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Al Pastor

How to Make Al Pastor

Al Pastor is a flavorful and iconic Mexican dish derived from the Lebanese shawarma brought by immigrants to Mexico, which evolved into its own unique style of preparation. It typically features marinated pork that’s been roasted and thinly sliced.

Texture-wise, Al Pastor consists of tender and juicy pork that’s been marinated in a combination of dried chilies, spices (such as achiote, cumin, cloves, paprika), vinegar, pineapple, and sometimes orange juice. This marinade helps infuse the meat with a blend of savory, tangy, and slightly sweet flavors.

Traditionally, the marinated pork is stacked onto a vertical rotisserie grill called a trompo (meaning ‘spinning top’) and slow-cooked as it rotates, allowing the outer layers to caramelize and develop a slightly crispy texture while keeping the inside juicy and tender.

As the meat cooks on the trompo, thin slices are shaved off and collected, resulting in beautifully charred and flavorful meat.

Al Pastor is commonly served in tacos, often topped with chopped onions, cilantro, pineapple chunks, and a squeeze of lime. The combination of tender, savory pork, the sweetness of pineapple, and the tangy flavors from the marinade create a harmonious blend that’s beloved for its unique taste and texture.

This dish has become an integral part of Mexican street food culture and is cherished for its mouthwatering flavors and distinctive cooking technique, making it a favorite among locals and tourists alike.

Key Takeaways

  • Who this meal appeals to: Pork enthusiasts, street food lovers, those seeking a taste of Mexico’s vibrant flavors.
  • Estimated duration: A delectable creation ready in about 30 minutes of preparation plus marinating time.
  • Nutrition facts: A protein-rich dish with an explosion of bold and satisfying tastes.

About this Recipe

Al Pastor, meaning “shepherd style,” is a traditional Mexican dish with roots in Lebanese cuisine. It features marinated pork that’s typically cooked on a vertical rotisserie. While we may not all have a vertical rotisserie at home, this recipe brings the essence of Al Pastor to your kitchen.

Equipment Required

  • Grill or oven
  • Blender or food processor
  • Mixing bowl
  • Skewers or grill basket



  • 3 dried guajillo chilies, seeded and soaked
  • 2 dried ancho chilies, seeded and soaked
  • 1/2 cup pineapple juice
  • 1/4 cup white vinegar
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  • 2 pounds pork shoulder, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup fresh pineapple, finely chopped
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • Fresh cilantro for garnish


  1. Prepare the marinade: In a blender or food processor, combine soaked guajillo and ancho chilies, pineapple juice, white vinegar, minced garlic, oregano, cumin, smoked paprika, salt, and pepper. Blend until smooth.
  2. Marinate the pork: Place the thinly sliced pork in a mixing bowl. Pour the marinade over the pork, add chopped pineapple and sliced onion. Mix well, ensuring each piece is coated. Marinate in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours or overnight.
  3. Preheat the grill or oven: If using a grill, preheat to medium-high heat. If using an oven, preheat to 400°F (200°C).
  4. Skewer or use a grill basket: Thread the marinated pork, pineapple, and onion onto skewers or use a grill basket for easy cooking.
  5. Grill or roast: Grill or roast the pork for about 15-20 minutes, turning occasionally, until the edges are charred, and the pork is cooked through.
  6. Rest and serve: Allow the Al Pastor to rest for a few minutes before serving. Garnish with fresh cilantro.

Side Dishes

  • Warm tortillas
  • Pickled red onions
  • Sliced radishes

Storage Options

While Al Pastor is best enjoyed fresh, you can store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Reheat gently to maintain the pork’s tenderness.

Ingredient Substitutes

  • Pork: Substitute with chicken or beef if preferred.
  • Chilies: Adjust the type and quantity of chilies based on your spice preference.

Alternatives to this Meal

Transform your Al Pastor into tacos, burritos, or a vibrant salad. The versatility of the marinated pork opens the door to various culinary adventures.


Al Pastor brings the dynamic and savory flavors of marinated pork to your table, offering a taste of Mexico’s street food culture. Whether you’re hosting a gathering or craving a unique culinary experience, this recipe promises a fiesta for your taste buds. ¡Buen provecho!