Tacos al pastor

Where to Eat It: Mexico City

Like many great street foods around the world, tacos al pastor is the result of one culture colliding with another. In this case, Lebanese people who emigrated to Mexico brought with them the tradition of spit-roasting meats, typically lamb. In local adoption, the meat was replaced by pork, which is marinated in dried chiles, spices, and pineapple before being cooked. Sliced off the spit like shawarma, the tender meat is then served on small tortillas with onions, cilantro, and, in some cases, a tiny bit of pineapple; lime juice and hot salsa are popular toppings.

Ingredients

6 TO 8 SERVINGS

  • 10 guajillo chiles, seeds removed
  • 2 chiles de árbol
  • 3 pounds boneless pork shoulder (Boston butt), sliced ¾” thick
  • 8 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 cup distilled white vinegar
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons prepared or fresh achiote paste
  • 3 ounces kosher salt (7 tablespoons Diamond Crystal or 4 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons Morton), plus more
  • 1 pineapple, peeled, cored, cut into ½” rings, divided
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped, divided
  • 2 red habanero chiles, seeds removed, finely chopped
  • ¼ cup fresh mint, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 16 corn tortillas
  • Lime wedges (for serving)

Preparation

Bring guajillo chiles, chiles de árbol, and 2 cups water to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Cover, remove from heat, and let sit 30 minutes to let chiles soften.

Place pork in a large bowl. Purée chiles and soaking liquid, garlic, vinegar, sugar, achiote paste, 3 oz. salt, half of the pineapple, and half of the onion in a blender until smooth, about 2 minutes. Pour over pork, stirring to coat thoroughly. Cover and chill 3–12 hours.

If using a gas grill or grill pan, prepare for medium-high heat; if using a charcoal grill, prepare for two zones of heat, medium-high and low. Grill remaining pineapple over medium-high heat, turning once, until charred, 6–8 minutes. Finely chop pineapple and combine with habanero chiles, mint, lime juice, and remaining onion in a small bowl. Season with salt, cover, and chill until ready to use.

If using gas grill or grill pan, reduce heat to low; if using charcoal grill, use low-zone heat. Remove pork from marinade and grill until marinade on pork has dried and begins to caramelize and char, about 12 minutes per side. Transfer to a cutting board and let pork rest 10 minutes.

Grill tortillas until soft and beginning to char, about 30 seconds per side. Slice pork against the grain into ¼” strips. Top each tortilla with a few pieces of pork and some pineapple salsa. Serve with lime wedges for squeezing over.

Do Ahead: Pineapple salsa can be made 4 hours ahead; keep chilled.

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