is Al pastor pork feature image

al pastor pork

People have been asking, “Is Al Pastor pork?” Well, it’s one of the first questions anyone thinks of when they hear this dish’s name. The answer is yes, traditionally, Al Pastor is made with pork.

is Al pastor pork

But wait. Luckily, you can now use different parts and meats to cook it.

Curious about the details? Then, keep reading, as I’m sharing:

  • What cut is used to make Al pastor?
  • Can we use beef, chicken, and goat meat?
  • What’s the best recipe?
  • Is this dish healthy or not?

Let’s begin!

Is Al Pastor Pork? (Everything to Know)

Al Pastor is cooked pork. According to Enrique Olvera, people have been making it with pig meat for decades. They first marinate the meat in a mix of spices and then cook it on a vertical spit (similar to shawarma). That’s why Al Pastor has a unique flavor and texture.

Many also ask me, “Is Al Pastor pork or chicken?” Note that we now have those Al Pastor recipes in which we use chicken. So, if you prefer Halal or Kosher food, you can make a chicken version at home.

But remember: Traditionally, it’s pork.

So, if you were also wondering, Is Al Pastor always pork, then keep in mind that the answer is no. It’s true that the popular choice is bacon, but you can use other meats, too.

Here, I want to answer another popular query, “Is al pastor fried pork?” No, it’s not. Instead, it is cooked on a vertical spit or a grill.

What Is Pork Al Pastor Made of?

You now know that Pork Al Pastor is made from bacon. In addition to it, you can add a mix of spices like achiote, chili peppers, and cumin. In most recipes, you can also use pineapple, onions, and cilantro to make Al Pastor.

Here’s a table about things used in cooking Al Pastor:

PorkMain protein, marinated and cooked on a vertical spit
AchioteSpice gives a distinct red color and earthy flavor
Chili PeppersAdds heat and depth to the marinade
CuminProvides a warm, aromatic flavor
PineappleAdds sweetness and tenderizes the meat
OnionsAdds a savory element
CilantroFresh herb (used as a garnish)
TortillasTraditional serving base for tacos
LimeAdds a tangy brightness to the dish
SalsaComplements the flavors

Is Pork Al Pastor Spicy? How Does It Taste?

Pork Al Pastor is mildly spicy. The reason is the marinade, which we usually make with chili peppers, pineapple, and achiote. The spiciness is generally mild and should be enjoyable for most people. If you’re a spice lover, then you can add chipotle peppers.

Is Al Pastor Pork Healthy? (Yes or No)

Al Pastor pork has more unhealthy contents than the healthier ones. One of the main concerns is its high calorie and fat content. We all know that consuming too many calories and fats can lead to weight gain and health issues.

Furthermore, the marinade and seasonings can be high in sodium. Excessive sodium intake is linked to high blood pressure which is a serious problem today.

You should eat Al Pastor in moderation to stay healthy. To enjoy more benefits, I suggest making chicken Al Pastor instead of ham.

What Part of the Pork is Al Pastor Meat? (Critical Details)

Gabriela Cámara has mentioned that Al Pastor meat typically comes from the pork shoulder. According to experts, this cut is chosen because it has the right amount of fat and marbling. These two things are crucial as they make the meat tender and flavorful.

You can also use pork belly, butt, and loin.

Here’s a table answering, “What cut of pork is al pastor?”

Part of PorkDescription
Pork ShoulderBalance of meat and fat
Pork ButtWell-marbled part of the shoulder
Pork LoinLeaner cut
Pork BellyHigh-fat content and rich flavor

Pork Shoulder

The pork shoulder is the most common cut used for Al Pastor. This part of the pig has a good balance of meat and fat. The fat melts during cooking, keeping the meat juicy and full of flavor. 

Pork Butt

The pork butt, which is part of the shoulder, is also used for Al Pastor. I know what you’re thinking, “Does it really come from the butt?” Well, no.

The reason people choose this is that it is well-marbled. It means it has a lot of fat. So, if you prefer the cooked meat to stay moist, you can use pork butt to make Al Pastor.

Pork Loin (Occasionally)

Not many chefs have told me that they use pork loin. But it can be a good choice because it is a leaner cut. What does it mean? It means it has less fat compared to the shoulder or butt. So, if you’re health conscious, you can use it.

However, because it’s leaner, it can sometimes be less tender if not cooked properly.

Pork Belly

Ever wondered, “Is Al Pastor Pork Belly? Yes, it can be. Pork belly is another cut that can be used for Al Pastor. Note that it has a higher fat content, so you have to be careful during the cooking.

So, now you know what cut of pork is al pastor.

Can I Make Al Pastor With Chicken?

Absolutely, you can make Al Pastor with chicken. It is a great option for those who prefer lighter meals. You can use chicken thighs or breasts. I recommend thighs because they stay juicy and tender during cooking.

Just marinate the chicken thighs in spices – think achiote, chili peppers, and cumin. After this, you can grill or smoke the meat. You can also make Chipotle Chicken Al Pastor at home by using Chipotle spices.

Can I Make Al Pastor With Beef?

Yes, you can make Al Pastor with beef. It’s not common, but let me tell you – it is equally delicious. I recommend a cut that is flavorful and tender, like flank steak or skirt steak. These cuts work well because they absorb the marinade beautifully and cook quickly.

