Cochinita Pibil

Celebrate Cinco de Mayo with Simply Recipes contributor Hank Shaw‘s Cochinita Pibil, or pulled pork braised in citrus and achiote. ~Elise

Cochinita pibil (ko-chin-ee-ta pee-beel) is an easy braised pork dish that originally comes from the Yucatan in Mexico. It is one of my girlfriend Holly’s favorite dishes to cook, and ever since she first encountered recipes for it, first in Diana Kennedy’s The Cuisines of Mexico and then in a book called Mexican Border Flavors. Holly makes it whenever she can.

This is gorging food. We once made it with nearly four pounds of pork shoulder and invited another couple over for dinner – we ate the whole thing, with a pile of rice and lots of beer. It’s so good you’ll find yourself fighting over the last shreds of meat.

Holly doesn’t like me adding the Mexican dry cheese queso seco to her pibil, but I like the contrast between the cheese and the acidic marinade. We sometimes break out some pickled onions to serve with this, too, as it is traditional.

Don’t be tempted to add heat to this dish with chiles: It’s not supposed to be fiery hot, although the bright red of the achiote paste, which is largely crushed annatto seeds, cornmeal and garlic, sure make it look picante. You can find achiote paste in any Latin market; you want achiote rojo, not the green kind (achiote verde).

Cochinita Pibil Recipe

  • Yield: Serves 4-6, depending on appetite.

If for some reason you don’t eat all your cochinita pibil at one sitting, it will keep for several days in the fridge. Achiote is an essential ingredient for this recipe, there is no substitute.

Ingredients

  • 3-4 pounds pork shoulder
  • 1 cup orange juice, freshly squeezed if possible
  • 1/2 cup lime juice, juice of 4-5 limes
  • 1 teaspoons salt
  • 3 ounces of red (rojo) achiote paste, available in Latin markets
  • Pickled red onions (optional), for garnish
  • Dry Mexican cheese (queso seco), for garnish
  • Chopped cilantro, for garnish
  • Lime wedges, for garnish

Method

1 The night before or the morning before you plan to serve this, mix the orange and lime juice with the achiote paste and salt in a blender until combined. Be sure to rinse the blender soon afterwards, as the achiote stains. Cut the pork into chunks of about 2 inches square. Don’t trim the fat, as you will need it in the braising to come. You can always pick it out later. Put the pork in a non-reactive (glass, stainless steel or plastic) container, then pour over the marinade mixture. Mix well, cover and keep in the fridge for at least 6 hours and up to 24 hours.

cochinita-pibil-1.jpgcochinita-pibil-2.jpg
cochinita-pibil-3.jpgcochinita-pibil-4.jpg

2 Cooking this takes 3-4 hours, so plan ahead. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Line a large casserole with a double layer of heavy-duty foil, or a triple layer of regular foil – you want a good seal. (Traditionally, cochinita pibil is wrapped in banana leaves, which add a wonderful flavor to the pibil. So, if banana leaves are available—you may be able to get them at the same store as the achiote paste, or at an Asian market—consider using them. Just heat the leaves first to make them more pliable.) Pour in the pork and the marinade and close the foil tightly. Put the casserole in the oven and bake for at least 3 hours. You want it pretty much falling apart, so start checking at the three-hour mark.

3 When the pork is tender, take it out of the oven and open the foil. Remove the meat with a slotted spoon to a bowl, then shred it with two forks. You don’t have to shred the pork, but I like it this way. Pour enough sauce over the meat to make it wet.

To serve, either use this as taco meat or eat it the way we do: Over rice, garnished with cilantro, lime wedges and queso seco, a Mexican dry cheese a little like Greek feta. Pickled red onions are a traditional garnish, and if you like them, they’re good, too.

Hello! All photos and content are copyright protected. Please do not use our photos without prior written permission. If you wish to republish this recipe, please rewrite the recipe in your own unique words and link back to the source recipe here on Simply Recipes. Thank you!

chochinita-pibil-a.jpg

Links:
Cochinita pibil in the Wikipedia
Pickled red onions here on Simply Recipes
Tacos de Cochinita Pibil from Food.People.Want
Slow-cooked Achiote-Marinated Pork (Cochinita Pibil) from Andrea Meyers
Cochinita Pibil from What's Cooking
Cochinita Pibil from Guilty Kitchen

44 Comments

  1. Alex

    Sounds great, is there a reason the foil lined casserole is preferred to a dutch oven with tight fitting lid?

