Nearly every family in Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, and Cuba has their own way of roasting pork for the holidays. This Puerto Rican version is almost always served with arroz con gandules (rice with pigeon peas), and the chicharrón (crispy skin) is heartily fought over. If you can’t find Sazón, you can use any other seasoning salt, preferably one with a Latin American flavor profile. And if on the off-chance you have any pork left over, use it to make the best sandwiches you’ve ever tasted.
- 2 ripe plum tomatoes, cored, coarsely chopped (about 1½ cups)
- 1 medium onion, coarsely chopped (about 1 cup)
- 2 Cubanelle peppers, seeds removed, coarsely chopped (about 1 cup), or 1 medium green bell pepper, ribs and seeds removed, coarsely chopped
- 1 medium red bell pepper, ribs and seeds removed, coarsely chopped (about 1 cup)
- 1 large bunch cilantro, coarsely chopped (about 1 cup)
- 1 head of garlic, cloves separated, peeled
Pernil and Assembly
- 1 Tbsp. black peppercorns
- 2 heads of garlic, cloves separated, peeled
- 2 1.4-oz. packets Sazón con Culantro y Achiote (such as Goya)
- ½ cup Diamond Crystal or ¼ cup plus 1½ tsp. Morton kosher salt
- 2 Tbsp. white wine vinegar
- 2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
- 1 8–10-lb. skin-on, bone-in pork shoulder
- A spice mill or mortar and pestle
Purée tomatoes, onion, Cubanelle peppers, bell pepper, cilantro, and garlic in a food processor until smooth. Scoop out ½ cup soffritto and set aside. Reserve remaining soffritto for another use (you can use it for the arroz con gandules).
Do Ahead: Soffritto can be made 3 days ahead. Transfer to an airtight container, cover, and chill, or freeze up to 3 months.
Pernil and Assembly
Finely grind peppercorns in spice mill or with mortar and pestle. Transfer to a food processor. Add garlic, Sazón, salt, oregano, vinegar, 2 Tbsp. oil, and reserved ½ cup soffritto and purée until smooth.
Push a small paring knife (about 3½" long) into pork through the skin, working the blade all the way in; twist knife to make a small hole in the meat. Repeat, making holes spaced about 1½" apart on all sides of pork.
Rub pork all over with adobo mixture, pushing into holes and covering any exposed meat and skin. Try to get as much adobo mixture into meat and not just on the surface, where it may burn when roasting. Be sure to use all of it! Wrap pork tightly and chill at least 3 hours and up to 3 days.
Place a rack in lower third of oven; preheat to 300°. Line a large roasting pan with 2 layers of heavy-duty foil. Place a roasting rack on top. Set pork, skin side up, on rack. Scrape any adobo mixture off skin and thoroughly pat dry with paper towels. Liberally brush cleaned skin with oil. Transfer pan to oven and carefully pour 2 cups water into pan. Roast pork until an instant-read thermometer inserted into thickest part of shoulder registers 180°, meat is pulling away from bone, and skin is crisp, 5–6 hours.
Let pork sit, uncovered, at room temperature at least 30 minutes and up to 5 hours.
Before serving, preheat oven to 500° and reheat roast until skin crisps (don’t let it take on any more color), 5–10 minutes.
Remove chicharrón (crispy skin) and cut or break into smaller pieces. Slice pork and transfer to a platter. Serve with chicharrón and arroz y gandules alongside.
Christopher Simpson for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Simon Andrews. Prop Stylist: Paige Hicks.
