Cochinita Pibil on the grill (for a crowd)

Recipe from "Mexico—One Plate at a Time" cookbook
Servings: 12to 15


  • 5tablespoons (about 2 ounces)achiote seeds
  • 1 1/2tablespoonsdried oregano, preferably Mexican
  • 1 1/2tablespoons black pepper, preferably whole peppercorns
  • 1 1/4teaspoon cumin, preferably whole seeds
  • 1/2teaspoon cloves, preferably whole
  • 1 1/2tablespoonscinnamon, preferably Mexican canela, that’s freshly ground or still in stick form (you’ll need about 6 inches of 1/2-inch diameter cinnamon stick)
  • Salt
  • 14 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 1/2cupssour orange juice, OR 1 cup fresh lime juice plus 1/2 cup fresh orange juice
  • 2 bone-in pork shoulder (Boston butt) roasts (about 12 pounds), cut into 3-inch wide cross sections (unless you have a meat saw, you’ll need to get a butcher to do this for you)
  • A 1-pound package of banana leaves, defrosted
  • Pickled red onions
  • 3large (about 1 1/2 pounds total) red onions, sliced 1/8 inch thick
  • 2cups freshsour orange juice OR 1 1/3 cups fresh lime juice plus 2/3 cup fresh orange juice
  • Roasted Habanero Salsa
  • 8medium (about 3 ounces total)fresh habanero chiles
  • 2 large garlic cloves, unpeeled
  • 2tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • Salt


  1.  The achiote marinade. Measure the achiote seeds and oregano into a spice grinder, adding the black pepper, cumin, cloves and cinnamon, and run the grinder until everything’s as powdery as you can get it (you may need to work in batches).In a blender, combine the ground mixture with 1 tablespoon salt, the garlic and sour orange juice (or lime juice plus orange juice). Blend until smooth—there should be very little grittiness when a little is rubbed between your fingers.If you’re working ahead, pour the mixture into a non-aluminum container, cover, refrigerate 6 hours or longer. Before using, blend the mixture again to give it an even smoother texture. (The long steeping and second blending isn’t absolutely essential, though without it the marinade may be a little gritty.)
  2.  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.
  3.  Slow-grilling the pork. Heat a gas grill to medium-high or light a charcoal fire and let it burn just until the coals are covered with gray ash and very hot. 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.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. Grill until the meat is thoroughly tender (work a fork in near the bone—the meat should easily come free), usually about 4 hours. If your grill has a thermometer, aim to keep the temperature between 300 degrees and 350 degees. To maintain an even temperature with charcoal, add more charcoal regularly (usually a few pieces every half hour or so).
  4. 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 sour orange juice (or the lime-orange combo) and stir in 1 1/2 teaspoons salt. Cover and set aside until serving time.
  5.  Habanero Salsa. In an ungreased skillet over medium heat, roast the chiles and garlic, turning regularly, until they’re soft and darkened in spots, 5 to 10 minutes for the chiles, 15 minutes for the garlic. When cool, slip the skins off the garlic.In a blender or small food processor, add the garlic and roasted chiles plus the lime juice and enough water to give it a spoonable consistency, usually 2 to 4 tablespoons. Blend until smooth. Taste (gingerly) and season with salt, usually about 1/2 teaspoon. This salsa will last several days.
  6.  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 is a great recipe to share with a group of friends who love slow cooked pork. I have made this using a slow cooker with banana leaves and this comes out perfectly every time. Excellent for almost any occasion!

      1. Braiding liquid (marinade) should cover meat about three quarter or slightly more allowing some liquid to reduce while cooking on high for three to four hours until the texture you want. I usually go four hours until it is shreddable. Remove meat and shred.

  2. can you help me iam cooking cochinita pibil for 75 person can you help me for the recipe how much meat that I need and ingridients to thank you

  3. WOW. Made to recipe, only change was I put it in the smoker for the big party (used the oven for the trial run). Wasn’t sure if smoke would get through the banana – some did and it took it up a notch in my opinion.

    This is absolutely the best thing I have ever done with a pork shoulder. Absolutely amazing, and the annato adds a flavor that is novel for a lot of people. As a bonus, it’s like $0.69 for an ounce of Badia annato at my local store here in the southeast. Banana leaves are slightly tougher to find but my local Asian market had ’em hanging out.

    1. Most Asian stores have banana leaves in the freezer section, too. I do mine in the smoker and let it go all day long. Delicious with the onions, some nice flavorful black beans and tortillas. Just wish I could find a good Mexican cole slaw recipe. I’m still looking for one like we had at a Yucatán restaurant, real rangy with no cream to it.

  4. Regarding the spice amounts, i was wondering if the amounts listed were for whole spices or after they were ground? I’m guessing whole.

  5. Hmmm. How do I season the salsa to taste when all I can taste is fire? I even deseeded the peppers after roasting, and yup. Pure fire.

  6. Hello,
    I want to upscale ingredients for this to suit a party of 20. Can I slow cook in an electric oven in a roasting pan or large pyrex casserole dish (with the banana leaves)? Would you suggest 20 lbs pork? And a temperature of 300F maybe? But for how long in the oven? Many thanks for any advice!

  7. Years ago, my Mexican maid, who had been a cook, made it with pork cheek. I had to go buy a half of a pig head, which was easy to obtain in Mexico City, but here in Canada…..

  8. I made a point of finding a hotel close to the Frontera on a recent trip to Chicago. I had this at the restaurant. This dish was one of the best meals I’ve had in a restaurant. I’ve made it twice at home. I used some of the leftover pork to make tamales. They turned out great.

  9. OH man. I made this yesterday, trial run for a birthday party. Had not worked with Achiote seeds before, and the combination of spices was interesting. Threw it on the Kamado keg at 350, and after about 3 hours we started to get whiffs of “what is THAT!” and we started getting hungry! Made the onions, loved those, then I figured I’d try the Salsa, 8 peppers deep and all. Hellfire and Brimstone, that was inedible!!! Word to the wise, if Rick says “taste gingerly”, taste GINGERLY!! Lolololol BUT! Once the meat was done (and it was delish by itself), we warmed up some corn tortillas and layered on a simple meat/onion filling, then put on a “Ginger” dab of the habanero salso, and holy cow, it all worked so well together! My wife who does not do HOT hot even commented that this worked. The combination of the pork, onions and heat just really melded beautifully. Our cilantro wasn’t at the cutting stage so we skipped that but will have some for the next time.
    So glad I tried this. It’ll be getting regular time on the grill from now on. 🙂

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