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Puerco Pibil… it was worth it

September 11, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

Cochinita pibil (also known as puerco pibil) is a traditional Mexican slow-roasted pork dish from the Yucatán Península. Preparation of traditional cochinita or puerco pibil involves marinating the meat in strongly acidic citrus juice, coloring it with annatto seed, and roasting the meat while it is wrapped in banana leaves.

When I have the time and the energy, I like to try recipes that take a little extra effort. Sure, buying spices in powder or paste form is quicker and easier, but where’s the fun in that? Traditionally, one can use what’s known as a “molcajete” (pronounced molca-he-te) in grinding up spices into powder form. Here’s a picture of one (very similar to a mortar and pestle but seasoned from years of use):

Traditional molcajete, used to grind up spices

Unfortunately, I do not have a molcajete in the house, so I went a more conventional route – I used a small coffee grinder. Worked just as well, let me tell you 🙂

The hardest part of the preparation was actually locating the spices used in this dish. It wasn’t so bad finding peppercorns, allspice, cloves, and cumin seeds, but the annatto seeds were scarce. Annatto seeds (also known as achiote) give dishes a nice red color. They don’t really provide much flavor, just asthetics.

I went to two major grocery stores and two mom and pop shops. It wasn’t until I hit the last mom and pop shop where I scored the annatto seeds. It’s like gold to me as a result.


Spices pulverized into powder... cool coloring

The traditional recipe calls for peppers… most people use habaneros for that extreme kick. I’m not a pepper person, so I left it out. Chop them up and use them if you like the fi-yah. Since no peppers were in evidence, I gave it another kind of kick; a splash of tequila in the mix. Just a splash is needed, so one of those little itty bitty bottles served on airplanes did the trick:

No Don Julio? Patron will suffice 🙂

Ok, enough chit-chat; here is the recipe I followed:


  • 5 tbsp annatto seeds (also known as achiote seeds)
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tbsp peppercorns
  • 8 allspice
  • 1/2 tsp cloves
  • 2 tbsp salt (kosher salt works well)
  • 8 cloves garlic
  • juice of 5 lemons
  • banana leaves (to layer in the pan)
  • splash of tequila (for that little extra something)
  • Pork butt (also known as Boston butt), 5 lbs cut into 2 inch cubes
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1/2 cup white vinegar


  1. Use a coffee grinder to grind up the spices into a fine powder. It’ll take a little time because the cloves look like little twigs. In a blender, add orange juice, lemon juice, ground spices, tequila and garlic cloves and blend for a minute or two.
  2. Put the cut up pork and the mixture from the blender into a freezer bag and let the mixture coat the meat.
  3. Put a layer of banana leaves in a cake pan, add the pork, and then put another layer of banana leaves. Cover with aluminum foil.
  4. Pop into the oven at 325 degrees for four hours. Seriously, four hours is what it takes when using banana leaves. It’s worth it, trust me.

Puerco Pibil spiced up and ready for the oven

And 4 hours later… the verdict is in. Very tasty and tender. My husband loved it and I did too. I’m glad I tried it.

Puerco Pibil and Fideo... gooooood stuff

Believe it or not, Robert Rodriguez (director of El Mariachi, Desperado, and Machete) inspired me to make this. I caught his “10 minute Cooking School” series and he demonstrated his version of this dish. Excellent stuff.

  1. Jen
    September 23, 2010 at 3:45 AM


  1. July 17, 2012 at 4:06 PM

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