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Not everyone has memories of climbing Mayan ruins and women grinding spices on a metate.
I didn’t realize the impact of living in Southern Mexico had on me until years later. The colors, the flavors, the smells, all of it changed me.
I think that’s why I had a hard time writing down this recipe for Cochinita Pibil. Memories of my youth recreated in this one dish.
I hope you make this recipe and taste the unique flavors of authentic Mexican food from Southern Mexico.
How to Make Cochinita Pibil
Check out the picture above. These are the ingredients you will need.
It’s actually not very hard to make this recipe. You’re making a sauce, marinating pork, and cooking it for a long time in banana leaves. Easy!
One of the main ingredients in the marinade is achiote. Pronounced “AH-shee-oH-teh.”
Achiote paste is made with annatto seeds and several spices. It is what gives this dish its unique flavor.
Look for it in the spices area or in the Hispanic aisle at the grocery store.
I have a hard time finding sour oranges even in Baja California, Mexico. They are native to Southern Mexico and hardly ever travel north.
No worries. You can recreate its distinct flavor.
• Substitute sour oranges for equal parts oranges and limes.
The juice will taste sour and slightly sweet.
Here are the spices that you will need to make the marinade.
They will give a lot of flavor once they are mixed with the achiote and sour orange juice.
- Add all the ingredients for the sauce into the blender.
- Blend until smooth.
Taste the marinade. It should taste like garlic and citrus.
Personal taste comes into play here. If you think it should be sweeter, you can add another orange. If you think it should be more sour, add the juice of another lime.
Traditionally, Cochinita Pibil is made with an entire pig and cooked underground. It takes all day.
To make this at home: I’ve seen people make this dish using pork loin, pork butt. For me, it should be made with pork shoulder.
- Cut off as much of the fat as you can.
- There will still be plenty of fat left for the meat to come out tasty.
Please note: Authentic Cochinita Pibil is fatty, and shoulder is a fatty cut of meat. If you go to Southern Mexico, you will find that people do not trim the fat off because they say the fat gives extra flavor.
I’m feeding my family, and I want them to be heart healthy and live a long, long time. To each their own.
Something to note about authentic Mexican food: Our food is rustic. Meaning, there is no waste. The meat (regardless of the type – chicken, beef, pork, lamb) is usually cut into several pieces. You will find bones on your plate of food.
- Cover the pork.
- This goes into the fridge overnight. Or marinate for a minimum of 4 hours.
Do not simply pour the marinade over the pork. The marinade is very strong, and that is why the pieces need to be individually marinated.
Depending on the size of the pork, you might have extra marinade left over. Freeze it for later use.
Banana leaves… The vendors at the market in Southern Mexico used to cut down the banana branch then chop them off, depending on how much you wanted.
I know this is foreign to many of you, but it’s actually very easy.
• To cook with banana leaves, you need to make them pliable.
Look for them at the Mexican market, or if you have an Asian community near by, look for them in the freezer section.
- Cut 3 pieces of the banana leaves. About 3 feet each.
- Place one of the pieces and over the stove (or over a hot skillet).
- Move it gently, carefully, and quickly over the flame with your hands or tongs as it turns dark green.
- When it changes colors, that’s when it’s ready.
- Take to the faucet, and rinse the banana leaves.
See video for further reference.
I once heard Rick Bayless say, “You can very make Cochinita Pibil without banana leaves, but the banana leaves give so much flavor.”
I completely agree with Rick Bayless!
Cochinita Pibil Slow Cooker
This is an authentic Cochinita Pibil recipe except for the slow cooker part. I’ll leave you a Dutch Oven recipe and Instant Pot recipes below.
To assemble in a slow cooker, you are overlapping the banana leaves criss cross.
- Add one piece of the banana leaf lengthwise.
- Then add another piece of the banana leaf criss cross.
- Add the marinated pork.
- Cover with the ends of the banana leaves that are overflowing.
Be sure not to add too much pork. The slow cooker lid needs to be placed over everything.
I added another layer of banana leaves on top just for good measure.
The pork meat will be snug inside the wrapped banana leaves.
• Add water around the banana leaves.
This will help the Cochinita Pibil from drying out. Do not add the water directly into the meat.
I can almost take the Cochinita Pibil tacos. Mmmmm!
• Place the lid on the slow cooker. Set the slow cooker.
Dutch Oven version:
- Follow the instructions up until step 19.
- Cover with the lid. Heat the oven to 400 degrees F.
- Bake until pork is tender. 2 ½ hours.
Cochinita Pibil Instant Pot:
- Follow the instructions up until step 12.
- Place the metal trivet inside the instant pot. Add ½ cup water.
- Put one piece of the banana leaf in the pot, put the second piece across, making an X.
- Add the pork to the middle of the leaves.
- Fold the leaves over the pork to tuck them in.
- Lock the lid. Move valve to “Sealing.”
- Cook on High Pressure for 60 minutes.
- Full natural release for 20 minutes.
Once the meat is ready, remove the pork from the slow cooker, instant pot, or Dutch oven.
Place the pork in a separate container so as not to get the banana leaves. Discard the banana leaves.
Shred the pork. The meat should be soft and falling off the bone. YUM!
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Cochinita Pibil tacos are so good! Tender meat that melts in your mouth. Top your taco with chopped cilantro and cebolla en escabeche (pickled red onions).
The delicious aroma and flavorful bite of this dish is worth the effort. Hope you enjoy!
- Slow Cooker
For the Marinade
For the Pork
- 4 lbs pork shoulder chopped
- 9 feet banana leaves cut into 3-feet pieces
- 1/2 cup water
- Add all the marinade ingredients into a blender.
- Blend until smooth.
- Chop up the pork into pieces.
- The size of the pieces do no matter since the meat will be shredded later.
- In a container, pour some of the marinade over the pork.
- Individually marinate the pieces of pork.
- Do not add all the sauce over the pork. Use only what is necessary.
- Cover the pork, and let sit in the fridge overnight.Minimum 4 hours.
- When ready, heat the banana leaves over a hot griddle or gas stove.
- Move the banana leaf quickly and carefully over the flame.
- As soon as it turns dark green, it is ready.
- Wash the banana leaves.
- Place one of the banana leaves into the slow cooker lengthwise.
- Place another banana leaf, over the other leaf criss cross.
- Some of the banana leaves will overflow out of the slow cooker.
- Add the marinated pork into the banana leaves.
- Cover the meat with the overflowing banana leaves, wrapping the pork.
- Add the water around the banana leaves. Not directly into the pork wrapping.
- Set the slow cooker to low for 8 hours, or high for 6 hours.
- Once it's ready, remove the lid to the slow cooker.
- Open up the banana leaves.
- Carefully remove the pork to a separate container and shred the meat.
- Discard the banana leaves.
- Serve as tacos on corn tortillas and top with pickled red onions.
More Mexican Pork Recipes:
Red Pork Tamales (or Tamales de Puerco en Chile Rojo) is traditional Mexican food at its best. So tasty. So incredibly delicious. They are worth the effort to make.
Grilled Pork Chops in Adobo Sauce (Chuletas Adobadas) – Delicious and flavorful. Make this at your next backyard BBQ.
Chicharrón en Salsa Roja, or Pork Cracklings in Mexican Red Salsa, is a tasty and easy Mexican recipe. Ready in minutes, making it a great quick lunch idea. Serve with warm tortillas and refried beans.
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