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Flavor of the Week

Al pastor, the taco flavor that has gone mainstream

Tacos al pastor, or shepherd-style tacos, originated as a variation of Middle Eastern shawarma brought to Mexico by Lebanese immigrants.

Like shawarma, it is roasted on a vertical spit, but the immigrants added a nuance by topping it with a pineapple that both bastes and tenderizes the meat. Unlike the original shawarma, which was lamb, tacos al pastor is usually made with pork.

The savory-sweet combination is now being made into marinades often containing achiote paste and other spices as well as pineapple, and applied not only to pork but to other meats as well.

It’s showing up in quesadillas and burritos in addition to its original taco format, but there’s no need to limit the flavor combination to traditional Mexican and Tex-Mex preparations. Sweet-savory combinations are an ongoing and growing tend that resonates with many customers.

The al pastor combination in particular is liked or loved by 77% of consumers who have tried it, according to market research firm Datassential’s Consumer Preferences tool.

Datassential reports that “al pastor” is found on 4.3% of U.S. menus, up 22% over the past four years.

Click through the gallery for more on this week’s Flavor of the Week and see how one restaurant is using al pastor on its menu.

TAGS: Food Trends
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