Chicken Al Pastor: A Delicious Mexican Dish with a Twist

Chicken Al Pastor is a delicious and flavorful dish that originates from Mexico. It is a popular street food that has gained popularity around the world due to its unique taste and preparation method. The dish is made by marinating pork or chicken in a blend of spices and pineapple, then grilling it until it is tender and juicy.

The name “Al Pastor” translates to “shepherd style” in Spanish, and the dish is said to be inspired by the shawarma-style cooking method brought to Mexico by Lebanese immigrants. The traditional method of cooking Al Pastor involves stacking the marinated meat on a vertical spit and roasting it over an open flame. As the meat cooks, it is sliced off the spit and served in tacos or burritos with fresh cilantro, onions, and a squeeze of lime.

While the traditional method of cooking Al Pastor can be time-consuming and requires specialized equipment, there are many recipes available that make it easy to prepare this delicious dish at home. Whether you prefer to use pork or chicken, there are many variations of the marinade that can be adjusted to suit your taste. With its bold flavors and juicy texture, Chicken Al Pastor is sure to become a new favorite in your recipe collection.

History of Chicken Al Pastor

Chicken Al Pastor is an adaptation of the traditional Mexican dish Al Pastor, which is typically made with pork. The dish has its roots in Lebanese cuisine, specifically the shawarma, which was brought to Mexico by Lebanese immigrants in the early 1900s. Over time, Mexican chefs adapted the dish to suit local tastes and ingredients, resulting in what we now know as Al Pastor.

To make Al Pastor, pork is marinated in a blend of spices and chilies, then slow-cooked on a vertical spit called a trompo. The meat is shaved off the spit and served on tortillas with pineapple, onion, and cilantro. The result is a flavorful and juicy dish that has become a staple of Mexican cuisine.

In recent years, chefs have begun to experiment with different proteins in their Al Pastor dishes, including chicken. Chicken Al Pastor follows the same basic recipe as traditional Al Pastor, but with chicken substituted for pork. The chicken is marinated in the same blend of spices and chilies, then grilled or roasted until tender and juicy.

One advantage of Chicken Al Pastor is that it is a healthier alternative to traditional pork Al Pastor. Chicken is lower in fat and calories than pork, making it a good choice for those watching their waistlines. Additionally, many people prefer the taste of chicken over pork, making Chicken Al Pastor a popular choice at Mexican restaurants across the country.

Overall, Chicken Al Pastor is a delicious and healthy twist on a classic Mexican dish. Whether you’re a fan of traditional Al Pastor or looking to try something new, Chicken Al Pastor is definitely worth a try.



For our Chicken Al Pastor recipe, we will need boneless, skinless chicken thighs. Chicken thighs are preferred over chicken breasts because they are more flavorful and tender. We will need about 2 pounds of chicken thighs for this recipe.


The marinade is the heart and soul of Chicken Al Pastor. It is what gives the dish its signature flavor. Our marinade will consist of various spices, fruits, and peppers. Here are the ingredients we will need to make the marinade:

  • Pineapple juice
  • Orange juice
  • Lime juice
  • Chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
  • Garlic
  • Cumin
  • Paprika
  • Oregano
  • Salt
  • Pepper


To serve our Chicken Al Pastor, we will need some toppings. Here are some traditional toppings that pair well with the dish:

  • Chopped white onion
  • Chopped cilantro
  • Sliced avocado
  • Lime wedges

We can also serve our Chicken Al Pastor with warm tortillas and a side of Mexican rice and refried beans.

That’s it for our ingredients! Now that we have everything we need, let’s move on to the preparation.

Preparation Techniques

Marinating the Chicken

To make delicious Chicken Al Pastor, it is essential to marinate the chicken correctly. We recommend marinating the chicken for at least 2 hours, but preferably overnight, to ensure maximum flavor. The marinade should include a combination of pineapple juice, achiote paste, garlic, and other spices. You can use boneless, skinless chicken thighs or breasts, cut into small pieces, for the best results.

Grilling Methods

Grilling is one of the best ways to cook Chicken Al Pastor. You can use a gas or charcoal grill, or even a grill pan if you don’t have access to an outdoor grill. When grilling the chicken, be sure to rotate it frequently to ensure even cooking. You can also add pineapple slices to the grill for added flavor.

Serving Suggestions

There are several ways to serve Chicken Al Pastor. You can serve it as tacos, with corn tortillas, chopped onions, cilantro, and lime wedges. You can also serve it as a rice bowl, with rice, black beans, avocado, and salsa. Another option is to serve it as a sandwich, with a toasted bun, sliced avocado, and a chipotle mayo.

