Last Updated on November 21, 2022 by Carne Diem
Method: Grill or SmokerJump to Recipe
"Surround yourself with tacos, not negativity."-someone very wise
Tacos. What can I say about them that has not been said before. They are one of the few foods that I feel like I could eat every single day and never get tired of them. They just always seem to take me to my happy place. Of all of the tacos, however, al pastor tacos always hold a special place in my heart. I still remember that first bite of that slightly crispy yet juicy pork, sweet charred pineapple, onions and cilantro wrapped up in a warm tortilla. It was love at first bite. Thankfully, now I have learned to make this perfect culinary creation at home on our grill, simulating the way authentic taquerias prepare them. Traditionally al pastor tacos are cooked on a rotating spit called a trompo. This method of cooking was introduced to Mexico by Lebanese immigrants who brought over their method of cooking shawarma. Gradually, over time, the lamb was replaced by pork and the modern day al pastor taco was born. Enough history, lets make some tacos!
Making the Trompo Al Pastor Tacos
Meat selection for your al pastor
You will need about 2-3 pounds of pork for this recipe but you may adjust it depending on the size of your trompo. Over the years we have trialed a number of different cuts of meat for our al pastor but always come back to pork butt/pork shoulder. The intramuscular fat really helps keep the pork from drying out and imparts some great flavor. You can certainly use pork loin if you wish but it is very lean and thus will need to be pulled at temps closer to 145 degrees to keep it from drying out. This will also result in a shorter time on the grill and less of that coveted crispy outside of the cooked pork.
Slice your port butt as thinly as possible and place the pork slices in a large bowl. The thinner the slices the more surface area you are going to have to coat with the flavorful marinade so put those knife skills to work (or ask your butcher to slice it for you). Remove any large chunks of fat and the fat cap as well.
Prepare your marinade
Now it is time to prepare the marinade for your Trompo Al Pastor Tacos. You will need dried guajillo and ancho or pasilla chiles, salt, pepper, cumin, cinnamon, oregano, pineapple juice, white vinegar, achiote paste and garlic.
When selecting dried chiles for this recipe try to use dried chiles that are still a little pliable when you bend them. If you attempt to bend the chile and it turns to dust like an ancient Egyptian artifact the peppers are likely really old and will have lost a lot of their flavor. If you have a Latin market near you that is where I would head.
Toast the chiles
To release the flavor from the chiles you are going to want to give them a brief toast. The key is to just get them toasted without burning them, which will cause them to become bitter.
Heat a skillet over medium-high heat and toast the dried chiles until they begin to puff up or smell fragrant then flip and repeat with the other side. You will want your oven hood on for this. Note: if you were stuck buying those old crunchy dried chiles they pay not plump up, so flip them when they become aromatic. Again, be careful not to burn them.
Move the toasted chiles to a bowl of hot water and soak for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes carefully remove the chiles from the water and remove the stems and rinse to remove the seeds.
Blend the marinade
Place the chiles in a blender or food processor along with the pineapple juice, vinegar, and achiote paste.
Achiote paste, also called annatto paste, can also be found at most Latin or Mexican groceries. You can also order it online on Amazon. Unfortunately this is one ingredient that you really can't skip or substitute if you want to make authentic al pastor tacos.
Blend the chiles and liquids until smooth and uniform. You want the chiles chopped as finely as possible.
Pass the mixture through a coarse strainer to remove any remaining seeds and larger pieces of pepper skin. Next, stir in the pepper, salt, cumin, garlic, oregano, and cinnamon.
Pour the marinade into the bowl with the pork and mix thoroughly to coat all of the pork. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
Prepare Your Trompo
Now it is finally time to place your meat on your trompo and get cooking. A trompo is really the route you want to go with making al pastor. Not only is it more authentic but it cooks easier as well. We have tried al pastor using our rotisserie, but more often than not it has resulted in meat falling off the rotisserie as it cooks. A trompo is inexpensive and just makes life so much easier (and tastier). In addition to this spit roasted al pastor, it is also one of our favorite ways to make Smoked Lebanese Chicken Shawarma on our grill.
Carefully place the pork slices on the trompo. Include a couple slices of pineapple and a few onion slices throughout as well. If using bacon, space those slices throughout the trompo as well. If you want to get fancy you can place the bottom of the pineapple as the first layer and then top with the top of the pineapple. While it has a certain cool factor, do be aware that this pineapple top may prove to be too tall for some smokers or grills.
Cooking Your Trompo Al Pastor Tacos On Your Grill
Heat your grill or smoker to 325-350 degrees. Place the trompo on the grill or smoker over indirect heat.
Cook to an internal temperature of 175-185 degrees to render the intramuscular fat. (Again, if you are using lean meat like pork loin, only cook to 145 degrees). Depending on your smoker type, you may wish to rotate the trompo about every 30-45 minutes to cook evenly. Cooking time will vary but typically takes 3-5 hours. Some of this will depend on your grill or smoker type and size of your trompo.
Serving your Trompo Al Pastor Tacos
Carefully remove your trompo to a cutting board. Slice the meat off of the trompo and it is time to eat!
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Trompo Al Pastor Tacos
- 2-3 Pounds Pork Butt thinly sliced
- ½ White Onion sliced
- 1 Pineapple sliced
- 2 ounces Achiote Paste
- ⅓ Cup Pineapple Juice
- ⅓ Cup White Vinegar
- 3 Garlic Cloves minced
- 1 tea Mexican Oregano
- 1 tea Cumin
- ½ tea Black Pepper
- 1 Tab Kosher Salt
- ¼ tea Cinnamon
- 2-3 Dried Guajillo Peppers
- 2 Dried Ancho or Pasilla Peppers
- 4 Slices Bacon optional
- Chopped Cilantro for serving
- ½ White Onion diced, for serving
- Tortillas for serving
- Slice your pork butt as thinly as possible and place the pork slices in a large bowl.
- Heat a skillet over medium-high heat and toast the dried chiles until the begin to puff up or smell fragrant then flip and repeat with the other side. Do not let burn.
- Move the toasted chiles to a bowl of hot water and soak for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes carefully remove the chiles from the water and remove the stems and rinse to remove the seeds.
- Place the chiles in a blender or food processor along with the pineapple juice, vinegar, and achiote paste. Blend until smooth and uniform
- Pass the mixture through a coarse strainer to remove any remaining seeds and larger pieces of pepper skin.
- Stir in the pepper, salt, cumin, garlic, oregano, and cinnamon.
- Pour the marinade into the bowl with the pork and mix thoroughly to coat all of the pork. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
- Carefully place the pork slices on the trompo. Include a couple slices of pineapple and a few onion slices throughout as well.
- Heat your grill or smoker to 325-350 degrees. Place the trombo on the grill or smoker over indirect heat. Cook to an internal temperature of 175-185 degrees. Depending on your smoker type you may wish to rotate the trompo about every 30-45 minutes to cook evenly. Cooking time will vary but typically takes 3-5 hours.
- Carefully remove the trompo from the grill and slice the meat off of the trompo. Serve with warm tortillas, cilantro, diced onion, and salsa.