Slow Cooker Al Pastor Recipe

Al pastor may be a popular taco truck pick these days, but this dish's history goes way back. This particular preparation originated in Mexico in the 1930s by Lebanese immigrants. Although "al pastor" means shepherd-style, "al porquero" (swineherd-style) would be a more accurate descriptor of the dish we know today, as the meat typically used is pork. It's less clear how pineapple made its way in as a popular accompaniment, but we're very glad they did since the tangy-sweet fruit pairs so nicely with pork.

Authentic al pastor meat, like shawarma, is meant to be cooked on a spit, but most home cooks lack the necessary accoutrements for such a task. Here, recipe developer Christina Musgrave prefers to use a slow cooker to prepare her take on the dish. She says it's a recipe that's "great for the whole family" and solo diners alike. If the amount given here is too much to eat in a few days, you can always freeze it for later use. It's just as good atop a rice bowl as it is in a tortilla.

Gather the necessary ingredients for this al pastor pork

The main ingredient for the al pastor pork is pork, of course -– specifically pork shoulder or Boston butt. You will also need a pineapple, an onion, a few cloves of garlic, a can of chipotles in adobo, chicken stock, and apple cider vinegar. 

You are also going to need a few dry spices to flavor the pork: salt, oregano, cumin, garlic powder, and chipotle powder. To garnish the cooked meat, you might want some cilantro and a couple of limes, and you should also have some tortillas on hand if you want to make it into tacos.

Prepare the pineapple

The first step in making the al pastor pork involves peeling the pineapple, and Musgrave notes that you will need to set aside 3 to 4 strips of peel, each approximately 2 inches wide. She then says to cut the pineapple in half width-wise. You will want to core these halves, then chop one half into chunks about ½ inch in size. The other half you'll slice into ¼-inch rings.

So why do you want that pineapple peel, anyway? Musgrave says this ingredient "helps release even more pineapple flavor and juices as the pork cooks." Plus, using up scraps like this helps reduce food waste, which is always a plus.

Season the pork

Combine all of the dry spices (the salt, oregano, cumin, garlic, and chipotle powder). Chop the pork into chunks about 2 inches in size. Put the pork right into the slow cooker and sprinkle the meat with the seasoning.

Slow-cook the pork

Pour the stock and vinegar into the pot, adding the pineapple chunks, canned chipotles (along with all of the adobo), onion, and garlic. Drop the pineapple peels on top, cut sides down. If you want your meal in a (relative) hurry, set the dial for high and cook the meal for 5 to 5 ½ hours. If, on the other hand, you plan to be out of the house, asleep, or otherwise occupied while the al pastor pork cooks, you may wish to set the slow cooker on low and plan on the meat taking about 10 hours. At any rate, you'll know it's done when you can easily shred the meat with a fork.

Once the pork is cooked, shredding it is exactly what you'll need to do (traditional al pastor is sliced or diced, but this slow-cook method yields pork that's perfect for pulling into shreds). Musgrave likes to eat her shredded al pastor-style pork wrapped in tortillas, garnishing her tacos with cilantro, sliced pineapple, and lime wedges. Should you want thematically-appropriate side dishes, she suggests that "Mexican street corn, Mexican rice, beans, and chips and guac are all delicious pairings with this recipe."

Slow Cooker Al Pastor Recipe
4.8 from 142 ratings
Combine spiced pork, pineapple, and simple aromatics in your slow cooker for the perfect (and easiest) al pastor.
Prep Time
20
minutes
Cook Time
5.5
hours
Servings
10
Servings
pork and pineapple on tortilla
Total time: 5.83 hours
Ingredients
  • 1 pineapple
  • 2 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon chipotle powder
  • 3 ½ pounds pork shoulder or Boston butt, cut into 2-inch chunks
  • 1 ½ cup chicken stock
  • ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 (7-ounce) can chipotles in adobo
  • 1 small white onion, quartered
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
Optional Ingredients
  • 12 corn tortillas, for serving
  • 1 cup chopped cilantro, for serving
  • 2 limes cut into wedges, for serving
Directions
  1. Peel the pineapple, reserving 3 to 4 strips of the peel, each about 2 inches in width.
  2. Cut the pineapple in half width-wise. Core the pineapple halves, then chop one half into ½-inch chunks. Slice the remaining half into ¼-inch rounds.
  3. Mix the dry spices together.
  4. Place the pork in the crock pot and sprinkle it with the spice mix.
  5. Add the pineapple chunks, canned chipotles, onion, garlic, stock, and vinegar. Top everything with the pineapple peels (cut-side down).
  6. Set the slow cooker to high and cook the meat for 5 to 5 ½ hours (or on low for 10 hours), until the meat can easily be shredded with a fork.
  7. Shred the meat. Serve with tortillas, sliced pineapple, cilantro, lime wedges, and any other desired accompaniments.
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