    You get a better seal with foil. You could cover the Dutch oven with foil and then put the lid on – you’d use less foil that way. But you need this sealed really well. ~Hank

  2. Thomas

    How hot is this, comparatively? Mild salsa hot? Not at all? Not much point in making delicious new foods if the kids won’t touch it :)

    Not hot at all. No chiles in it. The color is all annatto. You can make it hot, but it is very mild as written. ~Hank

  3. Ariadna

    I’ll try to cook this one of these days… another thing that goes perfect with this dish is fried platano macho on the white rice. IT’s heaven.

  4. Maninas

    Looks great! I’d love to try this.
    Can I make my own achiote paste? I don’t think I can find it very easily here in the UK.

    Annatto is the key here. You really need it to get the flavor right. If you can find the seeds, you can grind them with garlic and a little cornmeal and oregano, salt and black pepper to get close. ~Hank

  5. Sarah

    Instead of lining a casserole with tinfoil, could you put the pork in a dutch oven with a tight fitting lid? I’m thinking about my large, oval Le Creuset.

    Yep. You could do that. But make sure the seal is complete – you can cover the top with foil before putting the lid on, and some cooks put plastic wrap over the pot – never done this, but they say it will not melt in the oven. ~Hank

  6. amanda

    I first heard of this dish from the robert rodriguez movie “Once Upon a Time in Mexico”, where his recipe for it was featured in the DVD extras. Unfortunately I could not find achiote paste or annatto seeds in my small town, so I did some research and found that paprika and tumeric could be substituted for it. I decided to give it a try, and pieced together my recipe from rodriguez’ and several other pibil recipes that I had found on the internet. I’m not a fan of pork at all, but this dish is mouth-wateringly good!!! My fiance and I LOVE this dish, and as you said, we do gorge ourselves and fight over the last bits! I usually just serve it w/ tortillas, because its so good that we don’t need anything else. Here’s my recipe for it, in case you or anyone wanted to try it out:

    Puerco Pibil
    2 teaspoons paprika
    3/4 teaspoon tumeric
    1/4 teaspoon cumin
    1/4 teaspoon black pepper
    1/8 teaspoon cloves
    3 habaneros, seeded and minced
    1 tablespoon white vinegar
    1 clove garlic, minced
    3/4 teaspoon salt
    1 teaspoon tequila
    2 pounds pork butt roast
    1/3 cup orange juice
    2/3 cup lemon juice
    1 teaspoon oregano
    1 teaspoon chili powder
    1 teaspoon coriander
    salt and pepper to taste
    corn husks, soaked in water to soften
    In a large bowl, mix together the paprika, tumeric, cumin, black pepper, cloves, habaneros, white vinegar, garlic, salt and tequila. Poke holes all over the pork with a fork and coat it in the mix. Transfer to a large ziploc bag.
    Mix orange juice, lemon juice, oregano, chili powder, coriander, salt and pepper. Pour over pork and seal bag. Turn a few times to mix well. Place in fridge overnight.
    Preheat oven to 325. Coat bottom of baking pan with corn husks. Pour in marinade and place pork in center. Layer more corn husks over pork, coating it and covering the pan and sides. Cover tightly with foil.
    Bake for 2 hours, until moist and tender.

  7. mexilady

    I think you forgot some very important ingredients for a simple recipe as yours, just add in the blender to the marinade 3 to 4 cloves garlic, 2 bay leaves 1/2 tsp cummin, 1 tsp thyme, 1/2 tsp. oregano and 3 whole cloves. Let stay for all night,if you like it some hot just add one little yellow chili at the blender, some vinager just to the acid taste.
    Before you cook it place one onion sliced in layers with the meat. You can make it with chicken as well, as we don’t eat pork.

