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Oven Roasted Chicken Al Pastor

If you love tacos al pastor but need a lower fat or non-pork option, you need to try this oven roasted chicken al pastor. It swaps traditional sliced pork shoulder for boneless skinless chicken thighs and the trompo for a homemade skewered pineapple on a sheet pan. Throw in some bonus skewers of roasted pineapple al pastor and you have all the components of a proper Taco Tuesday.

four chicken tacos al pastor on a cutting board with the roasted pineapple trompos

Making Chicken Al Pastor in the Oven

You’ll need to exercise patience for marinating and slow roasting, but the actual recipe prep is relatively simple. I’ll walk you through everything below with ingredient substitution notes along the way, and you’ll find a printable recipe card at the bottom of the post.

And if you read through this and decide it’s more work than you’d like to do, check out my simplified, 30-minute ground pork al pastor you can make on the stovetop.

The Al Pastor Marinade

dried spices, herbs, and achiote paste before and after mixing with orange juice, lime juice, and vinegar

Traditional tacos al pastor marinades typically call for removing the seeds and stems from dried chiles, boiling to soften, and blending with a handful of other ingredients. This chicken al pastor takes a more streamlined approach with things you probably have in the spice cabinet already like chili powder, garlic powder, dried oregano, and the like.

If you wanted to try your hand at a more traditional marinade, check out recipes from two of our favorite chefs, J. Kenji López Alt and Rick Martinez.

The only ingredient that you may not have on hand is achiote paste, which is a blend of annatto seed and other spices that will give you chicken al pastor its signature red-orange color. You should be able to find this in most grocery stores, especially here in Texas!

boneless skinless chicken thighs with al pastor marinade

Part of the beauty of using boneless skinless chicken thighs is that they’re already relatively thin and uniform. So you don’t really need to do any slicing like you would with pork shoulder. You can just cover the chicken in the marinade and refrigerate for a few hours.

Other Meats for Al Pastor?

I’ll also mention here that you could definitely use this recipe with sliced pork shoulder or pork tenderloin, and you could use more than three pounds of chicken thighs if you wanted to make an even bigger batch. If you wanted to use chicken breast, I would either buy chicken cutlets or slice chicken breast down the center to make thinner cutlets.

Assembling and Roasting

marinated chicken on a skewered pineapple bottom

I tested a few different techniques for roasting but followed Kevin’s tacos al pastor lead by using a big slice from two wide-bottomed pineapples with thicker candy apple skewers to be the most stable.

While you can fit all three pounds of chicken on one pineapple with a 10″ bamboo skewer, it will require some oversight and possible adjustments during roasting to avoid tipping over.

two pineapple trompos on a sheet pan with roasted chicken al pastor

It would feel more authentic to have a giant tower of chicken al pastor, but the final result is essentially unchanged. You still have plenty of layers to slice off for tacos, and you get a bit more roasted pineapple using two pineapples.

roasted chicken al pastor after slicing

The extra fat and oblong shape of chicken thighs really works well at creating lots of layers of tender chicken inside and crispy bits on the exterior. And speaking of fat, I highly recommend brushing some of the rendered fat back on the chicken and pineapple in the back half of the cook.

Other Cooking Methods

If you wanted to speed things up, you could use one of my favorite tools in the Instant Pot Duo Crisp or Ninja Foodi. Using my Instant Pot barbecue chicken and Ninja Foodi Mexican chicken recipes as guides, I would sauté the chicken thighs for a few minutes on each side before adding the remaining marinade and pressure cooking for 6-8 minutes with quick release pressure.

pressure cooked chicken thighs broiled in a reduced sauce in the Ninja Foodi
Process shots from my Mexican shredded chicken thighs recipe.

Then you can slice the chicken up while using the sauté function and/or a cornstarch slurry to thicken the remaining sauce before adding the chicken back and using the broil function for 8-10 minutes to create the crispy edges you’re looking for in chicken al pastor. Just be sure to slice or chop the pressure cooked chicken thighs as opposed to shredding.

Optional: Roasted Pineapple Skewers

al pastor pineapple skewers across a sheet pan

Since you’ll have most of two pineapples and some marinade leftover, you have the option to cut up the rest, skewer, brush in the marinade, and roast. If you love extra pineapple on your tacos al pastor, this is a great move. Though I’ll add two pineapples makes a big batch. You could always roast one and save the other for snacking or something like pineapple salsa.

Storing and Reheating Al Pastor Chicken

leftover chicken and roasted pineapple in a skillet

After roasting, it’s easier to store your chicken al pastor if you slice everything off the skewer. To reheat, my preferred method is heating 1/2 to 1 tablespoon of oil in a skillet and adding 10-12 ounces of sliced chicken and some extra roasted pineapple if you made it. This reheats and crisps everything up, basically as good as new.

