Traditional Mexico City Tacos: A Culinary Journey

May 23, 2023

Mexico is home to one of the most vibrant culinary scenes in the world, and nothing encapsulates this more than the humble taco. Originating from pre-Columbian times, this iconic dish has since evolved into myriad variations, each region imprinting its unique twist. Yet, a journey into the heart of this diverse cuisine wouldn’t be complete without stopping in Mexico City – the capital, offering its distinct version known as the “Taco al Pastor.”

A Brief History of the Taco al Pastor
Before delving into the recipe, it’s important to understand its origins. “Al pastor,” translating to “in the style of the shepherd,” harks back to the Lebanese immigrants who arrived in Mexico in the early 20th century. They brought with them the technique of spit-roasting meat, most notably seen in dishes like shawarma. Mexican locals adopted and adapted this technique, swapping out the traditional lamb for pork, and infusing it with indigenous ingredients like achiote and pineapple. Thus, the ‘Taco al Pastor’ was born, an enticing fusion of two cultures.

Traditional Taco al Pastor Recipe

For the Marinade:
• 1.5 kg boneless pork shoulder
• 5 guajillo chiles
• 2 ancho chiles
• ½ cup white vinegar
• 2 cloves garlic
• 1 tsp oregano
• 1 tsp cumin
• 1 tsp salt
• ½ tsp pepper
• ¼ cup achiote paste

For the Tacos:
• Corn tortillas
• 1 medium size pineapple, sliced
• 1 medium white onion, finely chopped
• 1 bunch of fresh cilantro, chopped
• Lime wedges
• Salt to taste


  1. Prepare the marinade: Soak guajillo and ancho chiles in hot water until soft, about 15 minutes. Remove stems and seeds, then place in a blender. Add vinegar, garlic, oregano, cumin, salt, pepper, and achiote paste. Blend until you have a smooth sauce.
  2. Marinate the pork: Cut the pork shoulder into thin slices, about 1/4 inch thick. Layer the pork slices in a dish, slathering each piece with the marinade. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight.
  3. Cook the pork: Traditionally, the marinated pork is stacked onto a vertical spit (trompo), with a slice of pineapple atop. Since this may not be practical at home, you can opt to grill the pork instead. Preheat your grill to medium heat, then grill the pork slices and pineapple until nicely charred and cooked through.
  4. Assemble the tacos: Warm up the corn tortillas on a skillet or directly over the stove flame. Place a few pieces of the cooked pork onto each tortilla. Top with a slice of grilled pineapple, a sprinkle of chopped onion and cilantro. Serve with a squeeze of lime and a dash of salt.

The beauty of the Taco al Pastor lies in its layers of flavor – the smoky, spicy pork is balanced by the sweetness of pineapple, and the fresh kick of onion and cilantro, all wrapped up in a warm corn tortilla. It’s an authentic taste of Mexico City, bringing a bite of its history, culture, and people wherever it’s enjoyed.

A Taste of Mexico City
Each bite of a Taco al Pastor transports you straight to the bustling streets of Mexico City, brimming with the scent of grilling meat, the sizzle of frying tortillas, and the lively chatter of locals and tourists alike gathering around street-side taquerias. The essence of Mexico City lies not just in its grand architecture, rich history, or bustling markets but also in the simple joy of savoring a freshly made taco.

Despite its simplicity, the Taco al Pastor is a testament to Mexico City’s culinary ingenuity. It is a dish that emerged from the fusion of cultures, adapted over time, and adopted as a quintessential part of the city’s culinary identity. It is a testament to the spirit of Mexico City, a place that welcomes change, adapts, and yet maintains a strong link to its roots.

The next time you crave a taste of authentic Mexican cuisine, remember that you don’t need to venture to the nearest restaurant or hop on a plane to Mexico City. With this recipe, you can bring a piece of Mexico City’s vibrant culinary scene into your kitchen.

So, gather your friends, prepare these mouthwatering Tacos al Pastor, and enjoy a culinary journey right in the comfort of your home. As you bite into these delicious tacos, close your eyes, and you can almost hear the vibrant bustle of Mexico City. You are not just making food; you are creating an experience. Enjoy the journey. Bon appétit or, as they say in Mexico, ¡Buen provecho!

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