This Cochinita Pibil Recipe (Slow Cooker or Instant Pot) dish is made with pork shoulder, achiote paste, oranges, limes, pickled onion, cilantro and served on gorditas.
Cochinita Pibil is known for its rich and complex flavors, with a combination of tangy, smoky, and earthy notes. The marinade typically includes ingredients such as annatto seeds, achiote paste (made from ground annatto seeds), bitter orange juice or other citrus juice, garlic, oregano, and other spices. The marinated pork is then wrapped in banana leaves or foil to keep it moist and slowly cooked until it is tender and falls apart easily.
This is very traditional Mexican Food from the Yucatán area. Making the pickled onion for this pork dish is completely optional, but it is traditional to garnish Cochinita Pibil with them. You can serve the meat on a tortilla, but I decided to make it on a gordita. This is completely your choice how you want to serve it!
What is Cochinita Pibil?
Cochinita Pibil is a traditional Mexican dish that originates from the Yucatan Peninsula, particularly the state of Yucatan. It is a slow-cooked pork dish that is marinated in a flavorful mixture of spices, annatto paste, and citrus juice, then traditionally wrapped in banana leaves and cooked in a pit or oven until tender and flavorful.
The term "Cochinita" refers to the use of pork, specifically a young pig or suckling pig, while "Pibil" refers to the cooking method used, which involves slow-cooking the meat in a pit or oven using low heat and smoke.
Cochinita Pibil is often served with corn tortillas and garnished with pickled red onions, cilantro, and habanero pepper slices. It can be enjoyed as tacos, tostadas, or as a filling for sandwiches or tacos. It is a popular dish for festive occasions, celebrations, and special events in Mexico, and it has gained popularity worldwide for its unique and delicious flavors.
Cochinita Pibil Recipe Ingredients
You'll only need a few simple ingredients to make this. The exact measurements are listed in the recipe card below. Here's an overview of what you'll need:
- Pork shoulder
- Achiote paste
- Red onion
- White vinegar
- Bay leaves
- Pickled onion
See recipe card for Cochinita Pibil (Slow Cooker or Instant Pot) quantities.
How to make Cochinita Pibil
Place the achiote paste, orange juice and lime juice in a blender and blend until smooth. Add the sauce into the bowl with the pork. Marinate overnight for best results. You can also marinate for at least one hour if you are limited in time.
Cut the pork shoulder into 2 inch squares. Do not trim the fat as it gives it a TON of its flavor! You can always pick it off after. Place the cut pork in a large bowl. Add the pork and sauce in the instant pot and pressure cook on high for 1 hour.
With a slotted spoon, place the pork into a bowl or baking dish. Shred the pork with 2 forks. It should be extremely soft at this point. Pour the sauce back into it.
Pickle the onions. Add onion, water, vinegar, coriander and bay leaves into a small pot and bring to a simmer for 2-3 minutes on medium heat. Then remove from heat and let it cool. Add into a bowl and refrigerate for 1 hour. Garnish with chopped cilantro, lime wedges and/or pickled onions.
What to serve with Cochinita Pibil
- Corn tortillas: Cochinita Pibil is traditionally served with warm corn tortillas, which can be used to make tacos, tostadas, or other types of Mexican-style wraps. The soft and slightly charred tortillas provide a perfect base for the tender and flavorful Cochinita Pibil.
- Pickled red onions: Pickled red onions are a common garnish for Cochinita Pibil, adding a tangy and slightly sweet contrast to the rich flavors of the dish. Thinly sliced red onions are typically marinated in a mixture of vinegar, citrus juice, and spices, and left to pickle for a few hours or overnight to develop their flavor.
- Cilantro: Fresh cilantro leaves and stems can be used as a garnish to add a burst of freshness to the dish. The bright and citrusy flavors of cilantro complement the tangy and smoky flavors of Cochinita Pibil.
- Refried black beans: Cochinita Pibil can be served with a side of refried black beans, which provide a creamy and savory contrast to the tangy flavors of the dish. The beans can be seasoned with spices such as cumin, garlic, and chili powder for added flavor.
- Mexican rice: Mexican-style rice, flavored with cilantro, onions, garlic, and spices, can be a delicious side dish to serve with Cochinita Pibil. The rice can help balance the flavors of the dish and provide a complementary starch element to the meal.
- Avocado: Slices of ripe avocado can add creaminess and richness to the dish, helping to balance the tangy and smoky flavors of Cochinita Pibil. Avocado can be served as a side or used as a topping for tacos or tostadas.
Achiote Paste: There are many versions of achiote, or annatto seeds, that come in powder or liquid. You will need the achiote paste for this recipe.
Pork: For the meat, you will need pork shoulder or pork loin.
Orange: I would use juice from freshly squeezed orange instead of orange juice for best flavor.
Limes: I would use juice from fresh limes instead of lime juice for best flavor. If you don't have limes, ¼ cup white vinegar works as well.
Cochinita Pibil Recipe Variations
- Chicken Cochinita Pibil: Instead of pork, you can use chicken as the protein in your Cochinita Pibil. Simply substitute boneless chicken thighs for the pork, and adjust the cooking time accordingly, as chicken tends to cook faster than pork. Chicken Cochinita Pibil will have a milder flavor compared to pork but can still be delicious and tender when marinated and cooked properly.
- Vegetarian/Vegan Cochinita Pibil: To make a vegetarian or vegan version of Cochinita Pibil, you can use plant-based protein options such as jackfruit, tempeh, or tofu as a substitute for the pork. Marinate the plant-based protein in the same achiote paste, citrus juice, and spices, and slow-cook until tender. This variation will have a different texture and flavor profile compared to the traditional meat-based version but can be equally delicious.
