Puerto Rican Pernil Recipe

My pernil journey began as I was wrestling a huge shoulder of pork out of its packaging, about to start some rendition of slow roasted pork. Guillermo, a super nice guy who helps me out with kitchen prep when I need some powerhouse chopping, asked me if I was making pernil. I said, I wish, I’ve never made that, and asked him if he would give me some tips.

Pernil

Guillermo has been eating pernil for his whole life, growing up with Puerto Rican parents, and he called his dad for the family recipe right away. This is just the type of thing that gets my blood pumping, so I grabbed a pen and started scribbling down the things Guillermo’s father was dictating.

What is Pernil?

Pernil is a slow cooked pork roast, usually a shoulder, butt or leg, that is very typically enjoyed during the holidays.  It is a classic Puerto Rican dish, and also a classic dish in the Dominican Republic, though unsurprisingly there are small differences that mean a lot.  There are Cuban versions, too.  Typical seasonings include salt pepper, sofrito, Adobo, oregano, and sometimes a Sazon packet.

Pernil

I made one following Guillermo’s dad’s advice, and it was dee-licious. But the next time I combined both fresh and dried oregano, and (thanks to a tip from another PR friend, Fredo) hit the whole thing up with some citrus at the end. Fredo squeezes lemon juices over the meat before it cooks, and I’ve seen other versions with orange juice in the marinade. I decided to sprinkle both lemon and orange over at the end for a fresh little pop of sweet acidity.

The latest version got a “hey, pretty good” from Fredo, which this Jewish girl from Manhattan will take. He said that the sprinkle of oj and lemon at the end reminded him of the mojito sauce often served with pernil. I acted like that what I intended all along (no I didn’t; I said “OH” in a loud surprised voice).

A succulent slow cooked piece of pork is beautifully seasoned and becomes fall-apart tender in this traditional Puerto Rican dish.

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Pernil

How Long to Cook Pernil?

This pernil recipe calls for about 6 hours at 300°F, a bit longer and lower than Guillermo’s dad does it.   Fredo cooks his pernil for even longer, 10 or so hours at 200°F., and then gives it a 45 minute hit at 350°F for a more intense final crust. As with all slow roasted dishes, you can play around with the temp and time, as long as the temperature never gets too high….350°F is the absolute highest I would roast a tough cut of meat to get it to be tender, and I prefer longer at lower temperatures.

Cuero

As the pernil cooks the outside skin and fat layer gets crunchy and forms a crust, called the Cuero. It’s completely delicious, and you should make sure to chop up the crackling crust and let everyone have a bit with their portion. It’s some people’s favorite part of the pernil!

Christmas Pernil

In many Puerto Rican homes it’s not Christmas without pernil, and all of the traditional sides. If you’re going all in for this holiday meal, you have to whip up a batch of Coquito to go with it, the classic Puerto Rican coconut-based eggnog that is also a mainstay of Christmas celebrations.

Pernil

What to Serve with Pernil

Guillermo’s family usually serves their pernil with rice and pigeon peas (Arroz con Gandules) and tostones, (smashed and fried plantains), which is a common way to enjoy pernil in Puerto Rico.  I totally bastardized the plate with roasted broccoli with parmesan and mashed potatoes. There was no one complaining (and no one who knew that the more traditional accompaniments were missing.  I will get to them next time.).

Some folks add a packet of Sazon seasoning to the marinade—if you do that, hold back a bit on the salt. Between the Adobo and the Sazon there’s a lot of saltiness going on.

Pernil

Other Pork Recipes:

I’m going to keep playing around with this delicious pork shoulder dish for a long while to come. It’s high on the big hunk of pork list, along with pulled pork and carnitas (recipe for that in Dinner Solved).  At some point I’ll dig into the Dominican Republic version, made with different spices.

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Pernil

This Puerto Rican pork shoulder recipe is an amazing party dish.
Yield: 16 People
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 6 hours
Resting Time 20 minutes
Total Time: 6 hours 40 minutes
Diet: Gluten Free

Ingredients

  • 1 (7-pound) bone in or boneless pork shoulder
  • ¼ cup vegetable or canola oil
  • 12 cloves garlic minced
  • ¼ cup fresh oregano leaves
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 2 tablespoons Adobo seasoning the powdered canned kind
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt plus more for seasoning at the end
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper plus more for seasoning at the end
  • Juice of 2 lemons and 1 orange

Directions

  • Score the fat on the pork shoulder in a criss-cross hatch fashion. Then, cut deeply once in each direction across the pork, like you are going to cut it into four quarters, but then leave them attached at the bottom. Use a sharp knife to make about 20 slits, about 1 inch deep, all over the meat. Place the meat in a 13 x 9 baking pan, or another shallow baking pan large enough to comfortably hold the meat with some space around it.
  • Combine the oil, garlic, fresh and dried oregano, Adobo, paprika, salt and pepper. Rub the mixture all over the meat, working it all over the surface and into the slits. Cover the pork with foil and refrigerate overnight.
  • Bring the pork to room temperature, about 1 hour. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 300F°. Bake the pork, covered for 3 hours, then remove the foil and bake for another 3 to 4 hours at the same temperature, until the pork is fall-apart tender. The internal temperature should be at least 165°, but it may be higher, which is fine – it’s most important that the meat is super tender. If you would like a crustier exterior, turn the heat to 375°F and bake for another 20 to 30 minutes, until the outside of the pork has a nice browned crust.
  • Let the pernil sit for at least 20 minutes, then use your fingers (if it’s not too hot; some people like to wear kitchen gloves to protect their fingers from the heat), or two forks to pull the meat into chunks. Sprinkle the meat with the lemon and orange juice, season with additional salt and pepper, and serve hot or warm.

