Al Pastor is a mouthwatering Mexican dish that is slowly becoming people’s favorite. It’s unique to other Mexican foods because it is marinated, spit-roasted meat with around a dozen other ingredients.

Al pastor trompo

You may be thinking it’s hard to cook, but that’s not the case. If you follow my al Pastor recipe, you will easily make it tender and delicious.

But first, you have to learn all about Al Pastor before I tell you how you can cook it. So, keep reading.

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What is Al Pastor? (Everything to Know)

Al Pastor is one of the best Mexican dishes you can try. The meat is marinated with a lot of spices and cooked on a vertical spit. As a matter of fact, you can even add pineapple to make it richer in taste (that’s the beauty of it).

This versatility ultimately makes the meat juicy and flavorful. That is why thousands of meat lovers love this Mexican dish (including myself).

Note that Al Pastor is usually made with chicken or pork. I’m a beef fan, too, and I once made this dish with beef as well. It was tasty, but I suggest you make a chicken, Al Pastor. Many people ask me, “What Kind of Meat is Al Pastor,” and now you know. 

Now, you may be wondering, “What Does Al Pastor mean?” Well, The term means “shepherd style” in Spanish, hinting at the dish’s origins.

History of Al Pastor

I first read the Al Pastor recipe in a book. When I tried the first bite, I instantly became a fan of Mexican foods. This made me curious, and I started researching its history. 

Here’s what I found. 

The story of Al Pastor starts in the 1920s and 1930s. Lebanese immigrants brought their traditional cooking style to Mexico. They used a vertical spit, much like they did with shawarma. Over time, this cooking method blended with Mexican flavors and ingredients. 

The result was Al Pastor!

Now, you can enjoy it in tacos, burritos, or even on pizza.

Spicy or Not: How Al Pastor Taste?

People often ask, “Is chicken Al Pastor spicy?” Chicken al Pastor can be spicy, but it doesn’t have to be. The spice level really depends on how you make it. The marinade usually has chili peppers, which give it a kick. But the heat can vary.

When I make Chicken al Pastor at home, I like to control the spice. If you love spices, you can always add more hot peppers.

Some people compare Al Pastor to Adobada, so let’s now do “Adobada vs Al Pastor.” Adobada is typically marinated in a red sauce made from dried red chilies, vinegar, and spices. That’s different from Al Pastor.

Wondering about “Carnitas vs Al Pastor” as well? Carnitas are made either by braising or simmering pork. The meat is then shredded and often browned to add a crispy texture.

Al Pastor, as I discussed above, is marinated meat cooked on a vertical spit. It’s tender, juicy, and has a mix of sweet and savory flavors.

What Are the Different Types of Al Pastor Recipes?

Now, let me tell you we have over a dozen different recipes of AL Pastor. Chefs have tried different things with it, and most of them have worked well. The meat eventually tastes “out of the world.” Here are the top recipes:

Taco al Pastor: This is a traditional Mexican taco made with spit-grilled pork. The pork is marinated in a mix of dried chilies, spices, pineapple, and achiote paste. It’s served on a corn tortilla with onions, cilantro, and pineapple.

Chicken al Pastor: It’s a tasty variation of the classic al pastor taco. However, it’s made with chicken only (not the pork). The chicken is marinated in the same delicious spices and cooked similarly.

Chipotle Chicken al Pastor: It’s a spicier take on chicken al pastor. In this, you add chipotle peppers to the marinade for an extra kick and smoky flavor.

Carne al Pastor: “Carne” means meat in Spanish, and in this case, it refers to pork prepared in the al pastor style.

Al Pastor Sauce: The flavorful marinade or sauce used to season al pastor meat. I like to make it with a mix of chilies, achiote paste, vinegar, and pineapple juice.

Al Pastor Burrito: It’s a burrito filled with tasty al pastor meat, rice, beans, and other traditional fillings.

Al Pastor Seasoning: A dry spice mix to marinate or season al pastor meat. In my opinion, it’s a big part of any Al Pastor recipe, which is why I felt the need to discuss it separately. 

Torta al Pastor: A delicious Mexican sandwich made with al pastor meat. I want it served on a bolillo roll with avocado, onions, and salsa.

Gringas al Pastor: A type of taco made with flour tortillas instead of corn. You fill it with al pastor meat and melted cheese.

Al Pastor Marinade Recipe: A recipe for making the flavorful marinade used to season al pastor meat.

Al Pastor Pizza: A creative fusion dish that combines the flavors of al pastor with pizza. Chefs use al pastor meat, pineapple, and cheese as toppings.

