Cochinita Pibil from the Slow-Cooker

Cochinita Pibil
Just say cochinita pibil in the Yucatan (or practically anywhere in Mexico nowadays), and thoughts of celebration come to mind. After all, in all its glory, we’re talking a whole pit-cooked pig, smeared generously with the unique savor of rusty-colored achiote seasoning and served with the meaty cooking juices, a drizzle of habanero fireworks and the citrus-sour of pickled red onion. Truth is, you can make a delicious, satisfying, simple version of Mexico’s big-deal cochinita pibil for an everyday dinner. You just have to scale back the normal party-size portions, use prepared achiote seasoning and employ a slow-cooker (or Dutch oven, for oven-braising). Using a bone-in pork shoulder roast offers a rich flavor reminiscent of the whole pig version, and slow-cooking equals delicious satisfaction. Fried black beans, a salad and warm corn tortillas are my favorite accompaniments for this slow-cooked wonder. A final note: hot yellow chiles (like Hungarian wax) are commonly cooked with the meat in Yucatan. If that appeals, split them in half, take out the seeds and lay, cut side down, over the meat.
Servings: 4cups, enough for 16 tacos



Place the half package of achiote seasoning in a blender with the lime juice and 2 teaspoons salt.  Blend to a smooth, thickish marinade.  You can also scoop everything into a small bowl, then use the back of a spoon to work it all together.

If you have banana leaves, cut two 2-foot sections and use them to line a slow-cooker—lay one down the length, the other across the width.  Lay in the meat and pour the marinade over and around the roast.  Scatter the white onion over the meat.  Pour ½ cup water around the meat, fold up the banana leaves to roughly cover everything.  Place the lid on the slow cooker, then turn it on high.  Slow-cook on high 6 hours until the meat is fall-off-the-bone tender (the dish can hold on a slow-cooker’s “keep warm” function for 4 more hours or so).

When you are ready to serve, use tongs to transfer the meat and onions to a serving bowl, breaking the pieces up into coarse shreds.  Keep warm in a low oven.  Spoon off any rendered fat that’s floating over the juices.  If there is a lot of brothy sauce—1 ½ cups or more—tip or ladle it into a saucepan and boil it down to about one cup.  Taste the sauce and season with salt if you think it needs it, then spoon it over the meat.  Set it out with the Pickled Red Onions, Roasted Habanero Salsa and hot tortillas for making tacos.

No Slow Cooker? In a large (6- to 8-quart, at least 12-inch diameter) heavy pot (preferably a Dutch oven), assemble the dish as described—including dribbling the water around the meat.  Set the lid in place and braise in a 300-degree oven for about 2 ½ to  3 hours, until the pork is thoroughly tender.  Complete the dish as described.  If there isn’t much juice in the bottom of the pan, remove the meat and add about a cup of water.  Bring to a boil, scraping up any sticky bits, season with salt, then pour over the meat.

A Few Riffs on Cochinita Pibil: The most common variation on cochinita pibil in Mexico is with chicken.  You can simply replace the pork, pound for pound with chicken thighs; pulling off the skin before cooking will mean less fat to spoon off at the end (the broth won’t be quite as rich, however).  The chicken breast version is a little more involved:  Marinate bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts in the achiote.  Brown them in oil in a large skillet over medium-high; remove them to a baking pan lined with the optional banana leaves. Add the optional onion to the skillet and cook quickly until brown but crunchy; strew over the breasts.  If using the chile, roast, peel, seed and slice them; strew over the onions.  Cover with a more banana leaves if you have them.  Cover with foil and bake at 325 degrees until just cooked through, usually 20 to 30 minutes, depending on the size of the chicken breasts. Though I love cochinita pibil with black beans, you can easily scatter some quartered small potatoes or cubed sweet potatoes around the meat, to soak in all the delicious flavors.


  1. Thank you for this slow cooker recipe it turned out great. I made it two days after I saw your post. My husband loves cochinita Pibil , ever since he had it in Cancun, Mexico. Hope your next cookbook will have slow cooker recipes. Thanks again , I’m getting my friends hooked on you. 😉

  2. I made the crockpot version of your Cochinita Pibil for dinner tonight along with the pickled red onion and salsa. I also served it with the corn tortillas. I decided to add a side dish of black beans and corn salsa, that I prepared with lime juice, red onion and cilantro. My family went crazy for the dish. Thank you for your wonderful recipe, I know that my family is already looking forward to the next time I make this dish.

