Slow-Roasted Puerto Rican Pernil Recipe

Many different countries have their own recipes for roast pork, but pernil is a popular Puerto Rican version of the dish. As recipe developer Michelle McGlinn tells it, "It's served during the holidays, likely because it takes a long time to cook." What with the overnight marinade and another half a day's worth of cooking, this is something you might want to make on a weekend when you have plenty of time, but McGlinn feels the results will be worth it. "It's so good," she says, and admits that it's also "so easy to start slicing off pieces of just the crust to snack on while you're shredding the meat."

One ingredient called for here is a Puerto Rican condiment called sofrito that's made from peppers, onions, garlic, and cilantro. McGlinn says green sofrito is typically used for pernil, but tells us, "I like the tomato-based sofrito and think the acidity in the tomato tenderizes the pork nicely." She says you can make your own sofrito if you like, but assures us that "store-bought works well, too."

Assemble the ingredients for the slow-roasted Puerto Rican pernil

To make pernil, you need a pork shoulder or butt. Feel free to use one smaller or larger than is called for here, with the cooking time being around 45 minutes per pound. You'll also need some seasonings for the pork: garlic, sazón, paprika, onion powder, oregano, cumin, garlic powder, chili powder, salt, pepper, and the aforementioned sofrito.

If you have a choice of sazón seasoning packets, McGlinn advises using the coriander and annatto flavor. As she explains, this spice mixture "adds a lot of unique flavor that the other seasonings do not and also adds a beautiful bright color, as well."

Season the pork

Cut some slits into the pork and stick a few of the garlic cloves into these slits. Mix up all of the dry seasonings, then rub them all over the pork. Follow the spices with the sofrito, rubbing that all over the meat, too. Put any remaining garlic cloves on top of the pork.

Marinate the pork overnight

Wrap the pork, garlic cloves and all, in plastic, then put it in the refrigerator. It should stay in there overnight or, if you are preparing it in the morning, for about 8+ hours. As McGlinn insists, "The pork is way more flavorful when the spices have a chance to sit on the meat."

About half an hour before you want to cook the pork, take it out of the refrigerator so it can warm up to room temperature. As the pork sits, preheat the oven to 325 F.

Roast the pork for several hours

Cook the pork on a wire rack sitting in a pan. Make sure the garlic is still in place and the fat side is pointing up — the reason for doing so, McGlinn explains, is "so any fat drippings drip through the pork, keeping it moist." Roast the pork for 3 to 4 hours or until the internal temperature reads 180 F and the pork is fork-tender. As McGlinn describes it, "The pork should break apart easily, with no resistance, and have a dark, crispy outer crust."

Slice or shred the pork before you eat it. McGlinn notes that the traditional side dish for pernil is arroz con gandules, which is rice with pigeon peas, but says that plain white rice is okay, too. As for any uneaten pork, she says, "Cuban sandwiches would be a really good way to use pernil leftovers."

Slow-Roasted Puerto Rican Pernil Recipe
5 from 57 ratings
This recipe for Puerto Rican pernil features fork-tender pork that is marinated in a slew of seasonings overnight and then slow-roasted to perfection.
Prep Time
Cook Time
pork with rice and peas
Total time: 12 hours, 20 minutes
  • 4 pound pork shoulder roast
  • 6 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 sazón seasoning packet
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 ½ teaspoon oregano
  • 1 ½ teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 1 cup sofrito
  1. Slice a few shallow slits into the pork and stuff them with some of the garlic cloves, reserving the rest of the garlic.
  2. Combine all the seasonings and rub them all over the pork.
  3. Coat the pork with sofrito and put the reserved garlic on top.
  4. Wrap the meat tightly in plastic.
  5. Refrigerate the pork overnight.
  6. Remove the pork from the refrigerator about 30 minutes before cooking.
  7. Preheat the oven to 325 F.
  8. Put the pork onto a wire rack placed inside a pan with its fat side facing up and leaving the garlic in place.
  9. Roast the pork for 3 to 4 hours or until the internal temperature reads 180 F and the pork is fork-tender.
  10. Slice or shred the pork prior to eating it.
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