Pernil is a marinated, slow roasted pork shoulder or leg with crispy pork skin and tender, flavorful pork underneath. It is most popular in Latin American countries around Christmas, but is delicious all year!
Puerto Rican Pernil
When I think of Pernil, one word comes to mind – mouthwatering. It’s a slow cooked pork shoulder or leg that’s so tender, you don’t even need a knife to cut through it.
I was introduced to Pernil almost 15 years ago when I met my Puerto Rican husband. I was immediately in love and wow that I’ve mastered this recipe, it’s hard to think about making anything else for our holiday meal!
These days we usually do a traditional Puerto Rican Christmas meal on Christmas Eve and an American meal on Christmas day. It’s so fun to get to do both traditions and celebrate both cultures in our home!
The steps for making Pernil may seem like a lot, but it’s really actually very easy and all worth it in the end! You will never find a more tender, juicy and perfectly flavored Pernil than this recipe. Trust me, this is a dish that will impress everyone at the table!
How should I serve pernil?
Rather than serving it in thick slices like you would a ham or roast pork lion, Pernil is best served shredded/pulled. My favorite way to serve it is on top of the traditional Arroz Con Gandules!
Have any leftovers? Even better! You can really get creative here. Sandwiches, omelettes, egg scrambles, tacos, and burritos are all made better with leftover Pernil. It doesn’t matter if it’s traditional, Pernil goes great in just about any form!
You’ll need the following ingredients to make this flavor packed, tender Pernil:
- Garlic Cloves
- Green Bell Pepper
- Large White Onion
- Fresh Oregano Leaves or Cilantro: traditionally oregano is more often used, but neither herb is a wrong choice! Use whichever your family prefers.
- Sazon: Sazon Con Azafrán
- Adobo: Adobo All Purpose Seasoning
- Ground Black Pepper
- Ground Cumin
- Picnic Pork Roast (Shoulder or Leg Roast with skin on)
- Chicken Broth
- Orange or Lime Wedges, for serving
How To Make This Pernil Recipe:
Prepare the marinade. Combine some of the garlic cloves, bell pepper, and cilantro in a food processor and process until smooth. Add the seasonings to the food processor and process one more time.
Prepare the meat. First, cut the fat cap from the back of the roast, still keeping it intact and attached to the meat.
Fold. It’ll need to be folded over so you can access the meat underneath. Then, cut deep holes into the roast, thick enough to fit a finger into the holes.
Add garlic cloves. Stuff whole garlic cloves into the holes in the back of the roast. This will give it epic flavor! I always add a few extra garlic cloves for good measure. Never enough garlic.
Add Marinade: Then, spoon a third of the marinade over the back of the roast and push it into all of the holes as well.
Flip it. Once flipped, cover the top of the roast in another third of the marinade, again pushing the marinade into the holes of the roast.
Slice it. Law the fat cap back over the roast and make 4-5 deep, long, evenly spaced slices along the top of the fat. Be sure not to cut all the way through. Then, make 4-5 more perpendicular slices to the first slices to form a check pattern on top.
Add more marinade. Use the rest of the marinade by pouring it all over the fat cap. Rub it generously into the slices of the fat cap, making sure every crevice is covered in marinade.
Marinate. Cover the meat with aluminum foil and refrigerate for 24-48 hours, flipping it every 3-5 hours. Do not skip this step! It’s incredibly important to ensure you get the absolute best, full flavored Pernil!
Preheat. The oven needs to be preheated to 350°F. Remove the pan from the fridge.
Add liquid. Using either pork/chicken broth or water, pour in the liquid until there’s about 2 inches of liquid in bottom of the pan.
Roast. Replace the foil and place the roast in the oven for 3.5-4 hours. Rotate the pan every hour to ensure even cooking.
Turn up the heat. Remove the aluminum foil from the pan and turn the heat up to 400°F. Continue roasting the pork for another 30 minutes, or until the skin gets crispy on top.
Knock Knock: The fun and traditional way to test of if the cuerito (pig skin) on your pernil is ready is by knocking on it. If it sounds like somebody is knocking at a little door, you know it’s ready!
Carve and shred. Before carving and shredding, allow the meat to cool for 20-30 minutes. The pork will be super crisp on the outside and tender underneath from the layer of fat cooked on top.
Add juices. Once the meat has been shredded, pour some of the juice from the pan and the fresh orange and lime juices over the meat to combine. Serve!
