Crock Pot Al Pastor Tacos – The Roasted Root

Slow cooker al pastor recipe

Possibly the easiest Al Pastor recipe you’ve ever made! The slow-cooking cooker of mud cooker in the clay pot leaves you with incredibly tender meat that is rich in flavor. Use it for tacos, burritos and enjoy it with side dishes for an otherworldly meal!

Plato de tacos al pastor


you’re like me, you could eat tacos every day and never get tired of them


We’re here to discuss possibly the best tacos out there: tacos

al pastor.

If you’ve never tried to do the traditional pastor at home, there are two key things you should know: 1.) The process is long, but 2.) It’s worth the effort!

So much so that homemade tacos al pastor can become your new favorite for taco nights.

The good news is that because meat needs to be marinated and the longer it is marinated, the better, you can easily split the cooking process into two days and it actually benefits you to do so.

Marinated for at least 24 hours, cook slowly for 8, then make the tacos al pastor. In this sense, the work is divided into three parts to make it seem less daunting.

Let’s dive into this wonderful culinary adventure.

Tacos al pastor dish with salad, guacamole, cheese and salsa

What is Al Pastor

?: Al Pastor

is a classic Mexican dish of tender and crispy pork that has been marinated enough in a red chili marinade. “Al Pastor” translates to shepherd style, as the authentic version is grilled on a vertical rotisserie. The boneless pork shoulder is thinly sliced, marinated, then pork slices are tightly stacked on a spit and cooked slowly, often served as tacos with sweet pineapples.

The cooking method for the traditional Mexican Al Pastor was taken from Lebanese lamb shawarma, which is thinly sliced and slowly roasted on a spit.

The pastor is most commonly used for tacos, but can also be served as a dish with rice and beans or incorporated into burritos or enchiladas.

The chili marinade is made with dried chiles, similar to what you’ve seen in my Crock Pot Birria tacos and my Instant Pot Chile Colorado.

Different cooking methods for Al Pastor:

Grilling on a Grill

: As mentioned above, the traditional way to prepare the shepherd is to finely cut the pork roast, marinate it in a red chili paste, and then slowly roast it on a spit, similar to kebabs. A sharp knife is used to cut the outer layer of meat from the grill and this tender pork is served as tacos.

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Because not everyone owns an upright grill or grill, many alternative cooking methods have been introduced over the years.

Baking in the oven

: It is common to bake the shepherd in the oven by placing the thinly sliced seasoned pork in a roasting pan, so that the meat is still cooked close together, but baked rather than grilled style. When using this method, thin slices of pork shoulder are usually wrapped with bacon for an even more delicious taste.

No matter how you cut it, grooming the pastor is quite an operation. From cutting or dicing the roast pork, to the long marinating time, to cooking it to perfection slowly, preparing this delicious dish is an achievement.

Slow cooking in a clay pot: Recognizing that most meat eaters absolutely love the shepherd, but some may be looking for an easier way to cook it, I decided to develop a clay pot al pastor recipe.

In this sense, we are getting the same rich and tender meat, but the cooking process is not only simpler but feasible for those who do not own a grill or a grill. Because cooking the pastor in a clay pot is so different from the traditional method, I wouldn’t call this authentic the shepherd, but a great option for those who love to experiment with Mexican cuisine at home.

white plate with tacos al pastor with fresh cilantro and onion on top

What type of pork to use for Al Pastor: For

best results, use roast pork shoulder or pork, as these options contain a lot of fat marbling for maximum flavor. Choose a boneless cut of roast beef to make it easier to cut (or slice) it.

boneless pork shoulder roast on a cutting board

Keep in mind that you’ll want enough marinade to generously cover all of the pork, so if you use a roast that weighs more than 5 pounds, increase the amount of the marinade 1.5 to 2 times so you have enough. Ingredients


Al Pastor’s

marinade: Dried guajillo peppers,

dried ancho chiles, onion, garlic, cumin seed, achiote paste (or achiote powder), Mexican oregano, orange juice and vinegar are the ingredients we need to make the pork marinade for al pastor


Sometimes Pasilla peppers are used although they tend to be spicier than guajillo and ancho.

The dried chilies are boiled to reconstitute them and release the flavors, then all the ingredients for the marinade are mixed in a blender. This blend gives us the authentic flavor we love so much in Mexican food.