Overall, Chicken Al Pastor is a delicious and flavorful dish that can be enjoyed in many different ways. By following these preparation techniques, you can create a mouthwatering meal that is sure to impress your guests.

Cooking Equipment

When it comes to making Chicken Al Pastor, having the right cooking equipment is essential. In this section, we will discuss the different types of equipment you can use to make this dish.

Traditional Grill

The traditional way to make Chicken Al Pastor is on a vertical spit grill, known as a trompo. This type of grill allows the meat to cook evenly and develop a crispy exterior while remaining juicy on the inside. The trompo rotates slowly, allowing the meat to cook evenly on all sides. This method of cooking requires a lot of space, time, and effort, but the end result is worth it.

Kitchen Alternatives

If you don’t have access to a traditional grill, there are other ways to make Chicken Al Pastor. One alternative is to use a gas or charcoal grill. You can either grill the chicken on skewers or use a grilling basket. Make sure to marinate the chicken beforehand to infuse it with flavor.

Another option is to use a stovetop grill pan. This type of pan has raised ridges that mimic the grill marks you would get on an outdoor grill. You can also use a cast-iron skillet or a non-stick pan to cook the chicken. This method is ideal if you don’t have access to an outdoor grill or if you want to cook the chicken indoors.

No matter what type of equipment you use, make sure to cook the chicken until it reaches an internal temperature of 165°F to ensure it is fully cooked.

Regional Variations

When it comes to Chicken Al Pastor, there are several regional variations that add unique twists to this classic dish. In this section, we will explore two main types of regional variations: Mexican Style and International Twists.

Mexican Style

The Mexican style of Chicken Al Pastor typically involves marinating the chicken in a blend of spices, including chili powder, cumin, and oregano. Pineapple is often added to the marinade, which helps to tenderize the meat and adds a sweet and tangy flavor. The chicken is then grilled or roasted, and served with traditional toppings such as chopped onions, cilantro, and lime wedges.

In some regions of Mexico, the chicken is served on a tortilla with a layer of beans and a sprinkle of queso fresco. Other variations include serving the Chicken Al Pastor as a taco, burrito, or even as a topping for nachos.

International Twists

While Chicken Al Pastor is a Mexican dish, it has gained popularity around the world, and chefs have put their own spin on the classic recipe. For example, some chefs have added Korean flavors to the marinade, such as gochujang (a spicy chili paste) and soy sauce. Others have added Middle Eastern flavors, such as sumac and za’atar.

Another popular variation is to serve the Chicken Al Pastor as a sandwich, using a soft roll or pita bread. The chicken is sliced thinly and served with toppings such as avocado, tomato, and lettuce. Some chefs also add a spicy mayonnaise or aioli to the sandwich, which adds a creamy and tangy flavor.

Overall, the regional variations of Chicken Al Pastor add unique flavors and textures to this classic dish, making it a versatile and delicious option for any meal.

Nutritional Information

Chicken Al Pastor is a flavorful and popular Mexican dish that is enjoyed by many. If you are watching your calorie intake, it is important to know the nutritional information of this dish.

According to EatingWell, a 4-ounce serving of chicken al pastor contains 200 calories, 11 grams of fat, 3 grams of saturated fat, 4 grams of carbs, 23 grams of protein, 0 grams of fiber, 2 grams of added sugar, and 820 milligrams of sodium.

If you are following a low-carb diet, you’ll be happy to know that a serving of chicken al pastor contains only 4 grams of carbs. However, it is relatively high in sodium, with 820 milligrams per serving, which is about 35% of the recommended daily intake.

On the other hand, Eat This Much claims that a 120-gram serving of chicken al pastor contains 120 calories, 7 grams of carbs, 3.5 grams of fat, and 16 grams of protein. It is also important to note that this source claims that the nutritional information may vary depending on the recipe and preparation method.

In conclusion, chicken al pastor can be a healthy and satisfying meal option if consumed in moderation and prepared with healthy ingredients. It is a good source of protein, but it is relatively high in sodium. If you are watching your calorie intake, it is important to pay attention to portion sizes and the nutritional information of the ingredients used.

