Yucatán-Style Al Pastor Tacos with Charred Recado Negro and Roasted Pineapple

Yucatán-Style Al Pastor Tacos with Charred Recado Negro and Roasted Pineapple
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About This Recipe

If you've ever journeyed down the narrow, vine-covered roads of Napa or Sonoma, you know it's not just about the wine. Here, the culinary artistry beautifully marries with the deep-rooted winemaking traditions. Today, let's indulge in a delightful fusion — the Yucatán-Style Al Pastor Tacos, where charred recado negro and roasted pineapple add a touch of Napa's love for grilling and blending flavors. The classic "el pastor" technique meets wine country's charm, and the results? Simply divine.

The story of the pastor taco is a tale of culinary migration. Inspired by Lebanese immigrants in Mexico, al pastor evolved from the shawarma spit-grilled meat technique. Here in Napa, home to many flavors, this dish gets a twist, drawing connections between the Yucatán peninsula and California's famed wine regions. The slow-marinated pastor meat, dancing with smoky spices, is reminiscent of the oak barrels and wine caves peppered throughout Napa Valley.

For any traveler or home chef interested in the Napa Valley scene, the al pastor taco offers a rich experience. Just like selecting the perfect grape for a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon, choosing the right cuts of meat, chilies, and spices can elevate this dish. As these tacos found their place in my kitchen and many others across wine country, they've proven to be a versatile centerpiece for a diverse menu.

Imagine starting with a fresh garden salad sprinkled with goat cheese from Sonoma's famed dairies, paired with a tangy vinaigrette. As you transition to the main course, the al pastor tacos become the showstopper. Serve it alongside charred asparagus or a light avocado and corn salad to enhance the experience.

Now, here's where Napa's expertise shines – wine pairings. For this spicy, aromatic taco, two wines stand out as impeccable partners.

Firstly, the Zinfandel. With origins tracing back to Croatia but finding its true home in California, the Zinfandel grape has become as Californian as the Pacific surf. Napa and Sonoma's versions of this wine, particularly those from Turley Wine Cellars in Napa and Ridge Vineyards in Sonoma, bring forth the necessary spice, fruit-forwardness, and peppery hints to complement the tacos' richness. The light tannins of this wine delicately cut through the pastor meat, enhancing its spices.

Next, we have the GSM blend – Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvèdre combined in a symphony. This blend embodies the body and intensity needed to match the tacos. The Syrah in this blend harmonizes with the smoky notes of the "el pastor" meat. For those eager to try a local GSM blend, make a pitstop at Tablas Creek Vineyard. Though not situated in Napa or Sonoma, their blends, available at many wine shops in the region, set the standard for Californian Rhône-style wines.

In a setting like the Californian wine country, the al pastor tacos represent more than just a dish. They stand as a symbol of culinary fusion, where traditions thousands of miles apart converse on a plate. If you ever find yourself winding through the picturesque routes of Napa or Sonoma, ensure you stop by a local taqueria or restaurant, like Oenotri in downtown Napa, which often fuses Californian ingredients with international flavors.

Lastly, for anyone venturing into the heart of California, remember – it's not just about the wine or food. It's about the fusion, the history, and the stories waiting to be told at every vineyard, kitchen, and dinner table. So, next time you savor a bite of that juicy al pastor taco, recall its journey from Yucatán to Napa and raise a toast to centuries of culinary and winemaking evolution. Cheers!

Hero Ingredient Spotlight: Recado Negro

Recado Negro, a culinary gem from the Yucatán peninsula, acts as the heart and soul of our Yucatán-Style Al Pastor Tacos. Derived from charred chilies, this dark and rich paste delivers an intense, smoky flavor profile with a touch of bitterness. While it’s a staple in Yucatán cuisine, the fusion of recado negro in Al Pastor Tacos harmoniously bridges the culinary art of Mexico with the grilled delights of Napa Valley. By introducing it into the Al Pastor method, it adds depth, accentuating the pork's natural flavors and pairing seamlessly with the charred sweetness of roasted pineapple.

