Updated: Oct 24
I don't know about you, but I've pretty much never met a taco I didn't love. Corn or flour. Soft or crispy. Beef, pork, chicken, chorizo, shrimp, fish, or veggie. I'm there. But of all the tacos I've ever had (and I've had.... A LOT), a good Taco al Pastor might be my favorite.
Now, real al Pastor tacos are made by cooking thinly sliced marinated pork on a rotating vertical spit from which the cooked meat is then sliced to order directly onto warm corn tortillas and topped with nothing more than some cilantro and onion. If you've never had legit al Pastor tacos, put it on your food bucket list because they are AMAZING.
The recipe that follows is NOT for traditional Tacos al Pastor. That recipe would involve a number of ingredients that probably aren't found in the average person's pantry, and even I don't have a vertical rotating spit (though that might have to make it onto my wish list). Instead, the recipe that follows is kind of a short cut al "Pastor." Hence the quotation marks. It just so happens that my Five-Chile Relajo spice blend contains many of the same ingredients found in traditional al Pastor marinade recipes. But I've already done all the work of toasting and grinding all those chiles, seeds, and nuts.
One of the main reasons I started making my small batch, hand-crafted spice blends was that I wanted to make it easier for people to explore the flavors of different cuisines without necessarily needing to invest in lots of extra ingredients or equipment. If you like the flavors I've introduced you to, you can delve deeper into that cuisine, learn more about it, and seek out more traditional recipes and techniques.
So no, this recipe isn't meant to replace that trip to Mexico City to eat your weight in tacos (which is a trip I HIGHLY recommend). But it sure will get you excited about planning that trip because, let's be honest. Tacos. Are. Life.
Now let's get cooking, shall we?
Pork Tacos al Relajo "Pastor"
2 large plum or roma tomatoes, halved and cored
1/2 medium yellow onion, roughly chopped
1/4 cup vegetable or grapeseed oil, plus more for cooking
2 tablespoons orange juice
1 tablespoon lime juice
3 large garlic cloves
4 tablespoons Five-Chile Relajo
2 1/2 pound boneless pork shoulder or sirloin, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
Warm corn tortillas, diced pineapple, and your toppings of choice, for serving. (Note: Traditional al Pastor tacos would be topped with just minced onion and cilantro, but I love pickled red onion, red cabbage, radishes, chopped fresh cilantro, sliced serrano chiles, and lime wedges.)
Make the marinade: Place the tomatoes, onion, oil, orange juice, lime juice, garlic, and Five-Chile Relajo in a food processor or blender and process until smooth. Season to taste with kosher salt, and add water a tablespoon at a time until you have a pourable paste. Set aside about 1 cup of the marinade for cooking.
Season the pork lightly with salt and place it in a large ziploc bag. Add the marinade to the bag and massage to coat the pork. Refrigerate overnight.
Drain pork. Heat a large cast iron (or other heavy) skillet over high heat. (Note: The photos here show my husband and me making this recipe over live fire. That's absolutely not necessary but is totally fun.) Add a couple of tablespoons of oil to the skillet and swirl to heat through. Add the pork in a single layer and allow to cook undisturbed until browned on the bottom, then stir. Saute until cooked through but still moist. Add the reserved marinade and heat through before transferring to a serving bowl.
Serve together with warm tortillas, diced pineapple, and your toppings of choice.