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The chili peppers used are relatively mild, and the seeds can be removed to ensure that the meat stays soft rather than spicy. If you like spicy food, give up the seeds and consider adding extra spices like habanero or cayenne pepper.

Orange juice provides sweetness, vinegar gives it a flavor, and onion, garlic and cumin add wild flavor to the mixture. Pineapple juice is often used in place of orange juice to help soften the meat in addition to adding sweetness.

If you’re not familiar with it, achiote paste (or annatto powder) is made from ground achiote seeds and can be found online or in Mexican markets. It gives a slightly sweet and smoky flavor and is commonly used to season Mexican stews and meats.

If you can’t get an annatto product, you can skip it as dried chili peppers provide enough flavor for a tempting meal, or you can replace it with store-bought or homemade chili powder.

To add some sweetness to the marinade, I add pure maple syrup, but the traditional version calls for cane sugar. You can easily make the change if you want.

Now that we’re ingredient experts, let’s make the recipe!

top-down photo of the plate of tacos al pastor with toppings

How to make Al Pastor:

Reconstitute the chiles by adding them to a saucepan with 3 cups of water and bringing them to a complete boil. Once the mixture boils completely, turn off the heat and let the chilies sit in the hot water for at least 10 minutes while you prepare the rest of the sauce.

Chilis soaked in water in a saucepan

Add chopped onion, garlic, dried oregano, cumin seed, annatto paste, orange juice, white vinegar, pure maple syrup, and sea salt to a

high-powered blender.

Remove the stems and seeds from the chili peppers and place them in the blender along with 2 cups of the liquid used to boil them


Blend over high heat until sauce is smooth.

Al pastor marinade in a blender

Transfer minced pork to a large bowl or sealable glass container. Pour the marinade over the pork and stir everything around (this is easier to do with your hands, but be sure to wear gloves!) until the pork is well covered with marinade.

Cover the container with plastic

wrap (or seal the airtight container with a lid) and refrigerate for 12 to 36 hours. Note: You can absolutely marinate the meat for less time, but for best results, marinate for 1 full day or more.

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pork marinated in chili sauce

When you’re ready to cook the al pastor, plug in your slow cooker and transfer the marinated pork (with the marinade) to your slow cooker. Secure the lid and simmer for 8 hours or stop for 4 to 5 hours.

pork marinated in a slow cooker, ready to cook

Strain the meat from the juices and transfer it to a large baking sheet in a single layer. Roast in the oven at the high roast setting for 5 to 10 minutes, or until crispy.

Alternatively, you can crunch the meat in a large cast iron skillet. Just be sure to heat it in a single layer for optimal crunch.

crispy pastor in a cast iron skillet

Serve the pastor as tacos, burritos or with rice and beans or your choice of sides


You can spoon the juices from the clay pot over the shepherd’s meat to add flavor. While the meat will have plenty of flavor on its own, much of the fat will be produced during the cooking process, leaving the sauce as good as gold in the slow cooker. If you want to remove some of the fat from the sauce, you can always use a fat separator and serve the salsa as a dipping sauce, similar to what is made for birria tacos.

Best tacos al pastor

: Traditional tacos

al pastor

include hot corn tortillas, lots of crispy meat al pastor, chopped fresh pineapple (many people grill or grill pineapple first), white onion, and fresh cilantro. A flour tortilla also works, as does red onion.

You can get creative with your ingredients if you want. I like to add cheese, guacamole, cream, homemade easy green sauce and chopped lettuce for an experience of all flavors and all textures. I also like to serve the tacos with lemon slices and drizzle lemon juice on top of the pork tacos.

If you love this slow cooker taco recipe, also try my slow cooker Ropa Vieja.

Close-up image of tacos al pastor on a plate with ingredients

Also try these reader favorites if you like Mexican cuisine.

More Mexican-inspired meals:

  • Crock Pot Mexican shredded chicken
  • Slow cooker Barbecue Meat Burrito Shrimp
  • Tacos

  • with Chipotle Carnitas Lime Sauce
  • Enchiladas
  • Fish tacos with
  • mango sauce Instant pot carnitas Everyone’s

favorite taco meat, here we go!

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collage for al pastor

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