top of page
Al Pastor Taco Seasoning

Al Pastor Taco Seasoning

Al Pastor tacos may be one of the most popular fusion foods in Mexico. These pork and pineapple tacos originated in Central Mexico and are a cross between Middle Eastern Shawarma and the grilled pork served by Mexican street vendors. While being closely linked to Shawarma, Al Pastor tacos are also similar to both the Greek gyro and Turkish doner kebabs, as all four have their meat traditionally cooked on a vertical rotisserie, or spit.

While Al Pastor tacos come from Mexico, that's not the complete story. In the early 1900's, Lebanese immigrants settled in Mexico and brought their time honored tradition of using spit-roasted meat, primarily lamb, with them.


To fully appreciate Al Pastor tacos, you have to dig deeper into Shawarma. The word shawarma is derived from the Turkish word "çevirme", pronounced "cha veer men", which translates to "turning." Throughout the Middle East, you can find a version of Shawarma everywhere the once powerful Ottoman Empire reined. The Greeks call their version of shawarma "gyro", the Turks "doner kebab" and the Iraqis "kas".


The Ottoman Empire is also known as the Turkish Empire, and was founded by Oghuz Turks who ruled from 1299 - 1923. At the height of their power, during the 1700's and 1800's, the Ottoman Empire controlled much of the Caucasus (roughly consisting of Southwestern Russia and the northern parts of Georgia and Azerbaijan), North Africa, the Horn of Africa, Western Asia and Southeastern Europe.


Between the late 1800's and the early 1900's approximately 36,000 immigrants left the rule of the Ottoman Empire (most from the region known today as Lebanon) and settled in Mexico. They naturally brought their food and style of cooking with them. Soon after their arrival in Mexico, small local restaurants run by some of these immigrants sprang up serving Shawarma.

During the 1960's, the cuisine morphed in the Central Mexico region, as 2nd generation children of these Lebanese migrants began opening up their own restaurants. They incorporated their own unique spin on this classic dish, which included spit roasting pork instead of the more traditional lamb. The unique marinating, cooking and serving of these pork tacos became known as Al Pastor. Al Pastor translates to "tacos shepherd style" as a hat tip to their origination and spit roasting style.


Authentic Al Pastor Taco Preparation

Pork is marinated in a combination of dried chiles, spices and pineapple and then slowly cooked on a vertical rotisserie over a gas flame. Once cooked, the meat is thinly sliced off the spit with a large knife and served on small tortillas with finely chopped onions, cilantro, and sometimes, a small slice of pineapple. Typically topped with hot salsa and a squirt of two of fresh lime juice.



Not Just for Tacos

This style of cooking meat is not just used on tacos, but also alambres (while often made with beef, they can also be made with grilled pork and then topped with avocado, chopped bacon, bell peppers, cheese, onions, salsa and usually served with freshly made corn or flour tortillas); gringas (a quesadilla filled with cheese, marinated pork and pineapple slices); tortas (a kind of sandwich, served on an oblong 6" crusty, firm white sandwich rolls) and pizza.


A similar dish is called tacos árabes, or "Arab-style taco," and may be the most popular fast food in Puebla. Introduced in the 1930's, the Middle Eastern twist on the tortilla instead features sliced, spit-roasted pork wrapped in flatbread - pita style. Mexican immigrants to the US have made these "tacos arabes" popular in larger Mexican-American population communities, especially in Los Angeles and Chicago.

How to Use

Now of course, most of us don't have access to a vertical style spit, but you can still use this seasoning for grilling pork or even chicken. We have used it kebab style with great results.


If using as a dry rub, we recommend using 1 tablespoon of Al Pastor seasoning per pound of meat.


You can also use this to make a marinade. Combine 1/4 cup of Al Pastor Taco seasoning with ¼ cup vinegar, ½ cup of water, 1/2 small pineapple cut into ½" thick rounds and 1 medium onion chopped. Puree marinade in a blender until smooth. Makes enough marinade for 1 to 1-1/4 lb boneless pork butt cut into ½" cubes.


Place the cubed pork in a large re-sealable plastic bag, add marinade and seal the bag, be sure to release any excess air. Turn to coat. Marinate for 4-24 hours. Grill kebab style for 2-4 minutes per side.

We have served these on corn tortillas with chopped grilled pineapple, homemade salsa and fresh cilantro. The sweetness of the pineapple really balances the heat of the salsa nicely.


-Al Pastor Taco Seasoning 2.1oz

Ingredients: Onion. ancho, guajillo, garlic, salt, oregano, cumin, coriander, chipotle, annatto, and cilantro.

    bottom of page