What Are Tacos Al Pastor?

Tacos al pastor were created in the 1930s in Puebla, Mexico, by Lebanese immigrants who introduced the region to  roasted lamb served on a flour tortilla or pita bread.

Mike Gonzalez explains what Tacos al Pastor are!

The tacos al pastor as we know it today gradually came into being. The Marinated pork replaced the lamb on the spit…and cilantro and onions were added to the mix.

So how do you actually make tacos al pastor?

Thin slices of pork are marinated… three or four hours in spices and topped with a rub filled with  chiles like: guajillo, achiote and adobo. The pork is then stacked onto a trompo with pineapples in between. A trompo literally means spinning top in Spanish! The taquero, or taco maker, shaves off the crispy outer layers and the juicy meat is served in tortillas.

A skilled Taquero is the difference between good and great tacos al pastor!

The best part of tacos al pastor is eating them!


6 to 8 Servings

You don’t need a spit to make this authentic-tasting tacos al pastor recipe. Grilling the pork over low heat gives the marinade time to caramelize and mingle with the rendering fat. It’s the stuff crispy bits are made of.


  • 10 guajillo chiles, seeds removed
  • 2 chiles de árbol
  • 3 pounds boneless pork shoulder (Boston butt), sliced ¾” thick
  • 8 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 cup distilled white vinegar
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons prepared or fresh achiote paste
  • 3 ounces kosher salt (7 tablespoons Diamond Crystal or 4 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons Morton), plus more
  • 1 pineapple, peeled, cored, cut into ½” rings, divided
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped, divided
  • 2 red habanero chiles, seeds removed, finely chopped
  • ¼ cup fresh mint, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 16 corn tortillas
  • Lime wedges (for serving)


  • Bring guajillo chiles, chiles de árbol, and 2 cups water to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Cover, remove from heat, and let sit 30 minutes to let chiles soften.
  • Place pork in a large bowl. Purée chiles and soaking liquid, garlic, vinegar, sugar, achiote paste, 3 oz. salt, half of the pineapple, and half of the onion in a blender until smooth, about 2 minutes. Pour over pork, stirring to coat thoroughly. Cover and chill 3–12 hours.
  • If using a gas grill or grill pan, prepare for medium-high heat; if using a charcoal grill, prepare for two zones of heat, medium-high and low. Grill remaining pineapple over medium-high heat, turning once, until charred, 6–8 minutes. Finely chop pineapple and combine with habanero chiles, mint, lime juice, and remaining onion in a small bowl. Season with salt, cover, and chill until ready to use.
  • If using gas grill or grill pan, reduce heat to low; if using charcoal grill, use low-zone heat. Remove pork from marinade and grill until marinade on pork has dried and begins to caramelize and char, about 12 minutes per side. Transfer to a cutting board and let pork rest 10 minutes.
  • Grill tortillas until soft and beginning to char, about 30 seconds per side. Slice pork against the grain into ¼” strips. Top each tortilla with a few pieces of pork and some pineapple salsa. Serve with lime wedges for squeezing over.
  • Make Ahead: Pineapple salsa can be made 4 hours ahead; keep chilled.