Perhaps the best known and most coveted dish from Puerto Rico, pernil is a positively sumptuous preparation for pork shoulder. It’s marinated (ideally overnight) in garlic, citrus and herbs, then slow-roasted on high heat to achieve a crisp chicharrón, or skin. Traditionally, it’s prepared for Thanksgiving or Christmas, but for those of us in the diaspora, it’s made for most special occasions. Shoulder is also a relatively inexpensive cut of meat, and it yields a lot of servings, leading to exciting leftovers. This recipe is deeply indebted to the chef Maricel Presilla and her recipe in “Gran Cocina Latina,” her cookbook published in 2012. Her method is a foolproof way to get that chicharrón as well as tender meat that falls off the bone. It’s blessed by her brilliance. (Watch the video of Von Diaz making pernil here.) &mdashVon Diaz
Pernil Dominicano | Roasted Pork Shoulder | Made To Order | Chef Zee Cooks
- 1 ½ - 2 heads of Fresh Garlic
- 1 tbs Dominican Oregano *Regular oregano will also work
- 3 ½ tbs Salt for a 7lbs Pernil
- 1 tsp Black Pepper
- 2 tsp Fresh Thyme
- ½ tsp Cumin
- 1 Red Onion
- 1 Sopita aka Chicken Bouillon Cube
- 1 Orange
- 1-2 Limes
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 3 cups of water
- ¼ - ½ cup of white vinegar
- Poke holes all over the pernil using a cross method to get small to medium holes
- Then place in a large mixing bowl and add 1 cup of water and the vinegar
- Massage the vinegar and water into the pork and let it sit for 5-10 while you mix the marinade
- Combine garlic, oregano, salt, sopita, cumin, onion, black pepper, and thyme in a food processor and blend
- Then add the freshly squeezed orange juice, lime juice, and olive oil. Mix again and set marinade aside
- Drain the pernil—no worries if you don’t every single last drop of vinegar + water
- Season pernil thoroughly using the marinade. Be sure to massage the marinade into the holes we made earlier. It looks weird at first, but your taste buds will thank you later
- Cover pernil with saran wrap and let it marinade for a minimum of 4 hours. Best to marinade for a whole day.
- In a LARGE pot, add pork—skin side up—and add 1-2 cups of water. Be sure to include all of the marinade that in the mixing bowl. Boil for 45 mins to an hour.
- Switch Pork—skin side up—to a sturdy pan and roast covered for 3 hours at 350 degrees making sure to baste it every hour. The pernil will become light golden brown and juicy during this time.
- At the 4 th hour, take out 50% of the juices and roast uncovered for one more hour
- **Optional** Once the pernil is done, broil for 5 minutes to get super crispy skin
Seasoning the Pernil:
This recipe is deceivingly simple since it doesn’t use THAT many ingredients. It’s mostly salt, bitter orang, lime, oregano, and tons and tons of garlic. The more the better, no? The trick to making Pernil is seasoning it sufficiently with salt and this ultimately comes down to personal preference. Pork shoulder sweats out salt so you have to add a lot of salt so you don’t end up with a bland dish. You also have to keep in mind, that pork shoulder is a big thick piece of meat. This is why we poke holes in it to make sure some of the marinade gets inside. This is also why when we serve the dish, we pull the meat and serve it with a combo of outside pieces and inside pieces. The outside pieces are my FAVORITE since they’re the most flavorful.
Now back to the salt—different recipes will call for different amounts of salt and again, I stress that this comes down to personal preference. After YEARS of making this dish with grandmother, aunt, and on my own I’m cracked the code to salting a pernil. Hear me out—The max amount of salt you should use is HALF of the pork shoulder’s weight in tablespoons. Confused? I’ll explain. Say you have a 10lb pernil, the MAX amount of salt you should use is 5tbs. This will give you a very well-seasoned pernil. Anything more than 5tbs will give you a salty pernil. Now you if you like your food on the saltier side, then hey—go for it and add more salt. I won’t stop you. You can also use less salt but I wouldn’t recommend using less than 2 ½ tbs of salt (25% of a 10lbs perni’s weight). If there’s anything you want to do is avoid a bland pernil. Bland pork shoulder is never fun. You just get the sense that something is missing. Long story short, pay attention to how much your pernil weighs because this will dictate how much salt you should use.
Boiling the Pernil:
Moving onto boiling the pernil. Before I roast the pernil, I like to boil it for 45mins to an hour. This step is optional but I find this step to be crucial in getting a juicy pernil. Boiling the pernil with 1-2 cups of water helps the seasonings penetrate the inside and it creates a ton of au jus (gravy)! This step is simple. After your pernil has been marinating for 1-2 days, boil it for up to an hour—a little bit more if your pernil is big. Then use a sturdy pan and slow roast it at 350 degrees.