How to Perfectly Char Your Pineapple Chunks

  1. Preheat the grill: Ensure your grill is cleaned and preheated to a medium-high temperature.
  2. Prep the pineapple: Peel and core your fresh pineapple. Cut it into even chunks, ensuring each piece isn’t too thin to avoid it falling through the grill grates.
  3. Grilling: Place the pineapple chunks directly on the grill. Leave them untouched for about 3-4 minutes or until you see distinct grill marks.
  4. Rotate and caramelization: Using tongs, gently flip each piece to grill the other side. As the sugars in the pineapple caramelize, they’ll acquire a delightful golden-brown color.
  5. Serve immediately: Once charred, remove from the grill and set aside. They’re best when served warm, providing a sweet contrast to the savory al pastor pork.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Can I substitute the pork shoulder? Yes, while pork shoulder provides tender results, you can use pork loin or boneless pork chops. Adjust cooking times as these cuts might cook faster.
  2. How can I store leftover marinated pork? Place the marinated pork in an airtight container and refrigerate. It’s best to use it within 2 days to ensure freshness.
  3. I'm allergic to pineapples. Any recommendations for a substitute? Mangoes make a great alternative! They offer a similar tropical sweetness and can also be charred on the grill.
  4. Which other tortillas can I use instead of corn tortillas? Flour tortillas or even whole wheat tortillas can work. However, corn tortillas provide a more traditional taste and texture.
  5. Can I prepare the recado negro marinade in advance? Absolutely! You can make the marinade a day in advance and store it in the refrigerator. This might even enhance the flavors as they meld together.

Tips for Success

  1. Marination is key: For best results, marinate the pork for at least 2 hours or overnight. This allows the recado negro to penetrate the meat, infusing it with deep flavors.
  2. Grill management: Ensure even cooking by not overcrowding the grill. This allows for consistent heat and ensures the perfect char on both the pork and pineapple.
  3. Serving style: These tacos are all about freshness. Always serve immediately after assembling to enjoy the interplay of warm meat and toppings with the coolness of fresh cilantro and lime.

By incorporating these elements into your cooking process, your Yucatán-Style Al Pastor Tacos will not only pay homage to their roots but also elevate them to a gourmet dish reminiscent of Napa Valley's finest culinary offerings. Happy cooking!

Recipe Overview

Yucatán-Style Al Pastor Tacos with Charred Recado Negro and Roasted Pineapple
Lily Anderson
8 servings
Calories Per Serving:
Prep Time:
Cook Time:
Total Time:

Ingredients List


  • 2 lbs pork shoulder, thinly sliced
  • 2 cups fresh pineapple chunks
  • 4 dried ancho chilies, seeded and stemmed
  • 2 dried chipotle chilies, seeded and stemmed
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tsp oregano (preferably Mexican)
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp black peppercorns
  • 1/2 tsp cloves
  • Salt to taste
  • 8 small corn tortillas
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped white onion
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 2 limes, cut into wedges

Step-by-Step Directions

  1. Preparation of Recado Negro: In a dry skillet over medium heat, toast the ancho and chipotle chilies until fragrant, but not burnt (approximately 1-2 minutes per side). Transfer to a bowl and cover with boiling water, letting them soften for about 15 minutes. Drain and transfer to a blender.
  2. Add garlic, apple cider vinegar, oregano, cumin, peppercorns, cloves, and salt to the blender. Blend until a smooth paste forms. This is your recado negro marinade.
  3. In a large bowl, toss the pork slices with the recado negro marinade, ensuring each piece is well-coated. Let marinate for at least 1 hour, preferably 2 hours.
  4. Preheat a grill to medium-high heat. Grill the marinated pork until charred and cooked through, about 5-7 minutes per side. At the same time, grill the pineapple chunks until they are slightly charred and caramelized.
  5. Once cooked, let the pork rest for a few minutes, then chop into bite-sized pieces.
  6. Warm the tortillas on the grill, about 30 seconds per side.
  7. Assemble tacos by placing some pork on each tortilla, followed by roasted pineapple, onion, and cilantro. Serve with lime wedges on the side.

Share Your Results

Was it everything you dreamed it could be? Let me know how it turned out for you and share a picture on social media with the hashtag #LilyCooksNapa

Hello and welcome to Napa Home Chef! We're thrilled you're joining us to explore the vibrant world of wine country cooking. Our team has crafted bold, creative recipes inspired by Napa Valley's lush landscapes, bountiful harvests, and world-renowned wines. We hope you enjoy the journey with us!

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