Cauliflower and Plantain al Pastor Tacos

Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Servings: 12

In this clever spin on al pastor tacos, traditionally made with pork, Chef Claudette Zepeda created a plant-based version featuring cauliflower and plantains, seasoned with a bold chile marinade. Pile everything on corn tortillas, garnish as you like and dig into a delicious meatless meal. If you can’t find achiote paste, in a molcajete or food processor, combine 9 Tbs. paprika, 4 1/2 tsp. dried oregano, 1 1/2 tsp. ground cumin, 6 grated garlic cloves and 6 Tbs. white vinegar; grind or process until smooth.


For the al pastor marinade:

  • 4 dried guajillo chiles or dried ancho chiles, seeded
  • 7 oz. (220 g) achiote paste (see headnote)
  • 1 cup (8 fl. oz./250 ml) distilled vinegar
  • 4 chipotle chiles in adobo sauce, drained and finely chopped
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

  • 1 head cauliflower, trimmed, broken into florets and cut in half
  • 2 ripe plantains (dark yellow with black spots), peeled and cut on the bias into 1/2-inch (12-mm) slices
  • Vegetable oil as needed
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 lb. (500 g) corn tortillas
  • 1/4 cup (1 oz./30 g) grated queso cotija
  • 4 avocados, pitted, peeled and sliced (optional)
  • 1/2 red onion, julienned
  • Leaves from 1 bunch fresh cilantro
  • 1/2 cup (4 oz./125 g) crema or sour cream
  • 2 limes, cut into wedges


To make the al pastor marinade, grill the guajillo chiles for a few seconds to soften them. In a molcajete, dissolve the achiote paste in the vinegar to make a paste. In the molcajete or a blender, combine the achiote mixture with the guajillo chiles and chipotle chiles, then grind or blend until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside.
If using a stovetop grill pan, position 1 rack in the upper third and 1 rack in the lower third of an oven and preheat to 350°F (180°C). Place the cauliflower on a baking sheet and the plantains on another baking sheet.
Preheat a cast-iron grill pan over medium-high heat. Lightly oil the pan. Season the cauliflower and plantains on both sides with salt. Working in batches, add the cauliflower and plantains to the pan and sear, turning once, until browned, about 3 minutes per side. Return them to the baking sheets.

Brush the cauliflower and plantains all over with the marinade. Transfer the baking sheets to the oven and roast until tender, 10 to 15 minutes, switching the pans between the racks halfway through.

If using an outdoor grill, brush the cauliflower and plantains with oil and season on both sides with salt. Place on the grill and cook until starting to brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Flip the cauliflower and plantains, then brush with the marinade and cook until charred on both sides, 3 to 5 minutes more.
To assemble the tacos, place a few pieces of cauliflower and plantains on each tortilla. Garnish with the queso cotija, avocados, onion, cilantro leaves and crema. Serve with the lime wedges. Serves 12.
Recipe courtesy of Claudette Zepeda, Chef, VAGA, San Diego