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

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. 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. 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

  3. 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

  4. 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!

  5. 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.

  6. Hi, I’m Venezuelan and it’s also our tradition to eat pernil at Christmas. This will be my first attempt at making pernil, I did want to ask you if this can also be made in a crockpot or if it would come out entirely different?

  7. This recipe sounds great & my mouth is watering just thinking about the finished roast, but I don’t need to feed 16 people and when I adjust the serving size nothing changes, any advice?

    1. if you use a smaller piece of pork, start checking the cooking time about an hour before the recommended end time for the larger roast. if your roast is much smaller you can cut the garlic mixture in half, but if it’s just a pound or two smaller,go for the whole amount!

  8. I’m making this for the 1st time for my step dad who is Puerto Rican. I want to make it the day before Christmas and reheat it because I need my oven for so much on Christmas day. Any tips???

    1. I would reheat it covered at 275 or 300°F for about 20 minutes, then uncovered for another 20 or so minutes, until warm throughout.

  9. I am a noncook. Decided to try and make this for thanksgiving. I followed the recipe exactly and it turned out amazingly delicious. Thank you for posting this.

  10. I made this about a month ago, and it turned out amazing. I used the bone in meat the first time. I’m using boneless this time. I also had quite a few people offer to pay me to cook this for them. I love Pernil, I have had it many times but never thought about making it myself. Thank you for posting this recipe. It is pretty amazing.

      1. This is my first attempt at this delicious recipe. Do i put the meat fat side down? It says score the fat so i am thinking have the fat side up.
        Thanks

  11. which is better? Bone in or Boneless? Last time we made it the dish was incredible however we dont remember if it was bone in or boneless :)

    1. hey, you could try it! kind of a reverse sear….but the pernil magic does come from low and slow in the oven, which gets you to the best texture.

  12. Once you score the fat in a cross cross fashion, do you almost quarter it on the same side? Or do you flip it to the non fat side and almost quarter it that way?

  13. This recipe looks Delicious and just like
    what I was looking for!
    I would like to send it to my family and friends who cook but could I not find a way to send in an e-mail.
    I saw other ways, but not e-mail. Is there a way you can help me with this?

    1. the best way is just to copy the url and send that in an email – hopefully we will have a way to do that in the future!!

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

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

  16. 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. 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.

  17. 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!!!

  18. 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. 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.

  19. 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. 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!

  20. 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!

  21. Hi!

    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! :)

  22. 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. 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?

  23. I’ve made this recipe before and loved it!!!! First time was boneless & 7lb….. this time I could only get my hands on an almost 9lb Bone-in roast…. how long should I cook it?

  24. I love that people love to cook Comida Criolla My name is Chef Ricardo Ortiz-Peréz. Semi retired I worked in the Hotel and Resraurant Industry here in the States and back home. I do about 5 Caterings a yr I do all pernil asado and Arroz con gandules also guineitos en Escabeche and other Puerto Rican dishes. This recipe is a good one but not a original recipe. Yes there different versions but the original is the best. Oh by the way tell Guillermo he is also Puerto Rican because his parents are. But if you want some real recipes for dishes to share with the people that follow you let me know especially when it comes to recipes from the caribean Domican, Cuban etc. Let me know I just want people to know our original and traditonal recipes its important also that people understand our history and our traditional cultures. Because we have some of the longest Christmas Seasons ever. Thanks

    1. Hello Ricardo,
      I’d appreciate knowing original recipe please! I am using Katie’s for my “half” Puerto Rican kid’s Xmas tomorrow so already marinating over night but would love to know as close to cultural accuracy as possible. Thanks!
      Nikki

  25. Has anyone tried this on a smoker rather than in the oven? Would the smoke flavor overwhelm the spices or make it too seasoned? I would use a pellet smoker.

    Thanks.

