Make Ahead

Chili al Pastor

February  2, 2012
7 Ratings
Photo by Joseph DeLeo
  • Serves 6 (or less if you're really hungry!)
Author Notes

This is a chilified version of Tacos al Pastor, spicy pork tacos topped with grilled pineapple and garnished with chopped onion, cilantro, and lime wedges. I've made a fairly traditional sauce using a combination of guajillo and ancho chiles with minimal spices added. The ancho helps to keep the heat level at medium, so if you want more heat you can increase the guajillos and decrease or eliminate the ancho. I served the chili over polenta wedges as a nod to the corn tortillas usually used for the tacos. I caramelized the pineapple in a skillet rather than firing up the grill to simplify things. Once dished up and garnished it became a satisfying version of Tacos al Pastor in a bowl. If you are able, make the chili a day ahead as the flavor is even better the second day!

Test Kitchen Notes

I really love the sweet, spicy combo of the complex chili with the caramelized pineapple. The chili itself is very thick and the meat is falling apart tender with a good combination of spices. Served over polenta, it makes the perfect bowl of comfort food. The cilantro and lime garnish add just the right touch of freshness. It's a a fun untraditional chili perfect for when you are looking for something out of the ordinary. —Stephanie Bourgeois

What You'll Need
  • Chili al Pastor
  • water
  • 3.5 lb boneless pork shoulder
  • 2 valencia oranges
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • 3 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
  • 5 dried guajillo chiles (about 1 oz)
  • 1 large dried ancho chile (about 1 oz)
  • 1 large or 2 medium yellow onions
  • 4 medium cloves garlic
  • 14.5-oz can diced tomatoes
  • 2 large or 3 medium bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon dried Mexican oregano
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • coarsely chopped cilantro (garnish)
  • finely diced onion or sliced green onion (garnish)
  • lime wedges (garnish)
  • Polenta and Caramelized Pineapple
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup polenta
  • Small pineapple
  • ½ teaspoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon canola or vegetable oil
  1. Chili al Pastor
  2. Preheat oven to 350º F. Start a pot of water to boil.
  3. Trim excess fat from the pork shoulder, and cut into approximately 1-inch chunks. Transfer the chunks to a medium to large bowl. Zest one of the oranges. Sprinkle the orange zest over the pork chunks, and set the 2 oranges aside. Sprinkle the cumin, salt, pepper, and cloves over the pork chunks. Toss well to evenly coat with the seasonings; allow to rest at room temperature for 45 minutes.
  4. Remove and discard the stems and seeds from the chiles. Roast the chiles in the oven for 4 to 5 minutes, until you can start to smell them. Remove from the oven and place in a bowl. Cover with 2 to 3 cups of water, and allow to steep for 15 or more minutes to soften. Turn off the oven.
  5. Dice the onion and set aside (you should have 2 to 2 ½ cups of diced onion.) Mince the garlic and set aside (you should have about 4 teaspoons.) Juice the oranges into a 2 cup glass measure and set aside (you should have between ¾ and 1 cup.)
  6. Heat oil in a 6-quart Dutch oven or stock pot over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the pork chunks, and cook stirring every 3 or so minutes until nicely browned with no pink remaining. Reduce heat to medium, and add diced onion and minced garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally until the onion is translucent. Add the diced tomatoes (including the juice), bay leaves, and oregano. Reduce heat to maintain a simmer.
  7. Remove the chiles from the soaking water, and transfer them to the blender. Add enough of the soaking water to the orange juice to make 2 cups total, then add the juice mixture to the blender. Pulse several times, then blend until smooth, scraping down the sides of the blender once. Pour the chile purée into the pork mixture.
  8. Gently simmer the chili until the pork is tender, stirring occasionally. This will take about 2 hours. At this point you can cool and refrigerate the chili until you are ready to serve it, then gently reheat. Otherwise lower heat as much as possible, and proceed with making the polenta and caramelizing the pineapple. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and lime juice, and thin with water if needed just before serving.
  9. To serve: Place a wedge of polenta into each bowl. Divide chili evenly amongst bowls. Divide caramelized pineapple evenly amongst bowls (you should have about ¼-cup per serving.) Garnish with cilantro, onion, and lime wedges. Enjoy!
  1. Polenta and Caramelized Pineapple
  2. Bring 3 cups of water and 1 teaspoon kosher salt to a boil. Gradually stir in the polenta and reduce the heat to low. Partially cover the pan to help prevent spattering. Stir frequently until the polenta mixture is thick and cooked through, about 20 to 30 minutes. Oil a medium bowl, and transfer the cooked polenta to the bowl. Immediately spread into an even layer. Allow to set up at least 10 minutes, then turn onto a cutting board and slice into 6 wedges. (NB: because polenta brands vary, make sure to check your package's instructions. Follow them for using 1 cup dried polenta if the proportions are much different from the directions I've given.)
  3. While the polenta water is coming to a boil, trim the pineapple, then cut it into quarters and remove the core. Cut each quarter lengthwise into thirds, then crosscut into ½-inch thick chunks. Toss the pineapple chunks with sugar. Once the polenta is cooking, heat 1 tablespoon of canola oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high, until it shimmers. Add the pineapple chunks to the skillet in a single layer. Cook, stirring occasionally until the chunks have softened and caramelized, about 7 to 8 minutes. Transfer to bowl, and set aside.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Susan Ballard
    Susan Ballard
  • Rita Goeckeritz
    Rita Goeckeritz
  • zora
  • Iris VK
    Iris VK
  • hardlikearmour
I am an amateur baker and cake decorator. I enjoy cooking, as well as eating and feeding others. I live in the beautiful Pacific Northwest with my husband and our menagerie. I enjoy outdoor activities including hiking, mushroom hunting, tide pooling, beach combing, and snowboarding.

