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Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Cochinita Pibil

I was first introduced to Cochinita pibil back in 1990 when I was in Cancun, Mexico on vacation. Cochinita pibil is a slow-roasted pork dish typical of the Yucatán Peninsula. The traditional preparation involves marinating pork in sour oranges, spices, and achiote (annatto) paste. The pork is then wrapped in banana leaves and placed on hot coals and rocks place in a pib (underground oven). The pib is covered over with banana leaves and topped with soil. The pork roasts underground for several hours until the meat is fork-tender. The method in this recipe uses a wood-fired, or conventional, oven to roast the pork.


  • 1 kilo (2.2 pounds) of boneless pork (pork shoulder or pork loin with a nice layer of fat works well)
  • 350 ml (1½ cups) of limón mandarina (If you don’t have limón mandarina, use 250 ml (1 cup) of orange use with 125 ml (½ cup) of lemon or lime juice)
  • 125 ml (½ cup) apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 of a medium onion
  • 1 chili habanero
  • 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
  • 5 whole cloves
  • 8 whole black peppercorns
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 90 g (3 ounces) of achiote paste (annatto)
  • 2 tablespoons of lard or vegetable shortening
  • 2 hojas de platano (banana leaves)


    Prepare the pork

  • Slice the pork to a thickness of 4 or 5 cm (1½ or 2 inches) and set aside.
  • Prepare the marinade (adobo)
  • Warm the achiote and lard in a small saucepan or microwave just until melted.
  • Add the limón mandarina, vinegar, onion, chili habanero, cinnamon, cloves, peppercorns, garlic, and salt to a blender jar and mix on high speed until everything is finely minced and blended.
  • Gradually add the warmed achiote and lard to the blender and mix until blended.

    Marinate the pork

  • Place a layer of pork in a glass dish or plastic container. Cover the pork with some of the marinade and continue layering the pork with more of the marinade until all of the pork is completely covered with the marinade. Cover the container with a lid or plastic wrap.
  • Refrigerate the pork for a minimum of 4 hours, preferably overnight. Remove the pork from the refrigerator and allow it to come to room temperature before cooking.
  • Preheat oven to 175-200°C (350-400°F). We enjoy a smoky flavor, so we use an outdoor wood-fired stone oven and the temperature fluctuates somewhat. A conventional oven works fine too, but the meat won’t have any smoke flavoring.

    Prepare the Hojas de Platano (Banana Leaves) 

  • Cut the banana leaves so that 4 pieces are twice the length of the baking dish, and 4 more pieces are twice the width of the baking dish. Slightly toast them over low heat on the stove to make them softer and more elastic. They will change to a dark green and become very pliable.
    Roasting the Pork
  • Line a baking dish with the banana leaves overlap each other and extend over the sides of the baking dish by at least the same as the length and width of the dish.

  • Layer the pork into the dish on top of the banana leaves and pour the remaining marinade on top of the pork. You will probably have chunks of the achiote/lard paste that you can just spread evenly on top of the pork.
  • Fold the banana leaves on the short sides of the baking dish across to the middle. Then fold the banana leaves on the long sides of the dish across to form a closed package that will stay closed while the meat cooks. We place glass weights on top of the banana leaves to ensure they stay in place.
  • Place the baking dish in the oven for about 2 to 3 hours, until the pork is thoroughly cooked and pulls apart with a fork.
  • When the pork is finished roasting, shred the meat on a serving platter and pour any remaining juices in the baking dish over the top of the pork before serving.

Cochinita Pibil is typically served with corn tortillas and pickled habanero peppers and red onions.

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