Al pastor blends the Lebanese technique for making shawarma with Mexican cuisine—chilies, pork, and pineapple. Traditionally, marinaded pork is grilled on a vertical spit, thinly sliced, and served on tacos, burritos, gringas, tortas and more.
For this recipe, there had to be some creativity involved, because there isn’t anything in the vegan world (as of the writing of this post) that can perfectly recapture pork grilling on a vertical spit. This recipe is not meant to be an exact replica of traditional al pastor. Nevertheless, this recipe takes inspiration from the central Mexican favorite and produces a delicious vegan meal that is smoky, savory, sweet, and spicy!
If you don’t have a high speed blender, you can still make this recipe. Pour the sauce through a sieve before adding it back to the pot. This will strain out any bits of food that did not get completely pulverized in the blender. For the pineapple juice required, I used the pineapple juice from the can of pineapple chunks. No waste! To get the 1/2 cup of orange juice, I squeezed two oranges, instead of buying an entire jug of orange juice. If you’d prefer an even spicier recipe, leave the seeds in the guajillo chili peppers and/or add another chipotle pepper in adobo sauce to the blender. And for a variation, try using shredded young jackfruit, instead of soy curls.
There are two methods for cooking vegan al pastor. My favorite is the grilling method, which adds smoke, a bit of a char and a nice crispy finish to some of the soy curls. If you don’t have access to a grill, broiling it in your oven will add some of the char, crispness and between the smoked paprika and chipotle pepper(s) you should still have some smoke built into the recipe.
No matter how you cook them, soy curls do not have fat, like pork does. Whether grilling or broiling, fat will need to be added by drizzling some oil on them. This will help the curls crisp up and keep in some of the moisture. Be careful not to overcook soy curls. If cooked too long and not kept moist enough, soy curls can get dry and a bit hard. With this in mind, it’s best to cook them right before you want to serve them, and it’s best to eat them right away.
Serve this recipe in burritos, tacos, huaraches, tortas and more! Top with cilantro, pineapple chunks and onions.
Vegan Al Pastor
1 cup red onion, chopped
5 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
6 Tbsp canola oil
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp achiote (or annatto), optional
½ tsp dried oregano
½ tsp onion powder
½ cup orange juice
½ cup pineapple juice
¼ cup lime juice
2 cubes fake chicken bouillon (I used Edward & Sons Not-Chick’n Bouillon)
2 cups water
1 20 ounce can of pineapple chunks in pineapple juice, drained
1 8 ounce package of soy curls, reconstituted in water, drained and then, completely squeezed out
Chopped red onions
Crumbled vegan cheese, optional (I used a negligible amount of Follow Your Heart Mozzarella Shreds on one taco..ha!)
1. In a large heavy pot or dutch oven, add onion, garlic, 2 Tbsp canola oil and a pinch of salt. Sauté over medium heat for 7 minutes or until onions are translucent. Add smoked paprika, ground cumin, achiote (if using), dried oregano and onion powder. Mix well. Sauté another minute.
2. Add orange juice, pineapple juice, lime juice, water, bouillon cubes, and the guajillo chilies. Bring to a boil, turn heat down to low, cover and simmer for 20 minutes.
3. Add the chipotle pepper and the contents of the pot to a high speed blender. Blend until completely smooth. Taste and make adjustments, if needed (another chipotle pepper?).
4. Pour the sauce back into the large pot and add the soy curls. Mix until the soy curls are completely coated. Then, allow the soy curls to sit for, at least, 15 minutes. This will allow them to soak up some of the marinade and make them more flavorful.
5. While you are waiting on the soy curls to soak up the marinade, line a sheet pan with non-stick aluminum foil and spread 2 Tbsp canola oil over it. Get your grill heating up to between 400º – 450º F. Or set your oven to BROIL.
6. Using a slotted spoon, drain off the soy curls a little bit on the side of the pot, and then, spoon over the lined sheet pan in a single layer. It’ll be a little saucy, but you should still be able to see the foil peeking through (see photo above). As the soy curls cook, the liquid from the sauce will evaporate a bit. Drizzle the last 2 Tbsp of canola oil over the top of the soy curls, and then, add 1/2 of the pineapple chunks on top.
7. TO GRILL: Using a gas grill, put it on HIGH (~400º-450º F) and grill for ~7-10 minutes and then, check on it. Stir and flip it. Return to the grill for another 5-7 minutes or until charred to your preference level. Remove from grill. TO BROIL: BROIL for 5 minutes, or until crisped to your preference level. Keep a very close eye on it to make sure it crisps and slightly chars, but does not burn. Remove it from the oven. Stir it around a bit, return it to the oven, keep an eye on it and remove it when it looks perfect to you.
8. Serve immediately on tortillas topped with pineapple chunks (fresh and/or grilled), fresh cilantro, red onions, crumbled vegan cheese (if using), and lime wedges on the side. Enjoy on burritos, tacos, tortas, huaraches, and more!