Adobada Vs. Al Pastor – What’s The Difference?

Mexico is famous not only for its beautiful nature but also for its rich and diverse cuisine. And the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear about Mexican cuisine is tacos! Tacos fillings come in all shapes and sizes, today, we will talk about two particular fillings – adobada and al pastor. After reading the article, you will know the difference between them and which one in a contest adobada vs. al pastor wins.

What Is the Difference Between Adobada and Al Pastor?

Adobada and al pastor are taco fillings made from pork marinated in spices. The difference between them is not that apparent. Adobada is stewed on a grill, and al pastor is cooked on a vertical spit.

Al Pastor vs. Adobada Difference Comparison Table

Al Pastor Adobada
Ingredients Pork, preferably shoulder, but lion or sirloin possible. Chicken or lamb as an alternative. Pork, preferably shoulder.
Taste Tangy and sweet Savory and spicy
Cooking method Fried on a vertical spit or as an alternative on a skewer. Cooked on a pan, in a foil, or braised.
Marinade Guajillo chile, garlic, cumin, achiote paste, oregano, cloves, white vinegar, and pineapple juice. Chiles ancho or guajillo, oregano, garlic, cloves, thyme, cumin, paprika, and white vinegar.

Al Pastor 101 – All You Need to Know

Al pastor is a pork filling prepared from spit-grilled slices of marinated pork. The dish is not originally Mexican. It was brought to Mexico by Lebanese immigrants at the end of 19 century. 

Al pastor is popular street food, and you can notice vertical spits with pork in carts all around the country. The dish itself is not difficult or sophisticated. The main secret is the marinade. If it is cooked correctly, the meat will taste amazing, even if you don’t use a spit but just a standard stove.

What Meat Is Used In Al Pastor?

Traditional al pastor is made with pork, primarily shoulder. You can also cook al pastor with pork sirloin or loin. However, if pork is not an option, al pastor is also good with lamb or chicken. 

Pork shoulder is the best meat for this meal because it is tender and easy to slice in layers for the spit. However, if you are making al pastor at home, pork shoulder can be hard to handle because it requires some knife skills. Pork sirloin is an easier choice if you are a bit unsure about your cutting skills. You should be careful with this pork sirloin since it is leaner than the shoulder and becomes dry faster. Although not a classic al pastor, it works well also with chicken or lamb.

What Does Al Pastor Taste Like?

Al pastor can be hot and spicy. And the first thing you feel is the spicy flavors from the chiles, oregano, cumin, and achiote. Then you feel the piquancy of onions and sweet notes of pineapples. Overall, the taste is savory, spicy, and sweet at the same time. 

If you are not a fan of spicy food, you can lessen the heat by reducing chili peppers or using milder chili. However, the real discovery is a pineapple. Super tender meat plays completely differently with some pineapples. Pineapple juice is used in the marinade, and grilled pineapple slices are added to tacos. It creates an amazing combination of the piquancy of spices and sweetness of pineapples.

How to Make a Marinade for Al Pastor?

The marinade is very important for al pastor, and it consists of dried guajillo chiles, garlic, cumin, achiote paste, oregano, cloves, white vinegar, and pineapple juice. 

Guajillo chiles are one of the most popular in Mexico. They are not too spicy. Achiote paste is a mix of different spices containing annatto. Other ingredients are familiar to everyone.

For the marinade, guajillo chiles are put into a pot and boiled over high heat to soften them. Remove stems and mix guajillo with other ingredients in a blender. Use marinade immediately. Otherwise, it can be stored in a refrigerator and used within 7 days.

How to Cook Al Pastor?

Traditionally al pastor is cooked on a vertical spit over steady temperature. Thin slices of meat are marinated and layered on top of each other on a spit. Often pineapple slices are put on the top. 

If you are cooking al pastor at home, you can cook it on a grill with a skewer. Here is the recipe for you. Make a marinade following the recipe stated above. With a sharp knife, cut pork into thin slices and marinate it for at least 4 hours in the refrigerator.

You can also fry meat on the grill. In this case, be careful not to make it too dry. Also, you can make an improvised spit with a skewer and a pineapple. You just need to create a base with pineapple and stick a skewer in the middle of the base. Don’t forget to put pineapple on top of a skewer. After the meat is ready, chop it into smaller slices and serve with tortillas and grilled pineapples.

