Sweet and Spicy Tacos al Pastor

tacos al pastor

 Leah Maroney

Prep: 20 mins
Cook: 3 hrs
Total: 3 hrs 20 mins
Servings: 8 servings

Tacos al pastor are to die for! They are sweet, savory, and just a tiny bit spicy. The juicy pineapple and zing from the lime make them impossible to resist. 

Traditionally the pork marinades in an adobo-style red chile and vinegar marinade, and is placed on a vertical spit, called El Trompo, alongside a pineapple. The spit rotates and the meat is cut off of the spit as it cooks. This was originally brought to Mexico by Lebanese immigrants and is cooked in the same style as shawarma. Unlike carnitas, which is pork cooked in its own fat (often with more lard added), al pastor is cooked or grilled after it's marinated and is, therefore, lower in calories.

Since most of us don't have a giant vertical spit in our homes, this recipe uses a simple crockpot. You can also marinade a more tender cut like pork tenderloin and then grill it instead if you like. This recipe isn't exactly traditional, but the flavor is amazing and the super tender meat goes perfectly in warm corn tortillas.


  • 1 (5-pound) boneless pork shoulder roast (Boston butt extra fat trimmed off)
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 2 chipotles in adobo sauce (with one teaspoon of the sauce)
  • 1 fresh pineapple (peeled and cored, then roughly chopped)
  • 1/2 red onion
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 8 corn tortillas
  • Optional Toppings: crumbled cotija cheese, diced fresh pineapple, chopped fresh cilantro leaves, chopped red onions, diced avocado

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

  2. Rub the pork butt with salt and pepper.

  3. If you are using an Instant Pot, set the pot to sauté and brown the pork butt on all sides. If you are making the pork in a slow cooker, brown the pork in a large pan on the stove before placing it in the slow cooker. Set the pork aside while you prepare the marinade.

  4. In a blender, combine the chicken stock, chipotles, pineapple, red onion, chili powder, cumin, lime juice, white vinegar, and garlic. Puree until completely smooth.  

  5. If needed to fit, cut the pork butt into quarters and place it in your Instant Pot or slow cooker.  Pour the marinade over the top and cover. If using a slow cooker, cook on low for 8 hours or on high for 4. If using an Instant Pot, set it to Meat and cook for 45 minutes.  

  6. Remove the pork from the pot and shred it using two forks. 

  7. Return it to the marinade and cook in the Instant Pot or in a regular pot on the stove over medium-high heat for 5 minutes until the sauce has thickened slightly.  

  8. Serve the pork with warm corn tortillas, diced pineapple, cilantro, cotija cheese, red onion, and other garnishes.

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