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A chicken al pastor taco on a speckled ceramic plate, topped with thinly sliced jalapeno & cotija cheese. The taco is surrounded by 3 other al pastor tacos, a small bowl of mashed avocado, fresh cilantro leaves & lime wedges.

Chicken al Pastor

  • Author: Jess Larson
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 40 minutes
  • Yield: serves 4 1x
  • Category: Tacos, Burritos & Enchiladas Recipes, Main Dishes
  • Method: Sheet Pan, Baked
  • Cuisine: Mexican & Tex-Mex
  • Diet: Gluten Free

Description

Sheet Pan Chicken al Pastor! Made with an earthy, citrusy & sweet al pastor marinade & baked on a sheet pan with pineapple until completely juicy & tender. Finish under the broiler for a craveable crisp & caramelly finish. Great for chicken al pastor tacos, burritos, burrito bowls, nachos, & more. Easy, fast, flavorful & versatile!


Ingredients

Scale
  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs (see Recipe Notes)
  • 1/2 yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • al pastor marinade, below
  • 2 cups finely diced pineapple
  • for serving, as desired: charred corn tortillas, cilantro lime rice, black beans, Mexican crema or cashew cremapickled red onions, freshly chopped cilantroqueso fresco or cheese of choice, salsa of choice, lime wedges, etc.

for the al pastor marinade:

  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 23 chipotle peppers, from a can packed in adobo sauce
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar (or honey, or agave)
  • 1 tablespoon achiote paste (see Recipe Notes)
  • 1 tablespoon ancho chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

Instructions

  1. Prep the al pastor marinade & marinate the chicken: Add all listed marinade ingredients to a blender. Blend until combined. Add the chicken thighs & thinly sliced yellow onion to a large bowl. Pour the al pastor marinade over top & toss to combine. Marinate in the refrigerator (covered) for at least 6 hours or up to 3 days.Chicken thighs & thinly sliced onion marinate in al pastor marinade in a large glass mixing bowl atop a white plaster surface.
  2. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F, arranging the oven racks such that one is in the center of the oven & one is 6-8 inches under the broil. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with foil for easy clean up, as desired, and set aside.
  3. Bake the chicken: Transfer the marinated chicken & onions to the prepared baking sheet, draining & any excess marinade. Add the diced pineapple to the baking sheet. Toss to combine with the chicken & onions, spooning a little extra al pastor marinade into the mix as necessary to coat the pineapple with the sauce. Bake on the center rack for 15 minutes. The chicken should be nearly cooked through. Remove the chicken from the oven to chop, and meanwhile preheat the broiler.  al pastor-marinated chicken thighs & sliced onion on a silver quarter baking sheet with finely diced pineapple. The sheet pan sits atop a white plaster surface.
  4. Dice the chicken al pastor: Transfer the chicken to a cutting board & carefully chop the chicken into bite-sized pieces. Place the chopped chicken pastor back on the baking sheet. Baked al pastor chicken thighs & sliced onion on a silver quarter baking sheet with finely diced pineapple. The sheet pan sits atop a white plaster surface.
  5. Broil for crispy chicken al pastorPlace the baking sheet under the broiler. Broil 4-5 minutes, turning the pan halfway through, until the al pastor chicken are browned & slightly crisp. Broiled al pastor chicken, onion, & pineapple on a silver quarter baking sheet. The sheet pan sits atop a white plaster surface.
  6. Serve: Place the crispy chicken pastor in tortillas for tacos or a bowl with rice & beans for burrito bowls, finishing with your favorite taco night toppings of choice: sour cream/Mexican crema, pickled red onions, cilantro, etc. Enjoy! Overhead view of chicken al pastor tacos, pressed together side-by-side on a white plaster surface. The tacos are surrounded by fresh cilantro leaves, lime wedges, & mashed avocado & pickled red onions in separate white bowls.


Notes

  • Can I use boneless, skinless chicken breasts instead? Yes. I prefer using chicken thighs in this recipe since they’re flavorful & stay really nice & juicy through roasting + broiling, but you can swap them out with breasts if you prefer. Either pound the breasts out flat or cut them in half lengthwise (butterflied) to ensure they roast up evenly. Skip broiling (Step 5), as the breast meat will dry out.
  • What is Achiote paste? Achiote is a seasoning commonly used in Mexican & Central American cuisine. Achiote is made with ground annatto seed, which is earthy & bitter in flavor & gives traditional al pastor (in my experience) its signature flavor & color. You’ll most commonly find achiote available as a ground seasoning or as a paste, both of which you can easily find at your local Mexican market. It’s also readily available online. If you’re in a pinch, you can easily make a quick achiote substitute using pantry ingredients, but if you’re serious about replicating the signature flavor of al pastor, I highly suggest stocking up on some achiote. 
  • Storage & freezing: Leftover chicken al pastor will keep, stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator, for up to 4 days. It’s also a wonderful freezer staple since you can easily thaw it out and use it on tacos, nachos, taco salads, burrito bowls, etc. for an easy dinner down the road. To freeze, transfer cooled chicken al pastor to a freezer bag or container. (These are my absolute favorite!) Freeze for up to 3 months. Defrost by placing in the refrigerator overnight to thaw, or by submerging the freezer bag/container in room temp water for 20-25 minutes.
  • 15-Minute Meal Prep: Nearly all of the active prep work for this sheet pan chicken comes from prepping the marinade & chopping the onion/pineapple. Get it all done in advance to get a head start on your chicken al pastor – it’ll take 15 minutes, tops:
    • Thinly slice 1/2 yellow onion, storing in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
    • Peel, core & finely dice 1 pineapple, storing in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. You’ll need 2 cups diced for your chicken al pastor. You can use the rest in other dishes or for snacking throughout the week, or freeze for later.
    • Prep the marinade according to Step 1 of Recipe Directions, above. Store in a jar or airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Marinate the chicken & onion for at least 6 hours prior to cooking or up to 3 days.

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