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 I am sharing with you came from my friend Eimy who is Puerto Rican. I first 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.
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. Perhaps not the best dietary choice, but during Christmas, who is being good?
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?
This dish also 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. I have also made 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. I have a friend who makes this recipe regularly and she puts it in the oven overnight and keeps it on hand for a quick and easy meal. Another tip I have is: 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!
If you love Hispanic food here are some more great easy recipes to try:
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.
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
- 1/4 cup adobo seasoning paleo diet: see paleo adobe recipe below
Stab the pork shoulder in various places and insert the garlic pieces. Rub the sofrito all around the pork shoulder. Combine the adobo and sazon and use as a dry rub and coat 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.
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.
Paleo Adobo from The Paleo Effect
Here is a simple DIY recipe to make your own homemade paleo diet adobo seasoning.
Combine all ingredients in a food processor and blend.