Puerto Rican Pernil

This Puerto Rican Pernil recipe is easy to make, deliciously flavored with garlic, oregano, and adobo marinade. It slow-cooks for fall-apart tenderness, with a crispy skin on top.

Pernil on a platter.

This Puerto Rican Pernil recipe is an excellent choice for family gatherings and dinner parties. Its tender, flavorful pork roast pairs wonderfully with traditional accompaniments like rice with pigeon peas, Puerto Rican Beans and Potatoes, or Arkansas Green Beans. For a delightful twist, consider serving it alongside Pasta with Beet, Sweet potato, and Goat Cheese. And to complete your spread, don’t forget the delightful addition of Brazilian cheese bread.

This versatile dish brings a taste of Puerto Rican cuisine to your table. Whether you’re hosting a family get-together or an elegant dinner party, this Pernil is sure to be a crowd-pleaser.

What is Pernil?

Curious about what a Pernil is? It’s a slow-roasted, marinated pork shoulder. People also call it Pernil Asado and Pernil al Horno. Commonly enjoyed during Christmas dinners in Latin America, it’s served with rice and pigeon peas (Arroz con Gandules). As far as Puerto Rican recipes go, indeed, this is a famous one you’ll love!

Why We Love This Recipe

  • The unique blend of spices and herbs used in the marinade infuses the pernil, creating a rich and aromatic flavor profile.
  • Slow cooked to perfection, the Puerto Rican Pernil is irresistibly tender, juicy, and falls off the bone effortlessly.
  • The cooking technique yields a crispy, flavorful skin that contrasts beautifully with the soft and juicy meat inside.
  • It pairs wonderfully with a variety of side dishes for a more satisfying meal.

Recipe Ingredients

The ingredients to make Puerto Rican Pernil.
  • Skin-On Pork Shoulder: The skin crisps up during cooking, adding a savory crunch, while the meat stays juicy and tender.
  • Powdered Adobo Seasoning: This is a flavorful blend of spices like garlic, onion, black pepper, and sometimes turmeric. It gives the pork a warm, earthy, and slightly smoky flavor, making it even tastier.
  • Fresh Oregano: It gives the pork a fresh, herbal taste, making the flavors pop and balancing out the seasonings.

See the recipe card for full information on ingredients and quantities.

How to Make Puerto Rican Pernil

Step #1: Flip the pork roast with the larger skin side facing down. If you have a picnic roast, then the skin will wrap all the way around the roast. Gently trim the skin with kitchen scissors. Then, for both shoulder or picnic roasts, use a knife to take off the skin and layer of fat. Again, if you have a picnic roast, then after doing one side, turn the roast over and completely remove the skin with the fat from the roast. Once you remove the skin, set it aside.

Cutting the skin and fat off of the Pernil pork roast with a large knife on a cutting board.

Step #2: Tenderize the roast by using a small, long kitchen knife to make lots of finger-sized slits in the roast. When you have done this on one side, turn the roast over and do the other side. When you are finished, you should be able to stick your fingers all the way down into each hole.

Tenderizing the Pernil roast using a small knife to cut slits in the pork roast.

Step #3: Now, lay the skin on a cutting board with the skin side up and the fat side down. Using a sharp knife, cut parallel lines through the skin, but not through the fat. Make the cuts 1 inch apart. Then, turn the skin a quarter turn and cut the lines again. So now, you have 1-inch squares across the skin.

Making slits on the top of the skin from the Pernil pork roast.

Step #4: Make the spice rub by pureeing the garlic, oregano, salt, adobo, and olive oil in a food processor.

Garlic, oregano, salt, adobo, and olive oil in a food processor.

Step #5: Place the roast in a roasting pan and rub the spice mix all over the roast and deep down into the holes. Then turn the roast over and rub the spice mix over the other side and deep down into the holes on that side.

Pernil roast in a baking pan with the spice mix rubbed all over the roast.

Step #6: Place the skin on top of the roast with the skin side up and rub the rest of the spice mix all over the skin and into the cuts made into the skin.

Pernil roast in baking pan skin side up with spice mix rubbed onto it.

Step #7: Cover the roast with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator to marinate overnight. You should marinate this for at least 2 hours. But we like to marinate it overnight. If you want to marinate it for 2 or 3 days, that will work as well, if that helps you make it in advance.

Step #8: Once the Pernil has finished marinating, take it out of the refrigerator and remove the plastic wrap.

Step #9: Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (175 degrees Celsius). Next, add 1 inch of water into the Pernil’s baking pan. This prevents drippings from burning, keeps the meat moist, and allows you to create a flavorful gravy with the drippings.