  3. Rick! We recently saw an old episode of the
    Tamale Muchipollo from Yucatan (Mérida) and
    noticed your recipe treatment was lacking on
    your website. How about it? It is so well loved
    in that region and you skipped right over it!

    Let us know, we will be waiting.


    1. I am so sorry Emil,
      unfortunately we do not post every single recipe from the TV show. Thank you for watching though, hope you are enjoying Season 10!

  4. I’ve made this twice now and it’s incredible. I used jalapeños which I slice, de-rib and seed and lay on top and it adds that great pepper flavor without the heat of the peppers recommended. The banana leaves are essential as they imbibe a strong earthy flavor. I found everything, achiote included in specialty market. It’s super simple, super cheap and really delicious. You can easily feed a party of ten for less than 2 dollars a person.

  5. I love your recipes, they remind me of my moms, god bless her soul also the interaction you have with Lanie, I do the same get my boys involved in my meals. Keep up the great job, cant wait to see your new season

  6. I love your recipes, first mark all the way. Its great you have Lanie invovled with your cooking, reminds me of my moms cooking-god bless her soul. I also get my boys involved in whatever i make for dinner. Keep up those great recipes comming, look forward to your new season.

  7. Hi!

    I’m Mexican and a big time fan of Chef Bayless. I’ve done cochinita in the oven before (larger portion) but I’m ready to try this one. I’m newbie with the slow cooker and it comes with two settings. If this will cook for 6 hours, should I use the LOW setting?

    Thank you!!!

  8. I just finished putting everything in the slow cooker and folding the banana leaves up and over the meat and then putting the lid on snugly… I just want to say that this is a really fun recipe so far! I can’t wait for the smell to start filling my house. From the comments and everything else I’ve made from Bayless, I’m really looking forward to the results!

  9. Quick clarification question: Slow-cook on high or low setting? (Makes a big difference!) Thanks.

  10. So I recently bought a tagine and want to cook everything in it. Do you think that would work for this recipe? If so, can you recommend my heat settings and cooking times? I think I’m supposed to start cooking in a cold oven when using the tagine.

    1. Hi Mikki-yes, add raw sweet potatoes and I wouldn’t add more liquid but I would also keep an eye on it. If it looks like most of the liquid is gone add a little more during the cooking process. Good Luck!

  11. In the picture the meat is browned. Did that happen in the slow cooker or did you brown separately? Or, is that just the color from the achiote?

    1. Usually we brown the meat before we put it in the slow cooker. It adds another dimension of flavor and we would recommend that you do.

  12. I just saw this episode and you used a Big Green Egg. What temperature did you set the egg to? Thanks

  13. I am planning this for Sunday’s dinner but cannot find achiote paste. I have found it powdered in 1.25 packets. Will this work ? And how much should I use? Thanks!

    1. Hi Jenny, the achiote paste is made by El Yucateco and if you search for it online there are a couple of places that you can purchase it from.

  14. I avoid achiote paste sold in Mexican stores because of the preservatives and colorants. Might be a good idea to partner this recipe with a recipe for the homemade achiote paste. It’s super easy and more authentic. Also, if you simply can’t find banana leaves, what is a substitute?

  15. Waiting right now for the cochinita to cook — 5 more hours, unfortunately! Found a bottle of sour orange (suggested by a different recipe) and used it instead of the lime juice; also used it for the onions. Expecting a marvelous dinner for Sunday Night Football

  16. I made this for my 50th birthday and got rave reviews from the guests. I scaled the recipe up for a larger piece of pork, and added a small amount of liquid hickory smoke to give it a bit of “pit” flavor. If you do this, be sure to use a light hand so as to not overwhelm the other flavors.

    I served it with an assortment of taco toppings including the onions, and corn tortillas. (Trader Joe’s is the best-tasting packaged corn tortillas I’ve found in the US — no additives to give an off flavor.) Black bean salad brought by a friend and Rick’s Mexican sangria rounded out the meal.

  17. Here in Yucatan where I live, we use naranjas agrias (sour oranges) in the marinade. To get close to that flavor, use whatever juice oranges you’ve got mixed with lemon juice. ALSO: folks ask if the dish is spicy. Yucatecan food is generally NOT spicy; we’ve always got Salsa Habañero around for anyone who wants to flame something up.

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