Nothing beats a fresh taco, and these Salmon Al Pastor Tacos are here to satisfy your cravings. Vibrant spicy sauce glazes the gorgeous salmon, while the pineapple and chiles roast directly in the coals. It all comes together on a corn tortilla. Don’t worry, this recipe makes enough for a crowd! Call them up and let’s get cooking.
Post Contributed by Brad Prose
Salmon Al Pastor Tacos: The Flavor
The famous Al Pastor tacos are made traditionally on a vertical spit with thin slices of pork, roasting away while rotating against a tower of flames. Fruity flavors of chiles, pineapple, and achiote come alive, dying the meat a vibrant shade of red and orange. Over the last decade we’ve seen this flavor profile find its way to chicken, shrimp, and many types of fish. The tradition is very much alive, but it’s hard to deny that the new dishes are just as exciting.
For more on Al Pastor, check out Al Pastor Pulled Pork Sandwich, American Lamb Tacos Al Pastor, Skewered Shrimp Al Pastor Recipe and Cheeseburger Tacos (not Al Pastor flavors, but still cooked on a spit).
The bright sauce is a perfect pairing for fresh salmon because it compliments the natural flavors of the fish. Slowly cooking over a live fire, we’ll roast the salmon to ensure a perfect temperature and texture. We can’t have Al Pastor tacos without pineapple, and there’s no point in wasting a good fire! This recipe explains how to coal-roast a whole pineapple, furthermore transforming a simple salsa into a next-level experience.
Take it Slow with Salmon for our Al Pastor Tacos
Salmon has a high amount of fat, which we want to eat. The white stuff that squeezes out during the cooking process is call albumin, and it’s a juicy protein that keeps the fish moist and tasty. Slow-roasting the salmon over a medium-heat fire ensures that the meat doesn’t squeeze out very much, keeping all of that moisture and flavor where it belongs: in your mouth. Let’s not forget that wood-fired salmon tastes incredible.
Using a leaning basket, the salmon will be elevated above the embers and wood. Keep the heat of the fire to a medium temperature, about 350°F. Place your hand above the fire and you should be able to keep it there for about 4-5 seconds before it feels too hot. Lean the cage with the salmon at a 45° angle over the fire, with the thickest side at the top. Over the next few hours you’ll have to keep the fire going with additional wood or charcoal, making sure to maintain that heat!
Coal-Roasted Pineapple is Perfect for Salmon Al Pastor Tacos
There’s no sense in wasting a good fire so let’s toss in a pineapple, chiles, and onion for delicious salsa. Coal-roasted pineapple is incredibly easy to prepare, a mystery that’s been right in front of us. Don’t trim the pineapple at all, everything you don’t want to eat will burn and be removed after. Nestle the entire pineapple into the coals, also carefully making sure that there are enough coals up to the sides. Turn the pineapple every so often, making sure that one side doesn’t cook too fast. The entire pineapple will be quite dark, so you’ll know it’s done when the internal temperature is around 195°F (yes, you temp check a pineapple).
Let it cool completely and slice off the top, bottom, and the burnt skin. The core is safe to eat, but still tough! I recommend discarding the core and slicing the rest into even pieces for the salsa. Mix it with the diced onion, jalapeños, cilantro and lime.
Salmon Al Pastor Taco Assembly
The fruity salmon pairs perfectly with the roasted, spicy salsa. Crema or sour cream are my recommendations for the corn tortillas because it gives the taco some moisture and fat for the rest of the ingredients. This impressive side of salmon will glow on the cutting board as you slice in, portioning it out for the guests. Cooking over fire should be a fun experience, and this recipe will absolutely deliver.
Salmon Al Pastor Tacos
- 1 skin-on side of salmon pin bones removed, 4-5 pounds
- 4 whole arbol chiles
- 5 whole guajillo chilies
- 1/2 cup orange juice
- Juice of 1 lime
- ⅓ cup white vinegar
- 1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
- 1 tablespoon achiote paste
- 1/4 cup distilled white vinegar
- 3 whole cloves garlic
- 1 tsp white sugar
- 2 tsp kosher salt
For the Tacos:
- 1 whole pineapple
- 1 red onion
- 2 jalapenos
- ½ cup cilantro chopped
- Juice of 1 lime
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Sour cream or crema for garnish
- 12 corn tortillas
- Make the marinade. Pour boiling water into a heat-safe bowl with the chiles, allowing them to hydrate for about 10 minutes. Add in the drained chiles, orange juice, lime juice, vinegar, and spices into a blender. Puree until completely smooth.
- Pat the salmon completely dry, both the meat and the skin-side. Set the salmon on a baking sheet, meat-side up. Brush a generous glaze of the marinade all over the meat of the salmon and allow it to rest at room temperature while you build the fire.
- Preheat your grill to a medium-heat around 300°F for direct cooking with the grill grate (or leaning cage). Make sure the grill grate is at least 5-6 inches away from the coals, and the grates are very clean and oiled. Place the salmon directly over the coals, skin-side down and close the lid. If using a leaning cage, angle the salmon over the fire and monitor the temperature to ensure it stays at a medium heat, around 350°F, as much of the heat will escape. Cook until the salmon is 130°F internal temperature, spritzing with some pineapple juice along the way to keep it moist.
- Place a pineapple, jalapenos, and onion directly into the coals. Nestle the pineapple in, making sure some of the sides are exposed to the coals as well. Rotate each of the ingredients and char until desired, pulling the pineapple out when it hits 195°F internal temperature.
- Dice up the ingredients for the salsa, seasoning to taste. Serve with the salmon on fresh corn tortillas with sour cream or crema.
Brad Prose is a professional recipe developer, food writer, and culinary photographer – the force behind Chiles and Smoke. His kitchen spotlights unusual and incredible flavors through a blend of fine dining and BBQ. Brad strives to inspire home cooks to use higher-end techniques and new ideas, applying them to the everyday food we know and love.