Tips for the best Pernil:
Plan Ahead: Make sure you plan ahead to allow plenty of time for your Pernil to marinate. It’s incredibly important to give it the full flavor you expect!
Don’t Skip The Garlic: Hiding the whole garlic cloves inside the pork is a traditional step another huge key to giving this Pernil ALL THE FLAVOR.
Don’t Rush: This Pernil will take about 5 hours of cooking time including cooling time after cooking. I know, that feels like an eternity, but don’t rush it. This is how you get that fall apart tender Pernil!
- Fridge: The roast can be stored in an airtight container for up to 1 week in the fridge.
- Freeze: You can also freeze this roast in Ziploc bags for up to 3 months. If you do decide to freeze the meat, freeze it in several bags, depending on how much you have left over. That way, you can take out whatever you’ll use without thawing extra meat.
To Thaw Pernil:
Microwave: take out how much meat you need and add it to a large, microwave safe bowl with 2 tablespoons of water. Set the microwave to defrost for 5 minutes, stir, then defrost for an additional 5 minutes as needed.
Stovetop: add meat to a large non-stick skillet with 1-2 tablespoons of water over low medium heat. Stir and let the meat defrost for about 8-10 minutes, then serve immediately. Add more water if needed while defrosting.
I’m so glad to be sharing this amazingly tender Pernil recipe with all of you! I have really enjoyed bringing our families Puerto Rican recipes onto the blog the last few years and this Pernil is one of the most traditional Christmas’ dishes we make every year.
Serve this Pernil with a side of Arroz Con Gandules and I promise everyone will be begging you for the recipe! Please leave a review in the comments below, with photos if you take one! I love to see how my recipes turn out for you!
- 15 peeled garlic cloves, divided
- 1 green bell pepper, with the seeds removed and chopped
- 1 large white onion, peeled and roughly chopped
- 1 cup fresh oregano or cilantro with large stems removed
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 packet sazon
- 1 teaspoon adobo powder
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- 8 to 10 pound picnic pork roast (shoulder or leg roast with fat cap), cleaned and damp dry
- 3 to 4 cups chicken broth
- orange or lime wedges, for serving
1. Add 5 cloves of garlic, bell pepper, onion, cilantro, salt, sazon, adobo powder, black pepper and cumin to a food processor or blender. Process until smooth, about 30 seconds. Set aside.
2. Cut the fat cap from the back of the roast, but keep it intact and on the roast. Just fold it over so you can access the meat underneath.
3. Cut deep holes into the roast, so that you can fit your finger into each hole. Flip the roast over and cut deep holes into the back as well.
4. Stuff the remaining garlic cloves into the holes in the back of the roast. Then spoon a 3rd of the marinade over the back of roast and push the marinade into all of the holes as well.
5. Flip the roast over and cover the top in another 3rd of the marinade, again pushing the marinade into the holes of the roast.
6. Lay the fat cap back over the roast and make 4-5 deep, long, evenly spaced slices along the top of the fat, without cutting all of the way through. Then, make 4-5 more perpendicular slices to the first slices to form a checker pattern on top.
7. Pour the remaining marinade over the fat cap and rub it generously into the slices of the fat cap so that every crevice is covered in the marinade.
8. Marinate: Cover the pork with aluminum foil and refrigerate for 24-48 hours, flipping every 3-5 hours. This step is important to ensure you get the best flavor!
9. When the roast is ready, preheat the oven to 350°F and remove the pan from the fridge.
10. Lift up the aluminum foil and pour in the chicken broth or water until there is about 2 inches of liquid in the bottom of your pan.
11. Replace the foil and place the roast in the oven for 3 ½ - 4 hours, rotating the pan every hour to ensure even cooking.
12. Remove the aluminum foil from the pan and turn the oven heat up to 400°F. Continue roasting the pork for another 30 minutes or until the skin gets crispy on top.
13. Remove the roast from the oven and let it cool for 20-30 minutes before carving and shredding. The pork will be super crisp on the outside and tender underneath from the layer of fat.
14. Once the meat has been shredded, pour some of the juice from the pan and the fresh orange juice and lime juice over the meat and stir to combine.
Serving Size:1 serving
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 912Total Fat: 65gSaturated Fat: 24gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 35gCholesterol: 276mgSodium: 1228mgCarbohydrates: 5gFiber: 1gSugar: 2gProtein: 72g
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