Cabrito al Pastor: This recipe is all about goat meat prepared in the al pastor style, though it’s less common than chicken.

Smoked Al Pastor: A variation where al pastor meat is smoked to add a unique flavor.

Al Pastor Quesadilla: It’s another unique recipe – a quesadilla filled with al pastor meat and cheese for a tasty twist.

Al Pastor with Pineapple: Traditional al pastor includes pineapple. I grill it and serve it alongside the meat.

Vegan Al Pastor: This is a plant-based version of al pastor, using ingredients like tofu, seitan, or mushrooms instead of pork.

Beef Al Pastor: A variation where beef is used instead of pork, marinated and cooked in the al pastor style.

Hey Grill Hey Al Pastor: It’s a recipe from “Hey Grill Hey,” which many people have admired on social media.

That’s all the Al Pastor recipes you can try. You must have decided to cook one at home by now. I’m now discussing which things you will need to make.

To cook Al Pastor, you’ll need a trompo (vertical spit) or a grill/grill pan, a sharp kitchen knife, and a blender or food processor. You should also have a cutting board, aluminum foil, and a meat thermometer. These tools help marinate, cook, and slice the meat evenly.

Let’s see the details.

Trompo al Pastor

In Mexico, Al Pastor is cooked on a vertical spit called a trompo. I know this might not be something everyone has at home. But if you love cooking and want to recreate that authentic flavor, it’s worth investing in. 

Let me tell you my experience. When I use my trompo, the meat cooks evenly, and the flavors really come through.

Grill or Grill Pan

If you don’t have a vertical spit, don’t worry. You can still make delicious Al Pastor using a grill or a grill pan. I often use my grill pan when I’m cooking smaller batches. It gives the meat a nice char and helps lock in the flavors.

Sharp Knife

A sharp knife is a must. When the meat is cooked, you’ll need to slice it thinly. In my experience, a good sharp knife makes this job a lot easier and ensures the slices are even.

Large Mixing Bowl

You’ll need a large mixing bowl to marinate the pork. I always use a big glass or stainless steel bowl. It’s perfect for mixing the marinade and ensuring all the meat is well-coated.

Blender or Food Processor

To make the marinade, you’ll need a blender or a food processor. I use my blender to mix the pineapple juice, chilies, and spices into a smooth paste. This makes sure all the flavors are evenly distributed.

Cutting Board

A sturdy cutting board is essential. You’ll use it to slice the pork before marinating and after it’s cooked. I have a wooden cutting board that I love because it’s durable and easy to clean.

Aluminum Foil

Aluminum foil is handy for wrapping the meat if you need to keep it warm. I often wrap the meat in foil for the last few minutes of cooking to lock in the juices.

Meat Thermometer

While not strictly necessary, a meat thermometer can help you ensure the pork is cooked perfectly. I like using mine to check the internal temperature so I know the meat is juicy and safe to eat.

When you’re ready to make Chicken Al Pastor at home, I suggest you gather all the ingredients in advance. To cook Al Pastor, you need pork (or chicken for variations), dried chilies, achiote paste, spices, pineapple, vinegar, and a vertical spit or grill.

Also, have corn tortillas, onions, cilantro, and lime for serving.

Let me guide you through what you’ll need in detail.

Chicken Thighs

The main ingredient in Chicken Al Pastor is chicken thighs. I always look for good quality and fresh chicken thighs at my local grocery store. It’s worth getting the best you can find since it’s the star of the dish.


In my opinion, a pineapple is a must for Al Pastor. It adds a tangy and sweet-ish flavor that balances the spices. I usually use fresh pineapple, but canned works, too, if you’re in a pinch.

Dried Chilies

I think dried chilies are essential for the marinade. You’ll need guajillo and ancho chilies. In my experience, these chilies add a deep, smoky flavor without being too spicy. I toast them lightly before blending them to bring out their flavor.


For the spices, you’ll need cumin, oregano, and paprika. I recommend them because they add “complexity” to the marinade. When I mix them together, the aroma is amazing.

Garlic and Onion

Garlic and onion are crucial for flavor. They add a savory depth to the marinade. I use fresh garlic cloves and a medium onion, both chopped finely.


The reason I pick vinegar is that it helps tenderize the meat. But that’s not it. It also adds a slight tanginess (just like Pineapple). I usually use apple cider vinegar because it has a mild flavor.

