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Cochinita Pibil

Unbelievably tender, this oven-baked Yucatan pork is perfectly spiced, tangy, and smokey. Served warm over corn tortillas, this cochinita pibil recipe makes the best tacos you’ve ever had.

Baked until fall-apart tender, this authentic Yucatan pork is spiced, tangy, and smokey. Best of all, it’s fuss-free because there’s no underground oven involved. (Which is the traditional method for cooking this Mexican recipe.) Who has time to build one anyway?

Once it hits the table, it’ll go from a lesser-known taco to a weeknight favorite in minutes. No worries if you’re out of tortillas or just want to switch things up a bit, though. This cochinita pibil is also perfect for gorditas and sandwiches! You can even make it into mulitas, arepitas, or quesadillas.

Cooked down until it’s absorbed most of the leftover sauce, every juicy bite is better than the last. Serve it with corn tortillas and top with diced onions, creamy diced avocado, and your favorite cheese. Between the toppings and an orange juice and achiote marinade, there’s a lot to love about this cochinita pibil recipe.

Why You’ll Love this Cochinita Pibil Recipe

Aside from being completely delicious, here are even more reasons to love this Yucatan pork:

  • Great for gatherings. Serve it right in the baking dish with corn tortillas and let everyone assemble their own tacos. When it’s put that way, it’s an effortless dish for parties and gatherings.
  • Easy. All you have to do is make the marinade, marinate the meat, and then bake it. It’s easy!
  • Versatile. You can never run out of ideas with cochinita pibil. Use it to make tacos, burritos, gorditas, tortas, etc.
Close-up of a yucatan pork taco.

What is Cochinita Pibil?

Cochinita pibil is a traditional dish from the southern coastal state of Yucatan, Mexico. The cooking traditions there are still very much ingrained in their prehispanic origins, with a strong preference for underground ovens and brines.

“Cochinita” is one way to say “pork,” which refers to the type of meat used for this dish. On the other hand, “pibil” refers to an ancient Mayan cooking method— píib. It consists of wrapping meat in banana leaves and cooking it in underground ovens for long periods of time.

Having said this, cochinita pibil is basically pork that’s cooked in an underground oven. But since most of us don’t have underground ovens I modified the traditional method to use a modern oven instead. 🙂

What Does Cochinita Pibil Taste Like?

This yucatan pork is a tangy, smokey, and heavily spiced version of pulled pork. It’s just like your favorite BBQ pork, except the marinade is made with achiote (annato seed) paste, orange juice, and vinegar. The sauce is quite zesty, sour, and spiced from these ingredients and a handful of cinnamon, cumin, cloves, etc.

Ingredients for yucatan pork.

Recipe Ingredients

Here’s a quick review of what you’ll need to make this recipe. Check the recipe card at the bottom of the post for full ingredient amounts.

  • Water – You can also use chicken or veggie broth.
  • Achiote paste – Don’t substitute it. It’s the flavor base for this recipe. Usually, you can find achiote paste in the ethnic aisle of grocery stores, or on Amazon.
  • White vinegar – Apple cider vinegar is a good alternative.
  • Fresh orange juice – Try not to use the boxed stuff. It’s just not the same.
  • Black pepper
  • Cinnamon stick – You can also use 1/2 of teaspoon ground cinnamon.
  • Ground cumin
  • Whole cloves – Avoid substituting them for ground cloves, please.
  • Dried oregano
  • Garlic cloves
  • Salt
  • Lard – Don’t use vegetable shortening. However, you can substitute with olive oil if you prefer.
  • Banana leaves
  • Pork loin

Where Can I Find Banana Leaves?

The easiest place to find banana leaves for cooking is, you guessed it, Amazon. If you have an authentic Hispanic market in your neighborhood that is another great place to find banana leaves, as well as achiote paste.

Serving plate with yucatan pork tacos.

How to Make Authentic Cochinita Pibil

Making yucatan pork is easier than it seems. Just marinate the meat and bake it!

  • Make the marinade. Place the water, achiote paste, vinegar, orange juice, black pepper, cinnamon stick, ground cumin, cloves, oregano, garlic, salt, and lard in the blender. Process everything until you get a smooth mixture. If you use ground cinnamon, you can whisk everything by hand instead.
  • Marinade the meat. Place the meat in a large bowl and strain the marinade over it. Rub the marinade into the meat. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate it for up to 6 hours.
  • Prepare the baking dish. Line a baking dish with banana leaves, making sure to leave part of the leaves hanging out the sides so you can cover the pork with them. Preheat the oven to 360 F.
  • Add the pork. Place the meat inside and pour the excess marinade in. Fold the leaves over the meat to cover it completely. Finally, cover the baking dish with foil.
  • Bake. Pop the tray into the oven and let the pork cook for 2-2.5 hours or until tender. Remove it from the oven and let it cool for 15 minutes. Use two forks to carefully shred the meat. Don’t discard the leftover cooking liquid.
  • Cook it. Place a pan over medium-low heat. Add the shredded pork and leftover cooking liquid. Stir to combine and cook for 10 minutes or until the meat absorbs most of the liquid. Season with more salt to taste. Serve and enjoy.

