Adobada vs. Al Pastor – What’s the Difference?

Carne Adobada and Al Pastor are very popular fillings in the United States and Mexico for tacos. But what is the Adobada vs. Al Pastor difference? Both these names refer to a piece of pork. This pork is marinated, usually in a mix of vinegar, chiles, and some other spices. Although they are very tasty, they are not the same.

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Al Pastor usually means pork that is marinated and cooked on a trompo, which is a vertical spit. The similarity in Adobada vs. pastor is that Adobada is marinated in the same ingredients as pastor. However, the difference is that the ingredients are braised on a stove or cooked on a grill.

Let’s dig a bit deeper.


What is Mexican Adobada?

In Spanish, this word means marinated. It refers to a marinade of specific red chiles, oregano, vinegar, and other spices. In most cases, you will notice that the similarity with al pastor is uncanny. In some cases, they are completely identical, with the only difference being the cooking method. Most of the recipes available for Adobadaare for home preparation.

What kind of meat is Adobada?

Most of the popular recipes make use of pork shoulder. It is preferred mostly because it has high levels of fat. If you are grilling, you should use pork that is sliced into thin pieces. If braising, you should use chunks.

You should toast chiles like ancho and guajillo and soak them in some hot water until they are soft. You should then blend them with some oregano and vinegar so that they result in a fine paste. The next step is to rub this paste over the pork meat, making sure to cover the entire meat, then allow it to marinate for a couple of hours. You can then simmer it inside a pot on a stove or grill it over a charcoal fire.

You can then serve them with corn tortillas or as tacos. You can accompany them with some beans and rice.

To find a good grill check out the recommendations of the experts at Grill Smoke Love.

Is Adobada spicy?

Adobada is not as spicy as you would expect. However, the level of heat may change depending on the chiles used. Most adobada are made using guajillo chiles. Most people consider these as fairly mild and not extremely spicy. If spicy food is not your thing, you can consider going for another type of dish.

Al Pastor

Al pastor is easily recognizable in restaurants and street carts. It is an amazing Mexican dish, which makes use of pineapples that grow all around Mexico. Most of the traditional recipes required that you cook it over a spit. However, the recipe has grown and has changed to allow for home cooking over a stove. If you can access an outdoor grill, we recommend that you go for it instead.

This dish involves the margination of pork that is sliced into thin pieces in a tangy and sweet sauce based on pineapples. You can simply control the level of heat in the taco meat by altering the number of chipotle chile peppers you add. Since chipotles are simply smoked jalapenos, you can expect some spice. It has medium heat that is going for mild heat.


Related: Can you Freeze Corn Tortillas?

What does Al Pastor mean in English?

A direct translation of Pastor is Shepherd. Therefore, in English, you would call them Shepherd Tacos.

Why is it called Al Pastor?

Al Pastor originates from the central part of Mexico. Surprisingly, its roots are traced to Lebanon, way back in the 1900s. Many Lebanese people immigrated to parts of Mexico and they came with a very rich culture. Among their rich cultures was a tradition of roasting meat that is on a vertical spit. As time went by, the Mexican shepherds would adopt this method and they started preparing their meat in this way. They would prepare marinated strips of pork on the same kinds of vertical spits. This method then became al pastor, which translates to shepherd style.

Which meat cut is best for Al Pastor?

The most efficient type of meat to use is a cut of pork shoulder that is thinly sliced. This is a popular and loved pork cut and it is the reason why people love Al Pastor this much. However, that is not the only cut of meat you can use. You can also choose to use pork loin or pork sirloin. But you have to be careful because these two cuts tend to be leaner compared to pork shoulder, which means that they have a higher chance of drying out.

What does pastor taste like?

If you have never tried this one out, you are in for a treat. This is a very delicious dish. All the trouble you would go through when making it is worth it. A single bite and you will be hooked. The secret to the perfect flavor is in the marinade. They usually have a distinct flavor that you have to achieve for the best taste.

One of the main Adobada vs. al pastor differences is that you have to include some pineapple juice in the marinade used and add fresh grilled pineapple pieces inside the tacos. This flavor combination will be extremely off the charts.

This is usually the step where the meat is piled on each other and placed on the trompo so that it cooks slowly when it spins. If you do not have a trompo, like most of us, you can grill the meat and stack these pieces on each other before you cut. But you will need to grill the pork well, making sure that it forms some grill marks and it cooks completely.

Is al pastor bad for you?

No. Al pastor is an amazing dish that you should enjoy with family and friends whenever you have the chance.


We have gone through the Adobada vs. pastor difference and one thing that we agree on is that they are delicious meals that are worth all the time they take to prepare. You must follow the directions on the recipe well for the best results. Have fun enjoying this traditional meal.

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Feel free to share your observations with me in the comments section!

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2 thoughts on “Adobada vs. Al Pastor – What’s the Difference?”

  1. Hello, I enjoyed that at least one article exists on the internet about this, and that it’s a very organized report!!
    But I have to say it is common to see vertical trompos of adobada in Mexico, so this comparison doesn’t quite work.

    Also, NO mention of achiote, the CRITICAL DIFFERENCE of Adobada and Al Pastor. This article sounds like it was informed from research from a region that doesn’t have adobada in the culture.

    • You are right that achiote is one of the main spices that you use in making al pastor. We appreciate that you think the report is well organized.


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