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This Puerto Rican pork shoulder recipe is an amazing party dish.


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.


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.


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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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.


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.


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.


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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4.97 from 121 votes


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


  • 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.


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. 


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
Like this recipe? Rate and comment below!

About Katie Workman

Katie Workman is a cook, a writer, a mother of two, an activist in hunger issues, and an enthusiastic advocate for family meals, which is the inspiration behind her two beloved cookbooks, Dinner Solved! and The Mom 100 Cookbook.

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4.97 from 121 votes (79 ratings without comment)

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Recipe Rating



    sounds great I bet the leftover meat would be great for tacos also just add the fixings.

  2. Machellefields says:

    Machellefields how long will you cook in a crockpot and what size 2 to 3 Pounds Because I love pork …..

    1. Katie Workman says:

      I would say 6 hours on low in a crockpopt should get you to tender pork for a roast that size!

  3. Danielle says:

    Do I cook for the same length of time if it very small? 1-3 LBs?

    1. Katie Workman says:

      start testing for doneness about halfway into the cooking time!

  4. Kim Gnerre says:

    I’m looking to make this for Easter tomorrow as different pork item than ham. I see recipes where the citrus is added to the sofrito and marinated with meat. Do you know the difference in how the meat would turn out compared to your method of adding it at the end? I’ve never made this before and I’m just curious about the difference. Thanks so much!

    1. Katie Workman says:

      I don’t but sometimes if citrus juice is in a marinade it can start “cooking” the meat and change the texture if it marinates too long.

  5. Janna says:

    Made this tonight for dinner with a side salad and sweet potatoes on the side as well. This is absolutely devine!
    The lemon and orange juices at the end were different than I ever have done before, but seriously put this over the top delicious!!! Thank you so much for sharing! This will be our go-to anytime we do a pork roast again! Soooo scrumptious!!!

  6. Kim Quinn says:

    5☆☆☆☆☆ already due to ingredient balance and joyful anticipation!
    I marinated overnight a 8.67Lb bone in fresh pork shoulder. I used a whole head of garlic plus 5 whole black garlic . Added to blender with a cubed lg Spanish onion, 2tbs spoons dried oregano, fresh thyme and chives, 2-3 tbsp fine pink salt, black pepper, the juice of 1 lemon and 3 oranges, 1/4c olive. oil, 1 slightly rounded tsp of Chipotle chili powder and 1 rounded tsp of smoked paprika.
    Just put it in the oven, foil covered, 300F. Set for 3 hrs. Uncovered, later, instead of another 3, as this is nearly 9 lbs will it be more like 8 hours total? It just went in a 9:30 now. So eeeexxxxCITED!.
    PLEASE, PLEASE reply if able. Thank you so much.

    1. Katie Workman says:

      sorry for the slow reply! I hope it came out great – I would have said covered for 4 hours, and then uncovered until it falls apart, about 4 more hours….but it’s not an exact science, and there are more than one way to go about getting a perfectly tender fall-apart pernil.

  7. Kay says:

    I am confused on the part where you say to “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” I have a bone in roast so I can’t see how that would be possible. Is the point to speed up cooking time? I made a recipe like this before that was devine but I lost it. I remember scoring it but almost cutting into quarters? Do I increase the cooking time if I just score it?

    1. Katie Workman says:

      the point is to speed up cooking time a bit, but more to create more surface area for the meat to brown/caramelize. If you want to cut the meat into as even a 4 chunks as possible, but leave them attached to the bone-part at the bottom, that would be fine!

  8. Catherine says:

    Excellent recipe. It’s the 3rd time I’ve made it and it’s absolutely delicious!

    Katie mentioned Fredo cooks his Pernil for ten hours at 200 degrees. That’s what I’ve done and the Pernil comes out of the oven, JUICY and fall-apart tender.

    This has become my go-to pork recipe. It’s absolutely no-fail and everyone will love it!

    1. M says:

      10 hours covered or no?

      1. Katie Workman says:

        check out step 3 – it’s cooked about half the time covered, and the rest uncovered….

  9. Sara B says:


    I wanted to let you know I tried making this and my in-laws loved it. It’s my first time making pernil and I think your instructions are super easy to understand. Thank you! :)

  10. Robin Wisniewski says:

    I just posted this to Facebook and wanted to share it with Katie and Friends:
    You guys have to try this! I was at the grocery store and I wanted to buy a picnic ham to cook for my husband. I saw a lady looking at them and asked her opinion. She said, “oh you have to make pernil it’s a Puerto Rican ham!” So she told me to get Goya adobo, Sazon` recaito, and sofrito and that if I googled it I would find the recipe. Well I looked at a thousand recipes and could not find those exact ingredients. So here’s what I did with the ingredients I had. First off let me say don’t forget to defrost your ham LOL. I minced the garlic put it in a bowl add it all the ingredients I mentioned along with the olive oil, it kind of helps it stick together and be pasty. So I had this big ham and I had to spend half of the morning defrosting it enough to make deep holes to put the rub into, (all of the ingredients mentioned above) then by having it defrosted you can marinate it overnight which I did not get to do. Saying that with all the mistakes I made this was the most, let me repeat, the MOST delicious ham! Okay let me say pork not ham because it tastes nothing like ham this particular cut of picnic ham is more for making poor boys and sandwiches etc. My husband absolutely loved it! I made that and a Puerto Rican potato salad that I learned to make years ago it actually has green olives in it. My husband hates green olives but he loved this potato salad. You don’t really taste the green olives but it gives it this flavor that is so unique and so good! You make regular potato salad add green olives and Goya adabo and then some of your own seasonings that you prefer. So I put this in the microwave and I cooked it on high for 4 hours then I turned it down too low and let it finish cooking until 5:00. Tender, tender, tender! I use the drippings to make homemade gravy of course with homemade mashed potatoes. I topped this dinner off with sweet potato recipe casserole. This dinner can be made at any time doesn’t have to be a holiday I’ll definitely be making it again on our anniversary come June. Thank you for putting up with my rambling but I hope some of you at least make this recipe and enjoy it as much as me and my husband did.

    1. Lee uerkwitz says:

      Robin, where can we find yiur Puerto Rican potato salad recipe?

    2. Lynne Toland says:

      That makes no sense you microwaved it on high for 4 hours? The meat would have been like shoe leather.Then you cook till 5? When did you start?