Pernil (per neel) is a typical Puerto Rican dish consisting of a pork roast/shoulder that has been marinated overnight and slow roasted at 300 F. The result is a flavorful, and tender meat that will fill your house with a delicious aroma, and your belly with a whole lot of "piggy goodness."
This recipe came from my friend Eimy from Puerto Rico. I tried this dish at her house, many years ago, and instantly fell in love with it. You could say that pernil is the Puerto Rican version of America's pulled pork minus the barbeque sauce. In my humble opinion it is better, much better!!! I have made one small adaptation from her recipe, since I prefer to use my homemade sofrito instead of the store bought sofrito.
A Christmas dish
Pernil is a common and expected sight at the Christmas table in Puerto Rico and in other Latin American countries also. I remember Christmas dinner at relative's houses where pernil was always on the menu. The one I remember most fondly was pernil with a crispy skin. I addition to the succulent pork, we also sipped on cups of freshly made horchata. Perhaps not the best dietary choice, but during Christmas, who is being good?
Every family has a version
As with most recipes, we tend to gravitate to the version we were first introduced to. I am guilty of that with my, or rather my friend's pernil recipe. Lately, however, I have been talking to some Hispanic friends and they do not use the Goya sazon, but a mixture of dry spices such as cumin, oregano and cilantro, and paprika. I will most definitely have to try this before I share with you.
Pernil is very versatile.
You can definitely serve it as a main course with the typical sides of rice and beans and tostones (fried plantains), or you can make great tacos, or a fantastic sandwich on a nice Kaiser roll. Either way you choose to eat it , you will not be disappointed. Slow roasted pork, how can you go wrong?
Tips for pernil
- This dish freezes very well so you can make a big batch and separate it out into portions to reheat and use later. I usually make two full sized pork shoulders since that will fit into my roaster.
- Make it in a slow cooker and it turns out great.
- The key is to get the pork to where it is fork tender. So roasting it in the oven or using a slow cooker will get the job done.
- If you like to make it a bit crispy you can put the cooked meat on a baking tray and broil it until you see it get nice and brown with those lovely slightly burnt edges. So good!
Here are the step by step photos to make the perfect pernil in true Boricua style:
- Layout your ingredients (left to right):
Sofrito, garlic slices, adobo and sazon con culantro y anchiote. Your pork shoulder should be trimmed of the skin and you can leave some fat on it. You can have it ready in the roaster pan.
- Start making slits with a sharp knife.
- Insert the garlic slices into the slits as you go. Do this all over the entire shoulder: top, bottom and sides.
- Take the adobo and sazon and sprinkle over all sides of the shoulder
- Rub in the adobo and sazon as you go. Scoop up and loose spice that falls into the roaster and rub it all in.
- Take your sofrito and pour it over all sides of the shoulder.
- Rub in the sofrito all over the shoulder.
- Cover the shoulder with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
- Roast the shoulder covered at 300 degrees for 5 hours covered. After three hours flip the shoulder over, cover and continue to cook. You can add a ½ cup to 1 cup of water to the roaster during cooking to make some extra juice. When the shoulder is fork tender it is done as shown below.
- Place the shoulder on a large cutting board, remove any fat and chop into small pieces.
- I like to take all the juice from the roaster and put it into a fat separating pitcher.
- You can serve with the juice and place any extra into containers for freezing and add some of the juice back to the meat.
Frequently Asked Questions
Pernil is typically pork should but the leg can also be used.
Pernil is the Puerto Rican version of slow roasted pork and made with pork shoulder. Pulled pork is the American version and uses different flavors for marinating and then is served with BBQ sauce.
The flavor profile is different. Carnitas are typically roasted in citrus and then fried until crispy. Pernil is marinated and roasted with sofrito, adobo, garlic and sazón.
Yes, this dish freezes very well so I like to make a big batch and freeze in the juice. It will store nicely for 2-3 months.
If you love Hispanic food here are some more great easy recipes to try:
Ropa Vieja is a slow cooked pulled beef from Cuba. If you liked my pernil, you'll love this!
Authentic Mexican pork carnitas are are east to make in the slow cooker and made crispy under the broiler.
Latin style black beans are seasoned with sofrito, recaito and other spices can be made in the microwave!
Sofrito is a flavor base for many Latin dishes and it easy to make and freeze into cubes.
Recaito is another key ingredient in many dishes from Latin America and can also be frozen into cubes.
Pernil - Authentic Puerto Rican Slow Roasted Pork
Puerto Rican pernil is one of my all time favorite dishes. You can eat this alone or make tacos, tostadas, quesadillas and it freezes well also. This is the best pernil recipe I have ever made and it gives a really tender, slow cooked juicy pork with wonderful flavors. Be sure you save the juice, separate it from the fat and add it back to the meat! Que rico!
- 8 lbs pork shoulder 1 full pork butt or shoulder, skin off.
- 8-10 garlic cloves cut into 4-5 slivers each
- 6 Tbsp sofrito
- 2 packets of Goya Sazon with culantro y achiote paleo diet: substitute a 3 Tbsp mixture of equal parts of sea salt, black pepper, coriander, cumin, garlic powder, paprika and oregano
- ¼ cup adobo seasoning
Stab the pork shoulder in various places and insert the garlic pieces. Combine the adobo and sazon and use as a dry rub and coat pork shoulder. Rub the sofrito all around the pork shoulder.
- Cover with plastic wrap and set in your refrigerator overnight.
- Preheat your oven to 300F. Remove plastic from pork shoulder and place in a roaster pan.
Cook covered for about 3 hours. Remove from oven, flip and cover once more. You can add ½ to 1 cup of water to the roaster to add some additional juices for later.
- Continue to cook another 2 hours, or until fork tender. It should fall apart.
- Remove from oven and place half the shoulder on a large cutting board. Discard the layer of fat.
- Start chopping the meat with a sharp knife and place chopped pieces in a large bowl.
- Take remaining juices from the cooking process and place in a container in the refrigerator to allow the fat to rise to the top and solidify. Remove solid fat and discard. If you have a gravy and fat separator, those work very well. Mix the juice with your chopped meat.
Portion off into individual containers and freeze. This will keep frozen for several months if you vacuum pack it.