Sep 20, 2016

Braised Tacos Al Pastor

Prep Time: 10 mins
Cook Time: 2 hrs 30 mins
Al pastor tacos consist of an amazing blend of marinated, tender and aromatic pork with pineapple.

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Al pastor tacos consist of an amazing blend of marinated, tender and aromatic pork with pineapple. The meat is similar to shawarma (and actually inspired by the method) since it is typically slowly cooked on a vertical rotisserie. It is delicious but unfortunately it is difficult to replicate at home.

I have changed the cooking method so that instead of spit-roasting the meat, it is braised in the oven in a flavorful spiced sauce. While not traditional, you get the tender braised meat without the hassle and the need for extra equipment. Check out my other braise recipes here.

Braised Tacos Al Pastor

braised tacos al pastor overhead shot

What is al Pastor?

Al pastor is a preparation of pork seasoned and cooked on a spit in Mexico. It’s frequently sold as street food, shaved off the spit and onto corn tortillas for tacos. Common pairings with the tacos are pineapple, onion, cilantro, jalapeño and a squeeze of lime juice.

Key Ingredients in This Recipe

  • Pork – Pork shoulder comes from the front shoulder of a pig. It’s best slowly cooked so the meat has a change to break down and become tender. Pork butt also work in this recipe. When buying pork for this recipe know that you are going to end up with roughly half of the weight in the finished meat as it cooks and the fat renders or fatty pieces are discarded.
  • Pineapple – Pineapple juice is used in the braising liquid for the pork while grilled pineapple is later chopped and added to the top of the tacos. Pineapple slices are typically cooked on the spit with al pastor pork so I tried to mimic that flavor.
  • Chilies – The main flavors of the braising liquid in the pork comes from a combination of guajillo chilies and ancho chili. They add a smokey flavor and mild heat to the recipe. Dried chilies are often found on the end-caps of aisles in grocery stores of by the Mexican ingredients. If you cannot locate the dried chilies in stores I recommend ordering them online.
  • Seasonings – A combination of annatto (achiote), oregano, cumin, black pepper, cloves and cinnamon seasons the pork, complementing the chilies and pineapple. The annatto or achiote (the two names are interchangeable) is what gives the al pastor pork the signature bright red color. It can be found in the spice aisle of most grocery stores or can be substituted with paprika.
braised tacos

How to Make Braised Tacos al Pastor

  1. Brown the pork. Season the pork on all sides with kosher salt. Heat a 7.25-quart Dutch oven over medium heat, add the olive oil and heat through. Add the pieces of pork, working in batches and brown on all sides. Set aside.
  2. Make the braising liquid. Add the chilies, onion, garlic, annatto, oregano, cumin, pepper, cloves, cinnamon, pineapple juice, orange juice and vinegar to a blender. Blend until the mixture is puréed.
  3. Deglaze the pot. Preheat the oven to 325ºF. Add the chicken stock to the pot to deglaze the bottom. Add pork back to the Dutch oven, pour the mixture over the top and add the pineapple.
  4. Cook the pork. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat. Next, move the pot to the oven and cook until the mixture is fork tender, about 2½ hours, rotating the meat halfway through cooking.
  5. Shred the meat. First, remove the meat, from the braising liquid and let cool. Second, use two forks to shred the meat then return to the braising liquid.
  6. Grill pineapple. Preheat a grill or griddle pan to medium heat. Brush the pineapple with oil and grill on both sides.
  7. Make onion topping. Remove, finely dice and set aside. In a small bowl stir together the onion, cilantro and lime juice. Season the mixture with salt and set aside.
  8. Warm tortillas. Heat a large skillet or griddle over medium heat and put two mini tortillas on top of each other, then warm the tortillas on both sides. Repeat with remaining tortillas.
  9. Serve. Use tongs to place about ¼ cup of meat on each tortillas. Top with a spoonful of pineapple, onion cilantro mixture and Avocado-tomatillo salsa verde (optional).

Other Recipes to Try

If you enjoy this recipe, I recommend checking out some of these:

Braised Tacos Al Pastor

Print Pin
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 2 hrs 30 mins
Serves 8

Ingredients:

For the al pastor pork:

  • 4 pounds boneless pork shoulder, cut into 2” slices
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 3 dried guajillo chilies
  • 2 dried ancho chilies
  • ½ medium yellow onion, roughly chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 2 teaspoons ground annatto, achiote*
  • 1 teaspoon chopped oregano
  • ½ teaspoon cumin
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ cup pineapple juice
  • ¼ cup orange juice
  • ¼ cup white vinegar
  • ½ cup chicken stock
  • cups diced pineapple

For serving:

  • 3 ( ½”-thick) slices pineapple, cored
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 cup diced white onion
  • 1/3 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 36 small white corn tortillas
  • Avocado-tomatillo salsa verde, optional, for serving
  • Lime wedges, for serving

Instructions:

For the al pastor pork:

  • Season the pork on all sides with kosher salt. Heat a 7.25-quart Dutch oven over medium heat, add the oil and heat through. Add the pieces of pork, working in batches and brown on all sides. Set aside.
  • Add the chilies, onion, garlic, annatto, oregano, cumin, pepper, cloves, cinnamon, pineapple juice, orange juice and vinegar to a blender. Blend until the mixture is puréed.
  • Preheat the oven to 325ºF (170ºC).
  • Add the chicken stock to the pot to deglaze the bottom. Add pork back to the Dutch oven, pour the mixture over the top and add the pineapple.
  • Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat. Move the Dutch oven to the oven and cook until the mixture is fork tender, about 2½ hours, rotating the meat halfway through cooking.
  • Remove the meat, from the braising liquid and let cool. Use two forks to shred the meat then return to the braising liquid.

For serving:

  • Preheat a grill or griddle pan to medium heat. Brush the pineapple with oil and grill on both sides, about 1 minute each side.
  • Remove, finely dice and set aside. In a small bowl stir together the onion, cilantro and lime juice. Season the mixture with salt and set aside.
  • Heat a large skillet or griddle over medium heat and put two mini tortillas on top of each other, then warm the tortillas on both sides. Repeat with remaining tortillas.
  • Use tongs to place about ¼ cup of meat on each tortillas. Top with a spoonful of pineapple, onion cilantro mixture and Avocado-tomatillo salsa verde (optional).

Notes:

*Note: the annatto or achiote (the two names are interchangeable) is what gives the al pastor pork it’s signature bright red color. It can be found in the spice aisle of most grocery stores or can be substituted with paprika.

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  1. This looks amazing. Can I prepare the meat the night before and then reheat? If so, how can I reheat it? Thanks!

    • Thank you! Yes, you can absolutely make it the night before. I’d recommend simply microwaving it in a microwave safe bowl and stirring every minute or so until it is completely reheated. You can also add it back to the pot and heat in the oven until the meat is warmed, about 30 minutes at 350º. Hope you enjoy!

    • If you don’t have a Dutch oven the best thing would be to use a big cast-iron pan or oven-safe pot and then rather than putting a lid on, cover it tightly with a few sheets of aluminum foil. Hope this helps!