Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Tacos al Pastor with Chipotle Peanut Salsa

Whenever we have tacos, our pork offering is usually carnitas.

See, I've always heard and read tacos al pastor spoken and written with such reverence that it seems daunting to attempt it at home. Traditionally, the meat for tacos al pastor came off a vertical rotisserie like meat off gyros, and not having the same type of set-up at home, I figured it was pretty much hopeless.

But then I remembered that some of the tacos al pastor I've had in LA had small-ish cube-ish pieces of meat, not quite the long-ish, thin strips that might have been shaven off a rotisserie. Like our carnitas, which we've enjoyed both cube-ish and shredded, perhaps there are different al pastor aesthetics at play.

I recalled Marc of [No Recipes] making a home-version of al pastor using a stupendous-looking hunk of meat. I then used the recipe from Kevin's Closet Cooking as a guide, and we proceeded to tackle the al pastor project for our taco get-together last Sunday.

[No Recipes] Tacos al Pastor
Closet Cooking Tacos al Pastor

The Marinade
It started with 6 ancho chiles and 4 guajillo chiles. I popped them in some water, waited for the water to boil, and turned off the heat.

That's all I can remember of the sauce because I asked TS to make the rest of it. I was tending to our other menu items.

This was another one of those dump-everything into the blender deals.

Along with the hydrated anchos and guajillos, in went some onions, chipotles, garlic, vinegar, Mexican oregano, cumin and pineapples.

When the sauce was done, I made my slices on the pork butt pieces.

I sliced into the meat, half an inch from the bottom and half an inch apart. This will cause the meat to fan out and the sauce can get into every nook and cranny. I imagined that when done, we would have to slice the meat in a perpendicular direction from the original slices to achieve the vertical rotisserie effect.

nice slicing, JS!

The marinade went onto the pork butt pieces and into those cut grooves.

The Grill

before & after

I put the pork butt pieces on the grill, to cook low and slow. We didn't have pineapple rings so I figure these pineapple chunks would have to do.

A little rest after they were cooked, then we sliced them perpendicular to the grooves.

Chipotle Peanut Salsa

The chipotle peanut salsa was a spur-of-the-moment creation.

I had planned on making a red salsa with straightforward tomato and chipotle flavours (I had made it previously for our other taco nights). I roasted about 6 tomatoes and an onion in the oven, but I was too impatient to wait until the tomatoes got really, really dry. You see the deadly habit of procrastination catching up with me again.

When I started puréeing the tomatoes with a couple of chipotles in the blender, to my dismay, it was a tad watery. I thought of ways to thicken up the salsa, and I knew I had some pumpkin seeds in the freezer but I didn't want to scrounge around in that treasure trove.

So I spied with my little eye the peanut butter. I added about approximately 3 tablespoons of peanut butter until I got the consistency I wanted. Actually, I still had to heat up the salsa and let some of the water evaporate until I got the consistency of my heart's desire. I also added in more chipotle peppers so this salsa was freaking hot!

The recipe at the end of the post assumes that you will not cram your salsa-making in an hour as I did.

I was very pleased with the flavour of these al pastor. The only complaint I had was I don't think our slices were thin and/or small enough for our tortilla shells.

But as for the filling itself, it tasted very "authentic" to me, similar to the ones I've had in California. (Not having been to Mexico, I can't quite make an absolute claim.) The flavour was pork-y, rich, smoky, and deep, and the pineapples added a bright sweetness to the whole thing that made it quite addictive.

Enjoyed this post? Why not subscribe to our blog? Subscribe via reader or subscribe via email. Thank you!

[eatingclub] vancouver Tacos
Tacos... then
Tacos... now
Tacos of Carnitas with Pineapple, with Roasted Salsa and Sweet Potato
Tacos... again (July 2009)
Tacos al Pastor with Chipotle Peanut Salsa
Tacos with Beer-braised Carnitas Filling
Shredded Beef and Tripe Tacos

[eatingclub] vancouver Mexican
Tacos... then
Tacos... now
Chicken Tortilla Soup
Semi-Lime-cooked, Semi-Yucatecan Shrimp with Garlic Chips
Chicken, Broccoli and Cheese with Pipían Verde
Quickie Turkey Tortilla Soup
Tacos of Carnitas with Pineapple, with Roasted Salsa and Sweet Potato
Shrimp a la Mexicana (Camarones a la Plancha)
Enchiladas Verdes
Cilantro Horchata
Strawberry Cilantro Salsa, on Grilled Flank Steak
Mexican Ancho Guajillo Chicken
Chipotle Ground Turkey on Flour Tortilla
Tacos... again (July 2009)
Tacos al Pastor with Chipotle Peanut Salsa
Tacos with Beer-braised Carnitas Filling
Shredded Beef and Tripe Tacos
Duck Enchiladas with Chipotle Peanut Salsa
Blueberry Tres Leches Cake
Crab Tostada
Homemade Mexican Chorizo Sausage
Torta (Mexican Sandwich)

Tacos al Pastor
adapted from Closet Cooking's
Tacos al Pastor

Our recipe uses 3 pieces of pork butt, which is a lot. Feel free to divide by 3 and use 1 pork butt.

3 pieces pork butt (approx 2 lbs each)

6 ancho chiles
4 guajillo chiles
2 small onions
1 can golden pineapple chunk in juice (19 liq oz/540mL)
3 chipotle peppers in adobo
2 tablespoons vinegar
15 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon dried Mexican oregano
1 tablespoon ground cumin

Slice into each pork butt piece, leaving 1/2-inch (half-inch) at the bottom (do not cut all the way through). Make the slices 1/2-inch (half-inch) apart.

Rehydrate the ancho and guajillo chiles by placing in boiling/hot water. When soft and pliable, remove seeds and membranes.

Place chiles in a blender, along with the rest of the ingredients. Process until smooth.

Pour the marinade ocer the pork butt pieces, working the marinade into the grooves. Marinate for at least 4 hours; perferably overnight.

Place on the grill and top the pork butt pieces with pineapple rings or pineapple chunks. Cook in the grill over low heat (300f) until done (approximately 4 hours).

Slice thinly perpendicular to the "cut grooves." Serve as taco filling.

Chipotle Peanut Salsa
Makes approximately 3 cups

6 large tomatoes, sliced
1 onion, cut in wedges
4 chipotle peppers
3 tbsp smooth peanut butter
juice of half a lime
salt and pepper

Roast the tomatoes in the oven until most of its liquid has evaporated. Roast the onions in the same pan as well. Blend the roasted tomatoes and onions, and everything else in a blender until smooth.

Serve as a salsa for tacos, or as a sauce for grilled meats.


  1. This looks really tasty. I enjoy tacos al pastor very much when I see them on the menu! I love the look of the salasa, too.

  2. Both the salsa and the al pastor sound fantastic! I'm getting hungry just thinking of it!

  3. Your tacos al pastor look great! I really enjoyed the pork and pineapple blend in them. Adding peanuts also sounds great!

  4. What a fantastic rendition of the classic! Pork and pineapple are so great together -- and I'll bet the citric acid did wonders for the tender pork.

    Interesting salsa combo too! Will have to try that.

  5. Give me some of those charred bits. I rarely see recipes that use chipotle so that sauce will have to go on The List :).

  6. Fearless Kitchen:

    Thanks for providing the recipe! =)

    I'm a sucker for pineapple, so any time it's used, I'm all for it.

    Jude said:
    It's the carcinogens that make it good, right? =)

  7. youre kidding right?


  9. Anon2:
    Thanks for trying it out and commenting!


LinkWithin Related Stories Widget for Blogs