Al Pastor and Adobada are taco fillings, popular in the United States and in Mexico.
The two are both made from pork which has been marinated in vinegar, chili, and other spices, and although they share some similarities, they are definitely not the same thing.
What is the difference between Adobada and Al pastor? Both Adobada and Al pastor are pork that is marinated in certain spices and ingredients. The difference between the two is marked by how they’re cooked. Al pastor is cooked on a vertical split, or a trompo, and Adobada is slow-cooked on a grill.
If the two confuse you, or if you want to get to know Mexican cuisine a little better, keep reading to check out all of the differences between Adobada and Al pastor!
All About Adobada
Mexican Adobada is a filling traditionally used for tacos. Pork is marinated in a blend of red chilies, vinegar, oregano, and other spices. Once it has been left to marinade, the meat is then cooked on a grill in flatter pieces.
The marinade used is often very thick and very flavorful and needs to be chili-based. The meat is cooked and wrapped in foil on low heat in the oven, slow-cooked to make sure it is tender.
Alternatively, it can be cooked directly on the grill or in a hot pan. The pan being very hot means that the meat develops a charred, crisp outside, while the inside is succulent and juicy.
This makes for the most delicious taco filling, with the meat being filled into a taco along with minced onion, cilantro, and some lime juice.
Some people leave the meat to marinate for up to 5 days, which ensures that it takes in as much of the flavor as possible and that it is juicy and moist when cooked.
The vinegar also helps to break down the meat to ensure that it is not tough and is soft and tender when it is cooked and then eaten.
What Meat Is Used?
When making Adobada, pork shoulder is most commonly used. This is because it has a high fat level which means the meat is juicy and flavorful.
However, the meat used also depends on how the Adobada is being cooked.
For example, if the meat is being grilled, then it should be a cut that can be cut down into thin slices. If you are braising the meat, then pork chunks are better.
Thicker cuts of pork should be left to marinate for a little bit longer, just to ensure it properly absorbs all the flavor and juices before cooking.
How Is the Marinade Made?
The marinade for Adobada is very specific and has simple ingredients that need to be prepared properly.
Traditionally, a mix of chilies should be toasted. These could be ancho and guajillo, or whatever you prefer or have available, but mostly red chilies are used.
Once these have been toasted, they should then be soaked in hot water until they are soft.
After this, the chilies are then blended with vinegar, oregano, and maybe a few other spices, to create a fine, thick paste. This paste is then rubbed onto the meat, covering it all. It can be left for a few hours up to a few days.
Is Adobada Very Spicy?
Adobada is considered to be a spicy dish, but this does depend on the chilies that are used. Milder chilies can be used to make a milder marinade, or you can go big and use very spicy chilies for a very spicy dish.
Most commonly, Adobada is made using guajillo chilies, which are not too hot and can be mild.
How Is Adobada Cooked?
Adobada can be cooked in a few different ways. Most often the meat is covered in foil and baked at low heat, or the meat is sliced thin and cooked on the grill.
There are many variations of the recipe that are adapted for it to be cooked at home, where the meat can be cooked on a very hot pan. How you cook the Adobada depends on the cut of meat you have.
What Is Adobada Served With?
Adobada is most often sliced or broken into small pieces and served with corn tortillas. You can then top this with your favorite ingredients such as red onion and cilantro, or whatever you prefer to have on your tacos.
It is also a good idea to serve Adobada with a side of rice and beans if you want a hardier meal. The meat and the marinade lend themselves well to many different meals, but most commonly it is served as a filling for a taco!
All About Al Pastor
Al pastor is a very popular meat, and the way that it is prepared is very easily recognized in restaurants or food carts.
This meat makes use of pineapples which are abundant in Mexico. It is traditionally cooked on a spit, but it can also be cooked on the stove if you wanted to make it at home.
Meat is sliced into thin pieces and marinated in a sauce made with pineapples and chipotle peppers. These meat slices are then layered on top of each other on a skewer, and cooked on a grill this way.
Al pastor originated in Mexico, and the name Al pastor translates to ‘shepherd style’, as shepherds started preparing their meat in this way, by marinating strips of pork and cooking it on vertical spits.
You can definitely cook al pastor at home, but it is a dish that is very popular in Mexican restaurants and in food carts, often served in a tortilla with some added toppings.
It is important that the marinade for al pastor is done correctly, and that pineapple is used to give it a sweet and tangy flavor.
What Meat Is Used?
Al pastor is mostly always made with pork, and the traditional way is to make it with pork alone.
The best cut of pork to use is pork shoulder, as it is tender and full of flavor, and it can be sliced thinly to layer onto the vertical skewer.
There are other cuts of meat that you can use to make al pastor though, and it depends on what is available and what cut you prefer. Pork loin and pork sirloin are other options that you could use as well.
You do need to be careful when using pork loin or pork sirloin as these two cuts tend to be leaner than pork shoulder and have a higher chance of drying out when cooked for a longer period.
