If you Google this classic Mexican dish, it’s easy to be quickly intimidated by the exotic ingredient list and complicated instructions. While bitter (Seville) oranges and banana leaves might yield a superior and more authentic taste – they can be very hard to find for many people.
My solution is to pare the dish down to the essentials, the result is still amazingly juicy and flavored pork – with just a fraction of the complexity. The below recipe for cochinita pibil is a simplified and easy version of the classic Yucatan dish that anyone can put together with a little time.
The only unusual ingredient is achiote paste which you might not be able to find locally, but you can easily buy on Amazon (affiliate link) for around five bucks. This terracotta mixture of achiote seeds and oil imparts the unmistakable flavor of this slow cooked pork dish. The 14oz package linked to here is plenty for three to four precautions of the dish too.
At its simplest, this is citrus-marinated pork butt, cooked low and slow for hours until fork-shreddingly tender – what’s not to love?
- 3 lbs Pork Shoulder boneless
- 1 cup orange juice
- 5 limes juiced
- 5 tbsp achiote paste
Cut pork shoulder roughly into 2 inch pieces. Add to a non metallic baking dish. The pork will marinate and cook in this dish.
Add orange juice, juice of the limes and achiote paste. Stir thoroughly until well mixed.
Pour marinade over pork and coat well. Cover and refrigerate for upto 24 hours, the longer the better.
Preheat oven to 360F. Remove pork from refrigerator, remove cover and recover with foil. Seal tightly. I like to repeat this step a second time, sealing the pork with a double layer of foil. The pork cooks slowly at a low heat, so we want to lock in all the moisture and heat.
Cook for 45 minutes at 360F and then reduce heat to 325F. Cook for a further two hours and 15 minutes for a total of three hours cooking time. Remove from oven and test pork. Pork should shred easily with pressure from a fork. Cook for another hour for more tender pork.
I like to transfer the cooked pork to separate bowl to shred with a fork – and also to remove some of the excess fat and cooking mixture. Serve with pico de gallo, diced white onion and cilantro for perfect tacos!
Hi I’m Stuart, professional food writer and long time eater. You can find my writing at places like Gastronomic SLC, Visit Salt Lake, The Salt Lake Tribune, Utah Stories, Utah Now Online and many others.
As well as writing extensively about restaurants for more than fifteen years, I’m endlessly curious about that product on the shelf. Is it any good I wonder? If you’re like me, wonder no more. Follow along on Instagram too!