Keywords: sturdy pan. I typically use the 2 disposable aluminum pans.
Roasting the Pernil:
Roasting the pernil is also fairly simple. Depending on the size (Average is 7-10lbs) of your pork shoulder, you’re going to roast your pernil for 4-5 hours. For the first 3 hours, you want to roast the pernil covered with aluminum foil. Check on it every hour and baste it. This is the 2 nd phase of cooking a super juicy pernil. (Say no to dry pernil!) Cooking it covered will create so much gravy—you’ll be amazed.
After roasting it covered for 3 hours, baste it one last time and remove 50% of the gravy and set that aside. At 3 hours, your pernil should be almost all the way cooked, and you’ll know this because the juices coming out of the pernil will be clear and your pernil with be a light golden color. The skin won’t be crispy—but we’ll get to that part in a bit. If the juices flowing from the pernil aren’t clear by the 3 rd hour, then continue to cook it covered for another 45 mins to an hour. DON’T remove the gravy until it’s that light golden color and the juices from the pernil are clear.
Now if that you’ve roasted it covered for 3 hours or longer – some pernils are stubborn a take a little bit longer—you’re going to remove half of the juices and roast it UNCOVERED for an hour. This is the hour where magic happens. This is the hour where the pernil becomes a light to medium brown color and begins to crisp up. I LOVE LOVE LOVE a crispy skin so sometimes, I let it roast uncovered for a little more than an hour. Remember, that the pernil has cooked almost all the way during the first 3 hours and now during this last hour we’re browning it. However, we won’t be sacrificing juiciness because we’ll be basting it during that last hour as well.
In the end, it’s completely optional for you to place the pernil on broil for 5 minutes or more. Doing this will give you super crispy skin aka chicharron! If you decide to do this step, please keep a close eye on the pernil because you don’t want to burn it.
Feel free to shred the pernil and serve with lime! Please let me know if you have any questions and click here to watch my YouTube video on How to Make Pernil Dominicano! I go step by step as I did in this post.
Last but not least… What to do with that gravy that we removed?
Well, if your pernil dries out while you’re roasting it uncovered, then add some of that gravy. You can also add a little bit of that gravy once you’ve shredded the meat. Another option is that you could strain the juice and add it to melted butter mixed with flour to create your own pernil gravy that tastes delicious over the pork or mashed potatoes. You could also use the juice to create the base of a soup or you could discard. The possibilities are endless.
Reader Recipe: Pernil-Style Slow-Roasted Pork
Do you have a favorite recipe from your travels or one that virtually transports you to another place with every bite? Share it with Stirring Up Adventure! Submit your recipe ideas to [email protected] Thanks to Annalisa Esposito Bluhm for helping us launch this new feature.
Shared by Annalisa Esposito Bluhm (Michigan, United States)
In the late 1950s, my family left Calabria, Italy for São Paulo, Brazil in search of better opportunities. There, the Martino and Esposito families built a thriving butcher shop. My father’s uncle, Tio Domenico, grew close to my dad. An incredible cook, Tio Domenico made many of my father’s favorite Italian and Brazilian dishes. In the mid-1970s, my Dad left behind much of his extended family in Brazil for the United States – including Tio.
While happy in the United States, he never lost his taste for Tio Domenico’s amazing meals. In the early 1990s, Tio Domenico visited the United States. It had been nearly a decade since we last visited Brazil and we were thrilled for his visit. During this time, however, our family was recovering as my dad had recently suffered a massive heart attack/triple by-pass. Our “new normal” was scary, daunting and unfamiliar. My dad requested Tio make his favorite dish: Pernil. Standing on one side of Tio, I committed his hand motions to memory. He spoke a little English and I spoke less Portuguese, but somehow we all talked for hours as the pork roasted.
Nothing smells better than roasting Pernil. It slowly cooks for hours, filling your home with the promise of rendered fat, tender pork and savory sauce.
That evening, we all eagerly enjoyed the succulent pork in Portuguese rolls fresh from the oven. Paired with a crisp green salad and vinaigrette, it was stunningly perfect. We lingered at the dinner table for hours. Laughter filled the kitchen. It was so good to feel normal again.