Orange Juice

Orange juice is my other favorite ingredient because it adds a hint of acidity. I’ve found that it complements the pineapple and balances the spices. Freshly squeezed is best, but bottled works too.

Achiote Paste

Achiote paste gives Al Pastor its distinctive red color and earthy flavor. It’s made from annatto seeds, which are a key ingredient. 

Salt and Pepper

You should also have salt and pepper. Why? Well, for seasoning the chicken. They bring out all the other flavors and ensure your Chicken Al Pastor is perfectly seasoned.

Fresh Cilantro

Fresh cilantro adds a burst of freshness. I love sprinkling it on top of my tacos for a pop of color and flavor.


Do you like a zesty kick in your food? Then, go for lime juice. In fact, I always have a few limes on hand to serve with Al Pastor.

So, have all these ingredients? Great! Let’s now look at how to cook Al Pastor (Como Hacer Tacos al Pastor).

Let’s dive into the step-by-step process of making delicious Chicken Al Pastor at home. I’ll walk you through each step to ensure your dish turns out amazing.

Step 1: Gather Your Ingredients

First, make sure you have all the ingredients near you. Having everything on hand makes the process smoother. Moreover, clean your grill, trompo, knife, and other materials you will be using.

Step 2: Prepare the Marinade

Start by making the marinade.

  • Toast the Chilies: Lightly toast the guajillo and ancho chilies in a dry pan over medium heat for a few minutes. This helps bring out their flavor. Be careful not to burn them.
  • Mixing: In a blender, combine the toasted chilies, pineapple juice, orange juice, garlic, onion, cumin, oregano, paprika, achiote paste, vinegar, salt, and pepper. Mix until you have a smooth paste.

I love this step because the aroma of the spices and pineapple is just wonderful.

Step 3: Marinate the Chicken

In this step, I like to put the chicken thighs in a bowl. Some use plates, but it just makes things messy. Next, pour the marinade over them, making sure each piece is well-coated. 

It’s recommended to cover the bowl with plastic wrap. When you do it, let it marinate in the fridge for at least 4 hours. Overnight is even better. 

When I marinate the chicken, I like to give it a little massage to make sure the flavors really penetrate.

Step 4: Cook the Chicken

Now, it’s time to cook the chicken.

  • Preheat the Grill or Pan: If you’re using a grill, preheat it to medium-high heat. If you’re using a grill pan, heat it on the stove over medium-high heat.
  • Cook the Chicken: Place the marinated chicken thighs on the grill or pan. Cook for about eight minutes on each side. Wait for the thighs to be fully cooked. I always enjoy the sizzle sound when the chicken hits the hot surface.

Step 5: Slice the Chicken

Once the chicken is cooked, let it rest for a few minutes. Then, slice it thinly against the grain. This helps keep the chicken tender. When I slice the chicken, I can see all the beautiful layers of flavor.

Step 6: Prepare Your Toppings

While the chicken is resting, prepare your toppings. Fresh cilantro, lime wedges, diced onions, and extra pineapple are great options. I like to set up a little toppings bar so everyone can customize their tacos.

Step 7: Assemble Your Tacos

Now for the fun part—assembling your tacos! In this step, I suggest warming up some corn tortillas. You can use a grill or a dry pan.

Place a few slices of chicken on each tortilla and top with your favorite toppings. When I make my tacos, I like to add some lime or lemon juice for an extra zing.

Here’s my secret: I like to eat Al Pastor with a “special” sauce. If you would also like to try it, then read the next part.

Making Al Pastor sauce at home is easier than you might think. This sauce is the heart of Al Pastor, giving it that delicious, smoky flavor. These are the steps.

Step 1: Gather Your Ingredients

First, let’s get everything you need. You will need:

  • Dried guajillo chilies
  • Dried ancho chilies
  • Pineapple juice
  • Orange juice
  • White vinegar or apple cider vinegar
  • Garlic cloves
  • A medium onion
  • Ground cumin
  • Dried oregano
  • Paprika
  • Achiote paste
  • Salt
  • Pepper

When I make Al Pastor sauce, I love laying out all the ingredients. It makes me feel organized and ready to cook.

Step 2: Toast the Chilies

Start by toasting the dried chilies. Heat a dry pan, and then add the guajillo and ancho chilies. Toast them for a few minutes until they become fragrant. Be careful not to burn them. I always enjoy this step because the chilies’ aroma fills the kitchen.

Step 3: Soak the Chilies

After toasting, place the chilies in a bowl and cover them with hot water. Let them soak for about 15-20 minutes until they soften. When I soak the chilies, I often use this time to prepare the other ingredients.