33 Reviews

Susan B. February 13, 2016
On step 3 , you might want to add that that's where you use the boiling water.
People not familiar with rehydrating chilies might not know this technique.
taxidog September 10, 2014
I can't believe I missed this recipe! I love tacos al pastor. Making it this weekend for sure.
Rita G. February 2, 2013
We made this for dinner last night and loved it. The complex flavor of the dish is perfectly balanced. Thanks for a great recipe!
hardlikearmour February 2, 2013
Thank you! I'm always thrilled to hear that someone made and liked my dish.
edelpiano January 27, 2013
I made this today in my wood fired oven outside and I have to say it is outstanding!!!!!!
hardlikearmour January 27, 2013
Thank you! I'm envious of your wood oven!
Smitch January 23, 2013
This is a remarkable recipe! Thanks. Just the right amount of heat. I cooked the pinapple in with the chili as I thought it could use a naturally sweet addition. I also baked the polenta after it set until it formed a slightly crispy exterior to give the dish some added texture, and served it along a fresh slaw to cut the intensity of the sauce a little.
hardlikearmour January 23, 2013
I'm thrilled you tried and liked it. Slaw on the side sounds perfect.
zora July 27, 2012
It's actually "al Pastor" (in the style of a herder)... traditionally, thin sliced, chile-marinated pork is skewered into a thick cone with pineapple between the layers or sent on top, and cooked on an upright grill, like shwarma. Cooked meat from the outer edge is shaved off and enclosed in a tortilla to make my favorite taco al pastor.
hardlikearmour July 27, 2012
Thank you for the correction! I obviously don't know Spanish, but do like to have the correct terms nonetheless.
Iris V. April 6, 2012
I made this and it came out great! The only thing is that I used less chiles because I was scared it would be too spicy (I have very low tolerance for heat) but regretted it because it definitely needed more of a kick. Should have stuck to the recipe!
hardlikearmour April 6, 2012
I'm glad you gave it a go! I'd rather have it not spicy enough than too hot to eat. You can always stir in a little hot sauce or cayenne at the end to correct the heat.
hardlikearmour February 18, 2012
I would suspect step 7 would only take 20ish minutes - just long enough to cook the chicken through. I've not tried it with chicken, so if you give it a go I'd love to hear back on how it works!
mrslarkin February 17, 2012
This sounds amazing, hla. Congrats on the CP!
hardlikearmour February 17, 2012
Thank you , mrslarkin!
LeBec F. February 17, 2012
hla, you just keep getting better and better! congrats and thanks for this recipe. el pastor is my fav pork taco filling.
hardlikearmour February 17, 2012
Thanks, LBF. I ? tacos el pastor, too!
creamtea February 16, 2012
Congratulations on your CP! this sounds unusual and delicious. I had a feeling!
hardlikearmour February 16, 2012
Thanks, creamtea! I think it's a pretty good homage to tacos el pastor, and my husband, brother, and I really like it.!
EmilyC February 16, 2012
Congrats on your CP! This looks and sounds so delicious. I love tacos el pastor so I know I'd love your chili version.
hardlikearmour February 16, 2012
Thank you, Emily! The photo makes it look especially good!
gingerroot February 9, 2012
Yes, please!! This sounds delicious and I love the orange and cloves in there.
hardlikearmour February 9, 2012
Thank you, gingerroot! Both the cloves and orange add to the depth of flavor without being obvious in the finished chili.
Fairmount_market February 3, 2012
This sounds amazing! Can't wait to try it.
hardlikearmour February 3, 2012
Thanks, FM! We're all out of leftovers, or I'd invite you up!
kaupilimakoa February 2, 2012
ooh Pastor! one of my fav tacos...will save this pronto :)
hardlikearmour February 2, 2012
Thanks! I hope you get a chance to make it.
aargersi February 2, 2012
Yum HLA! This is a great chili nod to one of our favorite tacos - great flavors and I love the polenta and pineapple !!
hardlikearmour February 2, 2012
Thank you, aargersi! Gotta have pineapple with el Pastor, and I'm a fan of starch with my chili so the polenta was a natural choice for me.
creamtea February 2, 2012
This looks special. I can't wait to try (with beef chunks, as we don't eat pork). I had just purchased anchos and guajillos to keep in the pantry when I saw this!
hardlikearmour February 2, 2012
Thanks, creamtea! I've not tried it with beef, but think it would work just fine. I also bet it would be good with dark meat chicken, though the cook time would have to be altered dramatically.
vhsdr February 18, 2012
can you estimate how long it would take to cook this with chicken thighs? (i also don't eat pork, but LOVE this idea!)
LeBec F. February 18, 2012
i think hla is correct in that chicken timing estimate; about 20-30 minutes. You might also consider turkey thighs. They are huge and can be braised for 30-60 minutes .For either,to test for doneness, remove a thigh and stick a skewer halfway into the thigh. Clear juices show doneness; pink juices show need to cook a bit more.