tacos al pastor

I try not to be picky. I like to call myself ‘particular’ – about the quality of ingredients and the care put into the preparation of a dish; Dave calls it persnickety. But eliminating whole categories of food from my diet because of a random childhood prejudice seems like a perfect way to cheat myself out of great food; not to mention how annoying pickiness is to the people around you. I’ve known people who wouldn’t eat hot liquids, eggs, anything with vinegar, seafood, mushrooms, you name it. I will eat pretty much anything – even green peppers, if I have to.

But there are some things I have trouble with (even besides green peppers), and fruit with meat is one of them. Those chicken salads with grapes in them don’t sound appetizing at all, and other than the occasional strawberry and spinach salad, fruit with lettuce doesn’t tempt me. But pineapple with pork is a combination I can hardly get enough of, especially when the pineapple is prepared to its maximum potential – grilled.

There is one thing to beware of when it comes to pineapple and meat though. Pineapple makes meat mushy. It has an enzyme in it that doesn’t just tenderize meat, it nearly dissolves it. The original recipe recommended marinating the pork for up to a day, but I, and the epicurious reviewers, knew better. I left the pineapple out of the marinade until we started heating up the grill. It was perfect, resulting in pork so tender it reminded me of dark chicken meat, but without even a hint of mush.

With a smorsgasbord of toppings, each bite of taco hit every flavor note: sweet pineapple-marinated pork, spicy salsa, tart onions, creamy avocado, all combined on corn tortillas, because everything is better on a tortilla – even meat and fruit mixtures.

One year ago: Crockpot Chicken Broth
Two years ago: Chicken with Forty Cloves of Garlic

Printer Friendly Recipe
Tacos al Pastor
(adapted slightly from Bon Apetit via epicurious)

I can never get corn tortillas to be soft and malleable enough to fold into tacos without deep-frying them. Heating them on the grill made them soft enough to fold, but they were too chewy. Maybe if I wrapped them in foil and heated them in the grill? Or brushed them with oil before heating them? Enlighten me.

1 pineapple, peeled, cut crosswise into ½-inch-thick rounds
1 large onion, halved
½ cup fresh orange juice
¼ cup distilled white vinegar
¼ cup guajillo chile powder
3 garlic cloves, halved
2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
1 teaspoon dried oregano (preferably Mexican)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 large or 2 small chipotle chiles and 1 to 2 teaspoons adobo from canned chipotle chiles in adobo
2½-to 3-pounds boneless pork loin, cut into ½-inch slices

½ red onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons lime juice from 1-2 limes
½ cup minced cilantro
Smoky Two-Chile Salsa (recipe follows)
1 avocado, sliced, mashed (with salt and lime juice), or diced
corn tortillas
lime wedges

1. Coarsely chop 2 pineapple slices, removing core; thoroughly puree in a blender. Pour the pineapple juice into a storage container and chill until ready to use. Cover and chill the remaining pineapple.

2. Coarsely chop half the onion; place chopped onion in blender. Add the orange juice, vinegar, chile powder, garlic, salt, oregano, cumin, and chipotle chiles; puree marinade until smooth. Place the sliced pork in a large resealable plastic bag. Add the marinade and the seal the bag, releasing excess air. Chill at least 4 hours and up to 1 day. About half an hour before the grill is ready, add the reserved pineapple juice to the marinating meat.

3. Mix the onion and lime juice; set aside. Just before serving, stir in the cilantro.

4. Heat a grill to medium-high heat. Grill the pineapple slices until warm and slightly charred, 4 to 6 minutes per side. Grill the pork, with some marinade still clinging to it, until it’s slightly charred and cooked through, 2 to 4 minutes per side. Grill some onion until charred. Transfer the pineapple and pork to a work surface; chop pineapple into ½-inch cubes, discarding cores. Chop (or shred) the pork. Transfer the pork and pineapple to a platter or serving bowl; toss to combine. Grill the tortillas until warm and slightly charred, about 10 seconds per side.

5. Serve the pork and pineapple with the pickled onion mixture, Smoky Two-Chile Salsa, avocado, warm tortillas, and lime wedges.

Smoky Two-Chile Salsa

8 large dried guajillo chiles or New Mexico chiles, stemmed, seeded, coarsely torn
2 cups hot water
½ medium onion, halved lengthwise through core end
3 garlic cloves, peeled
1 teaspoon adobo from canned chipotles in adobo
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 teaspoons fresh lime juice from 1 lime
coarse kosher salt

1. Place the torn chiles in a bowl. Add the hot water and soak for at least 2 hours or overnight. Drain the chiles, reserving the soaking liquid.

