Seriously yummy and easy al pastor at home! Tender shredded pork chunks in the slow cooker, and a sweet and savory marinade (made in the blender!) that is absolutely delicious. This al pastor recipe is easier than making it on a spit, and can be used in tacos, burritos, or rice bowls. Top with some sour cream guacamole or peach salsa for even more fresh Mexican flavor!
Ok truly, HELLO to our newest favorite rice bowl. Let's talk al pastor!
When my kids were learning to appreciate the texture of meat, we found that pulled pork in almost all forms was an easy gateway for them. In the South we have an abundance of BBQ and Mexican restaurants, so this method for making al pastor in the slow cooker ended up feeling like a perfect mix of the two.
Recipe Notes and FAQ
If you've never had al pastor, think of it like this: boneless pork shoulder roast (or other pork roast cut) marinated in a SUPER delicious sweet and savory marinade. The meat gets crammed onto a spit, then cooked while rotating over a high heat source. The crispy edge bits get sliced off as they cook and are used in tacos, burritos, and all types of delicious meals.
Some traditional al pastor recipes use pineapple in the finished product, some don't. I love fruit with savory dishes, so my version has pineapple in it!
Al pastor is usually made with boneless pork roast - in American grocery stores called pork butt or pork shoulder. The meat is traditionally skewered onto a rotating spit and sliced from the edges as they cook and crisp up.
The short step by step version of the slow cooker al pastor recipe is this:
- Quickie marinade in the blender. This can be done in a double batch, freeze half for later!
- Pork chunks and marinade go into the slow cooker. NO BROWNING, no time for that.
- Slow cook that ish, add the fresh pineapple in the last 30 minutes or so.
- OPTIONAL, broil the cooked pork for some crispy bits, then serve the al pastor however you'd like. SO EASY.
- Boneless pork shoulder roast (sometimes called pork butt), cut into large chunks.
- 1 whole fresh pineapple, cut into bite-sized chunks. I save the core and use that for the marinade since it gets blended to totally smooth - no waste!
- Orange juice for flavor.
- Raw onion and garlic.
- Dry spices: chili powder, cumin, salt, and smoked paprika.
Step By Step Instructions
Super simple steps here! First, blend all the marinade ingredients until nice and smooth. You can taste this - the depth of flavor from the fruit and savory spices is really delicious!
The sauce/marinade can be made in advance be frozen for another time if you'd like to double the recipe and freeze half.
Next, place all the pork and all the marinade in the slow cooker. Stir once if needed to coat the pork in the sauce, and that's it!
Cook the pork on LOW for 6 hours or HIGH for 3 hours.
After that amount of time, check the pork. It should be tender but not mushy or falling apart.
Shred the pork chunks just a bit with forks, then add most of the pineapple to the slow cooker. I like to save some for topping rice bowls and tacos, but you can use all of the pineapple in the slow cooker if you prefer.
Cook the pineapple with the pork for 30 minutes more, then the al pastor is done!
Broil The Pork Before Serving
This is COMPLETELY OPTIONAL, but I like to broil the pork for 3 minutes or so to get some crispy bits right before serving. This is also the perfect way to heat up leftovers if you have any.
Again, this is completely optional, but crispy pork texture is definitely worth it if you have the time.
I love making this into slow cooker al pastor bowls (like the best burrito bowls you've ever had), but al pastor is delicious stuffed into quesadillas, burritos, or tacos. It's also VERY yummy served over nachos.
Here are some of my favorite toppings for this al pastor recipe, no matter how you serve it:
- Rice of choice: white rice, coconut rice, and red Mexican rice are all delicious with this pork.
- Crumbled cotija cheese
- Extra fresh pineapple with tajin sprinkled over top
- Fresh cilantro leaves
- Lime wedges
- Sour cream
- Black beans
- Chopped white onion
- Roasted or sauteed fajita veggies
- Guacamole or avocado chunks
The sky's the limit with this al pastor; it's delicious in so many ways!
Leftovers and Make Ahead
- Leftovers for this are delicious reheated in the microwave OR broiled just until they're hot and sizzly. I keep this in the fridge for about 4 days after I make it.
- Freezer: This doesn't freeze particularly well due to the pineapple. If you'd like to freeze the al pastor, you can skip the pineapple in the slow cooker and just freeze the meat until you'd like to thaw and serve it.
- Prep: The prep for this is fairly simple since there's no searing of the meat. You can make the marinade in advance and keep it in the fridge for up to a week, or in the freezer indefinitely. Having the marinade done makes a weekday morning really simple to get this started before work!
Now, by no means are we claiming that this is an authentic al pastor recipe. BUT, if you want a really yummy approximation at home, this is a fabulous place to start. I hope you love this when you try it!
Slow Cooker al Pastor
- 3-4 pounds boneless pork shoulder (or pork butt) cut into large chunks
- 1 whole pineapple cut into bite-sized pieces (see note)
- ½ cup orange juice
- ¼ onion cut into chunks
- 4 cloves garlic peeled
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 3 teaspoons kosher salt (or 2 teaspoons table salt)
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
- Marinade: In a blender, combine the orange juice, onion, garlic, chili powder, cumin, salt, smoked paprika, and one cup of the pineapple chunks (this is where I use up the core to avoid waste). Blend until very smooth.
- Cook: Cook the pork on HIGH for 3-4 hours or LOW for 5-7 hours, checking at the lower end of the time. The pork is done when it is fork tender but not mushy – this will depend on your slow cooker as well as the size and type of pork you use.
- Pineapple: Gently shred the pork into bite-sized pieces, then add most of the pineapple to the slow cooker. Cook for 30-45 minutes more to heat the pineapple through.
- Broil:(optional) For added texture, spoon some of the meat onto a sheet pan and broil until crispy at the edges right before serving.
- Serve over nachos, in tacos, or make burrito bowls with your favorite toppings. Enjoy!
- Pineapple: I often cut up my own pineapple, but this is a GREAT time to take some help from the store and purchase a pre-peeled/cored pineapple to save time. I use the core in the blended marinade to avoid waste – you never know it’s there.
- Pork: Since we are cutting up the pork, the cook time is a bit less on this recipe. If you are cooking this overnight, I recommend keeping the pork shoulder whole to avoid overcooking the meat, which can make it mushy and mealy.
- Meat Variations: This recipe can also be made with chicken (5-6 hours low) or beef (7-8 hours low) and is delicious both ways.
- Make In Advance: This pork is delicious made in advance, and can be freshened up from the fridge by broiling it quickly right before serving, and adding fresh toppings to a taco, burrito, or rice bowl for serving.