Al pastor
A trompo of pastor meat
Place of originMexico
Region or statePuebla, Mexico city
Serving temperatureWarm
Main ingredientsPork meat

Al pastor (from Spanish, "shepherd style"), also known as tacos al pastor, is a taco made with spit-grilled pork. A cooking method based on the lamb shawarma brought by Lebanese immigrants to Mexico,[1][2][3] al pastor features a flavor palate that uses traditional Mexican marinade adobada. It is a popular street food that has spread to the United States. In some places of northern Mexico and coastal Mexico, such as in Baja California, Mexico, it is known as taco de trompo or taco de adobada. A similar dish from Puebla that uses a combination of middle eastern spices and indigenous central Mexican ingredients is called tacos árabes.[4]


During the 19th century, variations of a vertically-grilled meat dish, now known by several names, started to spread throughout the Ottoman Empire. A wave of Lebanese immigrants to Mexico, mainly Christians such as the Maronites who have no religious dietary restrictions on eating pork, arrived in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and introduced the Lebanese version, shawarma. In the 1960s, Mexican-born progeny of these immigrants began opening their own restaurants and combining their heritage with Mexican cuisine.[5] Being derived from shawarma, it is also similar to the Turkish döner kebab and the Greek gyros.


Pork is marinated in a combination of dried chilies, spices, pineapple, and typically achiote paste, then slowly cooked with charcoal or gas flame on a vertical rotisserie called a trompo (lit.'spinning top'), the meat is shaved off as the outside is browned, and made into tacos. Guajillo chile, garlic, cumin, clove, bay leaf, and vinegar are common ingredients, with cinnamon, dried Mexican oregano, coriander, and black peppercorns found in many variants.[6] Meat is thinly sliced off the spit with a large knife into a small corn tortilla and served with finely chopped onions, cilantro, and diced pineapple. A wedge of lemon or lime and a salsa are optional condiments. This meat is also a common ingredient in gringas, alambres, huaraches, tortas, burritos, and pizza.


Plate of tacos al pastor
Plate of tacos al pastor

In some places of northern Mexico, such as Nuevo León, Durango and Chihuahua, these are usually called tacos de trompo if served on corn tortillas, and gringas if they are served with cheese on flour tortillas.

A similar dish is called tacos árabes, which originated in Puebla in the 1930s from Arab Mexicans cuisine. Tacos árabes use shawarma-style meat carved from a spit, but are served in a pita-style bread called pan árabe. These tacos have been brought by Mexican immigrants to the United States in the past few years and have become popular in cities such as Chicago and Los Angeles, two of the largest Mexican/Mexican-American population centers in the United States.[7][failed verification]

A chicken version marinated in the "al pastor" style was brought back to the Middle East in the early 2000s, and sold as "shawarma mexici". It is typically served in the Middle Eastern style, wrapped with garlic mayonnaise, dill pickle, and french fries in a thin flatbread.[citation needed]

See also


  1. ^ David Sterling, Yucatán: Recipes from a Culinary Expedition, 2014, ISBN 0292735812, p. 333, 358-363
  2. ^ David Sterling, "The Lebanese Connection," Yucatan: A Culinary Expedition. Archived 2016-04-26 at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ Watson, Katy (2 September 2015). "Sharwarma: Taco al pastor's ancestor". Retrieved 2019-03-08 – via
  4. ^ Peterson, Lucas (26 March 2015). "These Massive Tacos Árabes in Boyle Heights Pack a Punch". LA. Retrieved 2018-03-10.
  5. ^ "Thank the Ottoman Empire for the taco al pastor". Retrieved 8 August 2017.
  6. ^ Hursh Graber, Karen (2006). "Wrap It Up: A Guide to Mexican Street Tacos Part II: Nighttime Tacos". Archived from the original on 2009-05-29. Retrieved 29 January 2022.
  7. ^ David Hammond, "Perfection on a Spit," Chicago Reader, November 8, 2007.