    Nope, I did not forget anything. There already is garlic and oregano and bay in the achiote paste. As for the other ingredients you mention, yes, they are in some cochinita pibil recipes, but not in others — we decided to go simple. As for vinegar, 1 1/2 cups of pure citrus juice is more than enough acidity for us… We do agree that it would also work with chicken, but I’d cut the cooking time down to probably 90 minutes. ~Hank

  8. Kirsten

    This looks wonderful!! When “Once Upon a Time in Mexico” was released years ago my husband and I made it our mission to figure out how to make it (Puerco Pibil). I have made the dish several times and every time it is fabulous! The aroma makes it almost unbearable to wait for the final dish, but it is well worth the wait! I have also developed a simplified crock pot version for those days when I worked 12 hour days and had zero time to cook a meal. Thanks for posting your version…it is simpler than the one I am accustomed to using and I can’t wait to try it!!! And if you can’t find Achiote Paste, ground annato or whole annato (grind up in a coffee grinder) is available in most supermarkets with an ethnic foods aisle.

    Here is my crockpot version for anyone in time constraints.

    Ingredients
    5 pounds pork butt, cut into 2 inch cubes (or I just leave it whole and pull it apart when it is done)
    5 tablespoons annato seeds (ground…find this in the ethnic aisle spice section)
    2 teaspoons ground cumin
    1 tablespoon whole black pepper
    1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
    1 teaspoon ground allspice
    2 habanero Peppers, fresh or dried, cleaned and minced (optional)
    1 cup orange juice
    1/2 cup white vinegar
    8 garlic cloves
    2 tablespoons salt
    5 lemons
    1 shot (or more) of tequila

    Toss it all in the crockpot and cook on low all day or until the pork falls apart. Serve with either rice or tortillas. I make tacos with avocados and chopped cilantro. My husband prefers it over rice.

  9. Harry

    You forgot the most important step: Before you cover it with banana leaves (or foil), cover the pork with a healthy amount of pork lard…

    That’s the secret of true Cochinita Pibil… That and Sour Oranges, though hard to find in the states.

    Gotta disagree with you on the lard, although you are right in that the Mexicans often add lard — our pork shoulder was so fatty that even without it we had a molten lard slick a half-inch deep on the surface.

    You are right about bitter oranges, though! If anyone can find them, skip the regular orange juice and lime juice and use 1 1/2 cups of bitter (Seville) orange juice. ~Hank

  10. mareza

    i love this simple recipe and easy to follow.i never heard that we could use the whole annato seeds, we usually just get the color of it by placing it in small amount of water and discarding the seeds.hmm…. interesting.but it looks really good.

  11. Nick

    I first had this dish in Davis and have loved it ever since. It’s a lot more uncommon over here on the east coast so I must make this. Any insight into crock pot cooking settings/time to make this while I’m at work? Liquid amount seems fine…

    No idea. We don’t make it in a crock pot. Look at the crock pot recipe in the comments above. Definitely let us know how it works out! ~Hank

  12. Cilantro

    I have never cooked with achiote paste before. I have a brand new kitchen and the line about it staining the blender scared me a little. Does the achiote retain its staining properties after cooking? Should I worry about stains on my new dishes?

    No. It comes right off dishes. Clothes? Not so much. Think turmeric, only red instead of yellow. ~Hank

  13. Karen

    Could I just marinate a whole Pork Butt or Shoulder and Cook it for a longer time, like 8 hours or so? I think it would work, don’t you? I would marinate for a longer time also. This sounds REALLY GOOD!

    No, you can’t. Marinades only penetrate a little ways into the center of meats, so if you tried to do a whole pork butt, you’d need weeks for the marinade to get to the center. This is why we cut it into chunks.

    As for cooking it longer, any longer than what we recommend will result in pork mush. Yes, you could cook a whole pork butt longer, but then you defeat the marinade. ~Hank

  14. egoiste

    Here in Texas, it is easy to find a product by Goya called Mojo Criollo. I find it makes a great marinade base for my cochinita pibil. I have cooked it in both a steamer and in a crock pot and it just takes a lot longer to cook and I feel that the meat comes out a little drier. Perhaps sealing the top of the crock pot may help. Besides which, at least for my crock pot, it takes a whole day to cook things even on high (8 hrs), so the oven is just faster at 3 hours. I also do love adding a little clove to the mix.
    Of course, here in Austin, you could also drive down the road and just order it =]
    FYI. Mexican Border Flavors is an awesome cookbook.