How to Serve Al Pastor?

Al pastor is served in tortillas with grilled pineapples, pico de gallo (a salad with chopped tomato, onion, peppers, salt, cilantro, and lime juice), fresh cilantro, lime juice, and red onion. However, there are other options for al pastor tacos, such as salsa verde (green sauce with tomatillos, onion, lime, cilantro, and spicy jalapeno), avocados, guacamole, and sour cream.

You can also get tasty Mexican side dishes with your al pastor. Possible options include Mexican rice, street fries with salsa, corn salad with cilantro, grilled corn, or tortilla chips with guacamole and salsa.

Adobada 101 – All You Need to Know

Adobada is Mexican pork marinated in a mix of chili pepper, spices, and vinegar and cooked on the grill. Although the marinade is similar to the one for al pastor, the preparation ways are different. And, unlike al pastor, adobada recipes are well adjusted for home cooking. The word adobada means “marinated” in Spanish and from this, we understand that marinade is important for this dish.

What Meat Is Used In Adobada?

For adobada, pork is used, especially the shoulder part. Since pork shoulder is fatty, marinated meat is juicy and rich in flavors. If you prefer chicken, it also can be marinated and baked in foil. 

There are several ways of cooking adobada. If pork is grilled, it needs to be cut into thin slices. Meat chucks are better for braising. You can also fry the meat in the pan. The main thing to remember – the thicker the slices are, the more time you need to marinate the meat.

What Does Adobada Taste Like?

Adobada has a savory, sweet, fresh taste. Marinade with chiles, herbs, and spices gives a savory, spicy taste, and onions and limes add freshness to the taste. You can add raisins. It will add some sweetness and emphasize the flavors of the marinade. 

Traditional adobada has a spicy, rich flavor with notes of herbs and lime. You can experiment and add some orange juice or even orange slices. It adds extra sweetness and acidity. You may be surprised that oranges naturally pair well with chiles.

Is Adobada Spicy?

Generally, adobada is spicy. But it depends on the chiles used. Thus, in adobada most often guajillo chiles are used. They are not very hot and spicy. If you prefer spicy food, just add spicy chiles.

How to Make Marinade for Adobada?

Adobada marinade consists of chiles ancho or guajillo, oregano, garlic, cloves, thyme, cumin, paprika, and vinegar. White distilled vinegar is better, but apple cider also works well. 

For the marinade, take out stems and seeds from chiles, cut them, and toast them in a pan for 4 min. Then put chiles in a bowl with boiling water to rest for 30 min. Mix all the ingredients and blend them for a smooth texture.

How to Cook Adobada?

There are different ways of adobada preparation. It can be cooked in foil at low heat. Some people prefer thin slices of pork cooked on the grill. And also, pork can be braised in a pot. 

The cooking method depends on your preferences and the meat you have. If you cook adobada on a pan, which is most suitable for home, cut the meat into slices and put it in the marinade for at least 3 hours or overnight. Fry meat on a pan until it is brown on both sides. Once it is ready and still hot, chop the meat into small pieces. Add meat and your favorite filling to the tortilla and enjoy.

How to Serve Adobada?

Adobada is served in corn tortillas with different fillings – red onions, lime, cilantro, and avocado with yogurt or sour cream dressing.

If you feel like eating something more essential, add some rice, salad, or beans as a side dish. Other popular options include Chile Relleno, roasted potato, nachos, green bean salad, or Cherry Farro salad.

Conclusion – Is Al Pastor And Adobada The Same Thing?

From everything above, one might get the impression that adobada and al pastor are the same things. However, although the meat is the same and marinades are similar, adobada and al pastor are two different dishes.

Firstly, they have different flavors. Al pastor is tangy and sweet due to pineapples grilled with meat and pineapple juice added to the marinade. Adobada is savory and spicy. The spicy flavor can be adjusted to your preferences, but overall, adobada is spicier than al pastor.

And secondly, the cooking techniques are different. Adobada is more suitable for home cooking since you can fry it on the pan, in foil, or braise. Al pastor is cooked on a vertical spit. Therefore, there are no winners in the al pastor vs. adobada since both of them are good and worth trying.

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