It helps to marinade these cuts for longer to ensure that they absorb as much moisture as possible.
How Is the Marinade Made?
The secret to al pastor marinade is that pineapple is included in the mix! Pineapple juice is not always used in newer or more commercial recipes, but it was a traditional inclusion into the marinade.
Other than pineapple, the marinade includes red chilies, vinegar, oregano, and other spices, which is similar to the marinade used for Adobada.
As well as using pineapple juice in the marinade, fresh grilled pineapple can be added to the tacos along with the al pastor meat, which adds to the amazing flavor and dimension of the dish.
The longer you marinate the meat, the more flavor it will absorb and the more tender it will be once cooked!
Is Al Pastor Very Spicy?
Al pastor can be very spicy if enough chipotle peppers are added in, but you are able to lessen the heat in the dish if you wish to.
You could choose to use milder chilies in the marinade, or only use a few instead of the amount that the recipe calls for.
The traditional recipe calls for chili peppers to be used, so this does mean that it can be quite spicy. It also depends on where you are buying the al pastor from.
Some food trucks might lessen the heat to make it more accessible to more people, or some might add to the heat to make it a super spicy dish.
Some al pastor marinade recipes even call for the addition of chili powder, which can really take the heat to the next level!
How Is Al Pastor Cooked?
Al pastor is traditionally cooked on a vertical skewer. Thin layers of marinated pork are layered on top of each other on a skewer, which is most often cooked in a vertical position.
If you are cooking al pastor at home, then you could still skewer it, but it might be easier to cook it horizontally over a grill. This will still give you great results and the meat will still be tender and juicy.
When cooking al pastor, it needs to cook at a relatively steady temperature to ensure that even the inner layers of pork are cooked through, but there should be enough heat that the outside layer forms some grill marks.
As the outside layer is sliced off to be served in a soft shell taco, the newly exposed meat can develop these charred marks.
What Is Al Pastor Served With?
Al pastor is traditionally served as a taco filling. As the meat cooks on the vertical skewer, it is sliced off and placed into a soft-shell taco.
What you place onto the Al pastor filling after is up to you, but it is commonly served with fried or fresh pineapple, pico de gallo, cilantro, and a dash of lime juice.
This gives an incredible depth of flavor and sweet, sour, and savory notes in one bite that will keep you coming back for more.
Adobada vs Al Pastor – How Are They Similar?
The preparation and the ingredients used in Adobada and al pastor are quite similar. Both are made from pork, mainly pork shoulder.
The reason pork shoulder is a favorite for both is that it has great fat marbling which allows it to be cooked for a long time without the meat becoming dry or rubbery.
Both al pastor and Adobada can be made with pork sirloin or pork loin if pork shoulder is not available, but these do not have as much fat and can dry out quickly.
Another similarity that they share is the ingredients used to make the marinades for either.
Red chili peppers are combined with vinegar, cilantro, and other spices to make a marinade paste for both, and then other ingredients are added for either dish.
Both are traditionally served in a corn tortilla, topped with pico de gallo, cilantro, and some lime juice.
There are many similarities between the two, but they are different dishes that deserve their own love!
Adobada vs Al Pastor – How Are They Different?
There are two main differences between Adobada and al pastor: the cooking method and the flavor.
While both use pork and some similar ingredients in the marinade, and while both are commonly served in a corn tortilla, they are different and you will be able to taste the difference between them.
The cooking method and the taste of either are different and give each dish the unique properties that make them both so loved throughout Mexico and the United States.
The biggest difference between Adobada and Al pastor is how the two are cooked.
Adobada is traditionally slow-cooked, wrapped in foil, and left to cook at a low temperature for a longer time. It can also be grilled or cooked in a hot pan, or even broiled in larger chunks.
Al pastor is traditionally cooked on a vertical skewer or spit. Thin layers of marinated pork are placed onto a skewer, which then rotates and cooks.
The charred outside of the meat is sliced off and placed into a corn tortilla, making way for the meat underneath to cook and char.
Both Adobada and Al pastor are commonly made with pork shoulder, and both marinades include chili peppers, cilantro, and vinegar, but the two do have very distinctive tastes.
Al pastor has a very sweet and tangy taste which is easily recognized. This is due to pineapple juice being included in the marinade, as well as fresh pineapples being grilled and added into the taco.
Adobada on the other hand has a spicier flavor from the range of chili peppers that are used. This spice level can be adjusted to suit what you like, but Adobada is usually spicier than al pastor.
Now that we’ve gone over the differences between al pastor and Adobada, let’s take a look at a few related questions on the subject!
Is Al Pastor Always Made from Pork?
Al pastor is traditionally made from pork. There might be other variants out there, but true al pastor is made from pork shoulder, or if not, then pork loin or pork sirloin.
Are Adobada and Al Pastor Healthy?
Both Adobada and Al pastor are considered to be healthy meals, as long as they are enjoyed in corn tortillas and topped with healthy ingredients. They do not contain much sugar or other added ingredients.