Tacos Al Pastor – 3 Ways

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These Tacos al Pastor are a convenient spin on a traditional dish native to Central Mexico! With a fresh pineapple-centered marinade, crispy finish, and fresh cilantro relish, these tacos are a great meal for a family night in or your next hosted party.

Instant Pot Tacos Al Pastor

Tacos al Pastor …do they need an introduction? Once upon a time, I needed an introduction to their (magical) secrets. Before they were in regular rotation in my life, I glazed over their presence on menus for YEARS. Then, one day, I saw a waiter walk out of the kitchen carrying a plate with 4 tiny tacos that were stuffed with (what looked like) crispy pork, cilantro, and a bit of pineapple. “THAT! I WANT THAT!”

I'm one of those people who will shamelessly STARE DOWN plates as they walk by. I will lean way, way back to get a glance at what everyone ordered at your table. We all avoid eye contact, but we know what's happening. If you're proud of your order, maybe you lean back a bit so others can really take it in. BUT, as soon as someone picks up a fork, I avert my eyes. Watching you eat would be weird …but drooling over your untouched choices is a little less weird.

Snooping what plates hit neighboring tables is how I've discovered so many of my favorite meals! Tacos al Pastor included.

Instant Pot Tacos Al Pastor

What are tacos al pastor?

SO, what's up with these tiny tacos? Here's the scoop: they're usually made with pork shoulder, but can occasionally be found with pork tenderloin instead. Personally, I prefer pork shoulder. Why? Pork shoulder, marinated in a special chili marinade, makes for the most delicious, flavorful, crispy-on-the-outside, but juicy-on-the-inside taco filler. Add pineapples and, VOILA!, you’ve got the most scrumptious, spicy (but not too spicy), tangy (thanks, pineapple!) tacos known to mankind (or at least to me!)

Ingredients

You’ll need a few ingredients for the pork marinade, and a few ingredients for the tacos themselves! 

For the Pork:

  • Pork Shoulder – we’ll use a 4-5 pound pork shoulder for our tacos! Unless you’re feeding a crowd, 5 pounds of meat = leftovers…leftover tacos al pastor is a beautiful thing! 
  • White Onion – ½ of a white onion gets blended into our al pastor marinade…
  • Pineapple  – …as does ½ (about 2 cups) of a pineapple! 
  • Oregano + Chili Powder – these classic spices used in Mexican fare are a must – 1 tablespoon of each will do!
  • Garlic – garlic makes everything better, am I right? 4 cloves get blended up!
  • Orange Juice – orange juice really helps to break down and tenderize the pork and adds to the amazing flavor! You’ll need 1 cup of freshly squeezed orange juice for this marinade.
  • Sea Salt – 2 teaspoons of salt get added to the mix! 
  • Guajillo Peppers in Adobo – traditionally, dried chili peppers are used in the tacos al pastor marinade, but we’ve found that they can be too hard to get your hands on (many stores don’t carry them), they're a bit difficult to use (you have to go through the process of re-hydrating them), and you’re left with a bunch of leftover chilis (and nothing to do with them) when its all said and done. For these reasons, we prefer canned peppers. You’ll need 4 peppers in adobo – guajillo peppers are our first choice, but chipotle peppers are a great sub!

For the Tacos al Pastor:

  • Pineapple – we love to crisp the cooked pork in the oven with some extra pineapple! You’ll need about a cup of diced pineapple for this.
  • Ghee, Butter, or Avocado Oil – we pour a bit of butter (ghee or avocado oil work too!) over the cooked pork before popping it in the oven for a good crisp. The butter really helps to achieve that crispy texture – don’t skip it!
  • Tortillas – these tacos al pastor are served on mini corn tortillas, but use whichever tortillas you love best!
  • Red Onion – ¼ cup (finely) diced red onion, plus…
  • Jalapeno – …½ a (finely) diced jalapeno, plus…
  • Cilantro – …2 tablespoons of chopped fresh cilantro, and…
  • Lime Juice – …1 tablespoon of lime juice (about ½ a lime) are combined to form a mouthwatering fresh taco-topper relish!

Instant Pot Tacos Al Pastor

How to Make Tacos al Pastor

Al pastor is traditionally made by marinating the pork in a fresh mix to include fresh pineapple and some special chilis for at least a day (but not much longer). The pork is then roasted on a spit and thinly sliced (think: gyro meat, but Central Mexico-style). 

