Al Pastor

Al pastor is slowly becoming one of my go-to’s when ordering tacos. I have always been firmly against eating pineapple with anything savory (sorry, it’s just my opinion!) but I’ve made an exception for al pastor. This pork and pineapple pairing is SO delicious, you need to try it!

Al pastor originated with Lebanese immigrants in Mexico

Did you know al pastor has roots in Lebanese history? They adapted the Lebanese cooking method of thinly sliced meat on a vertical spit (shawarma), but with traditional Mexican flavors.

Traditionally, the meat spit should be cooked using direct heat and on constant rotation. I do not have the right kind of device for this cooking method, but you can make a mini trompo at home! Although it isn’t being cooked by direct heat, I found that cooking it in a closed grill or oven is very effective.


  • Pork butt- al pastor is made with pork butt (shoulder) and it’s perfect because it has some fat marbled throughout. Fat = flavor and also helps to make the pork tender. You can ask your butcher to slice it thinly for you, or you can just partially freeze it to make it easier to slice. I also like to pound the pork to tenderize it even more. 

  • Chiles- you’ll need two types of chiles: chile guajillo which is a dried chile, and chile chipotle en adobo which comes in a can. 

  • Aromatics- garlic, onion, & bay leaves. These will all go into the marinade.

  • Spices- this is where you can customize a bit. I’ve had some al pastor that was heavy on spices like cinnamon & clove, but I am personally not a big fan. For me, the perfect spice blend is black pepper, cumin, Mexican oregano, salt, all spice, and achiote paste or powder. The achiote is very important- it gives the al pastor its signature color & flavor. Achiote can be a bit bitter though, so it’s very important to balance it out with the acidity from vinegar and pineapple juice. 

  • Apple cider vinegar- for flavor and to balance the achiote paste

  • Pineapple juice- this is very important: it must be the juice that comes from canned pineapples, NOT fresh! Fresh pineapple juice contains enzymes that break down proteins to the point of mush. You’ll end up with a very unpleasant texture if you use fresh pineapple juice and marinate for longer than a couple of hours. Pineapple juice is a great way to balance the bitterness from the achiote paste, and also compliments the pork with a really nice & subtle sweet flavor. 

  • Pineapple- I normally do not like pineapple with savory dishes, but it is a must for al pastor. You’ll need a whole pineapple for the mini trompo as well as grilling or cooking to pair with the al pastor. 

Why you shouldn’t use fresh pineapple juice in al pastor

I’ve worked on this marinade for a couple of years. This recipe has actually been revised and posted to TikTok & Instagram 3 times now! After many trial & errors, the most important thing that I learned is that you CANNOT use fresh pineapple juice for the marinade! 

Cooking process

This recipe follows the same cooking process that street vendors use as closely as possible (without the proper tools). Most people do not have a vertical spit at home, but you can make a mini trompo and use your oven or grill to achieve similar results. 

Using a thick chunk of pineapple as the base, pierce it with a sturdy skewer and begin layering the pork shoulder slices on top of each other. Top with another pineapple chunk and slow roast it in the oven or grill at 275°F for 2 1/2 to 3 hours (or until internal temp reaches 145°F.)

Let it rest for 10 minutes before cutting into it, then finish on a pan or griddle with sliced onions and pineapple chunks. Use the drippings from the oven to start the onions & pineapple, then add the al pastor and cook  for just a couple minutes. 

Alternatively, you could just grill or pan fry the pork shoulder slices individually. I’ve done this before and its still very good- just not quite as tender as the trompo method. But this is a great option if you don’t have time to roast the trompo for 3 hours

More taco recipes

Having a taco night? Try some of my other recipes that can be used for tacos! These are actually some of my most popular recipes on the blog. 

Al Pastor

5 from 7 votes


  • 3 lbs pork shoulder thinly sliced
  • 1 pineapple
  • 3/4 onion


  • 1 tbsp neutral oil
  • 4 garlic cloves smashed
  • 1/4 onion
  • 5 chile guajillo deseeded
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 chile chipotle in adobo (2 peppers, not 2 cans)
  • 1 tbsp achiote paste or powder
  • 1 tbsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp Mexican oregano
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp all spice
  • 1/4 cup canned pineapple juice
  • 1 cup chicken stock 1 tsp Knorr + 1 cup water

