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This Mexican-Inspired dish for Chicken Al Pastor features fresh chicken thighs marinated in a pineapple and spice blend for a juicy and succulent main dish. This protein-rich meal makes a delicious base for chicken al pastor tacos or simply topping onto a bed of your favorite veggies!

chicken al pastor with guacamole and cabbage in a taco shell.
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At this point I may as well start operating a Chipotle Mexican Grill out of my house. Many items on our weekly menu are inspired by Chipotle including this chicken al pastor. Honestly, we may be Chipotle’s biggest fans!

When Chipotle came out with their chicken al pastor I was immediately inspired to re-create my own recipe at home. Al Pastor requires a very specific blend of ingredients and spices and I’m not gonna lie, it took me a while to get it just right.

I got stuck a lot on how to infuse the hint of pineapple flavor without the meat getting too mushy. Pineapple contains an enzyme called bromelain that can have this effect on meat. Rumor has it that Chipotle sous-vides a lot of their meat so that’s how they avoid the pineapple breaking down the meat but until I get a formal position at their company, I won’t know for sure.

Instead I decided to allow sweet chunks of pineapple to marinate with the chicken. They’re less likely to break down the meat but still infuse flavor into the chicken. And with a perfect blend of spices I have a feeling this recipe will have mass appeal! Don’t believe me? It’s probably time to test it out…

Why Make This Chicken Al Pastor Recipe?

  • So Easy! – simply blend, marinate and cook! You could truly marinate anything in this al pastor sauce.
  • Packed-full of flavor – this recipe doesn’t skimp on flavor. Inspired by the traditional Mexican version this al pastor chicken is sweet and spicy and and will make you crave more!
  • Great protein for any dish – Chicken al pastor tacos might be the traditional use but I’m here to vouch for adding this al pastor chicken to literally any dish. More ideas below but burritos bowls and salads are my favorites. This is more than your Taco Tuesday recipe!
what is chicken al pastor and how to cook it.

What Is Chicken Al Pastor?

Traditional al pastor, which literally means “shepherd-style” is typically made with pork carved off a vertical spit called a “trompo” (similar to Middle Eastern Shawarma) in a classical spice blend of guallijo chiles and achiote paste. As a Mexican street food it is oftentimes served in tortillas and topped with roasted pineapple and cilantro.

My version features chipotles in adobo which contains achiote as achiote paste can be a bit tricky to come by. I prefer to use guallijo chile powder but this recipe can also be made with regular chile powder.

Ingredients Needed

  • Boneless skinless chicken thighs – you could also use cut chicken breast or a different protein (see note below)
  • Pineapple chunks – pineapple is the traditional fruit used in chicken al pastor but I’ve sometimes seen it made with oranges instead if you’re looking for a different alternative!
  • Cilantro – for garnish. You could omit if you don’t like cilantro.
  • Canned Adobo sauce – you’ll use both the actual liquid and chipotles from the can. You can find this at most grocery stores in the Mexican/Latin American section.
  • Olive oil – or a more neutral oil like avocado oil.
  • Fresh garlic cloves – simply peel. No need to chop as you’ll be blending them.
  • Apple cider vinegar – white vinegar will also work.
  • Honey – for sweetness. Feel free to use maple syrup instead if that’s all you have.
  • Lime juice – Ideally use fresh lime juice.
  • Guajillo chile powder – you can find this online or in some grocery stores. If not use regular chili powder instead.
  • Ground cumin – most al pastor spice blends contain cumin.
  • Dried oregano – or you can use double the amount of fresh oregano.
  • Salt and Pepper – feel free to reduce salt amount if watching sodium levels.

How to Make Al Pastor Chicken

STEP 1: BLEND MARINADE

In a blender combine all al pastor marinade ingredients.

chicken al pastor marinade in the blender.

STEP 2: MARINATE CHICKEN AND PINEAPPLE

Add chicken and pineapple to a large bowl or ziplock bag. Coat with al pastor marinade. Cover bowl or seal bag. Allow chicken to marinate in fridge for at least 4 hours or overnight in the fridge.

