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Taco Trivia: The History of Tacos al Pastor

We’re all connected and if anything shoes us that it’s food. Take for instance, tacos al pastor. Found in Mexico, tacos al pastor refer to the way the protein is cooked and then served up. Though classically Mexican, the method of cooking comes from a long way off the countries shores. Here’s how they traveled.

First, what are tacos al pastor? 

Tacos al pastor are made of thin strips of pork marinated in spices and chiles and stacked onto a vertical spit called trompo. The spit rotates constantly, meaning the outer layer of the pork crisps up as it cooks. And of course, as the skewer rotates, fat and juices drip down, basting the pork slowly and continuously.

As tacos are prepped, a chef will shave off a portion of the pork straight onto a waiting tortilla. The tacos are then topped with pineapple, onion, cilantro, and your salsa of choice.

Where did tacos al pastor come from?

If you’re thinking that the method of cooking tacos al pastor is remarkably close to a shwarma, you’re correct! Cooking meat al pastor (or the shepherd’s way) comes from Lebanese immigrants who moved to Mexico in the early 1900s. With them, they brought the method of spit roasting foods. And though traditionally it was done with lamb, Mexican shepherds used pork. And just like that, the tradition of cooking al pastor was born.

One last question, what about the pineapple?

Usually, you’ll find pork roasting on a skewer with pineapple perched on top. Some say the pineapple is there to marinate the pork (as juices drip down) while still others say the pineapple is perched on top for easy access. How it got there and why? No one knows. That will remain a delicious mystery. 

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