chicken al pastor

Al Pastor Chicken

Al Pastor chicken is a mouth-watering Mexican dish that you can make at home without any hassle. It’s more flavorful than others because it is marinated in a mix of spices and pineapple. I’ve been cooking it for years and have perfected the recipe. 

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So, if you want to learn how to marinade, cook, and serve Al Pastor, then stick to the end. Let’s begin!

chicken al pastor

Al Pastor Chicken Introduction: Why Should You Eat It?

Al Pastor Chicken is a delicious dish that has become very popular nowadays because of its unique flavors, which are sweet and tangy. That’s what makes it versatile, too. You can enjoy it in tacos, burritos, or even on its own with some rice and beans.

Al Pastor Chicken has roots in Mexico but has spread all over the world. People now cook it at parties and family dinners. In fact, I can say that it brings people together. Imagine sitting around a table, laughing and enjoying this delicious dish.

Also, making Al Pastor Chicken at home is super fun. You get to play with spices, marinate the chicken, and cook it to perfection.

So, if you’re thinking about making Al Pastor chicken, I say you go for it. Worry not! Now, I’m discussing everything about this dish, including ingredients, how to marinate, the cooking process, and much more.

What Ingredients Are Used in Al Pastor Chicken?

The reason behind the delightful taste of Al Pastor is the ingredients. They are easily available and you can get all of them from the supermarket. Here are the main ingredients used in Al Pastor Chicken:

Chicken ThighsTender and juicy base for the dish.
PineappleAdds sweetness and tenderizes the meat.
White VinegarHelps marinate and flavor the chicken.
GarlicProvides a rich, aromatic taste.
OnionAdds depth and sweetness to the marinade.
Chili PowderGives a spicy kick and vibrant color.
PaprikaEnhances the smoky flavor.
CuminAdds a warm, earthy taste.
OreganoProvides a hint of herbal freshness.
SaltEnhances all the other flavors.
PepperFor heat and sharpness.

What Equipment Do You Need to Cook Al Pastor Chicken?

You will need the right types of equipment, too, when cooking Al Pastor chicken. Here’s the table:

Skewers or RotisserieTo hold the chicken and help it cook evenly.
Grill or Grill PanProvides the smoky flavor and char marks.
Blender or Food ProcessorFor mixing the marinade ingredients smoothly.
Mixing BowlHold the chicken and marinade for even coating.
KnifeCut the chicken and other ingredients into pieces.
Cutting BoardFor safely cutting ingredients.
Measuring Spoons and CupsEnsures the right amount of each ingredient is used.
Basting BrushApplies the marinade to the chicken during grilling.
TongsHelps turn the chicken without losing juices.
Serving PlatterHolds the cooked chicken for easy serving

When you have both ingredients and equipment, you can start making marinade.

How to Prepare the Perfect Al Pastor Marinade?

To prepare the perfect Al Pastor marinade, blend pineapple, white vinegar, garlic, onion, chili powder, and paprika together. For better taste, you should also carefully mix cumin, oregano, salt, and pepper until smooth. Marinate the chicken in this mixture for at least 4 hours for the best flavor.

Mix the Ingredients

First, gather all your ingredients. I start with fresh pineapple, white vinegar, garlic, onion, chili powder, paprika, cumin, oregano, salt, and pepper. Then, I put everything into a blender or food processor.

marinate chicken

In my experience, blending these ingredients together ensures a smooth and consistent marinade. Many people ask whether Pineapple is an important ingredient in Al Pastor. Well, it is. The pineapple helps tenderize the chicken, while the spices add depth and flavor.

Marinate the Chicken

Once the marinade is ready, I place chicken thighs in a large mixing bowl. Then, I pour the marinade over the chicken. When you do it, make sure each piece is well-coated. 

In this step, I like to use my hands to mix everything together. It’s a bit messy, but it ensures every piece of chicken gets the full flavor. When I’m done, I wrap the bow and put it in the refrigerator.

marination step one mix the ingredients

Let It Sit

Marinating time is crucial. I suggest marinating the chicken for at least 4 hours, but overnight is even better. Remember this rule: The longer the chicken thighs sit in the marinade, the more delicious they will become. 

You may be wondering why there is waiting time. Note that this period allows the spices to penetrate deep into the meat. In my opinion, this is the reason why every bite of the chicken feels delicious.

Prepare for Cooking

Before cooking, I take the chicken out of the refrigerator and let it sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes. This step helps the chicken cook evenly. You should not waste these 30 minutes. 

While waiting, I prepare my grill or grill pan, making sure it’s clean and hot. This way, the chicken gets those nice grill marks and smoky flavor.

How Do You Cook Al Pastor Chicken at Home?

To cook Al Pastor Chicken at home, grill the marinated chicken on skewers or a grill pan until fully cooked. After this, slice the chicken thinly. You can then serve it with your favorite sides or in tacos.

