Every time we make cochinita pibil for friends, they rave “this is the best Mexican pork we’ve ever eaten! The meat is rich and succulent with a unique earthy flavor imparted from achiote, a seasoning paste, made from annatto seeds and other spices. Pulled pieces of this luscious pork tucked into a tamale with a sliver of raw potato, a slice of roasted poblano chile, a manzanilla olive, then steamed inside a corn husk or a banana leaf; This may be the best tamale you’ll ever eat!
Don’t be intimidated by the recipe. If you don’t want to wrap the pork in banana leaves, baking the pork in an ovenproof dish covered tightly with tinfoil is perfectly acceptable. This will keep in the juices and allow the meat to stay moist and tender. The most important ingredient “achiote” paste cannot be substituted. Look for it in Mexican grocery stores or supermarkets that have a decent Mexican food section.
Cochinita Pibil / Pit Roasted Pork
Pork baked in banana leaves, steamed in a pit (pibil) or cooked in a sealed dish in the oven. Either way it’s prepared, this savory earthy meat is a real treat!
• 3 red onions thinly sliced
• 1 ¼ cup fresh orange juice
• ¾ cup fresh lime juice
• 1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
• 1 teaspoon salt
• ½ teaspoon pepper
Mix all ingredients in a large bowl. Cover and refrigerate for several hours.
• 3 lb. lean boneless pork shoulder or butt roast
• Salt and pepper to season pork
• 3 oz. achiote paste
• ½ cup lime juice
• 1 cup orange juice
• 1 teaspoon sea salt
• 8 large garlic cloves, chopped
• 1 tablespoon Mexican oregano, dried
• 1 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
• 2 Poblano chiles, roasted, skinned & seeded (optional)
• 2 large banana leaves
PREPARE PORK; Cut the meat into slabs or cut into stew size pieces and place in a large bowl. Rub meat with salt and pepper.
PREPARE MARINADE: Break up the achiote paste into a small sauté pan placed over low heat. Slowly pour in the juices and stir to completely dissolve the paste. Add the salt, garlic and oregano continue to cook on low heat for about 5 minutes. Pour this liquid over the pork and marinate for at least 1 hour.
PREPARE BANANA LEAVES: Heat oven to 325 degrees. Hold the banana leaves over an open flame on the stove for a few minutes until they soften, or submerge in very hot water, this will clean and make the leaves pliable also. Line a heavy baking dish or Dutch oven with the leaves, placing one the long way and the other in the opposite direction with the leaves overlapping the dish. Place the marinated pork onto the leaves; place slices of poblano chile over the meat, then fold the ends of the leaves back over the meat. Use another leaf to cover again making sure to tuck the leaf over and around the dish, this important step will help retain moisture during cooking. Pour about ¼ cup of water in the pot. Cover with aluminum foil. Bake for two hours or more until very tender. Serve with marinated red onions on the side.