Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Pineapple Pork Al Pastor - A Very Americanized Version of a Mexican Recipe Invented by the Lebanese

My all-time favorite fast food in the whole world is a Taco al Pastor. I live right next to the "Mission," which is San Francisco's Mexican neighborhood, and there are literally three or four taquerías per block selling this amazing treat.

It's a huge stack of thinly sliced pork, marinated in chili, pineapple juice, and other secret ingredients, piled up on a ver
tical spit and cooked rotisserie-style. The tender, aromatic meat is then sliced off and served on tortillas, usually with onions, cilantro, and a little hot sauce. It's too good to describe.This pork recipe is NOT a true al pastor (fyi: shepherd-style), but simply a nice, easy marinade using some of the same ingredients to fairly delicious results. The main ingredient is the pineapple juice, which not only gives the meat a great flavor, but also has enzymes that makes it very tender.Of course, I decided to use some pork tenderloin I had, which sort of defeats the purpose, but this marinade really pays dividends when using the much cheaper, and more traditional pork shoulder.One of the key spices is cinnamon, which is no surprise since the origins of this recipe trace back to Lebanese immigrants living in Mexico City, where they were clearly showing off their shawarma-rich heritage. Lamb shawarma is a similar preparation, and you can watch me do a faux-version of that here.This is one of those recipe that I just happened to have the camera on as I cooked. I didn't measure things, I forgot to film the cinnamon addition, and never even added cumin, another traditional spice. Nevertheless, it was wonderfully tender and tasty, and I'm happy to share it with you, flaws and all. Enjoy!

Note: Vimeo is still having sound issues, sorry.

2 pork tenderloin
6 oz pineapple juice
4 cloves garlic
1 tsp chipotle
2 dried chiles Pasilla, seeds discarded
3 dried chiles Guajillo,
seeds discarded
cayenne to taste
cumin, optional
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp white vinegar
salt to taste
vegetable oil for grilling

View the complete recipe

Al Pastor Photo (c) Flickr user Alaskan Dude


Pyrofish said...

Wish you had done this video 2 weeks ago. I just came back from central Mexico and would have tried it. Most of their tacos are different than we're used to, I'd have liked to seen what theirs were like compared to yours. Oh well, there's always next year's festival.

I did come back with 2kg of dried anchos, 1/2kg of cascabelle, and 1/2kg of another dried chile that I only understood as "very hot". I'll be making chili powder again soon, yay!

Mari said...

Hey! You found the same tortillas! I posted about them a while back too, they're really good for a low-carb wrap! And they come in all different flavors at my local store.

I feel so... vindicated(!) for liking these wraps now that i know you do to! :)

And this pork looks UBER-yummy!

You're a huge inspiration Chef John! I get so many good ideas and great recipes from you. You are the reason my fiance loves me as much as he does! LOL

Chef John said...

he's a very lucky man

Anonymous said...

One of these days you should make a video consisting of nothing more that stick figures and the end product.

Chris K. said...

Chef John,

Bravo for the cabbage! It really does make better tacos.

Al pastor marinade usually includes achiote or annatto for color, a pinch of clove and it's cooked down into a paste before using. An extra step, but it's worth it.

I'm wondering why you use tenderloin because it's already so tender. How about shoulder steaks instead?

Any chance you could do a video for posole rojo? It's one of my faves.

Keep up the fine work!

Pyrofish said...

Now that you've posted the extra picture I did have them while I was down there at a street vendor. They were delicious. The cutter was very skilled and put on a show while preparing this. He placed the small tortillas on the side of the meat, then sliced quickly. As he pulled the tortilla and meat away, he reached up to a pineapple on the top of the meat and flung a slice of pineapple into the air catching it with the tortilla. They were quite tasty. I'll be trying these soon.

Chef John said...

well, I kind of covered that in the post - I had tenderloin on hand and was just cooking, not necessarily making a recipe video, and I admitted the shoulder is what should be used. Same for the other ingredients, it was just a quick recipe I wanted to get in the fridge, so I didn't bother with any authenticity concerns. But, thanks for the tips!

Pyro, it's funny, I've never seen it served with the actual pineapple here in SF, only with the diced onion and cilantro.

