This Smoked Al Pastor is a rich and savory pork with an awesome chili marinade. It’s smoky from the grill with gorgeous crispy edges. If you’re a fan of al pastor, you’ll love this smoky version of a delicious classic.
What is Al Pastor?
In an extremely basic nutshell, al pastor is pork grilled on a spit.
The technique originated in central Mexico, and it is an original fusion food. Lebanese immigrants brought their vertical rotisserie cooking style to Mexico and combined it with Mexican flavors and chilis to make the al pastor we know and love today.
When thinking about al pastor, it just makes sense to take this same concept of flavor fusion and bring the spirit of harmony to the BBQ.
Pork Al Pastor
There are also many versions of al pastor, and they are all delicious in their own right.
A restaurant near my old house was famous for their al pastor and they included unique warming spices like cinnamon and clove to their meat. Some places layer pineapple in with the pork. Others use lamb or chicken in a similar cooking style with various methods (though these aren’t always called al pastor). My version is kind of a mash up of the flavors that we like (chipotles and anchos are my favorite peppers) and a cooking method on the pineapple that brings the most ease and flavor to the dish.
Pork is the preferred meat for making al pastor, and this recipe uses 4 pounds of pork shoulder that is marinated with a chili and ancho marinade overnight to give the meat tons of flavor. I asked my butcher at the meat counter to slice the pork shoulder for me, since they have the large commercial slicers. They were happy to help and had my sliced pork ready in minutes. If you need to slice the pork at home, freeze your pork for 45 minutes to an hour before slicing.
Al Pastor Marinade
The shining star in this recipe is the marinade. Not only does every ingredient add flavor, but the salt actually creates a brine for the pork, keeping it moist and incredibly tender. Here’s what you’ll need to make this marinade:
- White onion
- Garlic cloves
- Chicken stock
- Dried ancho chili peppers
- Chipotle chili peppers in adobo sauce
- Achiote paste (or powder)
- Mexican oregano
- Kosher salt
- White vinegar
Combine all ingredients for this marinade in a medium saucepan and simmer to hydrate the peppers. Then blend to make a smooth, paste-like marinade. Pour the marinade over the sliced pork in batches and massage to cover all areas of the meat. I like to make this marinade the night before and allow the meat to marinate overnight for the best flavor.
How to Make Smoked Al Pastor
Ready to make your own al pastor? It may sound like a lot of work, but it’s just a few simple steps and you’ll be on your way to making your own tasty meat.
- Marinade. The marinade for this recipe is cooked on the stovetop then blended to bring out all the flavors of the peppers prior to adding the meat. I recommend marinating for 4-24 hours.
- Assemble. Once your meat has had plenty of time to chill in the marinade, slide the meat onto a vertical skewer or rotisserie attachment. Take care to keep the edges fairly uniform so the meat cooks evenly.
- Smoke. With your smoker preheated to 275 degrees F, smoke the pork for about 4 hours or until the internal temperature reaches 145 degrees F. Normally pork shoulder cooks to 195 degrees F or higher, but with the thin slices and the marinade, this pork shoulder is moist and super tender cooked to only 145 degrees F. Add the pineapple to the grill and cook for the last 30 minutes.
- Slice. Using a sharp knife, slice the pork using a light sawing motion to cut into bite-sized pieces.
- Serve. Place the meat in small street taco shells, and top with your favorite toppings. I used fresh cilantro, diced onions, and fresh lime juice.
More Smoked Pork Recipes
We’re big into cooking smoked pork butt (AKA smoked pork shoulder) here at Hey Grill Hey. If you’d like to try your hand at more recipes, check out a few favorites below:
Al Pastor Recipe
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Smoked Al Pastor
- 4 pounds boneless pork shoulder (sliced 1/4 inch thick)
- 1 pineapple (cut into wedges, reserve the top)
Al Pastor Marinade
- 2 Tablespoons butter
- ¼ cup white onion (diced)
- 4 cloves garlic
- ½ cup chicken stock
- 2 dried ancho chili peppers
- 2 chipotle chili peppers in adobo sauce
- 1 ½ Tablespoons achiote paste (or powder)
- 2 teaspoons cumin
- 2 teaspoons Mexican oregano
- 1 ½ Tablespoons kosher salt
- 1 Tablespoon sugar
- ⅓ cup white vinegar
- 36 street taco shells (corn or flour)
- 1 cup cilantro (chopped)
- ½ cup red onion (diced)
- 4 limes (cut into wedges)
- Prepare the marinade. In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Stir in the onions and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, for 2-3 minutes or until fragrant. Add the chicken stock, ancho chili peppers, and chipotle chili peppers with adobo sauce to the pan and bring to a boil. Cook the peppers and onions in the stock for 4-5 minutes. Reduce the heat to low and stir in the achiote paste, cumin, Mexican oregano, salt, sugar, and vinegar. Simmer the marinade for 4-5 more minutes.
- Blend the marinade. Turn off the heat. Carefully remove the stems from the ancho chili peppers and place in a blender jar. Transfer the remaining contents of the pan to the blender jar, close the lid, and blend until completely smooth. Allow to cool to at least room temperature. Marinade can be made a day in advance, if needed.
- Marinate the pork. Place your sliced pork shoulder in a large glass bowl or gallon sized zip top bag. Pour the cooled marinade over the pork and massage everything together to thoroughly coat each piece of pork. Cover with plastic wrap or seal tightly in the bag and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, or up to 24 hours.
- Preheat your smoker. Preheat your smoker to 275 degrees F using your favorite hardwood. I used cherry wood for this cook, but oak, maple, or apple would all work well.
- Assemble the meat on the spit. Using a vertical skewer or rotisserie attachment, slide the meat onto the skewer one piece at a time, keeping the meat even around the edges and sides so there aren't any large pieces of meat overhanging any other.
- Smoke the al pastor. Place the assembled al pastor meat on the grill grates and close the lid. Smoke for about 4 hours, or until the internal temperature of the pork in the thickest portion reads 145 degrees F. If using a vertical skewer, baste the outside of the meat with the drippings from the pan every 30 minutes during the cooking process (skip this step if cooking on a rotisserie, it will self-baste).
- Grill the pineapple. During the last 30 minutes of smoking, place the pineapple wedges on the grill next to the al pastor. Close the lid and cook, flipping once after 15 minutes.
- Slice and serve. Remove the al pastor and the pineapple from the smoker. Top the al pastor skewer with the pineapple top and chop up the grilled pineapple. Slice the al pastor from the spit with a sharp knife, using a light sawing motion to remove small, bite-sized pieces. Place the meat and pineapple in taco shells and top with fresh cilantro, diced onion, and a squeeze of fresh lime.