“Tacos al pastor are an institution in Mexico,” writes recipe developer and former BA editor Rick Martinez. “Every grillmaster, taqueria owner, and food cart cook has their version of this classic that fills the streets with the smell of spicy grilled pork with charred pineapple and onion.”
The dish could also be a signature of Mexican delicacies, however its roots began within the Center East. Within the early twentieth century, a big wave of Lebanese immigrants arrived in Mexico, bringing with them a way for spit-roasting meat and recipes for shawarma. Initially, the dish was made with lamb and referred to as tacos árabes or Arabic tacos. Over time tacos al pastor, that are made with pork and served on corn tortillas, grew from this custom.
For this recipe no vertical spit is required—a grill will do wonderful. However first, marinate skinny slices of pork shoulder (about ¾” thick) in a bath of fresh pineapple, onion, dried chiles, and more for up to 12 hours. Grill the pork over low heat to help it develop a deep char and caramelization (a.k.a. those crispy bits we’re all after) while keeping the meat tender and juicy.
Al pastor means “in the style of the shepherd” and isn’t confined to pork tacos. Inspired by a dish at one of Mexico City’s most beloved restaurants Contramar, Martinez additionally developed a fish tacos al pastor recipe that’s good for an alfresco summer time meal.
Editor’s observe: This recipe was initially printed October 8, 2015.