Babes, What’s for Dinner: Tacos Al Pastor

Being in Hollywood has so many great perks – one of which is easy access to amazing, and often very affordable, food.  One can stumble outside and have their pick of a bounty of food and cultures.  Within walking distance of the apartment, we have access to Peruvian, Pescatarian, Thai, Indian, Vietnamese, Japanese, Hungarian, Greek, Southern Italian, Northern Italian and Mexican.

Nothing beats Tacos al Pastor any time of day.  These delicious parcels of goodness originated in Puebla, Puebla as the result of the natives adapting the shawarma that was introduced to them by Lebanese immigrants.  Mexicans swapped out lamb for pork and added their own herbs and spices.  To say that we’re big fans of both versions would be a big understatement.

If we could, this would have a permanent home in our home:


Alas, we barely have room for Dorothy.

There are many recipes on the internets and this is a culmination of a few tasty trials:

  • 1 4-lb  pork butt roast
  • 5 dried guajillo chili peppers
  • 5 dried ancho chili peppers
  • 5 dried anaheim chili peppers
  • ½ tsp whole cumin
  • 5 whole cloves
  • 1 small cinnamon stick
  • 1 tbs annatto seeds
  • ½ tbs dried mexican oregano
  • 5 large garlic cloves
  • ½ cup rice wine vinegar (the regular stuff can be used – I just don’t like the smell of it)
  • 1 chipotle chili pepper (in adobo sauce)
  • 1 tbs adobo sauce (from the can of chipotle chili peppers)
  • 1 fresh pineapple cut into 1/2″ slices (3 slices for the marinade and the rest for the cooking with the meat)
  • 1 cup water
  • 3 tbs canola oil
  • ½ medium onion, chopped
  • 4± tsp kosher salt
Mandatory Garnish:
  • ½ medium onion, finely chopped
  • ½ bunch cilantro, chopped
Optional Guacamole Garnish (just mash it all together):
  • 2 large avocados
  • 2 tbs white onion, chopped
  • 2 tbs cilantro, chopped
  • 2 tbs tomato, chopped
  • kosher salt, pepper and lime juice to taste

Before starting the marinade, put the pork in the freezer to make it easier to slice (about half an hour).  Oftentimes, I just have the butcher do it for me.

Dissect the peppers by removing their stems and seeds.  Then cut them into pieces with kitchen shears and gently toast in a frying pan over medium heat.   Flip often as to not burn them which will impart an unwelcome bitterness to the marinade.  Then toast the cumin, cloves, annatto seeds and cinnamon stick.  Let cool then finely grind the peppers and spices in a blender.

Except for the salt, oil and onion, blend in the remaining ingredients until a watery paste forms.

Brown the onions with the oil then add to the blender and pulverize.

Cut the pork into lengthwise slices about 1/3″ thick and spread out onto a large baking dish and salt accordingly.

Then slather the marinade between each layer until every nook and cranny is covered.  Cover and allow it to marinate in the fridge overnight.  When I don’t plan ahead and am super craving tacos on the day of, we just use our vacuum sealer to marinate the meat.  It takes about 12 minutes to get the same results as a tortuous overnight wait.

When it’s time to cook, spread the meat out in one layer in a shallow, lightly oiled baking dish or on a rimmed cookie sheet and place in the set-to-high broiler.  There should be some open space between the pieces; it’s better to do multiple batches than to crowd the meat.  When I made the marinade, I warned Husfriend to not eat the pineapple slices in the fridge as they were going to be used for the tacos al pastor.  Turns out I forgot to remind myself so when it came time to cook the meat, we didn’t have the pineapple.  Normally, the pineapple slices go on top of the meat in the oven.

Assuming you didn’t accidentally eat the pineapple too, broil the meat and pineapple for 10-15 minutes until well browned and crisp; there should be some caramelized juices in the bottom of the dish.  For the “taco-shop” treatment, dice the meat and toss in a pan over medium-high heat with the pan drippings.  This’ll give the edges a little crisp and infuse even more flavor.

¡Buen provecho!