Step 4: Blend the Ingredients

Once the chilies are soft, drain them and add them to a blender. Then, add the: 

  • Pineapple juice
  • Orange juice
  • Vinegar
  • Garlic cloves
  • Chopped onion
  • Cumin
  • Oregano
  • Paprika
  • Achiote paste
  • Salt 
  • Pepper.

Mix everything until you have a smooth, thick paste. This step is my favorite because the blend of colors and aromas is simply amazing.

Step 5: Adjust the Seasoning

In this step, you will adjust the seasoning as needed. If you like it spicier, you can add more chilies. If you prefer it milder, add more pineapple juice or vinegar. I always taste and tweak until it’s just right for my family’s taste.

Step 6: Store the Sauce

Now, pour the sauce into an airtight container. You can use it right away or let it sit in the fridge for a few hours to let the flavors meld. I find that the sauce tastes even better the next day.

If you’re a fan of Al Pastor like I am, you’ll want to know where to find the best versions of this delicious dish. Let me share some of my favorite spots.

Taqueria al Pastor

When I think of Taqueria al Pastor, my mouth starts to water. I remember the first time I bit into one of their tacos; the combination of sweet pineapple and savory pork was unforgettable.

I go there for some delicious Al Pastor tacos and other related dishes. In my experience, the meat is always perfectly marinated and cooked to perfection.

Empellón al Pastor

Empellón is a restaurant that takes Al Pastor to another level. I once tried their Al Pastor tacos, and they were incredible. What I love about Empellón is their attention to detail. Every ingredient is top-notch, and it shows in the taste.

Rosita’s Al Pastor

Rosita’s Al Pastor is another gem. I often visit Rosita’s when I crave authentic Mexican flavors. The meat is juicy, tender, and bursting with flavor.

But the thing is – Rosita and other restaurants charge a lot of money. So, I also suggest you cook it at home by following the recipe I have just shared with you above.

Cooking Al Pastor requires a lot of considerations as well. You should be careful with the right cut of meat, a flavorful marinade, proper marinating time, and the correct cooking method.

Paying attention to these factors ensures a delicious dish that everyone will enjoy.

Choosing the Right Cut of Meat

The first step in making Al Pastor is choosing the right cut of meat. For traditional Al Pastor, pork shoulder is often used. However, chicken thighs are a great alternative if you prefer halal or kosher food. 

When I pick my meat, I always go for high-quality, fresh cuts. It makes a big difference in the final dish.

Marinating Time

Marinating time is crucial for Al Pastor. The longer you marinate the meat, the more flavorful it will be. I usually let my meat marinate for at least 4 hours, but overnight is best. During this time, the flavors penetrate deeply into the meat. 

When I plan ahead and marinate overnight, the results are always more delicious and tender.

Cooking Method

Cooking Al Pastor properly is key to achieving the best texture and flavor. In my experience, cooking over medium-high heat ensures the meat has a nice char. 

I love the smell and sizzle when the meat hits the hot surface. It’s a sign that good things are happening.

Slicing the Meat

After cooking, slicing the meat thinly is important. The reason I prefer thin slices is that each bite feels flavorful.

I always let the meat rest for a few minutes before slicing to keep it juicy. Using a sharp knife helps make this task easier and gives you perfect slices every time.

Adding Toppings

You should be extremely careful about the toppings. In my opinion, fresh cilantro, diced onions, pineapple, and a squeeze of lime juice can enhance the flavors of Al Pastor.

I enjoy setting up a toppings bar so everyone can customize their tacos. It’s fun and makes the meal even more enjoyable.

I’ve tried different things with Al Pastor and noted those that gave me the best results. Now, after years of making this Mexican dish, I’m sharing those tips that even chefs don’t know. 

Here’s how you can make your Al Pastor better:

  • Marinate Overnight: Let the chicken marinate overnight for maximum flavor absorption.
  • Use Pineapple Juice: Fresh pineapple juice in the marinade tenderizes the chicken and adds a natural sweetness.
  • Grill with Pineapple: Grill pineapple slices alongside the chicken for added flavor and authenticity.
  • Freeze Chicken Slightly: Slightly freezing the chicken before slicing helps get thinner, more even pieces.
  • Baste with Marinade: Baste the chicken with leftover marinade while grilling. Doing this will keep the meat moist and flavorful.
  • Rest the Meat: Let the cooked chicken rest for a few minutes before slicing to retain juices.
  • Add Chipotle Peppers: Incorporate chipotle peppers in adobo sauce for a smoky kick.
  • Char on High Heat: Finish the chicken on high heat for a quick char, enhancing the texture and flavor.

