Fish Tacos Al Pastor with Grilled Pineapple Salsa just in time for your Cinco de Mayo fiestas! If you’re not already familiar with Al Pastor, I’m more than happy to make the introduction. This is a light, super tasty meal you’ll want to enjoy whenever you’re ready to fire up the grill.
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What is Al Pastor?
Tacos are among our favorite things to eat, and these grilled mahi-mahi tacos are hard to beat. Tacos Al Pastor are widely popular in Mexico, and have certainly made their presence known here in the US.
The traditional preparation typically consists of marinated spit-roasted pork with pineapple, onion, and cilantro on a corn tortilla. Al Pastor is the marinade that usually contains fruit juices, chiles, and spices like oregano, achiote, and cumin.
Key Ingredients & Cooking Steps
I pretty much followed tradition when it came to blending these amazing flavors, and with the help of the smokiness of the grill, the tender yet firm mahi-mahi showcased the sauce perfectly.
As with mole sauce, a blend of reconstituted chiles serves as the base of Al Pastor and no two houses will make it the same. I used guajillo (wha-hee-oh), top, and morita chiles, bottom. Guajillos’ flavor is slightly fruity with a piney, berry under taste, and typically rank 3-4 on the heat scale with 10 being the hottest.
Moritas are fully mature chipotles that have a medium-hot smoky flavor with a 6.5 heat ranking. You can see I used only two Moritas, opting for the guajillos to take the lead. I like spice but I don’t like burn. Ancho and pasilla chiles are other options to keep in mind as well. You can certainly dial the heat up or down to your liking.
The Spice Blend
Spices also play a major role in Al Pastor. After caramelizing whole cloves of garlic in olive oil, I added a blend of oregano, cumin, paprika and achiote to the pan to cook until fragrant. Achiote comes as a powder or paste, and either will work here. It’s made from ground annatto seeds, and has a peppery aroma with a subtle nutty, earthy flavor.
Again similar to mole sauce, once the dried chiles are softened and seeded, and the spices and garlic are fragrant, all takes a spin in a high-powered blender or food processor. Pineapple and orange juice are added for that sweet n’ spicy flare.
Simply let the fish bathe in the marinade in the fridge for at least one hour and up to three. The traditional pork preparation requires several hours of marinating or overnight, and has a much longer cooking time compared to grilling one-inch strips of fish.
While the mahi-mahi is marinating, you can fire up the grill for the Pineapple Salsa. Grilling brings out the natural sugars and concentrates the flavor of the pineapple, corn, and red onion. If the weather is lousy, roasting the fruit in veggies in the oven will work too.
When it’s time for the fish to hit the grill, you may want to use a cast iron griddle to ensure nothing falls between the grates due to an errant flip. Make sure it’s well oiled prior to preheating to prevent sticking, but some sticking is inevitable so don’t sweat it.
I chose mahi-mahi because of its medium density and ability to hold up on the grill without falling apart. Swordfish, halibut and sea bass would also be good options. Cod, tilapia and flounder are rather delicate for grilling.
The salsa is ready to go, the fish is hot off the grill, so all you need to do is warm up those tortillas and fetch your toppings. You’re about to build a taco that’s a flavor bomb in every bite. Enjoy!
More Delicious Mexican Recipes to Try!
Fish Tacos Al Pastor with Grilled Pineapple Salsa
- 4 guajillo chiles*
- 2 morita chiles*
- 2 tablespoon olive oil
- 4 cloves garlic, smashed
- 1 tablespoon oregano
- 1 tablespoon cumin
- 2 teaspoons achiote powder*
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- ¾ cup pineapple juice
- ½ cup orange juice
- 1 small onion or ½ of a large, chopped
- 1 ½ tablespoons honey
- 1 ½ teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon black ground pepper
- 2-2 ½ lbs mahi mahi** or other fairly dense fish, cut into 1-inch strips
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 ½ tablespoons honey, divided
- 3-4 pineapple slices, ½-inch thick
- 1 small red onion, cut horizontally into ½-inch whole slices
- 2 ears of corn, husked
- ¼ cup cilantro, chopped
- 1 small jalapeño, minced
- 1 lime, juice and zest
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- 12 – 14 corn or flour tortillas, grilled or warmed
- Grilled Pineapple Salsa
- Cotija cheese, grated
- Fresh cilantro
- Sliced jalapeños
- Lime wedges
- Fill a medium saucepan about halfway with water. Add guajillo and morita chiles and bring to a boil. Cover, remove from heat, and let sit 30 minutes to let chiles steep and soften.
- When cool enough to handle, remove stems any remaining seeds and place in a high-powered blender or food processor.
- While chiles steep, heat oil in a small non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add garlic cloves and cook until starting to brown, about 1 minute on each side.
- Stir in oregano, cumin, achiote powder, and paprika. Cook until fragrant, stirring constantly, about 30 seconds. Scrape entire mixture into blender.
- Add onion, pineapple juice, orange juice, honey, salt and pepper. Purée until smooth. Reserve 1 cup chile sauce for serving; cover and leave at room temperature.
- Pour remaining purée over fish in a large bowl or baking dish. Gently toss to coat. Cover and chill 1–3 hours. Meanwhile, make SALSA (see below).
- Clean grates on grill very well. Brush with vegetable oil, or brush vegetable oil on a cast iron griddle and place on grates. Heat grill on medium-high heat.
- Working in batches if necessary, grill fish, leaving space between each piece so you can easily flip them. Grill until marinade is dried and begins to caramelize and char, 2–2 ½ minutes.
- Using a spatula with the help of tongs if needed, release fish from grill and turn. Continue to grill until charred on second side and flesh is opaque in the center, 2 minutes more. Remove from grill to a platter and cover with foil to keep warm.
- Lower heat to medium and grill tortillas until just beginning to char, about 45 seconds per side. Wrap in foil to keep warm.
- Heat grill on medium heat.
- In a small bowl, whisk vegetable oil and 1 tablespoon of honey together. Brush mixture all over pineapple, red onion and corn.
- Make sure grill grates are clean and place pineapple, onion, and corn directly on grates. Close lid and grill 3-4 minutes until beginning to soften and grill marks show.
- Carefully flip pineapple and onion with a spatula, and turn corn with tongs. Grill another 3-4 minutes and remove pineapple and onion. Continue to rotate corn until charred on all sides, another 2-3 minutes per side.
- When cool enough to handle, dice pineapple and red onion, and place into a medium-size mixing bowl.
- Cut corn kernels from cobs and add to the pineapple mixture. Gently stir in cilantro, jalapeño, lime juice, zest, olive oil, and remaining ½ tablespoon of honey.
- Season with salt and pepper, to taste. (Can be prepared 4-6 hours ahead. Cover and chill. Let sit at room temperature 1 hour before serving.)
- Top each tortilla with a schmear of reserved chile puree, a piece of fish, spoonful of pineapple salsa, shredded cotija, cilantro, jalapeños, and squeeze of lime. Enjoy.
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