  26. Hi, I just put mine in the oven at 300* – any ideas how long for a 10# bone-in roast? I just got a FULL Picnic since all the Half Picnic were a bit too small. I’ve made these quite a few times but when I do the larger ones they always seem dry so decided to try and find a recipe to follow for Cooking Time but yours is only 7 #s

    1. plan to add an extra hour or two! check the internal temp, and it should be very tender, otherwise add a bit more time.

    2. plan to add an extra couple of hours! check the internal temp, and it should be very tender,falling apart, otherwise add a bit more time.

  27. Made this today and my family was licking their fingers. I had tried other recepies but none even close to this one. Thank you

    1. I would give it one more hour during the covered cooking period, and probably another 30 minutes uncovered, but just monitor the internal temperature and make sure it’s fall apart tender before taking it from the oven! You may not need the raised heat at the end because of the extra cooking time.

        1. Bake the pork, covered for 3 hours, then remove the foil and bake for about another 2 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. You can give it a blast at the higher temp at the end if you want a crustier crust, but it should be pretty browned by the time it becomes tender.

  28. OMG, I’m drooling just thinking about making this. Question…I have a 3lb pork butt bone-in. Should I adjust the cooking time? Thanks

  29. I made this last night and it was SCRUMPTIOUS! Served with rice and a corn-avocado salad (corn, diced – avocado, cucumber, red pepper, red onion, parsley – dressed with the fresh juice squeezed from half a lemon)… The bone-in pork shoulder was a bit less than 6 lbs. At the 3 hour mark, I removed the foil, ladled off much of the rendered fat and added about a cup of white wine to the pan juices. I checked the temp at the 5 hr 15 minute mark (aka 2 1/4 hour after removing the foil). It was perfect. Again, I ladled off the rendered fat, stirred the drippings and let the pork rest. At dinner, my usual talkative family was unusually quiet…. smacking their lips. Thank you, Katie

    1. if you want to use the same seasonings you could, but the cooking time will be much shorter. look up a recipe with a tenderloin the same weight as the one you are using, and just stick to the seasonings in this recipe, and crib the cooking directions from another recipe!

    1. sure! less of a crust, of course, but you definitely could, for 6 hours on low I would think.

  30. This was so flipping delicious!! My oven didn’t need as much time to crisp up the outside of the pork. The orange juice, lemon juice and sangria set it off!! Thank you for the recipe and the suggestions .

  31. About to place in in the over and wondered if the fat side should be up or down (touching the pan).

  32. I just prepared it, and it will sit in my fridge overnight before putting it in the oven. My question is do you put it on a rack in the roasting pan, or directly on the pan surface when baking it?

    1. either way is fine! I didn’t use a rack, but if you want more of the fat to drip off, you certainly can.

    2. puedes usar la rejilla o no, sabrás que en la cocción, es normal que la carne desprenda jugos. mi consejo, como buen dominicano, es que al final debes ponerlo en rejilla para el golpe de calor para dorar la piel y que esta se convierta en un crujiente chicharrón. yo, antes de dar el golpe de calor final, siempre froto sal fina sobre la piel antes de subir la llama.

  33. I have made this recipe twice. The first time it was great. There were zero complaints and my family eagerly ate it all up; there was nothing left over. The 2nd time, with just a slight tweak, it was PHENOMENAL. I used 3 tablespoons of Adobo seasoning instead of 2, omitted the two teaspoons of salt, and added some of my favorite sangria wine (about 1.5 cups) in the baking pan after removing the aluminum foil (after the initial 3 hours). The touch of freshly squeezed lemon and orange juice at the end is *P*E*R*F*E*C*T*I*O*N*. Yes, it takes time. Yes, it takes preparation. Yes, it is SAVORY and DIVINE! I think that overnight refrigeration is key; as is letting the pork adjust to room temperature before placing in the oven. The tantalizing aroma for the six hours the pork was cooking filled our home (and stomachs) with eager anticipation. Good things come to those who wait!

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