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Al Pastor Tacos: History and Recipe of a Street Food Favorite

Jul 24, 2023 | BLOG, Authentic Mexican Food, Tacos

Al Pastor Tacos


The very mention of Al Pastor Tacos ignites an immediate sensory experience; one can almost hear the bustling chatter on the vibrant Mexican streets, smell the tantalizing aroma of grilling meat, and taste the comforting warmth of a freshly made corn tortilla. This iconic street food, with a rich history and a taste that has managed to captivate mouths worldwide, is more than just a dish – it’s a cultural emblem that represents the heart of Mexican culinary tradition.

Origins and Evolution

Delving into the historical roots of Al Pastor Tacos transports us back to the 20th century, when a wave of Lebanese immigrants arrived in Central Mexico. With them, they brought the tradition of spit-grilled shawarma, a practice which would eventually inspire the birth of the beloved Al Pastor Tacos.

At its heart, an Al Pastor Taco is an amalgamation of Mexican and Middle Eastern flavors. The technique of vertically spit-roasting marinated pork is borrowed from shawarma preparation, while the traditional Mexican ingredients like chilies, achiote, and pineapple give the Al Pastor its distinctive character.

The result is a taco that hits all the right notes – spicy, sweet, tangy, and incredibly satisfying.

Cultural Significance

But Al Pastor Tacos are more than just an impressive fusion of flavors. They hold a significant place in Mexico’s social fabric. From the humble streetside taqueria to the upscale dining establishments, you’ll find these flavorful tacos gracing menus and pleasing palates.

Eating Al Pastor Tacos is an experience, one that’s often shared with friends and family. The late-night taco stand is a common meeting point, a place where people of all walks of life can enjoy good food and good company. It’s a testament to the inclusivity and communal spirit that’s so integral to Mexican culture.

Global Popularity and Influence

The allure of Al Pastor Tacos has permeated far beyond the borders of Mexico. The harmonious balance of spicy marinated pork, sweet chunks of pineapple, and the fresh undertones of cilantro, wrapped up in a soft corn tortilla, is a universal pleasure that has earned this humble street food a global fan base.

From the food trucks of New York City to the street food markets in London, and from the bustling lanes of Sydney to the trendy eateries in Tokyo, the pursuit for the perfect Al Pastor Taco is a gastronomic adventure. It’s a testament to the transcendent nature of good food, breaking barriers and bridging cultures.

In a world increasingly appreciative of diverse culinary experiences, Al Pastor Tacos continue to charm and delight. They are not just a beloved dish but also a symbol of the rich culinary history and vibrant street food culture of Mexico.

16.2 Al Pastor Tacos

Crafting Authentic Al Pastor Tacos at Home

Now that we’ve explored the rich history and global influence of Al Pastor Tacos, let’s turn our attention to the art of preparing this dish at home. While it might seem daunting, the process can be simplified into manageable steps for an authentic, homemade culinary experience.

Essential Ingredients

The magic of Al Pastor Tacos lies in their simplicity. Here’s what you’ll need:

  1. Pork shoulder or loin
  2. Achiote paste
  3. Guajillo chilies
  4. White onion
  5. Garlic
  6. Pineapple
  7. Cilantro
  8. Lime
  9. Corn tortillas

The Marinade

The first step in making Al Pastor Tacos is preparing the marinade. In a blender, combine achiote paste, rehydrated guajillo chilies, chopped white onion, garlic, and a bit of pineapple. The pineapple not only adds sweetness but also helps tenderize the meat.

Marinate the pork in this mixture for at least four hours, but ideally overnight, to allow the flavors to meld together and penetrate the meat.

The Cooking Process

Traditionally, the marinated pork is layered onto a vertical spit, with a pineapple perched on top. As the meat cooks, the pineapple juices trickle down, enhancing the flavor of the pork.

To replicate this at home, roast the marinated pork in the oven, basting it occasionally with pineapple juice until it’s juicy and tender. Then, finish it off under the broiler to achieve the slightly charred, caramelized edges that are characteristic of Al Pastor.

Assembling the Tacos

Warm your corn tortillas in a dry skillet until they’re soft and pliable. Then, load them up with slices of the cooked pork, a few chunks of pineapple, diced onion, and a sprinkle of chopped cilantro. Finish it off with a squeeze of lime for a touch of acidity that cuts through the richness of the pork.


As we’ve seen, Al Pastor Tacos are a testament to the diversity and depth of Mexican cuisine. They encapsulate a rich history, a multicultural influence, and an impeccable blend of flavors that have managed to charm the world.

While nothing beats the experience of enjoying a freshly made Al Pastor Taco on a bustling Mexican street, you can bring a taste of this tradition into your kitchen with the right ingredients and a little patience.

Next time you’re craving authentic Mexican street food, give this recipe a try. You might just find that making homemade Al Pastor Tacos is not only satisfying but also a delightful culinary adventure. And if you’re in the mood to enjoy these tacos in a restaurant setting, remember to visit El Cabrito Mexican Grill, where the art of crafting the perfect Al Pastor Taco is celebrated daily.

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