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Al pastor (from Spanish, "shepherd style"), also known as tacos al pastor, is a dish developed in central Mexico that is based on shawarma spit-grilled meat brought by Lebanese immigrants to Mexico.[1][2] Being derived from shawarma, it is also similar to the Turkish döner kebab and the Greek gyros. In contrast to döner kebab and shawarma however, tacos al pastor are pork based. In some places of northern Mexico, as in Baja California, this taco is called taco de adobada. A similar dish from Puebla with different spices is tacos árabes.[3]

Al pastor
Alpastor 2.jpg
A "trompo" of pastor meat
Place of originMexico
Serving temperatureWarm
Main ingredientsPork meat


A wave of Lebanese immigrants to Mexico, mainly Christians who did not have religious dietary restrictions on eating pork, arrived in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In the 1960s, Mexican-born progeny of these immigrants began opening their own restaurants and combining their heritage with Mexican cuisine.[4]


Pork is marinated in a combination of dried chilies, spices and pineapple. In some places, achiote is also added, and then slowly cooked with a gas flame on a vertical rotisserie called a trompo (lit: spinning top), very similar to how shawarma is cooked, with a piece of fresh onion and a pineapple on top.[5] When ready, the meat is then thinly sliced off the spit with a large knife. It is served on small tortillas, with finely chopped onions, cilantro, and occasionally a small slice of pineapple, and usually topped with some lemon or lime juice and hot salsa. This meat is a common ingredient in not just tacos, but also gringas, alambres, huaraches, tortas, burritos and pizza.


Plate of tacos al pastor.

In some places of northern Mexico, such as Nuevo León, Durango and Chihuahua, these are usually called tacos de trompo if served on corn tortillas, and gringas if they are served with cheese on flour tortillas.

A similar dish is called tacos árabes, which originated in Puebla in the 1930s from Arab Mexicans cuisine. Tacos árabes use shawarma-style meat carved from a spit, but are served in a pita-style bread called pan árabe. These tacos have been brought by Mexican immigrants to the United States in the past few years and have become popular in cities such as Chicago and Los Angeles, two of the largest Mexican/Mexican-American population centers in the United States.[6][failed verification]

A non-pork version featuring chicken marinated in the "al pastor" style was brought back to the Middle East in the early 2000s, and sold as "shawarma mexici". It is essentially a chicken shawarma made in the Middle Eastern style (wrapped with garlic mayonnaise, dill pickle, and french fries in a thin flatbread).

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ David Sterling, "The Lebanese Connection," Yucatan: A Culinary Expedition.
  2. ^ Watson, Katy (2 September 2015). "Sharwarma: Taco al pastor's ancestor". Retrieved 2019-03-08 – via
  3. ^ Peterson, Lucas (26 March 2015). "These Massive Tacos Árabes in Boyle Heights Pack a Punch". LA. Retrieved 2018-03-10.
  4. ^ "Thank the Ottoman Empire for the taco al pastor". Retrieved 8 August 2017.
  5. ^ "Wrap It Up: A Guide To Mexican Street Tacos - Part 2: Nighttime Tacos : Mexico Cuisine".
  6. ^ David Hammond, "Perfection on a Spit," Chicago Reader, November 8, 2007.