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Apr 29, 2012 08:30 AM

What can I use in place of chipotle chiles in Tacos al Pastor?

Let me start off by saying I'm not looking for something to replicate the taste of the chipotle; I'm looking for something to fill the gap in the recipe.

I just don't like chipote chiles. More specifically, I enjoy the heat of a good jalepeno but I don't care for foods that are smokey. Chipotles in adobo sauce are easily found in my local grocery stores, so it's not that I can't find it. I just don't want to use it.

I'll be making Tacos al Pastor, following the Epi recipe There are chipotles in both the marinade and the salsa. Are there other chiles, either fresh, dried or reconstituted, that can serve as a good substitute? Or should I just omit the chipotles and not worry about a substitute? Thanks!

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  1. I'd probably use Jalapenos. I realize that the Chipotle is actually a smoked dry red Jalapeno but I think you'll find it has better flavor and isn't as hot as the Chipolte.

    2 Replies
    1. re: todao

      I assume you mean fresh jalapenos.

      1. re: CindyJ

        Yes, fresh is (IMO) always best. But if you can't find 'em fresh you could use the canned variety. You could also just add a couple of spoonfulls of canned green chilis. paulj makes a good point, however. For what they add to the recipe, you could probably just as well omit them.

    2. Omit them. That recipe only calls for 1 or 2, just enough to give a hint of smokiness and some heat. Depending on your heat tolerance, that 1/4c of guajillo may provide enough heat. Or use jalepeno to taste.

      In Mexico City, shops slice this meat from a gyro like stack. Imitations like this recipe are characterized by the use of pineapple and onion. Otherwise they are like other pork taco fillings.

      11 Replies
      1. re: paulj

        In the D.F Pineapples are very common to see roasting on the top of the spit and basting the the meat with it juices and small pieces are nicked off into the taco as well.
        Not to mention that there are many different marinades some of which use pineapple juice to sweeten and tenderize.
        I would suggest adding some ground chili ancho and chili pasilla for some smokey and sweet notes. A roasted tomato to replace the tomato in the adobo sauce.

        1. re: chefj

          Yes, pineapple is de rigeur in Mexico City. If you ask for your tacos "con todo" that means a sliver or two of pineapple with onion and cilantro.

          To the OP if you want traditional al pastor flavor I'd leave the chipotles out anyway, as I doubt that they're often used in the marinade. Indeed I just looked up about half a dozen recipes in Spanish and only one included chipotles. A mix of guajillo and ancho seems common, and in a couple of cases pasilla. If you can get them whole, do so. Just deseed and devein, briefly toast them in a hot skillet, soak in hot water for 15-20 minutes, and blend. You might want to strain if there are little bits of tough skin left.

          And if it's traditional al pastor flavor you want I wouldn't use fresh chiles. That's taking things in a very different direction.

          You might also include some achiote paste, but curiously the recipes that Google coughed up didn't include it. I'd always heard it was a standard ingredient but maybe not?

          1. re: Soul Vole

            Achiote is really only common in the Yucat√°n and adjacent areas, you are right that some use it in the Al Pastor marinade for color more than flavor but it is not traditional.

            1. re: chefj

              Some trace 'al pastor' to Lebanese immigrants, and Merida, Yucatan is the city most influenced by this group.

              1. re: paulj

                I believe that it is Puebla in the state of Puebla is the ground zero for the Al Pastor style not Merida.

              2. re: chefj

                Interestingly enough, Rick Bayless' recipe for Tacos al Pastor calls for achiote paste.

                1. re: CindyJ

                  Rick goes his own way often and he loves the Yucateco Style. He also calls for chipotle as does your recipe which is not traditional( though you find folks who use it )in DF which is considered the place for Al Pastor.

                  1. re: chefj

                    I must admit, I'm unfamiliar with most of the abbreviated places in this thread. Where is DF?

                    1. re: CindyJ

                      Calling Mexico City, DF is like calling Washington, DC.

              3. re: Soul Vole

                I suspect the OP recipe used chipotle either because it is a fad, or because the author wanted to imitate the smokiness that gyro grill might add.

                1. re: paulj

                  Yeah that's what I was thinking. But al pastor in DF doesn't have a particularly smoky flavor. Most vendors use gas but even at El Tizoncito, where they use charcoal, I don't taste a particular smokiness. Roasty, yes (when it's good), but smoky, not in my experience.

                  As for the achiote, I'm suspecting that might be some misinformation being spread around. Al pastor certainly doesn't have the deep red of a Yucatecan pollo pibil. The dried chiles would be enough to give it its red tint.

          2. If you want the heat without the smokiness, you could use a few squirts of sriracha in the marinade. For the salsa, use grilled jalapenos or whatever peppers you like. I would not forgo peppers altogether as they seem to add a lot to that recipe.

            1 Reply
            1. re: mojoeater

              GRILLED jalapenos! I really like that idea. I'll be grilling the meat and pineapple, so the jalapenos can go right on the grill. I might even do serranos instead. Jalapenos have been unpredictable in these parts lately, ranging all over the place in heat level. Serranos are more predictably hot.

            2. Do you have any smoked paprika?

              1 Reply
              1. Thanks to everyone for your insights and suggestions. The tacos I made last night might not be considered Tacos al Pastor by purists, but they were very good, nevertheless.

                I marinated the meat in the puree from the Epicurious recipe, with a couple of modifications. In place of the chipotles I used a couple of roasted serranos, and I omitted the pineapple from the marinade, as suggested in a few of the reviews on Epi. I grilled the meat slices along with pineapple rings and thick slices of red onion, chopped it all into chunks and that was the filling.

                I made two salsas to accompany the tacos. The first was a variation of the Smoky Two Chile Salsa on Epi. But again, I used roasted serranos in place of the chipotles. The other was a fresh tomatillo salsa

                So it was a delicious, if labor-intensive meal (I had also made some fresh guacamole to snack on with tortilla chips before dinner). Like most other dishes, this one was just fine with the substitutions made for personal preferences.