It doesn't get any more authentic than this, friends. A traditional tacos al pastor recipe made easy, vegan, and absolutely delicious.
Picture meat-free tacos flavored with spicy guajillo chilies, achiote paste, and fresh pineapple. You won't believe your eyes until you try one!
We made a traditional Mexican taco recipe plant-based because we think everyone should be able to enjoy this mind-blowing flavor combo!
Dried chili peppers, Mexican spices, and ripe pineapple shine through in a marinade that is not short on taste.
What does tacos al pastor mean?
Tacos al pastor translates to something like "tacos in the style of the shepherd" or "shepherd-style tacos."
When Lebanese immigrants came to Mexico, they brought with them the idea of Shwarma. This evolved into modern-day tacos al pastor, which are now well-known all across the country.
In the non-vegan version, pork is spit-roasted and marinated with guajillo chiles and achiote, then served on warm corn tortillas. But, who needs meat when you can easily replace it with textured soy protein?!
The marinade absorbs super well into the soy protein, and it ends up tasting incredibly sweet, spicy, and tangy (drool).
For the absolute best taste, homemade corn tortillas are a must! Trust us, they make a world of difference.
Finish off your tacos with diced onion, fresh pineapple, and cilantro to tie it all together.
We also recommend serving your tacos with a refreshing glass of agua de Jamaica to help tame the spice!
Alright, now you know where tacos al pastor come from, how they taste, and what to top them with.
Next comes the fun part — eating!
🍲 Key ingredients
For a complete ingredient list and step-by-step guide, scroll down to our recipe card.
Textured vegetable protein (TVP)
Taste: also known as textured soy protein, TVP is derived from soy flour. It has a mild bean flavor but takes on the flavor of marinades extremely well! You can see why it's perfect in these tacos.
Health: TVP is a complete protein, meaning it contains all 9 essential amino acids. It's a great meat replacement for vegetarians and vegans alike. In a ¼ cup (dry), there are 12 grams of protein, 4 grams of fiber, and 15% of your daily iron needs.
Where to buy: you can find TVP in the bulk section of most health food stores. It's also available to buy online if you can't find any in person.
Taste: achiote goes by many names like annatto, roucou, achuete, or urucul. It's made from red seeds of the annatto tree and has an earthy, peppery flavor with a subtle bitterness. Achiote paste is often combined with other spices, which can further change the flavor. In this recipe, achiote creates a beautiful red hue and provides the classic tacos al pastor flavor.
Where to buy: you can find achiote either in the Latin section of larger supermarkets or online. We usually opt for the paste since it's readily available in our area, but it's also available in powdered form.
Taste: as the dried form of mirasol chilies, guajillo chilies provide a sweet and slightly jammy flavor to recipes. They appear reddish-brown in color and are about 3-4 inches long. These peppers come in at 2500-5000 Scoville Heat Units, which means mild to moderately hot.
Fun fact: there are over 150 varieties of chili peppers available in Mexico. Don't go thinking they're only for adding spice to dishes. These peppers create very unique and complex flavors. And to make things even more interesting, there are tons of different ways to dry and prepare the same pepper!
Taste: ripe pineapple has a very sweet, tropical flavor (kind of like a mix between apples and citrus fruit). Pineapple is a traditional ingredient used in this marinade, so it can't be skipped. The sweetness balances out the spicy chilies and makes these tacos irresistible!
Health: pineapple contains many antioxidants, which are necessary to keep our bodies healthy. In addition, pineapple contains a special group of digestive enzymes called bromelain. These enzymes help break down amino acids, making them easier to digest!
If you have questions about his recipe, don't forget to check out our FAQ section at the bottom of this post.
Step 1: bring about 4 cups of water to boil in a kettle (enough to cover the TVP). Then, add the TVP and hot water to a mixing bowl. Cover and set aside while you prepare the marinade.
Step 2: remove the stems and de-seed your guajillo and chipotle chilies. Toast those bad boys in a skillet over medium-low for 3-5 minutes. Make sure to turn them frequently to prevent burning (never a fun thing).
Step 3: cover the toasted chilies with water and bring to a low boil. Once the water is boiling, lower the heat to simmer until the peppers are soft.
Step 4: add the softened chilies to a blender with the pineapple juice, vinegar, garlic, onion, cumin, Mexican oregano, cloves, achiote paste, and salt. Blend on high until nice and smooth.
Step 5: transfer your re-hydrated TVP to a strainer to get rid of the excess water (make sure to squeeze it out thoroughly!). Add the TVP to a large container or freezer bag with the marinade over top.
Step 6: stir the mixture quite well to ensure the TVP evenly soaks in the marinade. Place it in your fridge to marinate for at least 2-4 hours, but preferably overnight.
Step 7: drain the excess marinade off the TVP and preheat 1-2 tbsp of neutral oil in a large skillet over medium. Add in the TVP and fry, stirring occasionally until it's hot and appears slightly matte.
Side note: you will have to use two large skillets or cook two batches for this amount of TVP.
Fridge: cooked TVP can be kept in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-4 days.