Anonymous said...

Unbelievable. The dude in San Fran telling us to suck it up and go out in the cold to grill some meat. I'm mailing you a snowball.

Chef John said...

sure, go ahead and scoff, but it's only 53 right now, and quite breezy!

milkshake said...

Chef, sorry to disappoint you but there is absolutely no enzyme tenderzing action with the canned or pasteurized pineapple juice - the enzyme (bromelain) dies by heating. Which is just as well since the enzyme tenderized meat has unpleasant mushy texture and inferior flavor.

You can tell the presence of bromelain in fresh pineapple - your lips will tingle and your taste buds get all screwed up for the rest of the afternoon - but you don't have that problem with canned pineaple/

Chef John said...

I knew I used canned juice for a reason!

Unknown said...

id like to see you make cochinita pibil. love the site!

Anonymous said...

Really nice and simple recipe and some great looking food, as always!

Cooking should be fun (and especially grilling), so I always enjoy the funny bits and the sense of humor in your videos. How cool was that sketch!

P.S. Chef John, did anyone tell you you have a perfect voice for radio? ;)

CollegeGourmet said...

Grilling year round is a GREAT idea... If you live in San Fran! Here in Minnesota, you'd pretty much have to be shrooming to grill any earlier than later March! Hehe

Chef John said...

"...did anyone tell you you have a perfect voice for radio?"

No, but I've been told many times I have a perfect face for it.

Alex said...

Hey John I am Mexican , do you accept suggestions?

Chef John said...

sure! as long as you read the post first.

Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

If I was to cook this off in the oven, what should the temp be?

Chef John said...


DF said...

Another Chef John winner!

I decided to make this verbatim, including the pieces of jalapeno in the tacos themselves. We don't have that brand of tortilla, but I got a reasonable facsimile. I am not a big fan of the cabbage, but I was glad it was in there because there was some left over after making coleslaw earlier in the week.

The jalapenos were a little much. Salsa would've been plenty.

I loved the aromatics on this dish and will make again, probably with cabbage if I have it on hand.

PS: Did you really ask for the recipe and they refused? Or were you just tweaking us again?

Chef John said...

thanks! no self-respecting al pastor chef would ever give the secret ingredients away!

Sam said...

This does sound delicious! This dish looks so beautiful with the colours. Thanks so much for sharing.

Luatica said...

Im making this one a million years later after managing to finally find dried chiles. Today i just did the marinade, I almost started crying :p

D said...

I'm just blending my marinade now; I didn't want to leave the house for anything so I decided to use sambal oelek (yum) chili paste. I was worried I wouldn't get the same vivid redness of yours so I added fresh red pepper to the mix. I thought about roasting the pepper first so it wouldn't rot but I think it will work just fine this way. I actually prefer fresh red pepper over roasted anyways.
Also, instead of straight pineapple juice, I am using pineapple+guava+passion fruit juice that I happened to have in the house.
Two more differences; I'm using one large clove of elephant garlic and apple cider vinegar.
hope it turns out well.
Thanks for the base recipe Chef John.

Bart B. Belgium said...

Hi chef.
Nice one! We don't have much of a mexican-eating culture over here. So it was a nice recipie to try for a change. The pineapple combines great with the leaner pork meat. You made me fire up the charcoalgrill midst the snow. Quite the experience... I'm stating love you Canadian cooks.
Greetings fom Belgium.
(Hey... if you think Belgium and France are the same, i might as well think the US and canada are the same) (

Anonymous said...

how much of the chili powder do u put instead of the dried chilies

Sergio said...

I am looking for a recipe like this but I was wondering if I could after marinade, just put in a dutch oven and braise this dish with the marinade. Thinking at 325 for 30-40 minutes. Would that be OK?

Glamur said...

Very tasty recipe

Anonymous said...

When you soak the chilies in hot water, do you lose a negligible amount of flavor from the chilies? I notice it makes almost a chili tea-like liquid.

Chef John said...

Yes, I'm sure you lose some flavor, but there's plenty left.

Unknown said...

Chef John, Vimeo is Satan, I'm surprised that you, in all your immense wisdom, didn't know that.