STEP 3: COOK CHICKEN

Heat a large skillet or pan over medium-high heat. Add chicken, pineapple and all of marinade and cook for 7-10 minutes or until lightly browned on outside and cooked all the way through. Sprinkle with chopped cilantro.

chicken al pastor cooked in a large pot.

What to Serve with Chicken Al Pastor

Traditionally al pastor chicken is served in tortillas to make a tacos al pastor. Alternatively you could add to burritos or quesadillas.

I like adding my chicken al pastor to burrito bowls or corn tortillas and topping with a homemade green salsa or pico de gallo.

This al pastor chicken also tastes delicious on a bed of salad or even rice and beans. Don’t forget a scoop of guacamole!

Pro Tips + Suggestions

Why can’t I blend in the pineapple?

While you certainly can blend the pineapple into your marinade, pineapple contains an enzyme called bromelain which can break down meat. I find it makes your meat a little mushy (yuck!). Some people find that canned pineapple doesn’t have this effect since most of the bromelain is deactivated so feel free to use that instead if you prefer.

Can I use a different protein?

Absolutely! This al pastor marinade works great on any type of meat or seafood (pork, beef, shrimp etc…) or even plant-based options like tofu, chickpeas or even veggies!

What if I can’t find guallijo chile powder?

It can be a bit tricky to come by which is why I typically order it online. However, regular chili powder will also work, it just won’t have the most authentic flavor. Still delicious though!

Can I grill the chicken?

Yes! I would recommend keeping your thighs whole or cutting into long strips when grilling. You’ll just remove chicken from marinade and place directly on the grill to cook for 5-10 minutes per side. Unfortunately you’ll need to discard the remaining marinade and pineapples. Alternatively you could place your chicken thighs and pineapple onto skewers and grill that way.

overhead of al pastor chicken tacos.

Storage Instructions

Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days. Reheat in microwave or bake on a sheet pan in the oven for roughly 10 minutes.

Freezer Tip

Can I freeze this recipe? Absolutely! Feel free to freeze the recipe in a freezer-safe bag or container BEFORE cooking. Simply thaw on counter or in fridge and then continue with cooking directions. Chicken al pastor will keep in the freezer for up to 3 months.

More Mexican-Inspired Recipes

More Chicken Recipes

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Chicken Al Pastor

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This Mexican-Inspired dish for Chicken Al Pastor features fresh chicken thighs marinated in a pineapple and spice blend for a juicy and succulent main dish. This protein-rich meal makes a delicious base for chicken al pastor tacos or simply topping onto a bed of your favorite veggies!

  • Author: Davida Lederle
  • Prep Time: 4 hours
  • Cook Time: 10 minutes
  • Total Time: 4 hours 10 minutes
  • Yield: 6 servings 1x
  • Category: Dinner
  • Method: Cook
  • Cuisine: Mexican
  • Diet: Gluten Free

Ingredients

Scale
  • 1 1/2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into thin strips
  • 1 cup pineapple, cut into small chunks
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, roughly chopped

For the al pastor marinade:

  • 2 tbsp adobo sauce (liquid from canned chipotles in adobo sauce)
  • 3 tbsp chipotles in adobe sauce (actual chipotles from the canned adobo sauce)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • juice, 1/2 lime
  • 2 tbsp Guajillo chile powder (or use regular chile powder)
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper

Instructions

  1. In a blender combine all al pastor marinade ingredients.
  2. Add chicken and pineapple to a large bowl or ziplock bag. Coat with al pastor marinade. Cover bowl or seal bag.
  3. Allow chicken to marinate in fridge for at least 4 hours or overnight in the fridge.
  4. Heat a large skillet or pan over medium-high heat.
  5. Add chicken, pineapple and all of marinade and cook for 7-10 minutes or until lightly browned on outside and cooked all the way through.
  6. Sprinkle with chopped cilantro.
  7. Serve immediately or store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.
al pastor chicken cooked in a large stainless steel pot.

Meet the Maven

Hi! I'm Davida and welcome to my corner of the internet. I'm a wellness blogger, yoga teacher, certified herbalist, and green beauty lover.

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3 Comments

  1. so it seems like this is the first time someone has tried your recipe. I am marinating it now. I did make a couple little tweeks just because I was lacking ingredients . it all sounded good, which drew my interest. it smells incredible though. I can’t wait to tell you how it went.