Can I Make Al Pastor With Beef

Another great thing about Beef Al Pastor is that you can grill it or use a stovetop grill pan. The goal is to get a nice sear on the meat.

Can I Make Al Pastor With Goat Meat?

Yes, you can make Al Pastor with goat meat. In my experience, those who love Greek food definitely like the mutton Al Pastor. I also cooked it and found that it goes well with the traditional Al Pastor marinade.

Can I Make Al Pastor With Goat Meat

If you enjoy trying new things, Goat Al Pastor is a great way to mix it up.

However, note that mutton can be a bit tougher than pork or chicken. Therefore, I recommend marinating it longer to help tenderize the meat. You can then cook it on a grill, or follow the slow-cooked recipe.

Is Carne Al Pastor Pork or Beef? (Let’s Find Out)

Carne Al Pastor is traditionally made with pork. I’ve seen some variations where people use beef, but that’s not the norm. Mexicans make it with pork and then pair it with tortillas, pineapple, onions, and cilantro.

Is Carne Al Pastor Pork or Beef

If you ever get a chance, I highly recommend eating Carne Al Pastor!

Is Chipotle Chicken Al Pastor Pork? (Know the Answer)

No, Chipotle Chicken Al Pastor is not pork. To make it, chefs use chicken. The restaurant chain, Chipotle, has made this version popular. You can also cook it if you have chipotle peppers and sauce at home. 

Is Chipotle Chicken Al Pastor Pork

However, I love how Chipotle manages to keep the rich taste of Al Pastor in their chicken version. So, the next time you’re at Chipotle, give it a try if you haven’t already!

What is Pulled Pork Al Pastor? (The Details)

Pulled Pork Al Pastor is a delicious twist. Instead of cooking the pork on a vertical spit, the meat is slow-cooked until it becomes tender enough to be “pulled” apart. Hence, the name.

I’ve tried it and can say that this method gives you juicy, flavorful meat. I used it to make tacos and sandwiches.

How to Make Al Pastor at Home? (Easy Recipe)

To make Al Pastor at home, you will have to marinate the meat in spices. The popular choices are achiote and chili peppers. After marination, cook it on a vertical spit or grill. You can then finally serve it with tortillas, pineapple, onions, and cilantro for an authentic taste.

I’ve read “Mexico: The Cookbook” by Margarita Carrillo Arronte and it’s wonderful. I’ve followed most of her recipes and came up with my own. It’s a little different and I’m hopeful you will love it.

Step One: Marinating the Meat

Marinating the meat is the first and most crucial step in cooking Al Pastor. If you’ve read the Tu Casa Mi Casa cookbook, you might have the idea that the whole taste depends on it.

Step One Marinating the Meat

Fortunately, you can create the best marinade by using simple items, like:

  • Achiote paste
  • Chili peppers
  • Garlic
  • Cumin
  • Oregano
  • Vinegar
  • Pineapple juice.

After mixing them, cut the meat into thin slices. The reason I suggest making thumb slices is that you will be easily able to coat each piece with the marinade.

Before starting step two, you should put the meat in the fridge for at least 4 hours. I leave overnight and that’s also the secret behind how I cook the most delicious Al Pastor.

Step Two: Cooking the Meat

Traditionally, Al Pastor is cooked on a vertical spit, but at home, you can use a grill or even an oven.

Thread marinated slices onto skewers. Cook over medium heat, turning occasionally to cook each side
OvenPlace meat on a baking sheet. Cook at 375°F for about 45 minutes.

Step Three: Preparing the Toppings

When you’re cooking meat, don’t waste the time. I use it to prepare the toppings. It’s simple – just slice fresh pineapple, onions, and cilantro. You can also make a simple salsa with tomatoes, onions, cilantro, and lime juice.

Step Four: Serving the Al Pastor

The last step is serving. Here, I try to follow Nopalito: A Mexican Kitchen” by Gonzalo Guzmán. What I do is: I slice the cooked meat and then I place the pieces on warm tortillas. After this, I add my toppings and squeeze some lime.

step four serving

Here, you can also add your favorite salsa for an extra kick.

That’s it.

Al Pastor Pork

 Are you wondering, “Is Al Pastor pork?” Discover the answer here. Also, you will learn everything about this delicious dish, including its recipe
Course Main Course
Cuisine Mexican
Keyword Al Pastor Pork
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 3 hours
Servings 3
Calories 470kcal


  • Pork
  • Achiote
  • Chili Peppers
  • Cumin
  • Pineapple
  • Onions
  • Cilantro
  • Tortillas
  • Lime
  • Salsa


  • Step One: Marinating the Meat
  • Step Two: Cooking the Meat
  • Step Three: Preparing the Toppings
  • Step Four: Serving the Al Pastor


Final Words

To sum up:
  • Al Pastor is a pork dish. People cook it by marinating the pork shoulder and cooking it on a vertical spit.
  • It has a mildly spicy flavor, which everyone likes.
  • You can make Al Pastor at home by marinating the meat and cooking it on a grill or in an oven.
  • It’s served with tortillas, topped with pineapple, onions, cilantro, and lime.
That’s all about whether Al Pastor is pork or not.

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