  15. Geoff

    As others have said in their commentarios, my first exposure to this dish was in Once Upon A Time in Mexico. The DVD extra in which Robert Rodriguez demonstrates the preparation can be viewed at youtube . Be forewarned, though, if you are sensitive to such things. There are a couple of violent clips from the movie in the video. He also drops an f-bomb, but it’s ok because he makes a very good point. :) I don’t understand how people can go through life not knowing how to cook.

    Even if you’re in a small town, you should be able to get annatto/achiote seeds online. Banana leaves, on the other hand… I’ve found fresh banana leaves at whole foods (sometimes I’ve had to request them) and I’ve found frozen ones, that worked surprisingly well, in a local latino market.

    Oh, and since you’ve got a few idle hours while waiting for this to cook, acquire some Spanish for free, courtesy of the FSI/US State Department. ¿Para qué estás esperando? ¡Cochinita Pibil, por supuesto!

  16. Danielle

    I went to my local grocery and couldn’t find achiote paste, but I did find Goya Sazon with achiote and coriander… is that a possible subsitute?

    Hmmmm… Never used it. It’ll probably work, although the flavors might be different. You also can buy achiote paste online if you want to go that route. ~Hank

  17. DaveMex

    I just hope that people who decide to try your recipe don’t mess it up by adding cheese to it. Perfectly unnecessary…
    Another thing, the dish itself isn’t hot, but it’s always served with habanero peppers, either pickled or in some prepared salsa.
    I can’t imagine eating cochinita pibil without habaneros (and with aged cheeese, yucks!)

    Well, to each his own. It is often served with habaneros, but not always, and I happen to like the cheese, which I am well aware is not traditional. If you don’t like it, leave it out. ~Hank

  18. Anna Maria

    Yum! I am going to make this and use as a filling for fried masa quesidillas! Pickled onions and carrots with that queso seco on the top?

    Sounds Delicious! ~Hank

  19. Teresa

    I´m not a fan of pork, will it be ok to use chicken instead?

    I don’t see why not. Lower the cooking time though. Maybe check it at 90 minutes? ~Hank

  20. Danielle

    Just an FYI… I used the Goya Sazon with achiote and since you said that the achiote paste had cornmeal in it, I added some masa harina. It has been cooking in the crock pot all day, but it’s orange instead of red, and while quite delicious, I’m thinking it likely doesn’t taste like your version.

    So I ordered 5 packages of achiote paste from Amazon today. Can’t wait til it arrives!

    This is good to know. Let us know how it tastes in the end — and, when you make it again with achiote, what the difference is. Thanks! ~Hank

  21. Susan

    Thanks for this Hank and Elise, I’m dying to try this. I found a link for a recipe for the achiote paste in case anyone doesn’t have access. I see other’s have responded, but I’ll leave the link anyway..It’s from Tastes of the Boarder (Mexico) by someone named (something) Rodriguez LOL, sorry!

    http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Achiote-Paste/Detail.aspx#

  22. Misty

    I made this today. I followed the recipe but made it in a crockpot on low for 7 hours. It turned out fantastic. Thanks for the great recipe!

  23. KariVery

    Hi – this looks sooo good! I have made the Hawaiian kalua pork several times, which is cooked in a similar way, and also calls for wrapping the pork in banana leaves. I’ve not used the leaves, but one recipe I’ve used suggests slicing a banana or two and laying it flat over the pork in lieu of the leaves, then wrapping the pork tightly in tin foil. It adds a nice flavor. Maybe it would work here also?

    Hmmm… Not sure. Never tried it, but the fruit of the banana does taste different from the flavor that the leaves impart to a dish. If you try it and like it, let us know! ~Hank

  24. Hannah

    Hi there, this recipe sounds really amazing. I’ve been following this site for quite a while and always love the recipes on it.
    To the poster from the UK, there’s a website called mexgrocer (mexgrocer.co.uk) that has pretty much all of the mexican ingredients that are called for in most of the recipes on this site. I think that shipping is pretty cheap too.

  25. Alex

    Hi, I’m the same Alex as up thread. I made this for cinco de mayo, and it was a great success.