Step #10: Wrap the pan with heavy-duty aluminum foil. Make sure the edges are tightly sealed to trap the steam inside.

Step #11: Bake the Pernil covered for 2 hours. After two hours, remove the Pernil from the oven and carefully lift the foil to check the water level. Add more water if it’s less than half an inch, ensuring there’s at least that much. If you’re cooking a medium or large Pernil, reseal the foil and continue cooking it covered for the remaining time.

Step #12: Once you’ve cooked the Pernil for the required time while it’s covered, take it out of the oven. Uncover the foil and lightly sprinkle Adobo seasoning on the skin to help it crisp up.

Cooked Pernil Puerto Rican in a glass baking pan.

Step #13: Place your Pernil in the oven, uncovered, at 450 degrees Fahrenheit (230 degrees Celsius) for 45 minutes.

Step #14: After 45 minutes, check if the skin is crispy by gently tapping it with a butter knife. If it’s still soft, continue cooking for another 15 minutes, then check again. Repeat this process until the skin becomes crispy.

Step #15: Remove the Pernil from the oven and let it rest for 15 minutes.

Step #16: Lastly, move the Pernil to a serving platter, and put some of the juices in a gravy boat to pour over the pernil. Serve hot or warm and enjoy!

This Puerto Rican Pernil served on a white serving dish with rice on the side.

Expert Tips

  • Selecting the Meat Cut: Your choice of meat cut matters. If you love crispy skin, opt for the picnic cut, where the skin wraps around the roast for extra crispiness. For less crispy skin, go for a boneless roast as it’s easier to pull apart after cooking.
  • Managing Fat: While fat adds flavor to your roast and gravy, consider removing excess fat if your roast is overly fatty.
  • Customizing Crispy Skin: Crisp up the skin to your preference. Some prefer a golden-brown hue, while others like it darker. Simply tap the skin with a butter knife to check for crispiness.
  • Maintaining Tenderness: To keep the roast tender, avoid overcooking once the cover is off. Once the skin achieves your desired crispness, it’s ready to come out of the oven.
  • No Need for Carving: You won’t need to carve the Pernil roast. Use a couple of forks to effortlessly pull apart the tender, flavorful meat.

Frequently Asked Questions

What side dishes go well with pernil?

Pernil is often served with arroz con gandules (rice with pigeon peas), tostones (fried plantains), or a simple green salad.

Can I make pernil in a slow cooker?

Yes, though the outer skin might not get as crispy with slow cooker pernil. Cook on low for 8-10 hours.

Can I use dried oregano instead of fresh?

Yes. Generally, use one-third the amount of dried oregano in place of fresh.

Can I make my own adobo seasoning?

Yes, a simple mix of garlic powder, onion powder, oregano, black pepper, and turmeric can work as a substitute.

Storage Info

If you have leftovers, allow the pernil to cool to room temperature. Then, wrap it tightly in aluminum foil or plastic wrap and place it in an airtight container. Store the container in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days. For freezing, you can store it in the freezer for up to 2-3 months. When reheating, use the oven or microwave. Leftover Pernil can be versatile – make sandwiches, add it to omelets, tacos, or use it in salads and pasta. Get creative and enjoy it in various ways!

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This Puerto Rican Pernil served on a white serving dish.

Puerto Rican Pernil Recipe

This Puerto Rican Pernil recipe is easy to make, deliciously flavored with garlic, oregano, and adobo marinade. It slow-cooks for fall-apart tenderness, with a crispy skin on top.
4.2 from 51 votes
Pin Rate
Course: Main Dish
Cuisine: Latin
Diet: Gluten Free
Prep Time: 45 minutes
Cook Time: 4 hours
Additional Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 5 hours
Servings: 2 Servings Per Pound
Calories: 241kcal
Author: Linda
Print Recipe

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Ingredients

  • 1 pound skin on pork shoulder

For every 1 pound of your pork roast, use:

  • 1 ½ garlic cloves - fresh
  • 1 ½ teaspoons oregano - fresh
  • ¼ teaspoons salt
  • ½ teaspoons powdered adobo seasoning
  • 1 ½ teaspoons olive oil

