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Spicy Pork Tacos (al Pastor) - Americas Test Kitchen


In Mexico, super thin slices of pork butt and pork fat are marinated in chiles and tomato, stacked and roasted on a spit, and shaved, hot and crispy, into a corn tortilla. To mimic this popular taco filling, which is often garnished with sweet pineapple, without any special equipment, we had to get creative. We braised 1/2-inch-thick slabs of pork butt in a mix of guajillo chiles, tomatoes, and spices until tender, before basting them with sauce on the grill until crisped and charred. Chopped into bite-size strips and topped with grilled pineapple, our simple homemade spicy pork filling lives up to the original.

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  • 10 large dried guajillo chiles, wiped clean
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 1/4 pounds plum tomatoes, cored and quartered
  • 8 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 4 bay leaves
  • Salt and pepper
  • 3/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 3 pounds boneless pork butt roast
  • 1 lime, cut into 8 wedges
  • 1/2 pineapple, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/2-inch-thick rings
  • Vegetable oil
  • 18 (6-inch) corn tortillas, warmed
  • 1 small onion, chopped fine
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro


Adapted from


Step 1

1. Toast guajillos in large Dutch oven over medium-high heat until softened and fragrant, 2 to 4 minutes. Transfer to large plate and, when cool enough to handle, remove stems.

2. Bring toasted guajillos, water, tomatoes, garlic, bay leaves, 2 teaspoons salt, ½ teaspoon pepper, sugar, cumin, and cloves to simmer in now-empty Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until guajillos are softened and tomatoes mash easily, about 20 minutes.

3. While sauce simmers, trim excess fat from exterior of pork, leaving ¼-inch-thick fat cap. Slice pork against grain into 1/2-inch-thick slabs.

4. Transfer guajillo-tomato mixture to blender and process until smooth, about 1 minute. Strain puree through fine-mesh strainer, pressing on solids to extract as much liquid as possible. Return puree to pot, submerge pork slices in liquid, and bring to simmer over medium heat. Partially cover, reduce heat, and gently simmer until pork is tender but still holds together, 90 to 105 minutes, flipping and rearranging pork halfway through cooking. (Pork can be left in sauce, cooled to room temperature, and refrigerated, covered, for up to 2 days.)

5. Transfer pork to large plate, season both sides with salt, and cover tightly with aluminum foil. Whisk sauce to combine. Transfer 1/2 cup to bowl for grilling; pour off all but 1/2 cup remaining sauce from pot and reserve for another use. Squeeze 2 lime wedges into sauce in pot and add spent wedges; season with salt to taste.

6A. FOR A CHARCOAL GRILL: Open bottom vent halfway. Light large chimney starter filled with charcoal briquettes (6 quarts). When top coals are partially covered with ash, pour evenly over grill. Set cooking grate in place, cover, and open lid vent halfway. Heat grill until hot, about 5 minutes.

6B. FOR A GAS GRILL: Turn all burners to high, cover, and heat grill until hot, about 15 minutes. Turn all burners to medium.

7. Clean and oil cooking grate. Brush 1 side of pork with ¼ cup reserved sauce. Place pork on 1 side of grill, sauce side down, and cook until well browned and crisp, 5 to 7 minutes. Brush pork with remaining ¼ cup reserved sauce, flip, and continue to cook until second side is well browned and crisp, 5 to 7 minutes longer. Transfer to cutting board. Meanwhile, brush both sides of pineapple rings with vegetable oil and season with salt to taste. Place on other half of grill and cook until pineapple is softened and caramelized, 5 to 7 minutes per side; transfer pineapple to cutting board.

8. Coarsely chop grilled pineapple and transfer to serving bowl. Using tongs or carving fork to steady hot pork, slice each piece crosswise into 1/8-inch pieces. Bring remaining 1/2 cup sauce in pot to simmer, add sliced pork, remove pot from heat, and toss to coat pork well. Season with salt to taste.

9. Spoon small amount of pork into each warm tortilla and serve, passing chopped pineapple, remaining 6 lime wedges, onion, and cilantro separately.

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