Between the cabinet over-stuffed with baby plates (that we aren't even using yet) and the appliances crowding my countertop, I didn't quite have enough room for a spit in our kitchen…and I’m guessing you don’t either! Don’t fret – tacos al pastor can still be a part of your life thanks to these 3 easy (and totally accessible) cooking methods!

Part 1: Marinate the Pork

No matter which cooking method you pick, you’ll need to get the pork marinating first! Here’s how you do it:

  1. Cut the pork shoulder. Cut the pork shoulder into 4 somewhat even pieces, and then place the pieces in a large bowl.
  2. Make the marinade. Blend the onion, pineapple, oregano, garlic, orange juice, chili powder, sea salt, and guajillo (or chipotle) peppers until smooth.
  3. Marinate the pork. Pour the marinade over the pork shoulder and toss to coat. Then, cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, up to overnight.

Part 2: Cook the Pork

Once the pork is sufficiently marinated, it’s time to cook it! We’re giving you 3 cooking methods…you pick whichever works best for you!

Instant Pot Method 

The Instant Pot is a pressure cooker, slow cooker, you-name-it cooker all in one. It makes flaky meat (in no time) possible!

  1. Add the pork + some marinade to the Instant Pot. After marinating, add the pork and one cup of the marinade to the Instant Pot. 
  2. Cook the pork. Secure the lid on the Instant Pot, make sure the valve is set to ‘sealed,’ press the ‘manual’ button, and set the Instant Pot to cook for 90 minutes. After 90 minutes is up, let the pressure release naturally (this will take about 20 minutes), then remove the lid from the pot.

Slow Cooker Method

This method is perfect for the “set it and forget it” cook! 

  1. Add the pork + some marinade to the slow cooker. After marinating, add the pork and one cup of liquid to the slow cooker.
  2. Cook the pork. Cook the pork on low for 8-10 hours or on high for 4-6 hours, until it shreds easily with a fork.

Oven Method

The oven method is great for those who don’t have an Instant Pot, and don’t want to wait for the pork to cook in the slow cooker!

  1. Preheat the oven. Preheat the oven to 425°F.
  2. Cook the pork. Remove the pork from the marinade and add it to a Dutch oven or enameled cast iron pot with a lid along with 1 cup of the marinade and ½ cup of water. Place the pork in the oven and cook for 3 ½ to 4 ½ hours, until the pork shreds easily with two forks.

Instant Pot Tacos Al Pastor

Part 3: Crisp the pork!

This part is KEY! Crispy pork really takes tacos al pastor to the next level! No matter which cooking method you used, you’ll follow these 4 steps to finish off your tacos!

  1. Preheat the oven. Preheat the oven to broil (though the meat is cooked, it still needs a good crisp in the oven!)
  2. Shred + crisp. Shred the pork with two forks, then toss the shredded pork with additional cooking liquid, butter, and pineapple. Once tossed, spread the pork out on a rimmed baking sheet, and broil it in the oven for 5-7 minutes. Be sure to keep a close eye on the pork – we want it crisp, but not burnt!
  3. Make the fresh relish. In a small bowl, combine the lime juice, diced onion, jalapeno, and cilantro.
  4. Assemble + enjoy! Warm the tortillas (I toasted mine on the flame on my stove), fill with the pork and pineapple, top with the fresh onion + cilantro relish, and enjoy!

Instant Pot Tacos Al Pastor

How to Store

We recommend storing each of the tacos al pastor components (think: shredded pork, tortillas, and fresh relish) separately. The pork + relish can go in the fridge (these glass airtight containers are perfect for proper storage!), and the tortillas (depending on the type) can go in the fridge or pantry! When you’re ready to make a taco from the leftover components, either heat the pork in the microwave, in a pan on the stove, or throw it on a sheet pan to re-crisp in a broiling oven! If you go the oven route, don’t forget to keep an eye out…burnt pork is no bueno! 

I hope you enjoy these easy, pick-your-method tacos al pastor! They're fresh, delicious, and will feed a crowd!

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Tacos Al Pastor

This Tacos Al Pastor recipe features tender, fall-apart pork that is marinated in a flavorful guajillo pepper sauce, slow-cooked, then baked until crisp for the perfect taco!