Tips for Success

Follow these tips for easy and delicious yucatan pork. You’ll be eating flavorful homemade cochinita pibil in no time:

  • Use foil. If you can’t get a hold of banana leaves, substitute them for more foil.
  • Be patient. Baking the cochinita over high heat won’t speed things up, it’ll only dry out the meat and possibly burn it.
  • Add steam. Place a baking dish or tray filled with water on your lowest oven rack. As the cochinita cooks, the water will release steam and help the meat remain nice and moist.

Can I Make Cochinita Pibil in the Slow Cooker?

You sure can! Throw everything into the slow cooker and set it to LOW for 8 hours or HIGH for 6 hours. Then serve as desired with tortillas and your favorite fixings.

Close-up of cochinita pibil taco.

What Do You Serve With Cochinita Pibil?

Yucatan pork is usually served with corn tortillas to make tacos. Other typical preparations include gorditas, tortas (Mexican sandwiches), and tostadas. Because it’s so heavily spiced, it’s never eaten on its own.

If you’re making tacos, make sure to load them with red rice and refried beans. For gorditas, the cochinita is fine on its own. When making tortas, however, don’t forget to add refried beans, avocado, and pickled red onions.

Regardless of how you prepare it, you can also add toppings like diced onion, cilantro, avocado, and salsa.

Three yucatan pork tacos with toppings.

How to Store & Reheat Leftovers

Refrigerate any cooled leftovers in an airtight container for up to 4 days.

To reheat it, microwave it for 30 seconds, stir, and microwave for another 30 seconds or until warm. You can also do it in a pan over medium-low heat for 3-4 minutes. If you’re reheating a large portion, you can pop it into the oven at 320 F for 15-20 minutes or until warm.

Can I Freeze This?

Yes! Once fully cooled, transfer it to a freezer-friendly container or bag. Freeze it for up to 3 months. To help you remember when it’s from, always write the cook date on the bag or on a piece of tape and stick on the container.

Move it into the fridge a day before serving so it has enough time to thaw. Reheat it as usual.

More Authentic Mexican Recipes

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Cochinita Pibil

Landscape photo of yucatan pork tacos.
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This smokey and spiced yucatan pork will make the best cochinita pibil tacos you’ve ever had with corn tortillas, crunchy onions and creamy diced avocado.

  • Author: Rustic Family Recipes
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 2 hours 25 minutes
  • Total Time: 2 hours 35 minutes
  • Yield: 10 servings
  • Category: Lunch
  • Method: Oven
  • Cuisine: Mexican

Ingredients

  • 2 cups water
  • 2.5 oz achiote paste
  • 1/2 cup white vinegar
  • 1/2 cup fresh orange juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cinnamon stick
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 whole cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup pig’s lard, melted
  • 4 large banana leaves
  • 2 lbs pork loin

Instructions

  • Make the marinade. Place the water, achiote paste, vinegar, orange juice, black pepper, cinnamon stick, ground cumin, cloves, oregano, garlic, salt, and lard in the blender. Process until you get a smooth mixture.
  • Marinade the meat. Place the meat in a large bowl and strain the marinade over it. Rub the marinade into the meat. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate it for up to 6 hours.
  • Prepare the baking dish. Line a glass baking dish with banana leaves, making sure to leave part of the leaves hanging out the sides so you can cover the pork with them. Preheat the oven to 360 F. Place the meat inside and pour the marinade in. Fold the leaves over the meat to cover it completely. Finally, cover the baking dish with foil.
  • Bake. Pop the tray into the oven and let the pork cook for 2-2.5 hours. Remove it from the oven and let it cool for 15 minutes. Use two forks to carefully shred the meat. Don’t discard the leftover cooking liquid.
  • Cook it. Place a pan over medium-low heat. Add the shredded pork and leftover cooking liquid. Stir to combine and cook for 10 minutes or until the meat absorbs most of the liquid.
  • Serve. Season with more salt to taste. Serve it with a side of tortillas to make tacos or use it to fill gorditas or top huaraches with. Enjoy!

Keywords: pork pibil, yucatan pork, authentic Mexican recipes, cochinita pibil, Mexican bbq pork

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