|September 26, 2022

EASY POLLO AL PASTOR WITH CHARRED TOMATO SALSA

Al pastor chicken is traditionally made by marinating chicken in an earthy chili marinade and then cooking it on a vertical spit. The pastor, which takes on deliciously charred edges as the spit rotates, is carved from the spit, and served in a tortilla. 

Does this sound eerily similar to Shawarma? Well, it's no coincidence! Al pastor is believed to be derived initially from lamb shawarma, brought to Mexico by Lebanese immigrants in the 19th century. Pretty cool.

You can recreate the flavors & textures of al pastor tacos using the ingredients & equipment that you have at home. 

All you need is a broiler. Al pastor-marinated chicken bakes on a sheet pan with pineapple until juicy & tender. It's then finely diced and finished under the broiler, creating the signature caramelly and crisp finish. It's so easy and downright delicious!

EASY POLLO AL PASTOR WITH CHARRED TOMATO SALSA

Al pastor is believed to be derived initially from lamb shawarma, brought to Mexico by Lebanese immigrants in the 19th century. It's so easy and downright delicious!

Print Recipe

How to make mouth wateringly delicious Chicken al Pastor

Ingredients

  • 1-½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs 
  • One yellow onion sliced thinly.
  • Al pastor marinade (ingredients listed below)
  • 2 cups finely diced pineapple
  • For serving (as desired): charred corn tortillas, Mexican crema or cashew crema, pickled red onions, freshly chopped cilantro, queso fresco or cheese of choice, salsa of choice, lime wedges, etc.

For the al pastor marinade:

  • Three cloves of garlic
  • 2–3 chipotle peppers
  • ½ cup orange juice
  • One tablespoon of apple cider vinegar
  • Two tablespoons brown sugar
  • One tablespoon of achiote paste
  • One tablespoon of ancho chili powder
  • One teaspoon of ground cumin
  • One teaspoon of dried oregano
  • 1-½ teaspoons kosher salt

Instructions

  • Prep the al pastor marinade and marinate the chicken - Add all marinade ingredients to a blender. Blend till combined. Add the chicken thighs and thinly sliced yellow onion to a large bowl. Pour the al pastor marinade over the top. Toss to combine. Cover and marinate in your refrigerator for at least 6 hours and up to 3 days. Preheat your oven to 425˚F. Arrange your oven racks such that one is in the center of the oven and the other is 6-8 inches under the broil. Cover a rimmed baking sheet with foil for quick cleanup. Set it aside.
  • Bake the chicken - Transfer the marinated chicken and onions to the prepared baking sheet, draining any excess marinade. Add the finely diced pineapple to the baking sheet. Toss to combine with the chicken & onions, pouring extra al pastor marinade into the mix as necessary to coat the pineapple with the sauce. Bake chicken on the center rack for 15 minutes. The chicken should almost cook through. Take out the chicken from the oven to chop. Meanwhile, preheat the broiler. 
  • Dice the chicken al pastor - Transfer it to a cutting board and carefully chop it into pieces. Return the chopped chicken pastor over the baking sheet. 
  • Broil for crispy chicken al pastor - Place the baking sheet under the broiler. Broil for 4-5 minutes, turning the pan halfway through, till the chicken al pastor is brown and slightly crisp. 
  • Serve - Place the crispy chicken pastor in tortillas for tacos or a bowl with rice and beans for burrito bowls. 
  • Finish with your favorite taco night toppings - Mexican crema/sour cream, cilantro, pickled red onions, etc. Enjoy!

Notes

  • You can use chicken breasts - for this recipe if you prefer so. Chicken thighs are flavorful & stay nice and juicy through roasting and broiling, but you can swap them out with breasts if you prefer. You can either pound the breasts out flat or cut them in half lengthwise to ensure they roast up evenly. Skip broiling as the breast meat will dry out.
  • What exactly is Achiote paste - Achiote is a seasoning commonly used in Central American and Mexican cuisine. Mexicans make Achiote from ground annatto seeds. It's bitter and earthy and gives traditional al pastor its signature flavor and color. You'll commonly find Achiote as a ground seasoning or a paste in local Mexican markets. It's also available online.
  • Storage & freezing - Leftover chicken al pastor will stay fresh for up to 4 days if stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. It's also an excellent freezer food as you can quickly thaw it out and use it on nachos, tacos, salads, burrito bowls, etc., for an easy dinner down the road. Put the cooled chicken al pastor in a freezer bag or container to freeze. You can freeze Al pastor chicken for up to 3 months.
  • 15-Minute Meal Prep - Most of the active prep work for this chicken Al Pastor is due to prepping the marinade & chopping the onion/pineapple. Do the marinading in advance to get a head start on your chicken al pastor:
  1. Thinly slice ½ yellow onion and store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
  2. Peel, core & finely dice a pineapple and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. You'll need 2 cups of chopped pineapples for chicken al pastor. 
  3. Prepare the marinade as per Step 1 of the Recipe Instructions above. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Marinate the chicken & onion for at least 6 hours before cooking or up to 3 days. 

FAQS ON EASY POLLO AL PASTOR WITH CHARRED TOMATO SALSA

What does al pastor chicken mean?
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Is al pastor chicken or beef?
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