Instructions

Cook Times:
  • Large Pernil
    (9-12 lbs.): Cook covered for 4 hours at 350 degrees Fahrenheit (175 degrees Celsius); then cook uncovered for 1 hour at 450 degrees Fahrenheit (230 degrees Celsius) with the convection turned on if your oven is a convection oven.
  • Medium Pernil
    (6-8 lbs.): Cook covered for 3 hours at 350 degrees Fahrenheit (175 degrees Celsius); then cook uncovered for 1 hour at 450 degrees Fahrenheit (230 degrees Celsius) with the convection turned on if your oven is a convection oven.
  • Small Pernil
    (4-5 lbs.): Cook covered for 2 hours at 350 degrees Fahrenheit (175 degrees Celsius); then cook for 1 hour at 450 degrees Fahrenheit (230 degrees Celsius) with the convection turned on if your oven is a convection oven.
Instructions:
  • Flip the pork roast with the larger skin side facing down. If you have a picnic roast, then the skin will wrap all the way around the roast. Gently trim the skin with kitchen scissors. Then, for both shoulder or picnic roasts, use a knife to take off the skin and layer of fat. Again, if you have a picnic roast, then after doing one side, turn the roast over and completely remove the skin with the fat from the roast. Once you remove the skin, set it aside.
  • Tenderize the roast by using a small, long kitchen knife to make lots of finger-sized slits in the roast. When you have done this on one side, turn the roast over and do the other side. Once you're done, you should be able to stick your fingers all the way down into each hole.
  • Now, lay the skin on a cutting board with the skin side up and the fat side down. Using a sharp knife, cut parallel lines through the skin, but not through the fat. Make the cuts 1 inch apart. Then, turn the skin a quarter turn and cut the lines again. So now, you have 1-inch squares across the skin.
  • Make the spice rub by pureeing the garlic, oregano, salt, adobo and olive oil in a food processor.
  • Place the roast in a roasting pan and rub the spice mix all over the roast and deep down into the holes. Then, turn the roast over and rub the spice mix over the other side and deep down into the holes on that side.
  • Place the skin on top of the roast with the skin side up and rub the rest of the spice mix all over the skin and into the cuts made into the skin.
  • Cover the roast with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator to marinate overnight. You should marinate this for at least 2 hours. But we like to marinate it overnight. If you want to marinate it for 2 or 3 days, that will work as well, if that helps you make it in advance.
  • Once the Pernil has finished marinating, take it out of the refrigerator and remove the plastic wrap.
  • Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (175 degrees Celsius). Next, add 1 inch of water into the Pernil's baking pan. This prevents drippings from burning, keeps the meat moist, and allows you to create a flavorful gravy with the drippings.
  • Wrap the pan with heavy-duty aluminum foil. Make sure the edges are tightly sealed to trap the steam inside.
  • Bake the Pernil covered for 2 hours. After two hours, remove the Pernil from the oven and carefully lift the foil to check the water level. Add more water if it's less than half an inch, ensuring there's at least that much. If you're cooking a medium or large Pernil, reseal the foil and continue cooking it covered for the remaining time.
  • Once you've cooked the Pernil for the required time while it's covered, take it out of the oven. Uncover the foil and lightly sprinkle Adobo seasoning on the skin to help it crisp up.
  • Place your Pernil in the oven, uncovered, at 450 degrees Fahrenheit (230 degrees Celsius) for 45 minutes.
  • After 45 minutes, check if the skin is crispy by gently tapping it with a butter knife. If it's still soft, continue cooking for another 15 minutes, then check again. Repeat this process until the skin becomes crispy.
  • Remove the Pernil from the oven and let it rest for 15 minutes.
  • Move the Pernil to a serving platter, and put some of the juices in a gravy boat to pour over the pernil. Serve hot or warm and enjoy!

VIDEO

NOTES

Storage Info:
If you have leftover Pernil, allow it to cool to room temperature. Then, wrap it tightly in aluminum foil or plastic wrap and place it in an airtight container. Store the container in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days. For freezing, you can store it in the freezer for up to 2-3 months. When reheating, use the oven or microwave. Leftover Pernil can be versatile – make sandwiches, add it to omelets, and tacos, or use it in salads and pasta. Get creative and enjoy it in various ways!

Nutrition

Serving: 1serving | Calories: 241kcal | Carbohydrates: 2g | Protein: 27g | Fat: 13g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 7g | Cholesterol: 93mg | Sodium: 397mg | Potassium: 509mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 0.1g | Vitamin A: 34IU | Vitamin C: 2mg | Calcium: 48mg | Iron: 2mg

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About the Author

Linda

Hi, I'm Linda! Welcome to The Wanderlust Kitchen, where I share recipes and travel adventures from all around the world. Here you'll find a world of recipes you can have confidence in. These recipes celebrate authentic food heritage as well as modern techniques and ingredients. Be adventurous and try a new recipe and travel somewhere you have never been before.  Bon Appétit! Bon Voyage!  

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