Cochinita Pibil

Mexican cochinita pibil, or pulled pork shoulder marinated and braised in achiote paste, orange juice, and lime. Great for taco meat.

Cochinita Pibil
Elise Bauer

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

Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 3 hrs
Marinating 6 hrs
Total Time 9 hrs 10 mins
Servings 4 to 6 servings

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.


  • 3 to 4 pounds pork shoulder

  • 1 cup orange juice, freshly squeezed if possible

  • 1/2 cup lime juice, juice of 4 to 5 limes

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 3 ounces 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


  1. Marinate pork in achiote paste with orange juice, lime juice, salt:

    The night before or the morning of that 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.

    Elise Bauer
    Elise Bauer

    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.

  2. Bake in oven 3 to 4 hours:

    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.)

    Elise Bauer

    Pour in the pork and the marinade and close the foil tightly. Put the casserole in the oven and bake at 325°F for at least 3 hours.

    You want it pretty much falling apart, so start checking at the three-hour mark.

  3. Shred cooked pork meat with 2 forks:

    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.

    Elise Bauer

    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.

Cochinita Pibil
Elise Bauer
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
990 Calories
70g Fat
16g Carbs
74g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4 to 6
Amount per serving
Calories 990
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 70g 89%
Saturated Fat 26g 129%
Cholesterol 282mg 94%
Sodium 863mg 38%
Total Carbohydrate 16g 6%
Dietary Fiber 2g 9%
Total Sugars 5g
Protein 74g
Vitamin C 52mg 258%
Calcium 197mg 15%
Iron 5mg 28%
Potassium 1241mg 26%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate. In cases where multiple ingredient alternatives are given, the first listed is calculated for nutrition. Garnishes and optional ingredients are not included.