That’s all!

Al Pastor

Delicious Mexican Dish
Course Main Course
Cuisine Mexican
Keyword Al Pastor
Prep Time 21 minutes
Cook Time 11 minutes
Total Time 4 hours 32 minutes
Servings 6
Calories 475kcal


  • Dried guajillo chilies
  • Dried ancho chilies
  • Pineapple juice
  • Orange juice
  • White vinegar or apple cider vinegar
  • Garlic cloves
  • A medium onion
  • Ground cumin
  • Dried oregano
  • Paprika
  • Achiote paste
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Pineapple juice
  • Orange juice
  • Vinegar
  • Garlic cloves
  • Chopped onion
  • Cumin
  • Oregano
  • Paprika
  • Achiote paste
  • Salt
  • Pepper.


  • Step 1: Gather Your Ingredients
  • Step 2: Toast the Chilies
  • Step 3: Soak the Chilies
  • Step 4: Blend the Ingredients
  • Step 5: Adjust the Seasoning
  • Step 6: Store the Sauce


Final Words

All in all, Al Pastor is a flavorful Mexican meat dish that is cooked on a vertical spit. Whether you’re a chef or a newbie at cooking, making Al Pastor at home can be fun. Here’s a quick recap:
  • Use high-quality meat for the best results.
  • Create a balanced marinade with sweet, spicy, and tangy flavors.
  • Marinate the meat for deeper flavor.
  • Cook on high heat to achieve a nice char.
  • Slice the meat thinly and serve with fresh toppings.
Now, you’re ready to make the most delicious Al Pastor right in your kitchen. Enjoy the flavors and have fun cooking!
Al Pastor Havertown
Based on 64 reviews
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Tom McCarthy
Tom McCarthy
17:35 27 May 24
Great food and service!
Denise Lynch
Denise Lynch
21:36 24 May 24
Gregory Milbourne
Gregory Milbourne
20:45 20 May 24
Daniel Salerno
Daniel Salerno
09:10 19 May 24
Excellent food and service
Gregory Halsey
Gregory Halsey
21:40 18 May 24
Visited Al Pastor on Friday night with myGirlfriend. We shared a pitcherOf cucumber Jalepeno margaritas that were spicy and delicious! The food was great, loved the guacamole! The service was amazing and the manager Shana even visited our table to make sure we were enjoying ourselves! Will definitely be visiting again!
22:49 06 May 24
Been here a couple of times now… food is very good. Service is friendly. Cocktails are pretty decent and creative! Good prices during happy hour. The room itself can be very loud. Build your own tacos is a very nice plate with the fixins’. Would recommend getting rid of the boards that the food is served on they look like they would contain a lot of germs since the wood is not sealed.
Jacob Schaffer
Jacob Schaffer
17:36 02 Apr 24
Went for happy hour and had a great experience. New place with great vibes and staff. Happy hour had a great selection and great margarita flavors!
Beth Sellaiaha
Beth Sellaiaha
04:00 17 Mar 24
The atmosphere and drinks were great. The food left a lot to be desired. The spicy guacamole didn't have much flavor until we added hot sauce from the cart and my enchiladas tasted like the kind I get frozen and microwave from the grocery store. No authentic flavor. Going to give them another try since this was opening week. Our waitress was amazing and I'm a big fan of supporting local businesses.
Noelle Kelly (singerinkitchen)
Noelle Kelly (singerinkitchen)
03:49 07 Mar 24
There's a new Mexican eatery and it's in Havertown! Move over eateries because this restaurant has a cool vibe. The whole place had been transformed from its previous tap room into a classy hip place with a full bar.Start with a margarita or one of their specially made cocktails using unique ingredients like hibiscus, mezcal, or Tajin.The appetizer menu can stand alone with its options for guacamole flights or ceviche or wings. This Mexican fusion menu was really tasty. The nachos had incredible flavor with a colorful presentation.Don't forget the tacos. There are options for vegetarians like their fried cauliflower tacos or sweet potato black bean tacos. They were very filling. The fried fish tacos were so crunchy and delicious. I could go back for those.The night ended with the sirloin fajitas served under pepper and onions and a tasty sauce on top. There was a perfect number of sides and tortillas for the serving.The tres leches was my favorite. It was a sturdy solid cake that had been drenched in a sweet combination of milks. I took that home to enjoy later but it was so good. Can't wait to come back.
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