Main Dishes Salsas and Sauces — By Ben on 10 June 2008
Cochinita Pibil

Foodbuzz dinner
[donotprint]First of all, I want to thank everybody who left a message on my last post. It is very comforting to know that there are people out there that truly care about other. That has made my mourning a lot easier. I thank you all from the bottom of my heart.

Hopefully this week I will catch up with everything that was unattended last week. So let’s get down to business. That here means food! Several months ago I blogged about a typical Mayan dish that was one of my favorites when I was growing up, chicken legs in achiote sauce. Achiote is a common sauce in the Yucatan peninsula. Many dishes are prepared with it, but the most commonly known is probably Cochinita Pibil. Cochinita (roughly translated little or baby female pig) is a slow-roasted pork dish with a strong acidic taste from bitter orange juice, usually Seville oranges. The preparation of this dish is simple. However, to obtain better results the meat must be marinated for at least 4 hours, some experts in Yucatan food recommend marinating it for 24 hours. I made this dish a couple of weeks ago with some minor changes on the preparation, but the result was a very delicious and tender Cochinita.[/donotprint]

Cochinita Pibil
Makes 4-6 servings
Prep time 10 minutes plus 4 to 24 hours to marinate
Cooking time 2 1/2 hours

For this recipe you will need:

  • 2 1/2 lbs pork shoulder
  • 1 TBSP annatto seeds
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp ground oregano
  • 1 tsp whole allspice
  • 1 chile ancho, deveined and seeded
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 cup fresh bitter orange juice (Seville Orange)*
  • 1/4 cup vinegar
  • salt and pepper

Pickled onions:

  • 1 red onion, sliced
  • 1/2 cup vinegar
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, finely chopped

*You can substitute bitter orange juice with 1/2 cup sweet orange juice and the juice of one lemon.


  1. Cut pork shoulder in 1 1/2 to 2″ cubes and season.
  2. Dry-toast annatto seeds, allspice, cumin, oregano and chile ancho in a heavy skillet over medium heat. Stir constantly until fragrant, around 2-3 minutes.
  3. Cool slightly and grind in a food grinder (I used my blender on high speed)
  4. In a large bowl whisk together spice mixture, garlic, vinegar and orange juice until well blended.
  5. Cover a baking dish with aluminum foil letting it hang over the sides so it can cover the pork.*
  6. Place pork on aluminum foil cover with the annatto sauce and mix well.
  7. Cover and marinate for at least 4 hours. 24 hours works best.
  8. Preheat oven to 250ºF (120ºC)
  9. Cook for 2 1/2 hours.
  10. Serve in tacos with pickled onions over fresh homemade corn tortillas.

Pickled onions:

  1. Mix red onion, vinegar, orange juice, cilantro and salt to taste and marinate for 4 hours.

About this recipe:

  • The original recipe calls for banana leaves instead of aluminum foil.
  • The pickled onions is originally a hot sauce. You might add 1 or 2 finely chopped habaneros and 1 chopped radish.


If you are looking to impress a crowd, this is the perfect dish for it. This is authentic Mexican flavor.

¡Buen provecho!

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About Author

grew up around food. His family owned a restaurant in Mexico City and he spent a big deal of his childhood helping and learning after school the art of creating delicious dishes from simple ingredients. He created this blog to share his kitchen adventures with the world.

(24) Readers Comments

  1. Good to have you back with us Ben. Looks like a delicious dish, even without the annato seeds and The Chile ancho (by the way the link does not work). Are these hot spices?

  2. Ben we are glad to have you back with your usual cheerful banter. This dish is a great way to start the week:D

  3. Welcome back Ben! This certainly would impress a crowd! Great flavors, I could just imagine the taste!

  4. Oh man. The pork sounds amazing…full of spicy flavor. And the pickled onion would go so well with it! I’ll have to try this sometime.

  5. Ben, it’s so good to see you back! I’ve missed your posts.

    This looks totally fabulous! My husband would be eating out of the palm of my hand if I made this for him, hehe. Thanks!

  6. That looks really tasty. I will have to see if I can find some of those annatto seeds.

  7. Dang, read this last week and spent the weekend dreaming about it. I did okay though, found and made me a new bbq sauce, I did okay.

    xo, Biggles

  8. Ben, so glad you’re here and hoping cooking is helping with your healing…
    Great selection. We made pibil for that Mexican extravaganza we had recently — on the BBQ! This sounds really great! Marinated onions and all! YUM! And big hugs to you…

  9. Oh, I loved eating cochinita pibil when we visited the Yucatan last year — thank you so much for sharing your recipe!

  10. I too started making it after seeing Robery Rodriguez’ version and it’s fantastic.

    Ivy, the annato seeds are VERY IMPORTANT, i can not stress that enough. I use a coffee grinder to grind them up into a very fine powder along with all the other spices and the smell is unbelievable. Dip your nose into a bag of annato seeds, it’s a very euphoric smell.

    Robert suggests a splash of tequila, I disagree. The acidity in the tequila also works to tenderize the meat and for that reason (along with taste) I add a splash of tequila per pound (and a shot for me for good health).

    I’m definitely going to try this recipe though, especially the pickled onions, never tried that with my pibil.

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