Recipe: Al Pastor tacos

February 6, 2019

The Vitals:
recipe: Al Pastor tacos
difficulty: medium
health rating:healthy
time: 1 hour + marinade time

<scroll down for ingredients and instructions>

As much as I love scouring the country for Cheap Eats, I love grilling at home just as much. My preference is to cook over a “live fire”, which for me is hardwood charcoal. These days I have a backyard, so lighting up a grill is pretty easy but back when I lived in a loft, I had to deal with a shared gas grill. And that is where I learned the importance and power of marinades.

If you have ever had Al Pastor, the Mexican cousin to Shawarma and Gyros, you know it is one of the tastiest taco fillings there is. Now traditionally, like Shawarma and Gyros, the meat is cooked on a vertical rotisserie. Like most of you, I don’t have one of those, so the notion of cooking Al Pastor at home seemed like a smokey daydream. Then Cheap Eats went to Las Vegas and I was taught the method marinating and grilling al pastor. And believe me, this Al Pastor taco recipe is worth trying at home.

Al Pastor Tacos from Bomb Tacos

This Al Pastor taco recipe is really all about an Annatto marinade I found in an amazing book called Tacopedia. I marked this recipe with a difficulty method of medium because some of these ingredients can be hard to find. If you have any trouble, definitely track down a Hispanic grocery store and you might want to call ahead as well to make sure the items are in stock.

This is what you will need to make that marinade:


ingredients (makes 2-3 cups)

  • 1 guajillo chile (check the Hispanic food section of your grocery store)
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tablespoon achiote paste (can be trick to find, might need to call around and also called annatto paste)
  • t tablespoon sugar
  • 3 black peppercorns
  • t tablespoon dried oregano
  • 2 whole cloves
  • 1/2 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 pinch ground anise (this can be pricey, def try and look for it in a Hispanic grocery store, I paid over a $1, could have paid almost $8)
  • 1 allspice berry
  • 1 cup of fresh orange juice (oj drives the flavor here – get fresh squeezed or squeeze yourself)
  • salt and vinegar to taste


  1. Toast the guajillo chile in a dry pan for a few minutes. You will see the chile darken in color and puff up. Remove and set aside.
  2. After the chile has cooled, remove the stem and seeds. Place the pepper in a food processor along with the onion, garlic, sugar and spices. Process until well incorporated.
  3. Add the orange juice. Process until well mixed. From here I added a 1/4 cup of white distilled vinegar but certainly add to your taste. Ditto with the salt.

The Al Pastor Taco recipe from Tacopedia originally calls for “pork steaks” which means pork shoulder cut thin. This is something you will find at Mexican butcher shop fairly easily. I went with pork loin because I wasn’t at a carnicería and I’ve been on a health kick as of late and am trying to embrace leaner cuts of meat here and there. This marinade on its own is pretty tame calorie wise save for the tablespoon of sugar which you can easily lessen or omit all together and would work great with chicken as well.

If you go with the pork version I recommend the following as far as cooking the meat goes:

  1. Grill over a gentle fire till cooked medium/ medium rare.
  2. And then chop and finish cooking in a pan. A Cast Iron skillet is my go-to.

This is exactly the method that Chef Robert from Bomb Tacos Las Vegas did and it does a nice job of replicating the crispiness and caramelization of Al Pastor cooked on a trompo(vertical rotisserie).

So there you go Cheap Eaters, an Al Pastor taco recipe that tastes like you’re eating at a taco truck. All thanks to a killer marinade from Tacopedia and the cooking techniques of Chef Robert Solano of Bomb Tacos from Cheap Eats – Las Vegas.

Happy cooking!! And hope your tacos come out as good as this:



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