Cochinita Pibil

Cochinita Pibil over Mexican Rice

I've always wanted to try something wrapped in banana leaves. When I saw this recipe on Simply Recipes, I decided it was time.

Now, her recipe calls for the traditional orange and lime juices to be used as the base for the marinade. When I went looking for the ingredients, I thought that I had a can of orange juice concentrate in the freezer.. but alas, it was not so.

Stumped, I stared into our freezer. My eyes lit upon the cranberry juice container and I took it out, thoughtfully weighing it in my palm. "Do you think we could use cranberry juice?" I asked my husband, who replied, "well, we use cranberry and lemon often and it's acidic, so I don't see why not."

And, wonder of wonders, I had half a bag of cranberries in the freezer door! Problem solved.

The cranberry/lemon mixture doesn't seem to be terribly different from how I imagine the orange/lime tastes. It's fruity and acidic - all that matters. The banana leaves were everything I had hoped for - fun to use and they definitely added to the dish. Besides the wonderful flavor, what I loved was once it went into the oven, I was done! I didn't have to poke at it or check it until 3 hours later. (And it was done!)

This is some seriously wonderful stuff. I'm definitely making this one again. The only bad thing I can say is that it takes almost one entire achiote packet. I have a half ounce left over, so I think I'll buy the bigger size next time so it divides more evenly. I probably could have used the entire packet without problem, however, so it's my own fault. :)

Cochinita Pibil

Cochinita Pibil [printable recipe]

Adapted from Simply Recipes
Serves 4 - 6

  • 3-4 pounds boneless pork shoulder or picnic roast
  • 1 cup whole cranberries
  • 1 large lemon or 2 regular lemons, peeled and cut into quarters
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 3 ounces of red (rojo) achiote paste
  • Water or stock
  • Banana leaves, heated or thawed to pliability (optional)

In a blender the night before you wish to cook, combine cranberries, lemon, salt and achiote paste. Add enough water or stock to make the marinade easily pourable.

Cut the pork into 1" - 2" cubes, leaving the fat for braising. Place into a non-reactive container (glass, metal or ziptop baggie) then pour the marinade over the pork. Mix well and chill for 8 to 24 hours.

Preheat the oven to 325F. Line a 9"x12" casserole dish with foil. If using banana leaves, layer one or two leaf sections across the bottom. Pour in the pork mixture along with the marinade. Layer more leaf sections over the pork (about 2 - 3 layers) or use foil and close tightly.

Wrapping Cochinita Pibil in Banana Leaves

Bake for 3 hours or more. Check the meat at 3 hours to see if the pork shreds easily - it should be just about falling apart. Remove the meat and sauce to a bowl and shred with two forks.

Serve over Mexican Rice or use as meat for tacos or sandwiches.