How to Make Authentic Mexican Tacos al Pastor with Pineapple and Cilantro?

March 31, 2024

If you’re looking to transport your taste buds to the vibrant streets of Mexico, there’s no better way than with a homemade dish of Tacos al Pastor. This iconic street food is adored for its perfect blend of sweet, tangy pineapple and savory grilled pork, all beautifully wrapped in a soft tortilla. We’re going to walk you through a step-by-step method to recreate this authentic feast in your own kitchen, complete with a zesty salsa and mouthwatering marinade.

Preparing the Pork and Pineapple Marinade

To kick off your Mexican culinary journey, you’ll want to start with the main hero of the dish, the pork. Not just any cut of pork will do, for Tacos al Pastor, a thinner cut such as the shoulder is ideal, as it allows for quicker grilling and a more tender bite.

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When it comes to the marinade, the key is to balance the flavors. The acidity of the pineapple juice tenderizes the meat, while the smoky heat from the guajillo chiles and the sweetness of the pineapple pieces create a harmony of flavors that is distinctively al Pastor.

Here’s how to make the marinade:

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  1. Cut the pork into thin slices, about 1/4 inch thick. Set aside.

  2. In a blender, add 2 guajillo chiles (seeds removed), 1/2 cup of pineapple juice, 3 cloves of garlic, 1/4 cup of white vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon of oregano, 1/2 teaspoon of cumin, and salt to taste. Blend until smooth.

  3. Pour the marinade over the pork slices and let them marinate in the fridge for at least 2 hours, or overnight for best results.

Grilling the Marinated Meat

Once your pork has soaked up all those delicious flavors, it’s time to grill. Tacos al Pastor traditionally involves roasting the marinated pork on a vertical spit, but you can also grill the meat on a regular grill or stovetop griddle with excellent results.

  1. Heat your grill or griddle over medium-high heat.

  2. Add the marinated pork slices and grill for about 5-7 minutes on each side, or until the meat is fully cooked and has a nice char on the edges.

  3. While the meat is grilling, add pineapple slices to the grill and cook until they are slightly charred and caramelized.

Making the Salsa

No taco would be complete without a generous spoonful of homemade salsa. The salsa for Tacos al Pastor is typically a vibrant blend of chiles, tomatoes, and cilantro, with a hint of lime for extra tang.

To make the salsa:

  1. Roast 2 tomatoes and 2 more guajillo chiles on the grill until charred.

  2. In a blender, add the roasted tomatoes and chiles, 1/4 cup of chopped cilantro, the juice of 1 lime, and salt to taste. Blend until smooth.

Assembling the Tacos

The final step in creating your Tacos al Pastor is the assembly. Here’s how to put it all together:

  1. Warm up some tortillas on the grill.

  2. Add a few slices of the grilled pork onto each tortilla.

  3. Top with a slice of grilled pineapple, a spoonful of the salsa, and a sprinkle of chopped cilantro.

In just a few steps, you’ve created a Mexican street food favorite right in your own kitchen. Remember, the secret to a truly authentic Tacos al Pastor lies in the balance of flavors and the quality of your ingredients. So take your time, savor the process, and most importantly, enjoy your delicious homemade Tacos al Pastor.

Enhancing the Flavor with Additional Ingredients

To elevate the authenticity and flavor of your Tacos al Pastor, consider incorporating a few additional ingredients. Traditional Mexican cuisine often employs the use of achiote paste and Mexican oregano, both of which can add depth and complexity to your marinade.

Achiote paste, also known as ‘annatto paste’, lends a striking red color and earthy flavor to your marinade. It is made of annatto seeds mixed with other spices like cumin, allspice, and cloves among others. You can find it at specialty Latin grocery stores or online.

Mexican oregano, on the other hand, is not to be confused with its Mediterranean counterpart. It offers a robust, citrusy flavor that complements the tanginess of the pineapple juice and the spiciness of the guajillo chiles.

When making your marinade, add in 1 tablespoon of achiote paste and substitute regular oregano with Mexican oregano to taste.

Furthermore, remember to garnish your tacos with finely diced red onion for an extra crunch and chopped fresh pineapple for a burst of sweetness.

Serving and Enjoying the Tacos al Pastor

The enjoyment of Tacos al Pastor goes beyond the taste; it’s also about the experience. The dish is traditionally served on small corn tortillas, allowing the flavors of the pork, pineapple, and salsa to shine.

Divide the grilled pork evenly among the warmed tortillas, followed by a dollop of the homemade salsa. Add a slice of the grilled pineapple and a generous sprinkle of chopped cilantro.

For an extra kick, offer lime wedges on the side for guests to squeeze over their tacos. The burst of lime juice adds a vibrant, refreshing touch that enhances the overall flavor profile.

To truly embrace the Mexican street food vibe, serve your Tacos al Pastor with a side of spicy pineapple salsa. Made with a simple blend of diced fresh pineapple, red onion, cilantro, lime juice, and chopped jalapeño pepper, this salsa provides a sweet and spicy contrast to the savory tacos.

Conclusion

Making authentic Tacos al Pastor at home might seem challenging, but with the right ingredients and a little practice, you can master this beloved Mexican dish. The key is in the balance of flavors – the tangy pineapple juice, the smokiness of the dried guajillo chiles, the tenderness of the pork shoulder, and the freshness of the cilantro all work together to create a feast for the senses.

Remember, cooking is as much about the journey as it is about the destination. So don’t rush the process – let your pork marinate thoroughly, bask in the aromatic scent of the grilling meat and pineapple, and savor every bite of your homemade Tacos al Pastor.

And most importantly, share this culinary experience with your loved ones because, at its core, Tacos al Pastor is a dish meant to be enjoyed in good company. Whether it’s for a casual weeknight dinner or a weekend gathering, your homemade Tacos al Pastor is sure to transport everyone to the vibrant streets of Mexico!