Tacos al pastor is hands down my favorite taco. I was first introduced to it at our neighborhood taco joint when we lived in Chicago, and I quickly fell in love. Tacos al pastor contain slowly roasted and super-flavorful pork paired with juicy, sweet pineapple.
To re-create this taco for a delicious, healthy weeknight dinner, I use a pork shoulder roast and trim most of the fat to make it much leaner. It’s still scrumptious and juicy, thanks to a delicious marinade and a slow cooker.
Roasting the onions and pineapple is the secret to bringing out their natural sweetness and imparting a smoky flavor to the marinade. The marinade also includes bold flavors like adobo, cumin, garlic and bright notes of citrus. This taco is just as good, if not better, than the one I fell in love with in Chicago!–Danielle Davis
How much pork butt can I cook for tacos al pastor?
If you feel the need to double this recipe (and look, we don’t blame you), remember that size matters. Although exactly how it matters depends on your personal preference. We prefer to roast a couple modestly sized 3- or 4-pound pork butts side by side in the same roasting pan rather than a single 8-pound pork butt, only because they seem to remain moister. But that’s just us.
Slow Cooker Tacos al Pastor
For the tacos
- Cooking spray, for the baking sheet
- 3 1/2 lb pork shoulder roast, bone-in or boneless, trimmed of excess fat
- 3 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
- 1 small (5 oz) onion, coarsely chopped
- 2 cups coarsely chopped fresh pineapple
- 2 tablespoons avocado oil or extra virgin olive oil
- 2 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar or coconut sugar
- 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice (from 1 lime)
- 1 tablespoon lime zest (from 1 lime)
- 3 tablespoons fresh orange juice (from 1 orange)
- 1 tablespoon orange zest (from 1 orange)
- 1/4 cup canned chicken broth or homemade chicken stock
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 4 to 5 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
- 2 to 3 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
- 1 teaspoon store-bought or homemade adobo sauce
- 2 tablespoons store-bought or homemade chili powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
- 12 to 15 (6 inch) corn tortillas
For the pineapple-avocado salsa
- 1/2 small (5 oz) red onion, diced
- 1 1/2 cups diced fresh pineapple
- 1 large avocado, diced
- 1 tablespoon avocado oil
- 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
- 1/2 teaspoon agave
- 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Make the tacos
- Preheat the oven to 400°F (204°C). Slick a rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray.
- Season the pork with 3 teaspoons of the salt and the black pepper, making sure to cover the whole pork shoulder.
- Place the onion and pineapple on the prepared baking sheet. Drizzle the onion and pineapple with 1 tablespoon of the oil and sprinkle them with 1/4 teaspoon of the salt.
- Roast the onion and pineapple until tender, flipping them halfway through the cooking time, 15 to 16 minutes. Add the brown sugar and toss the roasted onion and pineapple to coat them. Roast the onion and pineapple until they start to caramelize, 3 to 4 minutes.
- Drop the onion and pineapple into a blender or large food processor. Add the lime juice, lime zest, orange juice, orange zest, remaining 1 tablespoon of oil, broth, vinegar, garlic, chipotle peppers, adobo sauce, chili powder, cumin, coriander, oregano, onion powder, allspice, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Blitz the ingredients until a smooth, thick sauce forms.
- Place the pork in the slow cooker and cover with the pineapple sauce. Cook on low heat until the pork is fork tender, 7 to 8 hours.
- Move the pork to a large bowl, and remove the bone if you are cooking a bone-in pork shoulder. Remove any fatty pieces, then use forks or tongs to shred the pork.
- Stir in 1/2 cup or more of the leftover sauce from the slow cooker, if desired.
Make the pineapple-avocado salsa
- In a medium bowl, combine the onion, pineapple and avocado. Stir in the oil, lime juice, agave, cilantro, and salt, and mix until all of the ingredients are well combined.
Make the chipotle mayo
- In a small bowl, combine the mayo, yogurt, adobo sauce, and lime juice and stir well.
- Over a gas burner or in a medium skillet over medium-high heat, slightly char the corn tortillas. Top each tortilla with the pork, pineapple-avocado salsa, and chipotle mayo.
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Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
This recipe for slow cooker tacos al pastor requires some patience and planning but the rewards are great and therefore worth it. The marinade is the most time-consuming part to make and then it’s smooth sailing. The slow cooker was a clever way to achieve the spit grilled effect and your house will smell pretty amazing even a day later! You get the scents of everything from the adobo and the pineapple and all the rich flavors of the marinade come through in the shredded pork.
The pineapple and avocado salsa is also amazing and I would eat this alone or with fish or shrimp. I also liked the idea of doing half yogurt half mayo for the sauce (I used Duke’s mayonnaise.) I had a fair amount of fat on my pork shoulder, so I only got enough for about 10 tacos.
These slow cooker tacos al pastor were amazingly delicious! There was lots of prep involved but well worth it in the end. I’m not a big fan of pork tacos, they always seem to be heavy and rich so I eat two tacos and then I’m done. Not tonight! The pineapple and the orange really came through in the pork itself so it wasn’t heavy and rich, it was fresh and delicious. The chipotle mayo and the salsa were the perfect companions (nice change from slaw). This dish would be a perfect summer dish to take to a pot-luck or when you have friends over sitting in the backyard having a cold beer.
The slightly sweet, tender pork shoulder had a wonderful depth of flavor, thanks to the roasted and caramelized onions and pineapple. Paired with the smoky spices it gave just a perfect flavor combination for these popular tacos. The two toppings finished the slow cooker tacos al pastor to perfection.
At the end of winter it’s nice to use the slow cooker for something that has a bright taste and this paid off. This recipe for slow cooker tacos al pastor had a few more layers of flavor than my local Mexican spot; it requires several steps (e.g. roasting the pineapple with onion, then adding brown sugar and roasting longer) that I am not sure paid off in spades but it was nevertheless quite tasty and bright.
It’s really critical to have a good pineapple and for this test I was fortunate. I do think the salsa could have benefited from some heat (maybe some cayenne? a chopped jalapeño or red chile?). The chipotle mayo was good and am looking forward to using leftovers on a turkey sandwich!
I really enjoyed this easy, flavourful recipe. It was a family pleaser that was hands-off but created a rich and unctuous meat that paired well with the bright and fresh salsa.
Makes at least 15 tacos (we froze some of the meat after making 12 tacos and there is enough for another 4 to 6).
The onion/pineapple hadn’t caramelized at the 3-minute mark. I turned the broiler on to get a quicker caramelization without drying out the vegetable/fruit. They were nicely brown after another 3 minutes.
The pork that was under the sauce was very easily shreddable at this point. I turned the pieces over and cooked for another 1/2 hour and they were shreddable then. I added 1 1/2 cups of the sauce. There were at least 3 cups leftover.