Chicken Thigh Al Pastor

Today is a day that everyone in the states thinks is a big holiday in Mexico, but isn’t really. Mostly we think that because lots of companies want to sell us tequila and corn chips and avocados and more tequila.  Regardless of that, it’s also Tuesday, and a quarantimes Tuesday at that.   So, it’s Taco Tuesday  – a good day to make some tacos at home.


I don’t need it to be Tuesday in order to enjoy tacos. I can enjoy tacos pretty much any evening, afternoon, night, even morning for that matter. Tacos are pretty great.  Always. Even bad tacos – you know, the orangeish hard shell with ground beef and shredded lettuce and orange cheese and something that’s called salsa but really tastes like ketchup – those bad tacos. Let’s be honest. Even they’re pretty good.

These aren’t those tacos. These are good tacos.  I’ve already posted one good (and pretty easy) taco recipe on this site – it also takes less time, so if you’re rushing to make them tonight, check out the Chicken Tinga Tacos.  This recipe is a little more complex and calls for one ingredient that you may not have lying around and an overnight marinade.  


This is my best attempt to make Al Pastor. traditionally made with pork and slow cooked on a vertical spit  the meat is  marinated in a flavorful mixture of achiote, sour orange juice, and chilies, then cut off the spit and grilled for an incredibly flavorful, tender filling with a nice char.

Here, obviously, we’re going to replace the pork with chicken thighs, and unless you happen to have a gyro/donner/kabab shop style spit lying around, we’ll use a grill and a skillet to get the same effect.   The thighs spend the night in the same spicy sour marinade as the pork would, then are grilled to cook through.  Finally, we’ll chop the chicken into small pieces, and quickly sear with some onions an pineapple to get a nice crisp finish and a lot of flavor.

Chicken Thigh Al Pastor

Recipe by DrewCourse: MainCuisine: MexicanDifficulty: Medium


Prep time


Cooking time





Chicken Thigh Al Pastor Tacos!


  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs

  • 4 cloves garlic, minced

  • ½ cup orange juice*

  • 2 oz lime juice*

  • 2 tbsp olive oil

  • 1 tsp chipotle chili powder

  • 1 tsp ground cumin

  • 1 tsp chopped fresh oregano

  • 1 tsp salt

  • 1 tsp achiote paste*

  • 1 small pineapple, peeled, cored, and cut into large, thin wedges

  • 1 large white onion


  • In a non-reactive bowl, mix orange juice, lime juice, 1 tbsp of the olive, cumin, chili powder, salt, garlic, and achiote paste. Add the chicken. Cover, and marinate overnight in the refrigerator.
  • Grill chicken thighs over high heat for about 6 minutes per side or until chicken is cooked through and has reached an internal temperature of 165°. Set aside and allow to cool.
  • Grill the onions and pineapple until lightly charred on one side.
  • Once the chicken has cooled, chop it into roughly ½-inch pieces. Chop the onion and pineapple into larger (1-inch) pieces.
  • Preheat a cast iron skillet over very high heat. Brush with oil and working in batches so as not to crowd the pan, quickly sear the chicken, pineapple, and onions together.
  • Serve on warm soft corn tortillas with smoky salsa chopped cilantro, crema, and lime wedges.


  • If you have access to sour or seville oranges, you can substitute the juice for the orange juice and lime juice.
  • Achiote paste is available at better international markets and online.

Be sure to check out my other food project, The Weekly Menu!

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