Tacos al Pastor
Tacos al pastor have an interesting culinary heritage. In the 1930s, Lebanese immigrants brought both upright spit-grilling and lamb shawarma — or pan árabe — to Puebla, Mexico. The grilled, seasoned lamb was used to create tacos árabes. Eventually, when upright spit-grilling made its way to other regions of Mexico, the dish evolved to become tacos al pastor, which features marinated pork instead of lamb.
When did the pineapple creep in? We could not find the answer, but we’re awfully glad it did!
These tacos are a veritable poem to flavor. Just take a gander at the ingredient list — it’s easy to imagine the layers of savory-sweet nuance. We marinate the al pastor in three different chiles, a bunch of spices and aromatics, bright white vinegar, sweet juicy pineapple, and a daub of honey. All those good ingredients are made even better by a slow-cooking process (4 hours in the oven, 8 minutes on the grill) that yields tender, juicy meat, pineapple-sweet and full of smoke and zippy heat.
What better way to amplify all that goodness than a bright, juicy pineapple salsa? It’s made with minced jalapeño peppers and a handful of rough-chopped mint, and we love the interplay of that super fresh, fruity heat with the rich al pastor.
Our tip: In the test kitchen, we put a dollop of vegan jalapeño ranch on our tacos. Basically, it rocked.
Tacos al Pastor
To marinate the pork: In a medium nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, toast the guajillo chiles and chiles de árbol, turning frequently, until puffed and lightly toasted, 5 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat, add 1 cup of water, cover, and let the chiles soak for 30 minutes. Transfer the chiles and soaking liquid to a blender.
Add the cumin, oregano, paprika, cloves, pineapple, onion, garlic, chipotle chiles, adobo sauce, vinegar, honey, oil, and salt to the blender. Blend on high speed until smooth, about 2 minutes. Set aside.
Place the pork slices between 2 1-gallon ziplock bags and, using a meat hammer, pound them to ¼” thick.
In an ovenproof casserole dish, layer the marinade and sliced pork, making sure all the pork is well-coated. Cover with plastic wrap and marinate in the refrigerator for 1 to 12 hours.
To roast the pork: Preheat the oven to 275º. Remove the plastic wrap and transfer the casserole dish to the oven. Cook until the pork is quite tender, 4 hours. Let cool for 15 minutes. At this point, the pork can be covered with aluminum foil and refrigerated for up to 24 hours.
To grill the pork: Heat a grill or grill pan to high heat. Place the sliced pork on the grill and cook, flipping halfway through, until well charred, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Transfer the pork to a cutting board and chop into bite-sized pieces.
To make the pineapple salsa: Place the pineapple rings on the grill and cook, flipping halfway through, until dark grill marks appear, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Transfer the pineapple to a cutting board and small dice it. In a small bowl, toss the pineapple with the onion, jalapeño, mint, and lime juice. Set aside.
To grill the tortillas: Place the tortillas in a single layer on the grill and cook until lightly charred, about 30 seconds per side.
To serve: Double-stack the tortillas, fill them with the pork, top with pineapple salsa, and garnish with chopped cilantro leaves. Serve hot with lime wedges.
Leftover pork and pineapple salsa can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
Tacos al pastor recipe adapted from: Serious Eats
Pineapple salsa adapted from: Bon Appétit