Nutrition Information

Calories: 143kcal | Carbohydrates: 2g | Protein: 14g | Fat: 8g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Cholesterol: 46mg | Sodium: 199mg | Potassium: 280mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 238IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 33mg | Iron: 1mg

The nutrition values are provided as an estimate. It is not intended as a substitute for the advice of a qualified healthcare professional.

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Comments

  1. Thank you so much. My husband is Puerto Rican and he loves this recipe I changed a couple of things for our liking. I like to cook and I’m for Alabama so southern cooking is in my blood. This recipe is a lot like some bbq we cooked when I was younger. Thanks again for sharing this Great recipe.
    Veronica

  2. Fresh garlic, dry oregano, black pepper powder, salt, Olive oil and tap of vinegar. Make a paste of the mentioned ingredients slit pernil with at least one inch cut into meat and skin all over. Rub marinate all over pernil to include slit. Cover and refrigerate over night. Next morning takeout of frig and let stand for an hour at room temperature. Set oven anywhere between 325 to 350 degrees and bake pernil in accordance to its weight for at least 4 to five hours. Serve with arroz con gandules, green bananas,, fry tostones or a well done potatoes salad and that’s it. Above marinate paste ingredients are IAW to what you use too!

      1. you could really just keep the amounts the same! the cooking time might be a little shorter, but probably only about 30 minutes.

  3. Hi, Could it be done in an instant pot do you think, with an hr in oven at the end, i hate putting the oven on for 6-10 hrs! thanks

    1. I think yes, but I have never done it, so I really can’t give yoju any pointers! I like the idea of finishing it in the oven, though!

    2. Did you try it in the instant pot? I am thinking of doing the same thing since the weather today is 90 degrees. Any advice would be appreciated.

      1. Good stuff,
        Recipe is nearly perfect. Only thing I do differently is I add 2 packs of sazon con anchiote. Just in case some don’t know about pork shoulder. It may be safe to eat at 165 but the collagen wouldn’t be broken down and the meat will be tough. Needs to get to at least 190 deg internally. That’s how you get that fall off the bone meat.

        Enjoy everyone

    3. I made mine in the crockpot it was the best ever. Never had pork shoulder so juicy ! .. this week I will be using this recipe though ! (:

    4. Use your BBQ outside burners on medium inner burners on low. Cook at 325-350. Your house won’t stink like garlic either. You know when it’s done the skin cracks and shatters when hit with a knife.

    5. I’ll be making this for my father in law who has been talking about Pernil for a while- and I’ll be using your recipe. I do a lot of Smokin’ in my smoker and do a lot of Boston Butts (250* until an IT of 203*)- do you think this would come out as good if smoked, or just keep with roasting in the oven? I would do it at 250-300 to give the fat time to render. I will be doing the oven my first time. Thank you.

      1. Smoked pernil does not have the same taste as a traditional pernil roasted in the oven. My stepdad smoked it once and the smokiness combined with the seasoning just didn’t go well. Maybe it’s bc I was so used to eating it a certain way, but definitely was not a fan. Stick to the traditional way if you want to really impress your father in law.

    1. This is basically the same as the recipe I use except I marinate it in a bag with olive oil l, 1 cup orange juice, 1/2 cup of lime juice, 6 crushed garlic clove, handful of cilantro and salt and pepper for a few days. I use a large cast iron pot and rub sazon and adobo before placing in oven. Easy and delicious, eat with soft corn tortillas, rice or shred it to make pulled pork.

  4. Holy moly!! What a great dish. I substituted the oregano with cilantro. My family went nuts. Can’t wait to try your other recipes. Thanks

  5. This was It. I had a P.rican from Puerto Rico made it like this. And that was the first time I had pernil over 25 years ago..when I saw the ingredients and made it…boop it took me back. Thank you

  6. This looks fantastic! Planning to make on Friday for my boyfriend’s surprise party on Saturday. Wondering if you have any recommendations for re-heating? Is this okay to make ahead of time? Thank you!

    1. You can reheat it in a low oven (about 275°F) tented with foil for about 30 minutes until warm throughout. Bring it to room temp before reheating in the oven!

  7. This dish is so easy to prepare and roast. It’s perfectly seasoned and has so much flavor. If you like garlic you can also add pieces of garlic into the meat by making small cuts into the meat and pushing the piece of garlic inside something my family recipe called for.) This dish will leave your kitchen smelling wonderful as an added bonus! I can’t say enough. Delicious and EASY!! Anyone can make this!

    1. I’m Puerto Rican so yes, the slits with the garlic in them is divine, LOL, I also slice the pernil like my mother and grandmothers. And arroz con gandules is my favorite rice dish so it’s a must for my pernil. I make this at least once a month with tostones or maduros and avocado salad.

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