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Puerco Pibil

I was watching a DVD and found this puerco/cochinita pibil recipe as part of the special features. I was intrigued by the role the food played.

Submitted by: Kenton from Seattle, Washington


Preparation Instructions:

Grind the annato seeds, cumin seeds, whole peppercorns, whole cloves, and whole allspice in a mortar and pestle, molcajete y tejolote, spice grinder or coffe grinder.

Blend the cleaned and chopped habanero peppers with the orange juice, vinegar, garlic and salt.

Mix the dry spices with the liquid.

Add the juice of 5 lemons and a nice splash of tequila.

Place the cubed pork butt in a large zip lock bag and add the marinade. Soak 4-6 hours, in refrigerator, turning several times.

Line (8x13) baking pan with banana leaves. Pour in pork along with the marinade. Cover with Banana leaves and seal the pan with foil. Bake in a 325 F degree oven for 4 hours.

Helpful Hints

Banana leaves are optional, because I haven't found any locally yet. Take it easy on Habanero peppers. HOT!HOT!!HOT!!! Preground spices can be used in place of the whole spices, but the brilliant flavor of freshly ground spices really makes this dish what it is! (Editor's note: It may be helpful to read the hints left in the reviews of this recipe. Another suggestion, given to us by Dennis from Rawlins, Wyoming, is to add brown sugar to the marinating mix, use limes instead of lemons, and only cook 3 to 3 1/2 hours in aluminum foil.)

Based on 63 reviews

Customer Reviews


I’ve made this several times and really enjoy the process and results. The only adjustment I’ve made it cutting the lemon juice in half; the first time I followed the recipe to the letter and felt the meat came out noticeably sour. I most recently made it for a friends-and-family potluck with this is mind and it went over extremely well.

Nelson C

I made this recipe for my vegetarian wife using Tofu. The amount of sauce in the recipe is enough for 2 to 3 10-oz bricks of tofu (get the extra firm type). Slice the tofu into cubes (1/2 inch for small bites is good), then marinate for 3 hours in a ziplock. Line a deep dish glass baking pan (for example, a bread pan) with banana leaf. One big banana leaf cross section will line the bottom of the pan, and also wrap around the top. Pour in the tofu and the marinade, wrap and cover with banana leaf, then cover with a lid or foil. Bake for 1 hour at 350F. Serve from the hot baking dish with a large spoon – the banana adds a nice presentation.

I modified the marinade recipe slightly:
Substitute 1 Red Fresno, 1 Jalepeno, 1 Serrano for 2 Habanero peppers (deseed and remove ribs)
Instead of 5 lemons, use 2 lemons and 3 limes
Add 1 tablespoon brown sugar

For crispy tofu: after baking, remove the tofu cubes to a preheated frying pan with just a bit of the marinade, and fry at high heat for 30 seconds, flip over, and fry for another 30 seconds. Meanwhile, heat the remaining marinade in a saucepan, and add a small amount of corn starch to slightly thicken. Serve the tofu with the sauce drizzled over the top.

Serve with barely steamed (just until a slight color change) broccoli florets – the broccoli goes nicely with the pibil spices.

Michael S

The proper Mayan recipe is known as Cochinta pibil because it uses a whole suckling pig. The version above is based around the recipe given in the film ‘Once Upon a Time in Mexico’ where if Johnny Depp liked what he was served he would shoot the chef! I too got the recipe from the film but instantly saw errors; why use orange juice and vinegar? Use bitter Seville oranges or mix up fresh oranges with lime juice. I would not add the hot chili –but the annatto (look for achiote) and banana leaves are essential. Annatto is not just a color, as said earlier, and the taste of it and the musty banana leaves adds a unique flavor that is all but destroyed by the hot chili. If you want hot cook another recipe, this one is too good to wreck! The shot of tequila can also be left out.

Long marinating helps, 24 hours is good but here is an idea to get that long cooking time in and save money – a hay box. Cover your pibil in banana leaves then foil, bring it to a boil on the oven, then quickly place it in a box filled with crumpled newspaper (small air pockets are essential) so it is surrounded. Add other insulation around that and leave it for five hours or more. It will slowly cook, no fear of burning and will still be very hot. This also sort of mimics the original idea where the dish was cooked in a pit, hence the name.

Aarón N

This is now my new favorite recipe. Its easy, its fun and it wow’s your friends.

Here’s some tips I had.

1. Use Rubber Gloves when cutting the peppers. (it makes your hands feel much better

2. Cook some rice to serve it over (probably been said)

3. Saute some green peppers and onions

4. Throw in some pine apple (it is a good contrast to the spicy)

5. I used the extra bannana leaves as a garnish. I put a small section of leaf on each plate and served the dish on that. It made it look very cool.

6. This goes great with a nice Mexican Cerveza.

7. Save the marinade and freeze it, you can make a really good black bean soup with it.

And that’s about it, its a really easy recipe, you can make it in advance and freeze it if you’d like. I’d suggest going all out with bannana leaves, I decorated the entire dining room with the leaves. It looked awesome.

Linda O

This not the original recipe. I have been making this since the Movie came out. I can’t get Banana leaves. (Only once) So I get Heavy duty Foil and the Tequila is not only for flavor but is also a tenderizer please use it. You don’t need to let it set before you bake. Do let it set for 10 minutes after. My Whole neighborhood knows when I make it. It Smells Fantastico!


The Robert Rodriguez recipe makes an excellent Pureco Cochinita Pibil, and it has been made several times in our home with slight variations with the number of habaneros. The first few times it was prepared in the oven with excellent results. Then it has been prepared using a crock pot, cooking for 8 hours, also just as good. For the latest atttempt, I used a pressure cooker at 15psi for 40 minutes. It came out wonderful, and FAST!! It’s a great and very versatile recipe!

Peter Punky

Banana leaves can most commonly be found in the freezer section of asian markets, I’ve found annatto most easily at hispanic stores…though it’s very helpful to be in a urban area with those populations (even the cub foods by my house has these things)

Joe C

Find the fresh spices. Use the banana leaves. Search the Robert Rodriguez on YouTube to see how simple it is.
I can never make enough. Over rice with Pickled veggies is the right touch.

Byrce s

I’ve been making this recipe since I saw it on the extras to Once Upon a Time in Mexico years ago.

Annatto can usually be found at your local Mexican grocery. You may not know it but you almost certainly have one near you, no matter where you live.

DONT SKIP THE ANNATTO! If you absolutely can’t find it, you can almost ALWAYS find achiote paste at the Mexican grocer. It’s not quite as good, to me, but It is way easier than grinding a heap of hard annatto in a mortar and pestle.

Franc G

Do not leave out the annatto or the banana leaves both add flavor, in Puerto Rico were I come from we cut the rib out of the leaves and pass it over an open flame on the stove,it makes the leaves more pliable and the leaves add a subtle flavor. I can find the leaves at any grocery store in Racine in the freezer section. I grow several banana plants in my yard in the summer and save the leaves in my freezer,they can also be used wrapped on chicken or fish to hold in moisture and add flavor. We also use lime instead of lemon and rum instead of tequila. Do not leave out the alcohol no matter which one you use as they also add flavor and the alcohol cooks out, I flame the alcohol before adding to burn off the alcohol and it’s just fun to do. I also prepare this recipe several days in advance so the flavor develops and contrary to other comments this is important. I also use less salt. If making this with recipe with chicken as was mentioned before use thighs instead of breast meat as it can take the longer cooking time and they stay moist. Also wait to add the salt until just before cooking.


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