Recipe : Al Pastor

Cover image via Antojitos Mexican Curious on Facebook

Typically tacos al pastor are made with marinated pork which has been stacked onto a vertical spit known as a trompo and cooked much in the same was as the Middle eastern doner kebab (1). The doner kebab (and tacos arabes) are of course not made with the forbidden flesh of the swine but the meats more acceptable (or not specifically haram) to Islam, that of chicken or lamb. The doner kebab being derived from the cooking practices of the Islamic Ottoman Empire is another example of Moorish influence in the history of the Americas.

  1. the history of the doner kebab is more complex than my simple throw away line. See Post Tacos al Pastor for a little more info.

Tacos al pastor on the trompo.
Photo by Matt Saunders – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

The doner kebab, known as tacos arabes (Arab tacos) in México is a food that, much like the taco, has travelled the world.

I will not be making my al pastor in this manner. I dont have a trompo (1) (one day maybe – a guy can dream) and I want a dish that I can set and forget whilst I am making my mole (2).

  1. a trompo is a vertical rotisserie whose shape looks like a childs spinning toy.
  2. See Post – Recipe : Mole Colorado
A trompo (or spinning top) toy
All my ingredients ready for a days cooking. (I also made mole today. See Post Recipe : Mole Colorado)

I have several varieties of achiote (annatto) paste in my pantry and today we are using El Yucateco brand (1).

  1. See Posts Achiote (Annatto) and Marinades : Recado Rojo for more information on the annatto plant and seeds and how they are used in the cuisines of Yucatán.

I will follow the recipe on the box.

  • 1 kilo de cabeza de lomo de cerdo en rebanadas o pierna en rebanada y picada.
  • 2 chiles guajillos cocidos sin semillas y sin venas.
  • 1/4 de barra de achiote el yucateco.
  • 2 cucharadas de vinagre.
  • 1/2 taza de jugo de naranja.
  • 2 dientes de ajo.
  • 1/2 cucharadita de oregano seco.
  • 1/2 cucharadita de comino.
  • 1/4 cebolla.
  • 1 1/2 cucharadas de sal.
  • 2 cucharaditas de aciete.
  1. Muele en la licuadora los chiles, la pasta de achiote de El Yucateco, el vinagre, el jugo de naranja, ajo, cebolla, oregano, la sal y cuelalo.
  2. Bana la carne con mezcla preparada, dejala marinar por los menos 2 horas dentro del refrigerador.
  3. Tapa la carne y frie lentamente a fuego medio, mueve constantamente hasta cocer bien, aproximadamente 1 hora. Tip : acompana con cebolla, limon, cilantro y pina

Cabeza de Lomo (de cerdo)

Literal (Google) translation

  • 1 kilo head of pork loin in slices or sliced ​​and minced leg.
  • 2 guajillo chilies cooked without seeds and without veins.
  • 1/4 of a bar of achiote el yucateco.
  • 2 tablespoons of vinegar.
  • 1/2 cup of orange juice.
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon of dried oregano.
  • 1/2 teaspoon of cumin.
  • 1/4 onion.
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons of salt.
  • 2 teaspoons of oil.
  1. In the blender, grind the chilies, El Yucateco annatto paste, vinegar, orange juice, garlic, onion, oregano, salt and strain.
  2. Bathe the meat with the prepared mixture, let it marinate for at least 2 hours in the refrigerator.
  3. Cover the meat and fry slowly over medium heat, stirring constantly until cooked through, about 1 hour. Tip: accompany with onion, lemon, coriander and pineapple

So far this has been my favourite premade recado rojo. The paste is soft and crumbly and very fragrant. For this recipe I used 1/2 a bar.

The last of my guajillos. These chiles are the dried form of a mirasol chile. Many chiles have a fresh and dried incarnation. The fresh jalapeno becomes the chipotle once dried (and smoked). The fresh poblano (my favourite) becomes the ancho once dried. It goes on.

To make my marinade I am using a Nudie fresh orange juice (with pulp). This is a nice sour juice. I would have preferred a seville (or even a blood) orange but no luck.

Today I am using pork belly. It was on special.

First I quickly fry my pork to get some colour on it. This will deepen the flavour in the completed dish. Heat the hot plate up nice and high. Season the pork with salt and pepper, rub with a little oil and quickly fry for a minute or so on each side. You are not trying to cook the pork just give it some colour.

Not bad. A little on the light side maybe. A little more colour wouldn’t have killed it.

Place the meat straight into the slow cooker.

Now we make the marinade. We will not be using it as a marinade as such but will pour this mix over the pork in the slow cooker and the cook the meat in the liquid.

I only used half the cumin asked for in the recipe. I am not overly fond of this flavour and find that, much like cloves, too much can overpower a dish and then cumin becomes the primary flavour. Cumin is a predominant flavour in the cooking of the northern Mexican states.

Into my “blender” goes the OJ, cumin, oregano (Mexican of course), the onion, garlic and achiote. Only the sliced onion in the picture was used in the marinade (the other half is just to demonstrate the type of onion I used).

Add your soaked chiles


Pour the marinade straight over the meat. I cooked this for 6 hours on a medium setting in my slow cooker.

While the meat cooks we now set about making a typical accompaniment. Pickled red onions.

The recipe for this one is quite simple


  • 2 whole cloves
  • 3 whole allspice berries (pimienta gordo)
  • 10 whole black peppercorns
  • 1 or 2 bay leaves (not in the picture)
  • 1/2 large red onion
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup vinegar
  • extra boiling water – for soaking the onions


  1. slice your onion thinly and place into a heat proof bowl. Cover the onions with freshly boiled water. Steep for 1 (that’s right 1) minute and drain.
  2. into a non reactive pot (1) place the water (1/2 cup), the vinegar the spices and oregano and the sliced onions.
  3. Bring the liquid to a boil and immediately remove from the heat.
  4. That’s it. Done. These onions will keep for several weeks (if they last that long) and taste better after being allowed to soak for a day.

  1. use a glass or stainless steel pot – not aluminium or iron – the acids in the vinegar may react with the metal of the pot and create unwanted flavours.

Onion mix ready to be cooked

Finished product cooling on the windowsill

With my slow cooked pork (upper left of picture) I served the pickled red onions (bottom right) and a roasted pineapple salsa (bottom left)

A slice of pineapple is usually added to an al pastor taco. A pineapple is placed on top of the marinated meat on the trompo and when the taquero constructs your taco he (or she) will deftly slice of a sliver of pineapple and flick it into your taco.

We are not doing this.

Roasted Pineapple Salsa


  • 2 slices fresh pineapple
  • 1 large jalapeno chile (fresh not jarred)
  • 1 spring onion (scallion)
  • salt and pepper (al gusto)
  • a dash of vinegar


  1. roast your jalapeno over an open flame until blackened on all sides. Place in a bowl and cover with cling wrap or a tea towel and allow it to sweat. This will make the blackened skin easy to remove. Remove the charred skin. Cut open the chile and remove the seeds and veins of the jalapeno. Cut the chile into a rough dice.
  2. Grill your pineapple on a hotplate until it has some nice grill marks on it and has softened a little. Cut into a rough dice.
  3. Finely chop the stalk an leaves of your scallion.
  4. mix all ingredients together in a bowl and add a dash of vinegar to give it a little tang. Serve with your tacos al pastor

This salsa will add a little heat to the taco. It will also add a touch of sweetness and will help cut through the fattiness of the pork.

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