Pairing with Sides

When it comes to Chicken Al Pastor, there are a variety of side dishes that can complement this flavorful dish. Here are a few of our favorite options:

Rice and Beans

Rice and beans are a classic side dish that pairs perfectly with Chicken Al Pastor. The rice provides a neutral base that allows the flavors of the chicken to shine, while the beans add a hearty texture and a satisfying source of protein. We recommend cooking the rice with a bit of chicken broth and adding some spices like cumin and chili powder to give it a little extra kick.


A light and refreshing salad is another great option for pairing with Chicken Al Pastor. We suggest using a mix of greens like arugula, spinach, and romaine, and topping it with some sliced avocado, diced pineapple, and a simple vinaigrette made with lime juice and olive oil. This combination of flavors and textures will balance out the richness of the chicken and provide a nice contrast of flavors.


Of course, you can’t go wrong with some warm tortillas to wrap up your Chicken Al Pastor. We recommend using small corn tortillas, which are the traditional choice for this dish. To make them extra special, you can heat them up on a griddle or in a dry skillet until they are slightly charred and crispy. Top them with some chopped cilantro, diced onion, and a squeeze of lime juice for an extra burst of flavor.

Overall, there are many different side dishes that can complement Chicken Al Pastor, so feel free to get creative and experiment with different flavors and textures. Just remember to keep it simple and let the flavors of the chicken shine through.

Storing and Reheating

When it comes to storing leftover Chicken Al Pastor, it is important to keep it in an airtight container in the refrigerator. We recommend consuming it within three to four days of cooking to ensure maximum freshness and flavor.

If you have a larger batch of Chicken Al Pastor and do not plan on consuming it within the recommended timeframe, you can freeze it for later use. We suggest freezing the Chicken Al Pastor in individual portions in airtight containers or freezer bags. This makes it easier to defrost only the amount you need and helps prevent freezer burn.

To reheat Chicken Al Pastor, there are a few different methods you can use. One option is to reheat it in a skillet over medium heat, stirring occasionally until it is heated through. Another option is to microwave it in a microwave-safe dish, covered with a damp paper towel to prevent it from drying out.

When reheating Chicken Al Pastor, it is important to ensure that it reaches a safe internal temperature of 165°F (74°C) to prevent foodborne illness. We recommend using a food thermometer to check the temperature before consuming.

Overall, with proper storage and reheating techniques, you can enjoy delicious Chicken Al Pastor for days to come.

Presentation Tips

When it comes to serving Chicken Al Pastor, presentation is key. Here are a few tips to help you create a visually appealing and delicious dish:

  • Garnish with Fresh Herbs and Lime Wedges: Sprinkle some fresh cilantro or parsley over the top of your Chicken Al Pastor for a pop of color and flavor. Serve with lime wedges on the side to add a bright, tangy kick to each bite.
  • Serve with Warm Tortillas: Warm up some tortillas in the oven or on the stovetop and serve them alongside your Chicken Al Pastor. This will allow your guests to create their own tacos and customize their meal to their liking.
  • Add Some Crunch: Top your Chicken Al Pastor with some diced onions, sliced radishes, or shredded cabbage for some added texture and crunch. This will also help balance out the flavors of the dish.
  • Use a Colorful Plate: Choose a plate or platter that complements the colors of your Chicken Al Pastor. A bright, colorful plate will make your dish stand out and look even more appetizing.
  • Arrange the Chicken Artfully: Take the time to arrange your Chicken Al Pastor in an artful and visually appealing way. This will make your dish look more professional and show that you put effort into your presentation.

By following these simple presentation tips, you can take your Chicken Al Pastor to the next level and create a dish that looks as good as it tastes.

Frequently Asked Questions

What ingredients are needed to make Chicken al Pastor?

To make Chicken al Pastor, you will need boneless, skinless chicken thighs, achiote paste, guajillo chilies, pineapple juice, garlic, oregano, cumin, salt, and pepper. Some recipes also call for diced pineapple and onion.

How can I prepare an easy Chicken al Pastor recipe?

One easy way to prepare Chicken al Pastor is to marinate the chicken in a mixture of achiote paste, guajillo chilies, pineapple juice, garlic, oregano, cumin, salt, and pepper for at least 2 hours, or overnight. Then, grill or roast the chicken until cooked through, and serve with diced pineapple and onion, cilantro, and lime wedges.

What kind of seasoning is typically used in Chicken al Pastor?

The key seasoning in Chicken al Pastor is achiote paste, which is made from ground annatto seeds and other spices. It gives the chicken a bright red color and a slightly sweet, earthy flavor. Other common seasonings include guajillo chilies, garlic, oregano, cumin, salt, and pepper.

Leave a Comment