Cochinita Pibil on the Grill (for 6)

Servings: 6servings


  • 1/2of a 3.5-ounce package preparedachiote seasoning
  • 1/2 cup lime juice (divided use)
  • 1/4cup orange juice
  • Salt
  • 1/2of a 1 pound packagebanana leaves, defrosted if frozen (optional)
  • 3 pounds boneless pork shoulder roast
  • 1 large red onion, thinly sliced
  • About 1/2cup roasted-chile salsa or bottled habanero hot sauce (I like Yucateco and Frontera brands)


Place the half package of achiote seasoning in a small bowl, pour in ½ cup of the lime juice and 2 teaspoons salt, then use the back of a spoon to work the two together into a smooth, thickish marinade.

Marinating the meat. In a large bowl or large plastic food bag combine meat and marinade, turning the meat to coat it evenly. (Though achiote has tenacious coloring properties, I suggest you do this quickly with your hands.) For the greatest penetration of flavor, let the meat marinate refrigerated (covered if in a bowl) for several hours, or even overnight.

Slow-grilling the pork. Heat a gas grill to medium-low (approximately 300 degrees) or light a charcoal fire and let it burn just until the coals are covered with gray ash and very hot. If using a kamado cooker, bring the temperature to a steady 300 degrees. Using scissors, cut off the hard edge you’ll find on most banana leaves (where the leaf attached to the central rib). Cut 3 sections of banana leaf, each about 1 foot longer than the length of a large roasting pan. Line the bottom and sides of the roasting pan with the leaves, overlapping them generously and letting them hang over the edges of the pan. Lay the meat in the pan, drizzle with all the marinade. Fold in the banana leaf edges over the meat. Cut 3 more sections of banana leaf slightly longer than the pan. Lay them over the top of the meat, again generously overlapping; tuck them in around the sides. Pour 4 cups of water into the pan. When the grill is ready, either turn the burner(s) in the center to medium-low or bank the coals of the grill for indirect cooking.

For the charcoal grill, set the grill grate in place. Set the pan on the grill grate and close the grill cover. On a kamado cooker, place the pan on the grill grate (or even directly atop the ceramic plate setter.) Grill until the meat is thoroughly tender and reaches about 205 degrees, usually about 4-5 hours. If your grill has a thermometer, aim to keep the temperature at 300 degrees. To maintain an even temperature with charcoal, add more charcoal regularly (usually a few pieces every half hour or so).

Simple pickled onions. While the meat is cooking, prepare the onions. Scoop the onions into a non-aluminum bowl. Pour boiling water over them, wait 10 seconds, then pour the onions into a strainer. Return the drained onions to the bowl, pour on the remaining ¼ cup lime juice and stir in 1 1/2 teaspoons salt. Cover and set aside until serving time.

Serving. Remove the top banana leaves. Tip the pan to accumulate the juices in one end and spoon off the fat. Season with more salt if necessary.You may want to remove the bones and cut the large pieces of meat into manageable serving sizes, but I suggest you leave everything right in the roasting pan for serving. Set out your cochinita pibil with a large fork and spoon (for spooning up all those juices). Drain the red onions and set out in a serving bowl to top each portion, along with the salsa to cautiously dab on each portion.

Working Ahead: If you’re the plan-ahead type, make the marinade on Day 1, reblend it and marinate the meat on Day 2 and then slow-roast the meat for serving on Day 3. The marinade will hold for a week or more in the refrigerator. Once the pork is marinated, cook it within 24 hours. The finished dish will keep for a couple of days, covered and refrigerated (meat and juice only—no banana leaves), though the texture of the meat won’t be quite as nice as fresh-from-the-oven. Warm refrigerated cooked meat slowly (a 300 degree oven) in the juice, covered. Pickled onions will keep for a week or so in the refrigerator, well covered.

Variation: The pork can be baked in a 325 degree oven instead of on the grill; cover the meat rather loosely with foil before baking. 









  1. This recipe is a keeper. I’ve made similar porky and fishy things with achiote, garlic, in banana leaf with BITTER orange. I have a shrub. The fruits come late, are small and seedy with little juice. You have to squeeze a lot of them. Fish sauce works too with all this.

    But far be it from me to tell YOU what to do.

    1. Hi Luis,
      I make LOTS of things in the pressure cooker and based on the length of time it takes for the Cochinita Pibil to cook, I would say YES you can make this in a pressure cooker. I would shorten the time by 2 1/2-3 hours depending on the size of the meat and make sure you have plenty of liquid in the pressure cooker. Good Luck and let us know how it turns out.

    2. the key to braising (which this is, though he uses the word ‘grill’) is LOW even moist heat. You can cook it at an even lower heat if desired–I use abt. 225F and let it go 8 hrs overnight in my kitchen oven; it will render all the connective tissue into a luxuriously unctuous and flavorful gel, which adds greatly to the finished texture of the shredded meat. Pressure cooking might not work the same magic as low heat.

  2. want to try this next weekend, looks like you have at least a large green egg, i have a medium, with boneless should be fine except the saucepan takes up a lot of room, any suggestions?

  3. The recipe should say mix 1/2 c lime juice and 1/4 c orange juice with annatto and salt.

    You forgot the orange juice in the recipe.

    Making this tonight! Thanks!

  4. I followed the directions for the grill with banana leaves and water but I put it in the oven at 300 degrees for six hours. The meat was tender and moist but the banana leaves were dry and brittle. Next time, I’ll just use the foil as directed. The banana leaves didn’t add anything to the finished product for me.

  5. I had made this before in the oven. This time though, I used an Akron Komodo . It is similar to a big green egg but made of insulated metal shell instead of all ceramic . Let me tell you, I wasn’t expecting it to tast quite as good as it did . In fact, my well being would be thretned if I didn’t promise to make this again. Thank you Rick for another great recipe .

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