2. Heat a small nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic to the dry skillet; cook until browned in spots, about 6 minutes for garlic and 10 minutes for onion. (I grilled the onion instead of browning it in a skillet, which I recommend as long as you have time to make the salsa right before serving.) Trim the core from the onion; place the onion and garlic in a blender. Add the drained chiles, 1 cup soaking liquid, 1 chipotle chile, 1 teaspoon adobo, cilantro, and lime juice; puree until smooth. Transfer to a bowl, seasoning to taste with coarse salt.


  1. This looks amazing. Al pastor tacos are my husband’s favorite, so he thanks you.

    Tortillas…I am by far an expert, but I’ve had good luck covering them with a damp paper towel and microwaving them. The water steams them so they aren’t as tough.

  2. Oh, I feel the same away about fruit with meat. I don’t like the inclusion of fruit in salads or on a pizza. My girlfriend, however, loves tacos al pastor. Your tacos look fantastic, but I would have to pick off or not include the pineapples.

  3. This looks great (the photos and the recipe!)

  4. I learned the pineapple enzyme thing in science class two years ago – being the immature gory kid I was, I suggested killing someone by sliding piece of pineapple under their skin for a slow, painful, dissolving death.

    I’m sorry to be sharing this on a food blog.


  5. bridget says:

    Wei-Wei – Okay, that is hilarious.

  6. Might be a dumb question, but what makes it “Al Pastor”. What does that mean? lol I’m moving to SoCal next week and feel like I need to brushen up some Mexican food lingo before I get there! 🙂

  7. I also wrap the thin corn tortillas in damp paper towels and quickly microwave – I’m sure the flavor is better when you grill but looking at all the lovely flavors you already have going on it might be worth a shot to try the microwaved tortillas?

  8. I never knew that about pineapple. Thanks for the tidbit!

  9. Picky eaters drive me nuts! We should let them fend for themselves. 🙂 I’m a hater of mushrooms and a few things myself, but I could stomach them instead of bothering the hostess/cook. Interesting about pineapple and meat… never knew!

  10. Leslie M. says:

    I made this the other night for dinner and it is delicious!

    I have always had good luck with tortillas – the trick is to wrap them in foil and throw them in the oven on about 250 (the grill would probably work fine as well). They steam in the foil, plus you can keep them warm in there for when you go back for seconds!

  11. Maggie says:

    Have you ever tried making your own corn tortillas? It is very, very simple, and the results are worth it! The only trick is to get yourself a tortilla press. You can find them in Mexican markets or grocery stores. I think the best ones are the ones made of solid wood. I’ve seen lots of less expensive metal ones but I’m not sure they would work as well, and the wood ones aren’t overly expensive anyway (they are basically two thick pieces of hardwood hinged together with a lever handle attached to the bottom piece to press the two slabs together and flatten the tortilla). Once you have a press, its as simple as mixing some masa with water, flattening handfuls of it using the press, and cooking them for a minute or two on each side on a griddle. Fresh, hot, soft, and cheaper than buying them at the store!

    This recipe looks delicious – I’m looking forward to making it soon!

  12. Tacos are a weeknight staple come summertime, when all those fresh ingredients are in abundance. Homemade salsa and pork instead of steak or chicken is a great way to jazz ’em up, though!

  13. These look wonderful.

  14. it’s awesome-looking, I will eat almost anything…… except for pineapple with protein; the bromelain completely ruins the taste for me, even if the pineapple is grilled, the taste is too much for me to enjoy. Do you know for how long or at what heat you need to cook the pineapple for this not to be an issue? I do know that it is ‘heat labile’ (canned pineapple is fine,) but would prefer not to cook it to death.
    …..if not i’m sure it would be amazing even without the pineapple.

  15. My first suggestion is to make the corn tortillas. My husband and I honeymooned in Honduras where they press the tortillas by hand right before putting them on the grill and filling them with meat, cheese, and pickled onions out on the street. So we came back spoiled and couldn’t stand the Mission kind anymore.

    We started making them at home, and it was SO EASY!
    We used this video.
    Youtube video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JDegTyqL55o

    But, life got busy and we got lazy. Around that time we found tortillas that are SO CLOSE to the ones we were making, in thickness, texture, taste, everything!

    La Tortilla Factory Hand Made Style Corn Tortillas (I prefer the white corn).

    Hopefully you can find them in your area!