Here are the detailed steps.

skewer the chicken

Prepare the Grill or Grill Pan

First, I get my grill or grill pan ready. If using a grill, I suggest preheating it to medium-high heat. For a grill pan, you can place it on the stove over medium-high heat.

Skewer the Chicken

In this step, I thread the marinated chicken pieces onto skewers. It’s crucial because you can then handle the meat easily. 

If you’re using wooden skewers, then I’ve some important things to share. You should soak them in water for about 30 minutes before threading the chicken. The reason you should do it is that it prevents the skewers from burning during cooking. 

I like using metal skewers because they’re reusable and don’t need soaking.

Grill the Chicken

Now, it’s time to cook! Simply place the skewered chicken on the preheated grill or grill pan and let it stay there for about 5-7 minutes. It’s better to wait until each side is fully cooked and has a nice char. 

step 3 grill the chicken

In this step, I like to use tongs to turn the skewers, ensuring the chicken cooks evenly on all sides.

Slice the Chicken

Once the chicken is cooked, let it rest for a few minutes. This helps the juices redistribute, which makes the chicken more tender. 

After resting, you should slice the chicken thinly. This step is important because thin slices make it easier to serve and eat.

chicken al pastor feature image

How Do You Serve Al Pastor Chicken?

Serving Al Pastor Chicken is one of my favorite parts because you get to be creative and make it look amazing. Here are some of my favorite ways to serve this delicious dish:


One of the best ways to serve Al Pastor Chicken is in tacos. I warm up some soft corn or flour tortillas, then fill them with the thinly sliced chicken. You can also add fresh toppings like: 

taco al pastor
  • Chopped cilantro
  • Diced onions
  • A squeeze of lime juice. 

Sometimes, I also add a little pineapple for extra sweetness.


Another fantastic way to enjoy Al Pastor Chicken is in a burrito. I take a large tortilla and layer it with the sliced chicken, rice, beans, and some shredded cheese. Once I added a bit of sour cream and salsa, which gave it a nice creamy and tangy flavor.

al pastor burritos


For a lighter option, I love making an Al Pastor Chicken salad. I start with a bed of fresh lettuce or mixed greens and top it with the sliced chicken. Adding some avocado, tomatoes, and a sprinkle of cheese makes the salad colorful and tasty.

If you want, you can also drizzle a lime vinaigrette over the top for a refreshing finish. This is a great way to enjoy the flavors without feeling too full.

Rice Bowls

Rice bowls are another simple and satisfying way to serve Al Pastor Chicken. I place a scoop of rice in a bowl and top it with the chicken slices. In my experience, adding black beans, corn, and a dollop of guacamole makes it even better. I like to mix everything together so each bite has a little bit of every flavor.


When I’m in the mood for a fun and shareable dish, I make Al Pastor Chicken nachos. You can make it by spreading tortilla chips on a baking sheet. Then, you can sprinkle the sliced chicken over the top.

Chipotle Al Pastor

For a smoky twist, I like to make Chipotle Al Pastor. I add chipotle peppers to the marinade before grilling. After cooking the chicken, I serve it with rice and beans. The smoky flavor of the chipotle makes your day.

Al Pastor Chicken Quesadillas

Another favorite is Al Pastor Chicken quesadillas. You can make it by filling flour tortillas with the sliced chicken and lots of cheese. Here, I suggest cooking them on a griddle until the tortillas feel crispy. I like to serve them with salsa, guacamole, and sour cream on the side.

No matter how you choose to serve Al Pastor Chicken, the key is to have fun. 

Al Pastor Chicken Quesadillas

How Can You Store and Reheat Al Pastor Chicken?

Storing and reheating Al Pastor Chicken properly is important to keep it tasty. In fact, food safety depends on it. Whether you have leftovers or want to prepare in advance, here’s how you can do it.

Storing Al Pastor Chicken

When you have leftovers, the first thing to do is let the chicken cool down to room temperature because we don’t want any condensation in the storage container (which can make the chicken soggy). 

Once it’s cooled, I place the chicken in an airtight container. Remember that these containers help keep the chicken fresh and prevent any odors from escaping.

If you plan to eat the chicken within a few days, then store it in the refrigerator. Al Pastor Chicken can last up to 3 to 4 days in the fridge. 

For longer storage, you should freeze the chicken. I like to portion it out into meal-sized servings before freezing. This way, I can just take out what I need without defrosting the whole batch. Frozen Al Pastor Chicken can last up to 3 months.

Reheating Al Pastor Chicken

When it’s time to reheat, there are a few methods you can use. The microwave is the quickest way to reheat Al Pastor Chicken. Simply place the chicken in a microwave-safe dish and cover it with a towel. This helps keep the chicken moist. 

