Cook the Book: Tacos Al Pastor with Roasted Pineapple-Habanero Chile Salsa Recipe

Cook the Book: Tacos Al Pastor with Roasted Pineapple-Habanero Chile Salsa Recipe

Photograph by Robyn Lee

Tacos al pastor, or "shepherd's tacos," are thought to have been inspired by Lebanese immigrants who came to Mexico City in the 1930s. Mexican taqueros cook pork shoulder on a vertical spit similar to Middle Eastern shawarma or the Turkish doner kebab. This recipe from Mark Miller's Tacos uses an overnight marinade of dried chiles, spices, orange juice, cola, and beer to impart a deeply satisfying sweet-savory flavor to the pork. Tacos al pastor are traditionally garnished with sliced pineapple. Miller recommends serving these tacos with flour tortillas, Roasted Pineapple-Habanero Chile Salsa, and either margaritas or dark Mexican beer.

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  • Yield:24 tacos


  • 40 dried guajillo chiles
  • 20 dried ancho chiles
  • 20 dried pasilla negro chiles
  • 2 1/2 cups fresh orange juice
  • Grated zest of 1 orange
  • 1/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 9 cloves garlic
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons cumin seed, toasted and ground
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons dried Mexican oregano, toasted and ground
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons distilled vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 6 ounces cola
  • 8 ounces Mexican beer
  • 4 pounds pork shoulder, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 24 (5 1/2 inch)soft white corn tortillas, for serving
  • Caramelized diced pineapple (for garnish)
  • 1 pineapple (about 3 1/2 pounds), peeled, cored, and cut into 1/4-inch thick rings
  • 1 orange or red habanero, roasted, seeded and minced
  • 1 sweet red bell pepper, cored, seeded and cut into 1/8-inch dice
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice


  1. 1.

    Stem, seed, and rehydrate the dried chiles. See note. Drain and set aside, reserving the soaking liquid.

  2. 2.

    In a small saucepan, simmer the orange juice over medium-low heat until reduced by half; set aside. In the jar of a blender, puree the rehydrated chiles until smooth, adding some of the soaking water, if needed, to achieve a smooth consistency.

  3. 3.

    In a large bowl, add the reduced orange juice, pureed chiles, orange zest, brown sugar, garlic, cumin, oregano, salt, black pepper, vinegar, lime juice, cola, and beer and stir to mix well. Add the pork, cover, and marinate in the refrigerator overnight.

  4. 4.

    When ready to cook, remove the pork from the marinade and drain well. In a large, heavy skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Saute the pork pieces until meat is cooked through, about 7 minutes. Remove from heat and serve right away, or keep warm in the pan until ready to serve.

  5. 5.

    To serve, lay the tortillas side by side, open face and overlapping on a platter. Divide the filling equally between the tortillas and top with pineapple and salsa. Grab, fol, and eat right away. Or build your won taco; lay a tortilla, open face, in one hand. Spoon on some filling, top with pineapple and salsa, fold, and eat right away.

  6. 6.

  7. 7.

    Roasted Pineapple-Habanero Chile Salsa

  8. 8.

    - makes 3 1/2 cups -

  9. 9.

  10. 10.

    In a large, heavy nonstick dry skillet, cook the pineapple slices (in batches, if necessary) over low heat until caramelized, 6 to 7 minutes per side. (It is important to cook the pineapple on low heat so the sugars in the fruit develop deep flavor, without any burning.) Remove from the heat and cut the pineapple into 1/8-inch dice.

  11. 11.

    In a large bowl, mix the diced pineapple with the chile, bell pepper, cilantro, and lime juice. Serve immediately for the freshest flavor, but you can make this salsa 1 to 3 hours ahead.