The nutrition facts in the recipe card are for the chicken and pineapple on the skewers. So if you add some roasted pineapple and need precise macros, be sure to add that. Luckily, the marinade essentially adds nothing so you can just use the macros for pineapple by weight.

Chicken Tacos Al Pastor and Serving Ideas

chicken quesadillas al pastor

You can’t go wrong with the traditional fixin’s for tacos al pastor—a warmed corn tortilla topped with diced or sliced white onion, cilantro, salsa verde, and a little squeeze of lime. The nutrition facts are for three ounces of the chicken al pastor, which is about the perfect amount for one taco.

To have a little fun with your al pastor chicken, you could make quesadillas. My black bean quesadillas are good examples of lower carb tortillas and pan frying, and my air fryer quesadillas would be quick work. You could also roll some of your leftover chicken al pastor into some baked taquitos.

Okay, that’s the way the cookie crumbles. If you have a question about this al pastor chicken recipe I forgot to cover, feel free to leave a comment at the bottom of the post. And if you try this recipe and love it, I always appreciate recipe reviews!

Chicken Al Pastor

Chicken Al Pastor

Yield: 12 Servings
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 3 hours
Marinate Time: 3 hours
Total Time: 6 hours 20 minutes

Al pastor style boneless skinless chicken thighs roasted on skewered pineapples in the oven.

Ingredients

  • 3 lbs Boneless Skinless Chicken Thighs
  • 1 1/2 oz Achiote Paste
  • 2 Tbsp Ancho Chile Powder
  • 1 Tbsp Kosher Salt
  • 2 tsp Garlic Powder
  • 2 tsp Dried Oregano
  • 2 tsp Ground Cumin
  • 1/4 tsp Ground Cloves
  • 1/2 C Orange Juice
  • 1/4 C Lime Juice
  • 1/4 C White Vinegar
  • 2 Pineapples
  • 2 Skewers (I used thick candy apple, but thin 10" bamboo works fine)

Instructions

  1. Mix the achiote paste and dried spices together before stirring in the liquid ingredients. Add the chicken thighs to a large dish, cover in the marinade, and refrigerate for at least 3 hours.
  2. When ready to cook, cut the bottoms of the pineapples, about 2" from the bottom. Stick a skewer through the center of each pineapple base. Place the pineapple bases on a rimmed sheet pan lined with foil or parchment paper.
  3. Place the chicken on the skewers, staggering the direction of each piece to create even layers.
  4. Once all the chicken is on the skewers, cut the tops off both pineapples and place a 2" to 3" piece on top of the chicken. Brush with marinade.
  5. Bake on the bottom rack in your oven for 2.5-3 hours at 350ºF or until the chicken reaches 165ºF. Brush some of the rendered fat on the chicken and pineapple in the final 30-60 minutes.
  6. Optional: About an hour into baking, dice the remaining pineapple and place on skewers. Brush with remaining marinade and place across a quarter sheet pan to bake for the remaining time.
  7. Once cooked, use a knife to carve chicken and pineapple off the skewers for tacos.

Notes

Each serving has 3 WW SmartPoints (blue).

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 12 Serving Size: about 3 oz
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 150Total Fat: 6gCarbohydrates: 7gProtein: 17g

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Scott King

Thursday 19th of August 2021

This is a homerun! Topped the tacos with some fire roasted hatch chile salsa, white onions, and a little fat-free feta. *Chef's Kiss*

Reema G.

Wednesday 18th of August 2021

I tried the same cooking process but with Mediterranean seasoning and it was a pretty good version of at home gyro!

Molly Bukky

Monday 16th of August 2021

This is a great recipe! I live in a small, rural area so I ordered the achiote paste from Amazon because I couldn't find it locally. It has been really hot where I live, so I didn't want to have the oven running for hours, so I decided to skewer and grill it all. I used boneless skinless chicken breast and marinated for about 8 hours. Then I put the chicken on skewers and pineapple on other skewers (brushed with leftover marinade) and cooked them separately in our knock-off "Beefer" cooker/grill. Then chopped up chicken and pineapple into small pieces and served with traditional toppings on good tortillas. Delicious.

Mason Woodruff

Tuesday 17th of August 2021

Great feedback on grill prep. Thanks Molly!

Charles

Wednesday 4th of August 2021

Ended up grilling this. Best thing ever! Amazing flavor. Definitely be doing this again

Mason Woodruff

Thursday 5th of August 2021

That sounds awesome! Any grilling tips for us?

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