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.
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
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.
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!
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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!
- 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)
- 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.
- 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.
- Place the chicken on the skewers, staggering the direction of each piece to create even layers.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Once cooked, use a knife to carve chicken and pineapple off the skewers for tacos.
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