I heat it on medium power in 30-second intervals, stirring in between, until it’s hot. This method is fast but can sometimes make the chicken a bit chewy.

For a better texture, you can use the oven. I preheat the oven to 352°F (175°C). Then, I place the chicken in an oven-safe dish. Here, I highly suggest covering it with foil because we don’t want the meat to dry out. I bake it for about 15-20 minutes, or until it’s heated through. This method takes longer but keeps the chicken juicy and flavorful.

What are the Common Mistakes to Avoid When Cooking Al Pastor Chicken?

Common mistakes when cooking Al Pastor Chicken include not marinating long enough, overcooking the chicken, and using the wrong cut of meat. To avoid these, marinate the chicken for at least 4 hours, monitor the cooking time carefully, and choose chicken thighs for the best results.

Not Marinating Long Enough

One of the biggest mistakes is not marinating the chicken long enough. The marinade is what gives Al Pastor Chicken its amazing flavor. If you don’t let the chicken sit in the marinade for at least 4 hours, it won’t absorb all the delicious spices and juices. 

I always make sure to marinate my chicken overnight if possible. This allows the flavors to really soak in and makes a huge difference in the taste.

Overcooking the Chicken

Overcooking is one of the biggest mistakes that can ruin your Al Pastor Chicken. When chicken is overcooked, it becomes dry and tough. Therefore, always keep a close eye on the grill or pan. Furthermore, you should use a meat thermometer to check for doneness. 

Important Note: The chicken should reach an internal temperature of 165°F (74°C) to be safe to eat but still juicy.

Using the Wrong Cut of Meat

In my opinion, Al Pastor Chicken is best made with chicken thighs. Why? Because they are more flavorful and tender than chicken breasts. Thighs stay juicy during cooking and have a richer taste.

I suggest choosing boneless, skinless chicken thighs for your Al Pastor Chicken. If you prefer white meat, you can use chicken breasts. However, be aware that they may not be as juicy or flavorful as thighs.

Skipping the Resting Period

Skipping the resting period after cooking is a mistake. Keep in mind that doing it can cause the chicken to lose its juices. After cooking, you should let the chicken rest for about 5 minutes before slicing. This simple step will help keep the chicken juicy and enhance its flavor.

That’s all!


Chicken Al Pastor can be a bit spicy. The marinade includes chili and sometimes chipotle peppers. Both ingredients can add a mild to moderate heat. If you prefer less spice, simply add less chili powder.

Traditional Al Pastor is made with pork, but we don’t add it when cooking Chicken Al Pastor. You should also only enjoy the chicken meat flavor. If you want, you can cook beef, pork, or seafood Al Pastor separately. 

Cooking Chicken Al Pastor usually takes about 10 to 15 minutes on the grill or in a grill pan. It all depends on the thickness of the chicken pieces. You should cook the chicken until the meat thermometer gives the reading of 165°F (74°C). Including marinating time, the preparation can take several hours.

Chipotle Chicken Al Pastor may contain common allergens, such as garlic and certain spices. If you have specific allergies, it’s important to check the ingredient list. Moreover, ask about potential allergens when ordering or preparing the dish.

Chipotle Chicken Al Pastor can be gluten-free if prepared with gluten-free ingredients. I suggest always checking the labels of spices and sauces used in the marinade. Ensure they do not contain gluten. When dining out, it’s best to confirm with the restaurant to ensure there’s no cross-contamination.

Final Words

All in all, making Al Pastor Chicken at home is a delightful experience. Here’s a quick summary:

  • Marinate the chicken for at least 4 hours for the best flavor.
  • Use chicken thighs for a juicier, more flavorful dish.
  • Cook the chicken (thighs) on a grill until it reaches 165°F (74°C).
  • Serve with traditional or modern side dishes for a complete meal.

That’s it. Now, you can impress anyone with this amazing dish!

Al Pastor Chicken

Make It At Home Easily
Course Main Dishes
Cuisine Mexican, Mexican & Tex-Mex
Keyword Al Pastor Chicken
Prep Time 13 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 36 minutes
Servings 4
Calories 180kcal


  • Skewers or Rotisserie
  • Grill or Grill Pan
  • Blender or Food Processor
  • Mixing Bowl
  • Knife
  • Cutting Board
  • Measuring Spoons and Cups
  • Basting Brush
  • Tongs
  • Serving Platter


  • Chicken Thighs
  • Pineapple
  • White Vinegar
  • Garlic
  • Onion
  • Chili Powder
  • Paprika
  • Cumin
  • Oregano
  • Salt
  • Pepper


  • Mix the Ingredients
  • Marinate the Chicken
  • Let It Sit
  • Prepare for Cooking
  • Prepare the Grill or Grill Pan
  • Skewer the Chicken
  • Grill the Chicken
  • Slice the Chicken
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