There are a couple of defining features of tacos al pastor. One is the vibrant red-orange color of the meat, and the other is how it's cooked, thinly sliced, and often topped with pineapple. The al pastor cooking method calls for the meat, usually pork, to be cooked on a slowly rotating vertical spit. The meat has been infused with flavor from a special marinade made from dried chiles, achiote paste, and citrus. Yes, this all sounds a little high-maintenance.
To make tacos al pastor at home, certain adjustments need to be made. Not everyone has a spit in their home kitchen, so the grill is a great substitution to get some of that smoky flavor and char. The marinade itself can be streamlined, too. You may already have a can of the key ingredient swap in your pantry. Chipotle peppers in adobo sauce make a great stand-in for the dried chiles and the achiote paste, which is made from bright red annatto seeds. Not only are canned chipotles a little easier to find than achiote, but this change speeds up the process of making the marinade, which traditionally includes toasting and soaking the dried chiles.
Making Al Pastor Marinade Faster And Easier
Since the recommended chipotle peppers are canned in adobo sauce, this swap in the al pastor marinade starts you off two steps ahead. Chipotle peppers are smoked and dried jalapeño peppers, but by using this canned version they have been softened by the adobo sauce. Dried chile paste, along with garlic, vinegar, and spices form the basis for Mexican adobo sauce, which lends even more flavor to your marinade.
These canned peppers also take the place of another key al pastor ingredient, achiote paste. Achiote comes from the seeds of the achiote tree. The tree's seeds contain an orange-red pigment that is used to give color to a dish, similar to how saffron adds a yellow-orange hue to any food. Achiote, also known as annatto, can be used in a powder form or made into a paste or oil. It has a delicately earthy flavor with some peppery and smoky notes. Using chipotle peppers in your marinade instead of achiote will give the dish a similar taste and will also help provide some reddish color as well.
Swap Peppers With Care
When using canned chipotles in an al pastor recipe to replace the usual marinade, keep in mind the differing flavors and levels of heat of the chiles. There is usually a combination of dried chiles and achiote paste as the base in a traditional al pastor marinade. The type of chiles used ranges as well, from ancho to guajillo, and there is often a mixture of chiles in the marinade. Ancho chiles are less spicy than jalapeños, and guajillo are milder, too. Use fewer canned chipotles in the marinade when replacing these other chiles. It will ensure that you get the smoky flavor without having the heat overpower the rest of the ingredients.
Onion, garlic, vinegar, and spices round out the primary elements of the al pastor marinade. Some marinades include pineapple, which is great for whatever meat you'd like to use. Pineapple juice has a special enzyme that helps tenderize the meat. If you go this route, make sure not to leave the meat in pineapple juice marinade for more than 12 hours. Just be sure to thinly slice the meat, and top it with pineapple, chopped onion, and cilantro for a streamlined experience that's as close to authentic as you can get.
Read the original article on Daily Meal.