Cochinita Pibil Recipe


Cochinita Pibil (CC photo by ecollins93 courtesy of Flickr)

Cochinita pibil, a slow-roasted pork dish, originates in the southern Mexico, specifically the Yucatan Peninsula, comprising the states of Yucatan, Campeche and Quintana Roo. Traditional Yucatan food as we know it today arises from the fusion of early European influences with native Mayan food and preparation techniques. For example, cochinita pibil resulted from the succulent combination of Spanish pork with pre-Hispanic Spices and cooking methods.

Traditionally, this dish involves marinating cochinita, which is literally baby pig (pork shoulder, loin, or Boston butt roast can be used instead), in the juice of Seville or bitter oranges, coloring it with achiote (annatto seed), wrapping it in a banana leaf, and then slowly roasting it over hot stones underground. Such preparation is thus well-summarized by the descriptive Mayan name “cochinita pibil” which basically means “baby pig roasted under the ground”. The tender, flavorful pork results both from marinating it for at least 8 hours in highly acidic juice and slowly cooking it for hours. Since bitter oranges aren’t always available, you can combine lemon or lime juice with orange juice to achieve the same results. The achiote gives cochinita pibil it’s characteristic color and is best if added in paste form, which is made from grinding the achiote (or annatto) seeds along with other spices.

A firey, pickled onion-habanero salsa is the vital condiment that must be served with cochinita pibil, whether enjoyed in tacos or tortas (sandwiches).

Marinade Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 Cups Freshly Squeezed Orange Juice
  • 1 1/2 Cups Freshly Squeezed Lime Juice
  • 90 grams Achiote Condimentado Paste
  • 4 Cloves Garlic
  • Salt to Taste
  • Pepper to Taste
  • 2-3 Tablespoons Chicken Bouillon Powder, optional
  • 3 lbs. Pork Shoulder or Loin

Wrap Ingredients:

  • 2-4 Large Banana Leaves
  • 1/2 Cup Vegetable Oil or Melted Lard

Salsa Ingredients:

  • 6 Habanero Chiles
  • 2 Cups Onion, finely chopped
  • 1 Cup Freshly Squeezed Lime Juice
  • 1 Cup Freshly Squeezed Orange Juice
  • Salt to Taste

Marinade Directions:

Dilute the achiote paste in the lime and orange juice. Add salt and pepper to taste as well as chicken bouillon if desired. Cut the pork into stew-sized pieces. Marinate the pork in the achiote-juice mixture in a covered dish in the refrigerator for 12-24 hours. Marinating is essential to succes, so this step cannot be skipped.

Salsa Directions:

Toast the habanero chiles in a skillet over medium heat. Remove from heat and cool. Finely chop the chiles, and add the onion, lime and orange juice. Add salt to taste. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours before serving with the cochinita pibil.

Wrap and Roasting Directions:

Pre heat oven to 325 degress Farenheit.

To prepare the banana leaves, hold them over a gas burner or put them in a skillet over medium heat. Heat them until they can change color a bit and soften. This prevents them from tearing when you wrap the pork in them. Be careful not to overtoast them or they’ll become brittle.

In a rectangular pan, lay a banana leaf lenghtwise and another along its width. Place the marinated pork, pouring all the marinade on top of it, on the leaves and pour the vegetable oil or melted lard over the pork. Fold the banana leaves over the pork and flip the wrapped pork seam-side down in the pan. Make sure the leaves are moist so they won’t burn. Cover with foil. (Some people just choose to cover the pork with foil without the banana leaves because they think they are just for show. However, the leaves do add their own unique, subtle flavor to the pork, so don’t skip this step either).

Bake for 2 hours. Remove from oven and carefully remove foil. The pork should be very tender and fall apart easily when pulled with a fork. If not, return to the oven and cook until tender. Shred pork with 2 forks when done.

Serve the cochinita pibil with warm corn tortillas and eat taco style. If prefered, serve it sandwich-style on warm bread. In either case, don’t forget the pickled onion-habanero salsa!

Posted by Lindsay

2 Responses to “Cochinita Pibil Recipe”

  1. Hi Lindsay – Thanks for the wonderful recipe! I’ve been wanting to make this for a while, and just may try to make it.

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