Gringas al Pastor

Yes, the title translates to “white girls” or at least something associated with them, but I’m choosing not to delve into that part of this delicious dish, a dish that’s found in most places serving tacos al pastor in central Mexico and beyond. You’re right that Gringas are not really tacos, but are really a type of quesadilla (what’s called a sincronizada)—2 flour tortillas sandwiched with melted cheese. But they’re so common and so good, I feel they have a place in this Taco Manual. Of course, you can substitute the pastor meat with lots of other delectables—anything from cooked shrimp to your leftover pot roast would be welcome here. But I’m keeping with the common pastor meat here. If you live near a Mexican grocery, you could take the easy route and buy pastor meat (they often have it in the butcher counter cut into strips) and saute it in a hot pan. What I’m offering in this recipe is a simplified version of my full-on pastor recipe, but it’s super tasty (and usually better than what you can buy at the Mexican groceries). If you’re up for it, you can grill the meat instead of searing it in a hot pan.
Servings: 6gringas


  • 3medium dried ancho chiles, stemmed, seeded and torn into flat pieces
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1/2teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2teaspoon ground cinnamon (preferably Mexican canela)
  • 1 to 2 canned chipotle chiles en adobo
  • 1/2cup pineapple juice OR about 2 ounces fresh pineapple, peeled and cored (a generous ½ cup of ½-inch pieces)
  • 2tablespoons vinegar (cider vinegar works well here)
  • 2tablespoons agave syrup, corn syrup or honey
  • salt
  • 3/4pound thin-sliced pork shoulder (a little thicker than ¼-inch is ideal—the kind Mexican butchers sell for making tacos al pastor)
  • 2tablespoons vegetable oil or fresh-rendered pork lard
  • 12 five- to six-inch flour tortillas
  • 3cups 12 ounces) shredded Mexican melting cheese (such a Chihuahua, quesadilla or asadero) or Monterey Jack, brick or mild cheddar
  • About 1/2cup chopped white onion (about ¼ inch) (for a fresher taste, rinse after cutting)
  • About 3/4cup salsa (I really like Chipotle Salsa here)
  • About 2tablespoons grated queso añejo or other garnishing cheese like Parmesan or Romano (optional)


Make the marinade.  Toast the chiles a few pieces at a time in an ungreased skillet over medium heat, using a metal spatula to press them firmly against the hot surface until they release their aroma and change color slightly, then flip them over and press to toast the other side.  Collect in a bowl, cover with hot tap water and let rehydrate until soft, 20 to 30 minutes.  Place the garlic in a small microwave-safe dish, cover with water and microwave 1 minute; drain.  Drain the chiles, reserving the soaking liquid, and place them in a blender jar along with the garlic, black pepper, cinnamon, chipotle(s), pineapple juice or pineapple, vinegar, agave syrup or one of its stand-ins and ½ cup of the soaking liquid. Blend until smooth, then press through a medium mesh sieve to remove unblended skins and stray seeds.  (If you’re working with a high speed blender, there’s no need to strain).  Taste and season with salt, usually a generous 1 ½ teaspoons. 


Flavor and cook the meat.  Mix the meat slices with half the marinade (store the rest of the marinade in the refrigerator for another round of Gringas). Heat a very large (12-inch) skillet over medium-high.  Add the oil or lard and, when hot, lay in the meat in a single layer.  Let cook undisturbed for a couple of minutes, until browning underneath, then turn the pieces over and let brown on the other side until fully cooked and tender, about 2 minutes.  Remove the meat to a cutting board and cut into 1/4-inch strips (if they are longer than about 1 ½ inches, cut the strips in half).  Sprinkle with salt. 


Make the gringas.  Heat a large skillet or griddle over medium.  Lay on as many tortillas as comfortably fit, top each with a portion of cheese, spreading it on evenly, then cover with a portion of meat.  Sprinkle with about a tablespoons of the raw onion, then top with another tortilla. When the tortilla is browned underneath, about 2 minutes, flip the whole assemblage and brown the other side.  The cheese should be completely melted.  As the gringas are ready, remove them to a cutting board, cut into quarters and serve right away with the salsa and a good sprinkle of queso añejo.

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