Reheat: we eat this recipe cold the next day or heat it up in a skillet over low-medium. Feel free to use the microwave in 10-15 second bursts, or until fully heated.
Separating ingredients: this shouldn't come as a surprise, but don't store the corn tortillas with toppings on them. Refer to our corn tortilla post for their storage instructions.
💭 Pro tips
Time to share our tips and tricks we learned while perfecting this recipe for you:
- Make sure to marinate the TVP for at least 2 hours. The longer you let it sit, the more flavor you'll end up with.
- Always make corn tortillas from scratch. We promise they're super easy!
- Make your own pineapple juice in a blender rather than buying it in the store.
- If you want to get more creative with toppings, try grilling your pineapple.
- Always serve these with your favorite salsa (like salsa roja).
🍴 Tasting notes
We could eat these tacos morning, noon, and night (and we do). They're:
If you try this recipe, please rate it and leave us a comment below! Want to stay up-to-date with new recipes? Subscribe to our newsletter or connect with Broke Bank Vegan on social media. Happy eating!
Tacos Al Pastor Recipe
- Mixing bowl
- Large skillet
- Container or freezer bags
- Chef knife
- Cutting board
- 3 cups dry TVP ($0.54)
- 3 dried guajillo chilies ($0.12)
- 2 dried chipotle chilies ($0.08)
- 1 ½ cups pineapple juice ($0.57)
- ½ cup white vinegar ($0.08)
- 4 cloves garlic ($0.16)
- ½ medium white onion, chopped ($0.09)
- 1 tsp cumin ($0.01)
- 1 ½ tsp Mexican oregano ($0.05)
- ⅛ tsp cloves ($0.01)
- 2 oz achiote paste ($0.56)
- 1 ½ tsp salt ($0.02)
- 18 fresh corn tortillas ($0.36)
- ½ medium white onion, finely diced ($0.09)
- ¼ fresh pineapple, cubed ($0.57)
- 1 cup chopped cilantro ($0.24)
- Lime wedges optional
- Salsa of choice optional
- To begin, bring about 4 cups of water to boil in a kettle. Then, add the textured vegetable protein (TVP) and hot water to a mixing bowl and cover. Set that aside while you prepare the marinade.
- To start your marinade, remove the stem and seeds from the chilies. Then, toast them in a skillet over medium-low for 3-5 minutes. Make sure to turn your chilies frequently to prevent burning.
- Next, cover them with water and bring to a low boil. Once the water is boiling, lower the heat to simmer for about 12-15 minutes, or until the peppers are softened.
- Once the chilies are ready, add them to a blender with the pineapple juice, vinegar, garlic, onion, cumin, Mexican oregano, cloves, achiote paste, and salt. Blend until smooth.
- Next, transfer your re-hydrated TVP to a strainer to get rid of the excess water (make sure to squeeze it out thoroughly!). Add the TVP to a large container or freezer bag with the marinade over top.
- Stir the mixture quite well to ensure the TVP evenly soaks in the marinade. Cover and transfer to your fridge to marinate for at least 2-4 hours, but preferably overnight.
- When you're ready to eat, drain the excess marinade off the TVP and preheat 1-2 tbsp of neutral oil in a large skillet over medium. Add in the TVP and fry, stirring occasionally until it's hot and appears slightly matte.
- Note: you will have to use two large skillets or cook two batches for this amount of TVP.
- If you aren't able to find achiote paste or powder, use paprika as a substitute.
- Making your own pineapple juice tastes best! We usually blend up fresh pineapple chunks to use in our marinade.
- We don't find it necessary to drain the pineapple juice from the pulp. That's where all the fiber is, plus it's more cost-effective!
- If you can't find Mexican oregano, the closest sub is marjoram.
- Optional ingredients are not reflected in the price or calories of our recipes.
- We calculate nutritional information for our recipes with Cronometer.
- Recipe cost calculations are based on ingredients local to us and may vary from recipe-to-recipe.
- All prices are in USD.
♻️ Similar recipes
If you love Mexican food, check out our:
- Crispy black bean tacos for a simple recipe that pairs perfectly with avocado cream sauce.
- Authentic black bean soup to try a cheap soup that doesn't skimp on taste!
- Sweet potato and black bean quesadillas for an easy recipe that's totally customizable.
- Easy sopes if you want all the things tacos have to offer, but on a thick corn cake.
If you want the best flavor, you should marinate the TVP. It softens in texture and better takes on the color and taste of the seasonings. If you really don't have the time, it still works without marinating.
If you can't find TVP, use soy curls for the best substitute in this recipe.
If you can't find dried chilies, you can use ancho chili powder as a good replacement. It will emulate guajillo chili flavor the best.
The complex flavor in this recipe is due in large part to the achiote paste, so it shouldn't be missed. If you absolutely can't find it, substitute with paprika for a similar flavor and color.
TVP and soy curls are not the same thing. They are processed differently, but both can work in this recipe.
We don't recommend using tofu as a replacement for TVP if you have access to both. The texture will be too soft. But if you can't find TVP, pressed tofu still makes a good taco filler.