This easier spin on tacos al pastor swaps pork shoulder and a trompo for ground pork and a sauté pan. You still get all the chile and pineapple flavors but in a fraction of the time and without needing to marinate ahead of time. And since the recipe calls for ground pork, it’s easy to make meat substitutions like chicken or lean ground beef for different calorie or dietary needs.
How to Make Tacos Al Pastor with Ground Pork
You’ll find a visual recipe walkthrough below, and you’ll find a printable recipe card at the bottom of the post. If you have any questions about the recipe that aren’t covered here, leave a comment below the recipe card.
Pan Roasted Pineapple
With traditional tacos al pastor, the pineapple is roasted right on the trompo with the marinated pork shoulder. Since everything is cooked on the stovetop in this version, pan roasting is the move.
A few minutes per side over medium heat should give you just the right amount of browning. Roasting the pineapple caramelizes the sugar, increasing the sweetness and reducing the acidity.
Other al pastor recipes might call for roasting in the oven or grilling, and you might see some basted in pork fat. I tested the different methods for this version, but I ultimately decided pan roasting gets the job done in minimal time without sacrificing much.
Al Pastor Sauce
Marinades for traditional tacos al pastor typically consist of dried chiles that are boiled and blended with citrus like pineapple, orange, and/or lime juice, garlic, achiote paste (giving the bright red color), Mexican seasonings, and sometimes vinegar.
Instead of reconstituting dried chiles, this version saves time by using ancho chile powder and chipotle peppers in adobo. You’ll still find traditional ingredients like achiote paste, garlic, and dried oregano. And you’ll use half the roasted pineapple in place of any juice.
I’ve found this creates an authentic tasting tacos al pastor sauce for the ground pork with a great balance of sweet, spicy, and smoky. And the roasted pineapple creates a thick paste that works really well for a quick cooking sauce.
If you wanted to use sliced meats, I’d go with a more liquid-based marinade like the one in our chicken al pastor recipe.
The recipe calls for 80/20 ground pork, which is a fattier cut. While I have recipes like my ground pork chili that use leaner 90/10 ground pork, the extra fat works wonders in helping to fry and create crispy pork bits that you expect from tacos al pastor. Not to mention, the inherent flavor boost you get from fat and its interaction with aromatics.
Once the sauce has thickened and starts to caramelize in the bottom of the pan, it’s time to pull from the heat and add the rest of the roasted pineapple cut into bite size pieces. If you’d rather use the pineapple as a garnish, skip this step. I think it’s easier to serve with the pineapple incorporated in the al pastor ground pork, but that’s just my opinion!
Serving Ground Pork Tacos Al Pastor
While the rest of this recipe strays from traditional tacos al pastor, serving stays the course. Warmed corn tortillas (I throw them directly over a low burner for 30 seconds) and some diced onion, cilantro, and salsa verde are the perfect accompaniments. I also like to give the option of queso fresco and fresh lime wedges. The Trader Joe’s Green Dragon sauce we serve with out migas breakfast tacos is a nice touch as well.
For more creative ways to serve your ground pork, check out these pork volcánes al pastor from Rick Martinez or these quesadillas al pastor. You could also use my stuffed poblano peppers, air fryer quesadillas, or baked tacos recipes to make fun creations. And if you need a dish to round out taco night, check out our Instant Pot chorizo queso, Esquites, Traeger Smoked Charro Beans.
However you end up serving your ground pork tacos al pastor, I’d love to hear what you thought about the recipe. Let me know in a recipe review or comment at the bottom of the post. I hope you enjoy!
- 2 lbs Ground Pork (80/20)*
- 1 Pineapple, peeled and cut lengthwise into 4 pieces
- 1 oz Achiote Paste
- 1 Tbsp Ancho Chile Powder (or chili powder)
- 4 cloves Garlic, peeled
- 1/2 Tbsp Garlic Powder
- 1/2 Tbsp Dried Oregano
- 1/2 Tbsp Ground Cumin
- 1/2 Tbsp Kosher Salt
- Dash of Ground Cloves (optional)
- 4 oz can Chipotle Peppers in Adobo Sauce
- 2 Tbsp (30g) White Vinegar
- Toast the pineapple on both sides in a large skillet over medium heat. It should take 2-3 minutes per side to start browning. Set aside.
- Increase the heat to medium-high and add the ground pork. Brown both sides before mincing/fully cooking.
- While the pork cooks, add half the pineapple in a food processor with the remaining ingredients. Blend on low for 30-60 seconds and high for 1-2 minutes until smooth.
- Once the pork is fully cooked, add the sauce and reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook until the sauce thickens and begins to caramelize around the edges of the pan, about 4-6 minutes.
- Cut the second half of the pineapple into bite size pieces and add to the finished pork.
- Serve with warmed corn tortillas, diced white onion, cilantro, salsa verde, and lime wedges.
Nutrition facts are for meat only, no tortillas or garnish.
Nutrition Info with Other Ground Meat Options (per serving)
- 90/10 ground pork: 195 calories, 18g protein, 10g carbs, 9g fat
- 96/4 ground beef: 150 calories, 18g protein, 10g carbs, 3g fat
- 97/3 ground chicken: 140 calories, 21g protein, 10g carbs, 3g fat
For leaner ground meats, you can reheat small batches with 1/2-1 tablespoon of olive oil to create some of the crispy bits and flavors you miss out on otherwise.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 10 Serving Size: about 4 oz
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 270Total Fat: 18gCarbohydrates: 11gProtein: 16g