  • Author: Cassy
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour 45 minutes
  • Yield: 6
  • Category: Dinner
  • Method: Oven
  • Cuisine: Mexican

Ingredients

For the Pork:

  • 1, 4-5 pound pork shoulder
  • 1/2 white onion
  • 1/2 pineapple, cut into chunks (about 2 cups or 1 pound)
  • 1 tablespoon oregano
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 4 guajillo peppers in adobo (may also substitute chipotle peppers in adobo)

For the Tacos al Pastor:

  • 1 cup diced pineapple
  • 2 tablespoons ghee, butter, or avocado oil
  • 12 tortillas of your choice
  • 1/4 cup finely diced red onion
  • 1/2 jalapeno, finely diced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice (about 1/2 lime)

Instructions

For the Marinade:

  1. Cut the pork shoulder into 4 pieces, then place in a large bowl.
  2. Blend the onion, pineapple, oregano, garlic, orange juice, chili powder, sea salt, and guajillo peppers until smooth.
  3. Pour the marinade over the pork shoulder and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours up to overnight.

Oven Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 F.
  2. Remove the pork from the marinade and add to a Dutch oven or enameled cast iron pot with a lid along with 1 cup of the marinade and 1/2 cup of the water. Place the pork in the oven and cook for 3 1/2 to 4 1/2 hours, until the pork shreds easily with two forks.
  3. Remove the pork from the oven then turn it to broil. Shred the pork with two forks, or with the paddle attachment of your stand mixer, then toss with additional cooking liquid, butter, and pineapple, then spread out on a rimmed baking sheet. Place the pan in the oven and broil for 5-7 minutes, keeping a close eye on the pork until it is crisp.
  4. In a small bowl, combine the lime juice, diced onion, jalapeno, and cilantro.
  5. Warm the tortillas, fill with the pork and pineapple, and top with the onion relish and serve!

Instant Pot Method:

  1. After marinating, add the pork to the Instant Pot with one cup of the marinade. Place the lid on the pot, cover, and make sure the valve is set to sealed. Press the “manual” button and set to cook for 90 minutes.
  2. After 90 minutes is up, let the pressure release naturally (about 20 minutes) and remove the lid from the pot.
  3. Preheat the oven to broil.
  4. Shred the pork with two forks, then toss with additional cooking liquid, butter, and pineapple, then spread out on a rimmed baking sheet. Place the pan in the oven and broil for 5-7 minutes, keeping a close eye on the pork until it is crisp.
  5. In a small bowl, combine the lime juice, diced onion, jalapeno, and cilantro.
  6. Warm the tortillas, fill with the pork and pineapple, and top with the onion relish and serve!

Slow Cooker Method:

  1. Marinate the pork, then add to a slow cooker with 1 cup reserved marinade and cook on low for 8-10 hours or high for 4-6 hours until it shreds easily with a fork.
  2. Preheat the oven to broil.
  3. Shred the pork with two forks, then toss with additional cooking liquid, butter, and pineapple, then spread out on a rimmed baking sheet. Place the pan in the oven and broil for 5-7 minutes, keeping a close eye on the pork until it is crisp.
  4. In a small bowl, combine the lime juice, diced onion, jalapeno, and cilantro.
  5. Warm the tortillas, fill with the pork and pineapple, and top with the onion relish and serve!

Notes

If you don't like spicy food, we recommend removing the seeds from the peppers before blending, or straining them out afterward!

Keywords: pork, slow cooker, tacos, al pastor, instant pot

Comments

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  1. Madison says:

    The directions mention chili powder but the ingredient list does not say how much. What amount do you suggest?

  2. Amanda says:

    Is the recipe for a bone-in or boneless pork shoulder? Thank you!

  3. Brooke Heck says:

    Is the IP supposed to be set at 90 minutes on high or low pressure?

  4. Helen Hawk says:

    1/2 jar guajillo peppers – never seen these. Substitute? Or where to get these?

    I’ve seen dried guajillo peppers….

  5. Kelsey says:

    How can the meat be cooked if we do not have an Instant Pot or Slow Cooker (broke college kid here!)?

  6. Kayla says:

    Do you recommend crisping it veggie putting it in the fridge or is it better to do right before you eat it?

    1. Brandi Schilhab says:

      Either way will work, but I like to crisp it right before eating it!

  7. Bere says:

    Do you guys have any leads on where to get the canned guajillo peppers online? I’m trying to find some online before I resort to chipotle peppers!
    Thanks!! I can’t wait to try this recipe!!