    I was only able to find a picnic shoulder of pork, (at about 10 lbs) and had the butcher slice it in half. Aside from struggling a bit to get the meat into cubes from this odd cut, it was very easy to make.

    I used my le cruset dutch oven, and put a layer of foil over the top, then the lid. I had a very tight seal, and my 4ish lbs of meat was very tender at 4 hours.

    I also found the Goya brand achiote and coriander powder in my regular grocery store, and I do not think it is at all similar. It’s more like a seasoning mix, like Mrs. Dash.

    I found the paste at a latino grocery store, (and I live in Texas). It came in a larger brick than your recipe called for, so I left a bit out. It has a really amazing smell, something I don’t think I can compare it to really. Thanks for this recipe and introducing me to something new.

    It served 4 for dinner with rice, and then made 2 (less piggish sized) taco lunches.

  26. Rebecca

    I just made this today. I tried the foil technique, but I think my le creuset pot was too big, all the juices/marinade leaked out of foil into pot and the pork got quite dry. Next time I’ll just line the lid w/foil. Also, couldn’t find the paste so tried to make my own paste w/achiote seeds. not easy..and I suspect not as flavorful. but it was easy to pull together so will try again. but I think you can skip foil w/a le creuset type pot.

  27. Theresa

    Hi, your recipe sounds amazing! I am marinating the pork right now! If you use the banana leaves as I am going to, do you still wrap in the foil? And what is a good way to heat the banana leaves prior to use? Thanks!

    Nope, you don’t need foil and banana leaves. I’ve only used them a few times, and I’ve dunked them in steaming hot water first to make the leaves more pliable. ~Hank

  28. Theresa

    OMG! This is so so so yummy! I am serving this as Sunday Supper and I made the big mistake of tasting it before my husband is home. It’s all I can do to NOT eat it before he arrives! Definitely a keeper!

    I made the following salsa recipe to be served with it, just be warned it is HOT HOT HOT a little goes a very long way!

    Salsa:
    * 3 Habanero Chiles
    * 1 Cup Onion, finely chopped
    * .5 Cup Freshly Squeezed Lime Juice
    * .5 Cup Freshly Squeezed Orange Juice
    * Salt to Taste

    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.

  29. Chris Frith-Smith

    This was the best most easy recipe I’ve done in quite a while. I made the pickled onions (I used sweet yellow) and the combined flavors really set off the corn tacos we made. Thank you so much for a fantastic recipe, I’m putting this in the bi weekly rotation.

  30. Tim

    Cooked this yesterday. I let the meat marinade for about 18 hours, and cooked the pork for the full 4 hours, sealed tightly in the foil. In spite of the fact the total time was 22 hours, only about an hour is actual work. The rest is unattended time while the pork is in the fridge or oven, so this is a very low-maintenance dish.

    What a fantastic dish! The pork shred easily, and nearly all the fat had rendered away. The meat was moist, and strongly flavored with the citrus and pepper notes. I cooked both rice and tortillas to go with it, and the rice was the better choice.

    I topped with cilantro, lime juice, raw onion, and queso cojita. Amazing.

    Had about a pound left over from a 4-lb. roast, and am looking forward to finishing it tonight.

  31. Tiffany

    Admittedly, I’m not a big fan of oranges at all (I don’t know why, but the smell and taste make me nauseous); however, I’m not averse to using it in a recipe if it lends to flavor. My question is, how strong is the actual orange flavor in the final product? I don’t want to have to pass on so much delicious pork because it tastes heavily of oranges ):

    Sorry, the orange flavor comes through pretty strong. Try this using lemon juice and a little sugar and see how it goes. Never done it, but if you make a lemonade-like mix that you then use in place of the oranges, the recipe should work. ~Hank

  32. Annie

    Sounds easy and unique. I might try it in the pressure cooker for half an hour or so because it’s been awfully muggy here lately. What do you think?

    You’re on your own for that one. I never use a pressure cooker. ~Hank

  33. Kelly

    I made this a few weeks ago and it was soooooo
    good! I am staying up tonight and it is one
    more long hour before it is done. I pickled my
    red onions, I am ready!!! I was going to take some banana leaves from the neighbor, but I didn’t want
    to go out, too windy! Thanks for all the great recipes! I always try to cook the recipe exactly as you do, no substitutions!