That meal helped convince us everything was going to be fine… just as it did nearly 20 years later as we prepared Pernil on the first day of COVID Shelter In Place.
There is no secret to this recipe. All you gotta do is marinade the pernil and then roast for a long time, until very tender.
How tender, you ask? Well, slicing pernil without it falling apart should be difficult. At the slight touch of your knife, it should succumb into juicy chunks of flavorful awesomeness!
And, in contrast, the skin should be deliciously crispy. For that, I like to rub the pernil with butter and pop it under the broiler after it’s done cooking.
To make this pernil recipe:
- Combine the lime juice, wine, onion, garlic, salt and pepper in the jar of your blender or food processor. Blend until smooth.
Puerto Rican Pork Roast Recipe – Pernil al Horno
Recaito, Sazon Seasoning, and Sofrito can be found in Spanish stores or large supermarkets. Look in the spice section.
In a medium bowl, combine onion, bell pepper, oregano, green olives, garlic powder or garlic salt, basil, recaito, sazon seasoning, capers, and sofrito add just enough white vinegar to cover the ingredients mix and crush together until well blended.
Preparing the fat (cuerito): To make this roast pork shoulder recipe, you peel back the fat (skin) and make incisions in the meat, which allows the garlicky marinade to seep in.
With a sharp knife cut the fat away from the meat, leaving an edge attached and keeping it all in one piece. Start at the wide end and go to the narrow end with your knife. Do not separate it completely, but leave just enough still connected so that you can flip the fat back over to the side while you season the meat itself. The fat will be placed over the seasoned meat and will cook over the meat giving it more flavor. Season the side of the fat that goes over the meat with a bit of the seasoning.
Using a small sharp knife, cut 1-inch deep slits on all sides of the pork roast (the more cuts the more taste) . Using a spoon or your fingers, stuff the prepared seasoning mixture into each slit. Place the fat (skin) back over the roast.
Place pork roast into a large dish or pan. Pour any extra seasoning mixture over the roast, cover with aluminum foil and refrigerate overnight. You can season the perníl a couple of days ahead and refrigerate, uncooked. Some folks season and freeze it until they need it.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
Place the prepared roast, fat side up, onto a rack in a baking pan (with at least 1-inch sides). Place a little water in the bottom of the pan. Mix paprika with a little olive oil rub over the roast.
NEVER cover the roast as you bake it as you will steam the fat (cuerito) to softness. This is considered a mortal sin in Puerto Rican homes.
Bake, uncovered, 4 to 5 hours or until a meat thermometer registers an internal temperature between 160 degrees F. (medium-well done)-180 degrees F.(well done). Baste with juice every 30 minutes (if roast starts to get too brown during baking, cover with aluminum foil) . Do not turn the roast while cooking.
Remove from oven and transfer onto a large cutting board. When the roast is done, the pork should be just about falling off the bone and a thing of beauty, crisp and dark.
Let stand 20 to 30 minutes tented with foil before carving (meat temperature will rise 5 to 10 degrees after it is removed from the oven). After carving, transfer onto a large serving platter.
Serves a large family gathering.
/>I get many readers asking what cooking/meat thermometer that I prefer and use in my cooking and baking. I, personally, use the Thermapen Thermometer . Originally designed for professional use, the Super-Fast Thermapen Thermometer is used by chefs all over the world. I only endorse a few products, on my web site, that I like and use regularly.
You can learn more or buy yours at: Super-Fast Thermapen Thermometer.
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Puerto Rican Pernil (Garlic Roast Pork)
Puerto Rican Pernil brings slow roasted pork to a whole new level, with a robust garlic and oregano flavor and salty, crispy skin. It doesn't matter how you serve this roast pork recipe, just be sure to make a big batch!
For best flavor, let the meat marinade in the spice paste for 4 hours, up to overnight.
