What are Tacos al Pastor? A Guide to a Street Food Gem

If you are into Mexican food, you surely already have heard about tacos al pastor. But, what are tacos al pastor exactly?

Where do they come from?
Where to try them?
What's the importance of tacos al pastor in Mexico?

So, if you are wondering what pastor tacos are, we can help you with that! Keep reading and enjoy our delicious and cultural adventure. 🌮❤️


Tacos al pastor history

There are many versions of the origin of this delicacy that have positioned Mexico as the capital of tacos al pastor. The tradition comes from the Middle East, and the doner, kebab, shawarma, and gyros, among others, were the ancestors of this delicious delicacy. But it is definitely in Mexico where this famous spinning top (‘trompo al pastor’) attracts foodies from all over the world.

The truth is that our recipe is delicious and we completely take over the concept of these dishes of Arabian origin. Pss, pss, our recipe is not a secret, since the main key to tacos al pastor is to treat them as a work of art, with love, respect, and sweetness! Its arrival dates back to the 1930s, in Puebla. Migrants mainly from Lebanon, came to Mexico to reach the United States, however, some stayed here and left their culinary heritage with us.

This was the place where the trompo al pastor,

decided to make its first appearance in the world of Mexican food. In the beginning, the Arabic bread was a must for these tacos. In fact, in some establishments, this traditional and classic recipe is still preserved (later we will tell you where). It does not include pork or dried chilies, which also alludes to the Muslim beliefs of not consuming pork.

Sometime later, the formula and recipe changed and pork was the main ingredient for tacos al pastor. In Mexico City, they began to add onion and cilantro, and to top it all off, they gave it a sweet touch by adding pineapple. With this, they added a sweet and sour touch to this delicious dish.

Many taquerias,

claim to be the official creators, of them is the Oriental, or the Bagdad tacos in Puebla, and the tizoncito in Mexico City, among others. The truth is we will never know who the official creator was, but definitely, his legacy lingers at the heart of Mexican gastronomy. A magical tradition that came to stay and pass its recipe from generation to generation.

🌮Explore the best taquerias and try the best tacos with our tours:

what are pastor tacos
Tacos al Pastor

How to make tacos al pastor

The selection of the meat, as well as the use of spices, the marinating times, the seasoning, and the special recipe of each taqueria, makes it almost impossible for each taco al pastor to taste the same. Its preparation is a ritual, it is art, it is sacred.

The hands of the artisan taco maker, also called taquero, work magic by choosing a piece of the taco with fat from the head of the pork loin and beginning to marinate it with dried chiles. The main ingredients are garlic, cinnamon, salt, vinegar, and a variety of peppers. The pepper and spices are special Arab touches by the way. In addition, taqueros added the famous achiote and many other ingredients that give a personal touch to each taco al pastor taqueria.

Once this wonderful and magical potion is well mixed,

each pork steak is carefully inserted into a vertical steel rod, to which pineapple and onion are added at its base. This is to give support and presentation to the exquisite and succulent trompo al pastor. Taqueros put the steak on top of the other to form the shape of the traditional Mexican toy, the spinning top. With a knife, they remove what is left over from the trompo. Then the same meat is put on top in the center of the pastor to reuse it and add more.

what are pastor tacos
A guy immediately falling in love with the trompo al pastor🙈

They added the meat with pressure so that the trompo is more compact,

and once the last steak is reached, this work of art is crowned like a Christmas tree with a complete pineapple and the fire is lit. It depends on each taquero if you work with charcoal or gas, what is certain is that you will see a kind of inferno that will make this delicious meat hot. In fact, there are also black tacos al pastor, that’s right, with black carne al pastor.

Then, the trompo will turn to brown its raw parts. And at the same time its smell will begin to captivate anyone passing by this museum… excuse me, this taqueria. The browning of the meat will indicate that our pastor is ready to be in a taquito. The painter begins to give color to his oil painting, or rather, the taquero will begin to slice the meat and add the onion, cilantro, and pineapple. Don’t forget to try your tacos al pastor with salsa!

In addition, what’s the meaning of tacos al pastor? Here is an answer: “the name al pastor refers to the tradition of the nomadic peoples of the Middle East. They dedicated their lives to shepherding since originally this dish was with mutton. That’s why these tacos are “pastoreros”. Source: Grupopampas.com

👨‍🍳Learn how to make your own trompo al pastor by joining our tour: Tasty Mexican Trompitos (Private / 4h)

what are tacos al pastor
Delicious Tacos al Pastor

Where to try tacos al pastor?

What is the importance of tacos al pastor in Mexico?

As we have mentioned before in several of our blogs, Mexican food is a fundamental part of getting to know the culture of this nation. Tacos have been a millenary tradition in Mexico since they have roots in our Mexican ancestors. It is a sign that corn is the main base of the food in Mexico, and also, the unique ingredients are another sign of the creativity of each Mexican family.

The tacos al pastor, are a sample of how Mexico has had for thousands of years, inheritances from different countries that have been able to take advantage to give a unique touch to each dish and ingredient brought to these lands. So, when someone asks what are tacos al pastor? you can answer like a professional foodie, or better yet, like a local Mexican proud of the wonderfulness of its culture, tradition, and food.

Tell us if you have already tried tacos al pastor, where have you tried them, and which are the best places to taste them in the comment section below!

Informative video

What are tacos al pastor? Here you have more context!