  34. Beth

    I saw this recipe a few weeks ago. It sounded so yummy and I was itching to try it. I happened to have everything on hand, but was short on time. I wound up cooking it in my pressure cooker as a shortcut. It cooked on pressure for about 45 minutes. So it works well if you’re short on time. It came out really tender, and my husband and I loved it. We’ve made it a few times since and it’s now one of our favorite recipes. I can’t wait to try cooking this with banana leaves. Thanks so much!

  35. Anita

    I wish I had read Tiffany’s review and Hank’s response before I made this. I do not like food cooked with orange juice and only tried the recipe out because it looked so good. My boyfriend thoroughly enjoyed it. To me, the best ingredient was the achiote paste – had never tried it before – it has a fantastic taste. So, I blended the paste with watered-down mandarine juice and olive oil, and marinated chicken breast (overnight). Grilled it the next day and ate it with homemade corn tortillas (from your website). The Achiote Paste is now my BFF :) thank you again for such wonderful recipes.

  36. cristina

    It was very good. I tried it for tacos; it was delicious. I love it but I forgot to do the onion but it was great!

  37. mary

    I am excited to make this but all I can find in my town is the goya stuff that everyone says is not the same. My concern is that the goya is mostly MSG. I have looked on Amazon and cannot get the ingredients list for the other brands. Is there MSG in the brick brand that you use?

    Thanks!

    No idea. Sorry. ~Hank

  38. Stevan Michael

    Ever since I came across this recipe, I wanted to try it. Finally, I made it last night and it was an instant sucess!

  39. Troxel Ballou

    As far as I can tell, the banana leaves don’t impart any particular flavor – they are simply the low-tech version of brown-in bags, used to protect the piglet and keep it moist while it cooks in an earth oven (Mayan ‘pib’). We cook it in a slow cooker in a sealed brown-in bag, and get pretty much the same results as we had in the Yucatan. There is no quite satisfactory substitute for the Naranja Agria (bitter orange juice).

    In the Yucatan, we never saw it served with rice – only with corn tortillas and Xni Pec sauce (highly recommended – Google it) to cut the grease.

    Having said that, I never cooked or met a Cochinia Pibil I wasn’t happy to consume!

  40. Nancy

    Are you still suppose to seal it with foil, even if you use banana leaves? Or could you put the banana leaves over it and then seal it with foil? Thanks

    You can seal it with either. Banana leaves will add flavor, so I’ve used them as a wrapper and then sealed with foil. ~Hank

  41. Jayna

    So could you elaborate a little more on how to use banana leaves?? I was fortunate enough to find them and I’m a bit intimidated by them. Is it really any different than using tin foil? The ones I got are in giant sheets, err I guess leaves, and they are frozen. Thanks in advance!
    Jayna

    Sorry, but I have never used them. I imagine I would cut them like sheets of plastic wrap or foil and form a bed in the pot. Put the pibil in, then fold over the tops of the leaves. ~Hank

    • Pastor Tokyo

      to use frozen banana leaves (which is the most common way to find them) rinse them off with some warm water then place them directly on the gas burner of your stove to soften them up so they don’t split apart when you fold them around the meat. Then line the baking dish/pot with them and wrap the meat up inside.

  42. CathyC

    I made this in a dutch oven with a tight lid. (I did not use the foil or plastic wrap.) It came out beautifully. The gang loved it, so I will definitely make this again.

  43. Lee

    I made this last night in our crockpot using a 3lb. pasture raised Llano Seco pork butt and it is amazingly delicious. I just added some onion powder to the marinade, threw the sauce and the frozen pork butt right into the crock and let it go for 12 hours overnight. I’m having some right now and cant wait for tacos tonight!

Post a comment

Your comment may need to be approved before it will appear on the site. Thanks for waiting. First time commenting? Please review the Comment Policy.

Some HTML is OK. URLs are automatically converted to links. Line breaks are automatically converted to paragraphs. The following HTML tags are allowed: a, abbr, acronym, b, blockquote, cite, code, del, em, i, q, strike, strong