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Easy Ground Pork Tacos Al Pastor

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.

ground pork tacos al pastor with cilantro, diced white onion, salsa verde, and lime wedges

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

toasting pineapple slices in a pan

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

toasted pineapple, spices, and ingredients for al pastor sauce in a food processor

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.

Ground Pork

cooked ground pork in a pan with al pastor sauce

The recipe calls for 80/20 ground pork, which is a fattier cut. This extra fat works wonders, 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.

cooked ground pork al pastor with pieces of toasted pineapple added

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

three ground pork tacos al pastor with diced white onion, cilantro, lime wedges, salsa verde, queso fresco, and corn tortillas

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 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 or 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!

Ground Pork Tacos Al Pastor

Ground Pork Tacos Al Pastor

Yield: 10 Servings
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes

Pan roasted pineapple and crispy ground pork in a chile pinapple al pastor sauce.

Ingredients

  • 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

Instructions

  1. 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.
  2. Increase the heat to medium-high and add the ground pork. Brown both sides before mincing/fully cooking.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Cut the second half of the pineapple into bite size pieces and add to the finished pork.
  6. Serve with warmed corn tortillas, diced white onion, cilantro, salsa verde, and lime wedges.

Notes

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

Beata Matusewicz

Sunday 29th of August 2021

Halved the recipe to make for meal prep this week. It is DELICIOUS! I couldn’t find achiote paste so I used a packet of Sazon with coriander and achiotte and just added a bit of water to account for the extra dry ingredients (in place of paste). I think I could skip the salt next time since the Sazon is already salted.

I also use regular chili powder, but instead of the chipotle peppers in adobo, I used Ancho Chipotle Pepper Adobo paste to get the smoky flavor—worked perfectly!

Super simple to make, super delicious to eat (and I keep picking at it now so I have to put it away soon to make sure I actually have food for the week!)—5 stars :)

Mason Woodruff

Monday 30th of August 2021

Thanks for the great substitution tips, Beata!

Stephanie Van

Thursday 19th of August 2021

I love all of Mason’s taco and quesadilla recipes.

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