Puerto Rican Style Roasted Pork / Pernil
I can remember the first time I tasted pernil – it was almost life changing. I remember who made it – Marilyn. Marilyn is an amazing mama, an amazing woman and an amazing cook. That first bite changed everything. It was an explosion of flavor, it was so tender, so succulent. I knew my vegetarian days were long gone……
My prior experiences with pork weren’t so hot. I recall dry, overcooked pork chops. I vaguely remember tough, sliced roasts. Honestly, nothing I’d really want to remember.
So onto my pernil. Over the years I developed my perfect blend of seasoning for my pork roast. Is it traditional? Probably not. On second thought, perhaps it is, considering I don’t know a Puerto Rican woman who makes her pernil the same way as anyone else. Everyone uses different seasonings, everyone has a different way. I know Marilyn would smack me for using vinegar on my pernil.
I prefer to use a bone-in pork shoulder/butt roast – this will without a doubt result in the best roast. Perhaps you’ll notice in my pictures that I did not use a bone-in roast. The boneless roast ended up being $12 bucks cheaper – I love my pernil but this mama is on a budget. I should mention the weight of the roast – I call for a 5 pound roast, but you could easily make a 5-8 pound roast with the amounts in this recipe – you would just have to adjust your cooking times a bit.
So the process really is simple. You should start this the day before you plan on making the roast – it should marinate for about 24 hours. Prep meat by rinsing it off with a few tablespoons of vinegar. Place the roast in the dish you will be marinating it in. Then proceed to stab the roast all over – about 20 times or so. Rub your herbs and spices (which are now like a paste blend) THOROUGHLY all over roast. Get all the sides, all areas and work it into the little stabbed sections. Use all of your marinade – there is no reason to have any left over. Cover and refrigerate for 24 hours.
Plan on making your pernil on a day you’ll be home – this is a low and slow cooking process. Place your pernil, fat side up, in an appropriate sized roasting dish. This time I used one of those throw away aluminum roasting dishes – works great! Add about 1 cup of water and cover tightly with aluminum foil. If the roast is too large and peeks over your baking dish, “tent” the foil. Throw it in the oven and forget about it for a few hours. About 3 hours in, carefully lift a corner of the foil, checking to make sure there is enough liquid in roasting pan. On average, a 5 pound roast takes about 6 hours to cook for me. It’s ready when the meat falls apart easily – I usually just tear at a corner of the roast with a fork to check it. At this point, you can call it finished, shred it and serve it. Alternatively, you could remove the foil and broil the roast for a few minutes (very carefully – babysit it so you don’t burn it) to get everything a bit brown and get the fat crunchy.
That’s it folks. I keep this meal super simple. I focus on the greatness of the pernil and serve it with white rice and green olives. This is one of my favorite meals. This is officially my daughter’s favorite meal. She had to write a report on her favorite food – take one guess what it was – her mamas pork roast and white rice. I highly recommend this recipe – it’s a must try! It’s about time you liven up thoughts of pork roasts. Hope you enjoy….XOXO
How To Make Slow Cooker Pernil
And since so many are asking, although I have and love my Instant Pot, I still love my slow cooker! I have the 6 Quart Hamilton Beach Set ‘n Forget Programmable Slow Cooker (affil link). I love it because you can adjust the time you want it to cook, and it automatically turns to warm when it’s done. It also has a probe for meat that automatically shuts off when done. I hated my old crock pot, it burnt everything and my food had a weird taste. This slow cooker is so great, I actually own several!
Pernil-Style Roast Pork Lion
This classic Peurto Rican Pernil-style slow-roasted pork loin is a must-have main dish for your holiday dinner.
large cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 1/2 - 3-lb boneless center-cut pork loin, trimmed of excess fat
- Heat oven to 400°F, with the rack in the middle. In a small bowl, combine garlic, oregano, cumin, chili powder, 1 tsp salt, and 1/2 tsp pepper. Rub pork with spice mixture.
- Place pork, fat-side up, in a roasting pan and roast until an instant-read thermometer registers 145°F, 55 to 65 minutes.
- Transfer pork to a cutting board and let stand for 10 minutes before thinly slicing. Pour pan juices over pork to serve.
PER SERVING: 221 calories, 9 g fat (3 g saturated fat), 78 mg cholesterol, 318 mg sodium, 31 g protein, 7 g carbs, 0 g fiber