Al Pastor Fish Tacos

Swap pork for flaky white fish in this riff on sweet and spicy al pastor tacos.

Al Pastor Fish Tacos
Photo: Caitlin Bensel
Active Time:
30 mins
Total Time:
3 hrs
4 to 6

I’m a purist when it comes to certain foods, and al pastor tacos (known as adobada tacos to us in Tijuana) is one of those foods. I lived off them — literally. A medical condition left my mother confined to her bed most of my teenage years, and my father’s culinary skills were nonexistent — he couldn’t even put a sandwich together. To this day, I don’t know if he can’t cook or simply refused to because that’s not what (most) Mexican men do, in his view. He wasn’t gonna let me go hungry, though. Before he eventually poached Pedro, the cook from the country club, to come save us from starvation, we ate street tacos multiple times a week. My sister and brother were too busy being teens, so a lot of the memories I have of me and my dad hitting the taco stands are just the two of us. We’d find delectable tacos, based on recommendations from his friends or spotting a long line snaking down the boulevard. We never knew if the vendor would be there the next week or even the next day, so every day was a different and delicious adventure.

Now that I’m grown up, I make more sensible food choices. Kidding — there’s nothing un-sensible about a GOOD al pastor pork taco. But in actuality, the original was made of lamb — a gift from the Lebanese immigrants to Mexico. It’s our pork take on shawarma instead of their traditional lamb. But I wanted to try it with yet a different protein, and guess what? It worked beautifully. You’d think the adobo would totally consume the flavor of the fish, but it doesn’t. It’s a lighter, beachier version of a Mexican classic, and perfect with an ice-cold beer. Topped with the traditional raw white onions, cilantro, and avocado (or guacamole!), it’s heaven. I doubt my father would approve of my twist, but to be honest, between this or having to actually cook for himself, he’d probably end up eating it. And I bet he might even like it. — Marcela Valladolid


  • 2 guajillo chiles

  • 1 ancho chile

  • 1 chile de árbol

  • 1/2 cup achiote liquid (such as El Yucateco)

  • 1/2 cup fresh orange juice

  • 1/4 cup distilled white vinegar

  • 2 garlic cloves

  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

  • 1 1/2 pounds white fish fillets (such as red snapper)

  • 5 ounces fresh pineapple, thinly sliced

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

  • 10 (6-inch) corn tortillas, warmed

  • 1/2 cup torn fresh cilantro

  • 1/4 cup chopped white onion

  • 1 avocado, sliced

  • Lime wedges, for serving


  1. Soak dried chiles in warm water in a medium bowl until rehydrated, about 10 minutes. Drain chiles; remove and discard chile stems and seeds. Combine chiles, achiote, orange juice, vinegar, garlic, salt, and pepper in a blender. Blend until smooth. Place fish in a ziplock plastic bag. Add sauce, seal bag, and let marinate in refrigerator 2 to 4 hours.

  2. Preheat oven to 375°F. Coat bottom of a 13- x 9-inch baking dish with olive oil. Place pineapple slices in a single layer in dish. Place marinated fish and marinade over pineapple. Bake in preheated oven until fish is crispy on edges and sauce has reduced, about 35 minutes. Remove from oven. Using a fork, break fish apart to allow it to soak in sauce. Serve fish (and pineapple, if desired) on warm tortillas; garnish with cilantro, onion, and avocado. Squeeze lime wedges over tacos just before serving.

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