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Tacos al Pastor is definitely one of my favorite kinds of tacos. The tender pork is marinated in a delicious chili based sauce, then it is slowly grilled, before being cut and served with fresh pineapple, cilantro, and chopped onions. It is a perfect meal for any day of the week and especially for budget conscious moms and dads. Keep reading to find out more about this delicious authentic Mexican meal.
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It is no secret that the best tacos in the world come from Mexico. On every street corner and at every restaurant in Mexico, you can find many different varieties depending on your tastes. Some that I love are barbacoa tacos, chorizo and potato tacos, and of course fish tacos too. No matter what kind of taco you choose, almost all of them have a few common elements: fresh corn tortillas, freshly chopped cilantro and onions, lime, and a pinch of salt. The meat is really the main part that varies.
Although I love all of the tacos that I mentioned above, my all-time favorite type of tacos are tacos al pastor, and that is the recipe that I am going to share today.
So you may be asking yourself at this point, “what are tacos al pastor?” Lucky for you, I am going to show you! The traditional way to make tacos al pastor is to take thin slices of marinated pork, and pile them on top of each other. Then the meat is placed on a large trompo, which literally means “spinning top.” The meat then spins around in front of an open fire until it begins to cook through. When the outer layer of meat is grilled, the taquero (the person preparing the tacos) cuts of layers of meat so that the layers that are underneath can start to cook as well. As he cuts the meat, it falls off the trompo in small pieces directly onto the tortilla that the taquero holds with his other hand (so, in one hand he is holding a knife, and in the other the tortilla). As you can see, being a taquero requires more skill than one might think! The taco is then served with finely chopped onions, cilantro, pineapple pieces and either salsa roja o verde. The combination of the tacos delicious flavor and the friendly environment make this dish a great one!
Here in the United States it can be difficult to find authentic tacos al pastor. I only found one place a few years ago that actually prepared them in the traditional way using a trompo, and they closed down not too long ago. Well, just because it can be hard to make them in the 100% traditional way, is no reason not to try to replicate the flavors with what we have! So while this tacos al pastor recipe does not involve using a trompo, the flavors are just about perfect and the tacos turned out amazing!
I was able to shop at King Soopers (which is our local Kroger affiliate here in Colorado) to purchase all of the ingredients that I needed. I love shopping at King Soopers, because they always have great deals and I can pick up all of my groceries, while still saving money. Tacos al pastor are cheap to make and eat in Mexico, so I am glad that they are still budget friendly even when I am making them here in the United States. On this trip, I bought the fresh pineapple, cilantro, lime, onion, and a good sized pork loin that I was able to cut into thin slices to make the al pastor meat. The King Soopers produce and meat sections have never let me down on quality and the fact that the prices are so affordable is an added bonus!
The secret to making sure that you have the right flavor is all in the marinade. Tacos al pastor have a distinct flavor and you have to make them right to achieve it. One of the main secrets to tacos al pastor is making sure to include pineapple juice in the marinade, and fresh pieces of grilled pineapple on the tacos themselves. One bite of this flavor combination, and you will be coming back for more and more!
Normally this would be the step where you pile the meat on top of each other and put it on the trompo so that it can be cooked slowly while spinning. Since I don’t have a trompo, we decided to grill the meat, and then to stack them on top of each other for the cutting process (as you can see in the second picture above). You will want to grill it until it has nice grill marks and is cooked all the through. It should still have a red color to it when it is ready to eat. After you take the meat off, it is good time to grill the pineapple too.
After the meat and the pineapples are fully cooked, you should cut the meat into thin slices and the pineapples into bite-sized chunks. Now you are ready to form your tacos. Of course all tacos need to have a homemade salsa to serve them with, and tacos al pastor are no exception. My favorite salsa to make for tacos al pastor is this chipotle and tomatillo based salsa. It also has – you guessed it – pineapple juice, to continue on with the pineapple theme. It is easy to make, and it will really make a huge difference in your tacos.
The last step in the process is, of course, to pick the taco up and enjoy it! These tacos are truly perfect for any occasion, and since they don’t cost a lot of money to make, you won’t have to feel bad about eating as many as you can.
I hope that you enjoy this delicious recipe that I grew up eating on a regular basis in Mexico. My husband fell in love with these tacos the first time he went to Mexico, and he said that these taste just as good as the ones that he tried there, and I have to say that I agree!
Let me know how they turned out for you in the comments below!