instead, I recommend using a boneless pork sirloin. It’s very easy to cut into thin slices using nothing more than a typical chef’s knife. It’s also much more forgiving in terms of how quickly it cooks — here you’ll need just shy of 15 minutes, whereas all the connective tissue from the shoulder requires very slow cooking to make it meltingly tender.
How To Make Grilled Pork Tacos Al Pastor
These easy al pastor tacos come together in just a few simple steps:
Step 1: Soak Chiles. Remove stem and seeds from guajillo chile pods and place pods in hot water for about 15 minutes to soften.
Step 2: Make Marinade. In a blender, combine the softened guajillo chile pods, chipotle chiles, adobo sauce, oil, juice, onion, pineapple, garlic, salt, and spices. Blend until smooth.
Step 3: Marinate. Place the pork chops in a large gallon re-sealable bag and pour the marinade over the meat. Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour, but I would suggest overnight to lock in the flavors.
Step 4: Grill. On a hot grill lay pork chops in a single layer. When richly browned, usually just about 3 to 4 minutes, flip and brown the other side.
Step 5: Chop. As the meat is done, transfer it to a cutting board and chop it up (between 1/4 and 1/2-inch pieces). Scoop into a skillet and place on a warm grill keeping the meat warm.
Step 6: Grill Pineapple. Cut a pineapple into rings. Lightly brush both sides of the pineapple rings with vegetable oil. Grill turning once, until lightly charred, about 3 minutes per side.
Step 7: Finish Grilled Pineapple Salsa. Chop it up and mix with red onion, jalapeno, lime juice, and salt and pepper.
Step 8: Plate & Enjoy. Add the salsa to the pork and toss everything together. Serve with tortillas and your favorite salsa for your guests to make soft tacos.
Optional Variations & Dietary Adaptations
- Swap in a different protein. While carne al pastor is typically a pork-based dish, there’s no reason why you couldn’t swap in boneless skinless chicken thighs or even skirt steak using the same marinade. Make sure you adjust the grilling time as needed.
- Omit the tortilla. Who says al pastor has to be served taco-style? Try adding it to your salads or burrito bowls instead. It also makes for some stellar nachos.
- Go bigger. On the other end of the spectrum, you could load even more flavorful al pastor goodness into a giant burrito replete with rice, beans, and veggies.
- Don’t rush marinating. The pineapples in the marinade will actually help to tenderize your meat and infuse the pork with all the delicious chile-based flavors. Aim for a minimum marination time of 2-4 hours, but preferably leave it for 24.
- Get a head start. You can actually marinate the meat a couple of days before your event. The morning of your fiesta, grill the pork, cut, and reserve.
- To save even more time on party day, cook the meat the day before your fiesta. Make your pineapple salsa the day of your party and then combine the meat and the salsa in the morning. Reheat it all in an iron skillet on your grill and let your amigos serve themselves.
- Serve with a pitcher of skinny cantaritos for the ultimate Cinco de Mayo celebration.
Frequently Asked Questions
While many of the same ingredients are used in both recipes, carne adovada is more of a stew whereas al pastor is a dry preparation.
If you love al pastor, chances are you’ll also love carnitas. That said, the preparation and cut of meat is quite different between the two. Carnitas are made from a pork butt that is slow-cooked in a braise until fork-tender and shredded. Al pastor is grilled to smoky perfection and then chopped.
No, you can easily make this recipe on your stovetop as well by cooking the meat in a large heavy skillet or grill pan over medium-high heat.
The roasted pineapple salsa in this recipe plus a squeeze of lime juice and a sprinkling of fresh cilantro, is perfection.
This easy roasted tomatillo-chipotle salsa and my homemade roasted pineapple salsa are my favorites with these tacos al pastor!
Grilled Pork Tacos al Pastor with Roasted Pineapple Salsa
- 3 guajillo chiles, softened
- 3 chipotle chiles in adobo sauce, plus 2 tablespoons of the canning sauce
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/2 cup fresh orange juice
- ½ red onion, roughly chopped
- 2 pineapple rounds, cored
- 3 garlic cloves
- 2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano, preferably Mexican
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
- 2 pounds pork loin sirloin, thinly sliced
- Corn tortillas
- Roasted Pineapple Salsa
- Remove stem and seeds from guajillo chile pods and place pods in hot water for about 15 minutes to soften.
- In a blender, combine the softened guajillo chile pods, chipotle chiles, adobo sauce, oil, juice, onion, pineapple, garlic, salt, and spices. Blend until smooth. Place the pork chops in a large gallon re-sealable bag and pour the marinade over the meat. Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour, but I would suggest overnight to lock in the flavors.
- On a hot grill lay pork chops in a single layer. When richly browned, usually just about 3 to 4 minutes, flip and brown the other side.
- As the meat is done, transfer it to a cutting board and chop it up (between 1/4 and 1/2-inch pieces). Scoop into a skillet and place on a warm grill keeping the meat warm.
- Add the pineapple salsa to the pork and toss everything together.
- Serve with tortillas and salsa for your guests to make soft tacos.
- You can marinate the meat a couple of days before your event. The morning of your fiesta, grill the pork, cut, and reserve.
- To save even more time, cook the meat the day before your fiesta and make your pineapple salsa the day of your party and then combine the meat and the salsa.
- Reheat it all in an iron skillet on your grill and let your amigos serve themselves.
Originally published: May 2012.
Photography: Jenna Sparks
11 Comments on “Easy Grilled Pork Tacos al Pastor”
This sounds wonderful. I love your recipes & website. I have been wondering if the marinade can be made & used as a sauce (Obviously NOT after you have had the raw pork soaking in it, hahaa!)? It is such a lovely combination of ingredients. Can it be thickened? What would you suggest? Thank You So Much~♡♡♡
Hi Again! Hahaaa! In the question I had written to you today, I had left out that I ♡♡♡LOVE EL PASTOR! Some of my very favorite tacos are made from it. I love diced sweet pineapple tidbits, finely diced red onion, cilantro, & a good spicy salsa verde on them.
YES! Feel free to reserve a bit of sauce and use a sauce/salsa!!! It’s so good!
I would suggest pulling the pork rather than chopping…
This looks amazing! I’m glad you posted the recipe, I was hoping that you did when I saw the Cinco De Mayo post. Thanks.
My all time favorite tacos! Have never had the courage to make them at home, maybe I’ll give this a try. Problem is if they come out good, I might have to eat them every other day :s
The recipe is soooo easy! And very tempting to make more often at home. You totally need to give this recipe a try. Maybe freeze half before you eat it all. LOL!
¡Feliz Cinco de Mayo! This is a perfect way to reproduce tacos al pastor in the home, so reminiscent of all the tacos de pastor with pineapple dripping down from the top of the pile in puestos all over Mexico. Just great. Thank you.
Thank you so much! The marinade turned out incredible! Our tacos got lots of compliments at our li’l Cinco de Mayo celebration. And truly the recipe is VERY EASY. It made for a very relaxing fiesta 😉
That looks mighty scrumptious!
Happy Cico de Mayo!
Thank you Rosa! Hope your weekend was fun!