Al pastor blends the Lebanese technique for making shawarma with Mexican cuisine—chiles, pork, and pineapple. Traditionally, marinaded pork is grilled on a vertical spit, thinly sliced, and served on tacos, burritos, gringas, tortas and more.
For this recipe, there had to be some creativity involved, because there isn’t anything in the vegan world (yet!) that can perfectly recapture pork grilling on a vertical spit. It is not meant to be an exact replica of traditional al pastor. Nevertheless, this does produce a delicious vegan meal that is smoky, savory, sweet, and spicy, and takes inspiration from the central Mexican favorite.
While you can skip the marinading overnight, I would not recommend it. The flavor is much better after a night in the refrigerator. I also provide three methods for cooking it. The grill method will add more of char and smoke to the finished product. The broiler will make it crisp up a bit more, and add a bit of char to the outside. The pan frying is a bit of a challenge, because it tends to stick (try to use a non-stick pan). No matter how you do it, soy curls do not have fat, like pork does. Whether grilling or broiling, fat will need to be added by drizzling some oil on it. This will help it crisp up and keep in some of the moisture. Be careful not to overcook soy curls. If cooked too long and not kept moist enough, soy curls can get dry and a bit hard. With this in mind, it’s best to cook them right before you want to serve them.
If you’d prefer an even spicier recipe, add a small habanero pepper with the sautéing onions and garlic. For a variation, try using shredded young jackfruit, instead of soy curls. Whether you use jackfruit or soy curls, serve this recipe in burritos, tacos, huaraches, tortas and more!
Vegan Al Pastor
3 ancho chiles
4 guajillo chiles
1 medium red onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
2 Tbsp canola oil (+ more for drizzling)
1 ½ tsp smoked paprika
½-1 tsp ground cumin
½ tsp achiote (or annatto), optional
½ tsp dried oregano
2 cups fresh pineapple chunks, divided
¼ cup white vinegar
1 ½ cups fake chicken broth
1 8 ounce package of soy curls, reconstituted with excess liquid drained and squeezed out
1-2 Tbsp lime juice
Salt, to taste
1. In a dry, large, heavy pot or dutch oven, toast the chiles over low heat. Stir frequently and make sure they toast but do not burn. Remove from heat. Pull off the stems and remove the seeds. Place the chiles in a small bowl, and set aside.
1. To the large, heavy pot or dutch oven, add onion, garlic, oil and a generous pinch of salt. Sauté over medium heat for 7 minutes or until onions are translucent. Add smoked paprika, ground cumin and achiote (if using). Mix well. Sauté another 30 seconds.
3. Add dried oregano, 1 cup fresh pineapple and vinegar. Continue to stir over medium heat until 90% of the liquid has evaporated (~3-5 minutes).
4. Add chiles and broth. Bring to a boil, turn heat down to low, cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from heat. Blend entire contents of the pot until completely smooth and then, strain through a sieve.. Stir in lime juice. Taste, and adjust seasonings (more salt? more lime?).
5. Stir in reconstituted soy curls. Then, stir in remaining 1 cup of fresh pineapple chunks. Spoon into a glass bowl, cover, and refrigerate overnight, or for, at least, 8-10 hours.
6. TO BROIL: Move the oven wrack to the highest level. Preheat the oven to BROIL on HIGH. Line a large, shallow pan with a lip with non-stick aluminum foil. Spread the marinaded soy curls over it in a single layer. Drizzle with oil. BROIL for 5-7 minutes, or until crisped to your preference level. Keep a very close eye on it to make sure it crisps and slightly chars, but does not burn. Remove from the oven. TO GRILL: Spoon the marinaded soy curls over a large piece of non-stick aluminum foil. Drizzle with oil. Pull up the sides of the foil and crimp the edges together to create a sealed pouch. Using a gas grill, put it on HIGH and grill for ~7-10 minutes, or until charred to your preference level. Remove from grill. TO PAN FRY: Add some oil to a large skillet and heat over medium. Add the soy curls to the pan. Moving around constantly and adding more oil if the soy curls start sticking, pan fry until nicely crisped. Remove from heat.
7. Serve immediately. Top with cilantro, onion, fresh pineapple, and lime wedges. Enjoy on burritos, tacos, tortas, huaraches, and more!