Sweet, tangy al pastor sauce cooked with cauliflower for an easy and delicious vegan taco! Roasted tender cauliflower tacos with a spicy, sweet pineapple and dried chile sauce. A perfect option for Taco Tuesday’s or Meatless Mondays that will please your tacos cravings!
If you’ve never heard of tacos al pastor, you’re not alone! Before I moved to Los Angeles, the taco capital of the United States, I’d never heard of al pastor. To be honest, before moving to Los Angeles I would never eat tacos at all! Growing up I would always look forward to taco Tuesday’s and plain ground beef tacos were the typical treat. My introduction to tacos past your average options began in Los Angeles.
There is an amazing Summer market near my workplace where you can go for happy hours on warm Summer nights. There I would sip on margaritas and test out a variety of tacos right near the beach waves and stars. There were so many more choices: adobada, cactus (nopales), al pastor, asada. Not to mention the options of mulitas, vampiros, quesadillas.. all are options with cheese and either one or two hard or soft shell combinations.
What is Al Pastor?
Al pastor is also know as tacos al pastor. They are pork tacos that blend Middle Eastern spices with indigenous Mexican ones. It’s a common street food of slow-roasted pork marinated in dried chiles, spices and pineapple.
Al pastor is a reference to the way to prepare and cook the meat. They're cooked on a vertical spit so that the meat can get crispy and caramelized on the outside. Think of tacos al pastor as the Mexican version of Lebanese shawarma tacos!
How to Make Vegan Al Pastor
Al pastor tacos are usually pork. For this vegan al pastor version, I used cauliflower. When recipe testing, I tried to get the perfect balance of crunchy and tender to imitate meat. Do we roast the cauliflower first and then simmer with the sauce? Or do we sauté the cauliflower raw with the al pastor sauce in a pan to cook together? Both options seemed to make too many dishes to clean after the process and not the right balance.
The process that resulted is mixing the raw cauliflower with the blended al pastor sauce. Next, roast the bright, saucy cauliflower in the oven for about 30-minutes. The result: saucy cauliflower with the texture of tender, juicy protein!
Ingredients & Substitutions for an Al Pastor Sauce
The sauce used for these Vegan Cauliflower Tacos Al Pastor is much simpler than you might think! You add a mix of 7 essential ingredients straight into the blender to create a vibrant red al pastor sauce. This sauce is not spicy, it is more a blend of savory and sweet.
- CALIFORNIA CHILES. California chiles are mild, dried Anaheim chiles. A substitute is New Mexican chiles (a little more spicy). For a spicier al pastor, you can substitute for dried guajillo chiles.
- PINEAPPLE. This is what makes al pastor what it is. You need pineapple to balance out the chiles and add a beautiful sweetness. I purchased pre-cut pineapple chunks, but you can also use fresh pineapple and dice it into chunks.
- SESAME SEEDS. Interesting enough, Mexican cuisine uses sesame seeds very often in salsas and sauces. Dried chilies and sesame seeds are a common combination for Mexican food, like moles, and a must have for this recipe!
- VINEGAR. A splash of vinegar helps balance out the sauce.
- SPICES. Oregano, cinnamon and salt add a sweet and savory seasoning to this al pastor sauce. If you want to experiment, you can also add a pinch of ground ginger.
- WATER. To thin out the sauce, I add a splash of water. If your blender has a tough time blending the sauce, add an extra tablespoon of water.
Making vegan cauliflower tacos al pastor is an easy, five step process.
STEP ONE: Make the al pastor sauce in the blender.
STEP TWO: Mix cauliflower and al pastor sauce.
STEP THREE: Pour sauce-covered cauliflower onto a sheet tray.
STEP FOUR: Roast the cauliflower.
STEP FIVE: Build the vegan al pastor taco!
What to Pair with Vegan Al Pastor Tacos
- Healthy Mexican Street Corn (Elotes)
- Vegan Mexican Rice
- Fresh Mexican Avocado Salad
- Orange Agua Fresca / Agua de Naranja
- Pineapple Water / Agua de Piña
More Tacos Recipes
Cauliflower Vegan Al Pastor Tacos
- 1 Head Cauliflower
- 6 Corn Tortillas
Vegan Al Pastor Sauce
- 5 Dried California Chiles
- 1 Cup Diced Fresh Pineapple
- 1 tablespoon White Wine Vinegar
- 1 tablespoon White Sesame Seeds
- ¼ teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
- 2 Cloves Garlic
- 1 teaspoon Dried Oregano
- 2 Cloves
- 1 teaspoon Salt
- ¼ Cup Water
- Pre-heat the oven to 450ºF.
- Cut the cauliflower by removing the leaves, cutting the head in half and cutting off the core. Pull apart the cauliflower florets and place into a large bowl.
- Blend all al pastor sauce ingredients together until smooth.
- Pour the al pastor sauce over the cauliflower florets. Mix together in the large bowl until cauliflower florets are entirely covered with the sauce.
- Place the sauce-covered cauliflower florets onto a lined cookie sheet / baking tray. Make sure to spread the cauliflower florets evenly on the tray.
- Roast the cauliflower for 25-minutes.
- After the cauliflower roasts for 25-minutes, turn on the oven to broil for a final 5-minutes. Remove from the oven.
Assemble the Tacos Al Pastor
- Heat the corn tortillas. I prefer to heat the tortillas directly over an open flame until charred on both sides (about 1-minute each side). Other options: place a stack of tortillas in aluminum foil in the oven until warmed (about 3-5 minutes) or toast individually in a skillet on the stovetop until warmed (about 3-5 minutes).
- Add a few spoonfuls of cauliflower al pastor into the corn tortillas.
- Top with salsa, avocado, jalapeños, or coleslaw.