Additional ingredients for tacos

  • corn tortillas
  • cilantro
  • raw onions
  • salsa verde


  • Partially freeze your pork shoulder for a couple of hours to make it easier to slice, then pound it out thinly. You can also ask your butcher to slice it for you.
  • On medium heat, lightly brown the garlic and 1/4 onion in oil. Then add the guajillo chiles and bay leaves. Saute for 1-2 minutes.
  • Add 1/4 cup each of water and apple cider vinegar. Cover on low heat for 10 minutes, then turn off heat and let it cool.
  • Pour everything into a blender with the spices, chipotle chiles, chicken stock (I used 1 tsp Knorr with 1 cup water), and canned pineapple juice. Blend until smooth.
    *Make sure the canned pineapple juice is the kind that comes from canned pineapples, not just pineapple juice. DO NOT use fresh pineapple juice!
  • Pour through a fine mesh strainer and keep pushing it through with a spoon until there are only chunks left. Discard the chunks or repurpose it to make a salsa.
  • Marinate the pork shoulder slices in the fridge for 4-8 hours.
  • You can cook the pork however you want- grill, pan fry, or roasting. My favorite method is to slow roast in the oven on a mini trompo, then finishing on a griddle or pan. To make the trompo, cut a thick slice of pineapple for the base and push a thick wooden skewer through it. Place on a baking sheet or cast iron skillet.
  • Layer the pork slices on top of each other, then place another pineapple on top to secure. If your pork slices are much larger, you may want to make 2 mini trompos side-by-side.
  • Slow roast in the oven for 2 1/2 to 3 hours at 275°F, or until the internal temp reaches 145°F. During the last 30 minutes or so, begin basting the pork with the pan juices.
    *This is not required but visually looks better- during the last 10 minutes, rotate the trompo on it's side, baste in juices, and set under the broiler for 2-3 minutes, rotating until all sides have become caramelized and crispy.
  • Let it rest for 10 minutes before cutting into it.
  • Thinly slice the pork. The inside will not be caramelized & crispy like the outside- taqueros usually finish the al pastor on a griddle to achieve that.
  • Using the pan juices, cook some sliced onions, pineapple, and al pastor on a pan for a few minutes.
  • Once the al pastor is nice and caramelized and the onions have softened, its ready to serve! I like them on corn tortillas with the cooked onions, pineapple, raw onions, cilantro, and salsa verde.

*This post contains affiliate links to products that I actually use & recommend. I am not sponsored by these brands, but I do make a small commission from qualifying purchases made through these links.

This Post Has 19 Comments

  1. J. Pax

    5 stars
    Cooking for others is my love language and this one makes people jealous of my husband. I love how beautifully the flavors combine for such a unique experience. I love to use the extra marinade to sauté onions and pineapple in. I make sure to cook it thoroughly since the marinade was with the raw pork.

  2. Rick

    5 stars
    Hi Stella, this looks absolutely delicious and I can’t wait to make it! Thanks so much for posting–I LOVE that you keep tweaking the recipe!

    You are entirely correct that fresh pineapple pulp and juice contains tons of an enzyme called Bromelain. Bromelain is naturally occurring (obviously) and is super effective at breaking down proteins, which is why the meat turns to mush when you use fresh juice. Heating the juice causes the bromelain to die and no longer breakdown the proteins, which is why the canned pineapple juice does not have the same effect–it’s heated in the can during the canning process to kill all live organisms and keep it safe for eating later from the can. You can use fresh pineapple juice–just as you would canned–at home as long as you cook it to a temperature of about 175 or higher before you use it. Mango is another fruit that contains a lot of bromelain and will have the same effect. Other tropical fruits can have this as well. I believe (but cannot prove) that it’s one reason tropical fruit salsa are sometimes served with meat and fish dishes–because they help to break down the proteins in your stomach. All that said, I’m with you 100% in not being a fan of pineapple with most savory dishes. 🙂

  3. Andrea

    I’ve made this recipe now three times. It’s one of the only recipes I follow to a T and don’t deviate because the results are amazing. My only advice to anyone is buy the the metal spit on Amazon. It’s $15 and give this recipe the BEST cook.

  4. Asucena

    What size skewer did you use for this or if you have a link for them? It’d be helpful to try to replicate your results better as I’m worried if i order a random size it won’t hold as much product/be strong enough. Thank you!

    1. stellanspice

      You definitely need skewers that are thick, almost as thick as a #2 pencil. The super thin ones that you normally see for skewering are not strong enough.

  5. A. Orantes

    5 stars
    I have made this recipe a couple times and have been told it always comes out delicious. I follow it exactly – put all my faith in her because I don’t eat pork lol and if I don’t have some of the spices it still comes out BOMB!

  6. Tara Dominguez

    5 stars
    My first time making Al pastor! This recipe came out so amazing! Ended up cooking it for longer than 2-3 hours. Also, my Strombo was pretty jainkity! It fell over and had to ghetto rig an alternative.
    Was wondering why you need to strain the mixture before adding the pork?

  7. Jess

    5 stars
    It’s roasting this in the oven as I type this. I took some smaller pieces and cooked them in a pan to get a tease and YUM! I’m salivating just waiting for this to finish!!

  8. Anonymous

    5 stars
    Excellent, l made burritos with black beans and rice rolled up and your flavors you have used are spot on and delicious. Thank you for the recipe.

  9. Anonymous

    5 stars
    taste delicious and authentic ? thank you for the easy to follow instructions!

  10. Yeret

    I just made this I will cook it to tomorrow I’m so excited to try it!!! (I made it with chicken, I don’t eat pork)

  11. Dan

    Can you make the marinade a head of time and leave in the fridge before combining with the pork? Just trying to figure how to do this without getting up at 3am to start this. Thanks

  12. Katie

    I forgot to strain the marinade before putting it in with the pork. Is this going to be an issue?

    1. stellanspice

      Hi Katie,

      It’s not a big deal, but the texture may be a little off. I would just be very careful that there aren’t big chunks of the dried bay leaf because that can be dangerous to consume if it wasn’t broken down enough.

      1. Katie

        Thank you!!

      2. Bryant

        is it 2 cans of chipotle peppers in adobo or just 2 peppers?

  13. Anonymous


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Hi, I'm Stella!

I come from a multicultural background, and cooking has been one of the best ways for me to stay connected to my heritage. My recipes are tried and tested, many of them passed down through family. I hope you enjoy these recipes as much as we do!

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