- Achiote Paste Variations: Achiote paste is a key ingredient in Cochinita Pibil, as it provides the dish's distinctive red color and earthy flavor. You can experiment with different variations of achiote paste by making your own or using store-bought options with varying levels of spiciness and acidity. You can also add additional spices, herbs, or other flavorings to the achiote paste to suit your taste preferences.
- Additional Ingredients: While the traditional Cochinita Pibil recipe includes pork, achiote paste, citrus juice, and spices, you can experiment with additional ingredients to add depth and complexity to the dish. For example, you can add chopped onions, garlic, bay leaves, cinnamon, allspice, or other aromatic herbs and spices to the marinade for extra flavor. You can also add vegetables such as bell peppers or tomatoes to the dish to enhance its nutritional value and add a burst of color.
Check out these Pork Birria Tacos.
- Dutch oven or slow cooker: A Dutch oven or slow cooker is typically used for slow-cooking the marinated pork to achieve tender and flavorful results. A Dutch oven is a heavy, lidded pot that can be used on stovetop and in the oven, while a slow cooker is an electrical appliance designed to cook food slowly over a long period of time.
- Instant Pot: An Instant Pot is an electric pressure cooker that can be used for a variety of cooking methods, including pressure cooking, slow cooking, sautéing, and more. It is a convenient and time-saving appliance that can significantly speed up the cooking process.
- Citrus juicer: Citrus juice, typically sour orange or a combination of orange and lime juice, is a key ingredient in Cochinita Pibil marinade. You will need a citrus juicer to extract the juice from the citrus fruits.
- Blender or food processor: A blender or food processor is needed to make the achiote paste, which is a crucial component of Cochinita Pibil marinade. A high-powered blender or food processor is recommended to ensure a smooth consistency.
- Cutting board and knife: You will need a cutting board and knife for preparing the ingredients, such as chopping onions, garlic, and other aromatics, as well as trimming the meat.
- Mixing bowls: Mixing bowls are necessary for marinating the meat and combining the various ingredients to make the marinade.
- Measuring spoons and cups: Accurate measurements of ingredients are important in cooking, so you will need measuring spoons and cups to measure the marinade ingredients, spices, and other seasonings.
- Cooking utensils: Cooking utensils such as spatulas, wooden spoons, and tongs are needed for stirring, flipping, and handling the meat during cooking.
- Oven or stovetop: Depending on the cooking method you choose, you may need an oven or stovetop for slow-cooking the Cochinita Pibil in a Dutch oven or braising it in a pot.
- Serving dish: Finally, you will need a serving dish or platter to present the Cochinita Pibil when it is ready to be served.
How to store Cochinita Pibil
- Cool the Cochinita Pibil: Allow the cooked Cochinita Pibil to cool to room temperature before storing. Do not leave it at room temperature for more than 2 hours to avoid the risk of foodborne illness.
- Transfer to an airtight container: Once cooled, transfer the Cochinita Pibil to an airtight container. Glass or plastic containers with tight-fitting lids are ideal for storing Cochinita Pibil.
- Store in the refrigerator: Place the airtight container with Cochinita Pibil in the refrigerator. It can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days.
- Alternatively, freeze for longer storage: If you need to store Cochinita Pibil for a longer period, you can freeze it. Place the cooled Cochinita Pibil in a freezer-safe container or freezer bag, and label it with the date for reference. It can be stored in the freezer for up to 2-3 months.
- Thaw properly before reheating: When ready to eat, thaw frozen Cochinita Pibil in the refrigerator overnight before reheating. Avoid thawing at room temperature to prevent the risk of bacterial growth.
- Reheat properly: Reheat the Cochinita Pibil in the microwave, on the stovetop, or in the oven until it reaches a safe internal temperature of 165°F (74°C) before consuming.
Cochinita Pibil Recipe Top tips
- Use pork shoulder or pork butt: Cochinita Pibil is traditionally made with pork shoulder or pork butt, as these cuts are well-marbled with fat, which helps to keep the meat moist and flavorful during the long cooking process.
- Marinate the meat overnight: The key to the delicious flavors of Cochinita Pibil is the marinade. Be sure to marinate the pork in the Achiote paste marinade overnight, or at least for a few hours, to allow the flavors to penetrate the meat and develop its unique taste.
- Use Achiote paste for authentic flavor: Achiote paste is a key ingredient in Cochinita Pibil and gives it its distinctive red color and flavor. Look for Achiote paste in Latin or Mexican grocery stores, or online. If you can't find Achiote paste, you can try making your own at home using a blend of spices, such as annatto seeds, cumin, oregano, vinegar, and citrus juice.
- Slow-cook for tender meat: Cochinita Pibil is traditionally cooked low and slow to ensure that the pork becomes tender and flavorful. You can cook it in a slow cooker, Dutch oven, or even in an Instant Pot using the slow-cooker function for several hours until the meat is fall-apart tender.
- Serve with traditional accompaniments: Cochinita Pibil is typically served with traditional accompaniments such as pickled red onions, habanero salsa, and corn tortillas. These condiments complement the rich and tangy flavors of the dish, adding a burst of freshness and heat.
- Adjust seasoning to taste: The marinade and seasoning in Cochinita Pibil can be adjusted to suit your taste preferences. You can add more or less citrus juice, spices, or even extra heat with more habanero peppers, depending on your preference for flavors.
- Double the recipe for leftovers: Cochinita Pibil tastes even better the next day as the flavors continue to meld together. Consider doubling the recipe if you want to have leftovers for tacos, burritos, or sandwiches the next day.
- Cook to a minimum temperature of 165 °F (74 °C)
- Do not use the same utensils on cooked food, that previously touched raw meat
- Wash hands after touching raw meat
- Don't leave food sitting out at room temperature for extended periods
- Never leave cooking food unattended
- Use oils with high smoking point to avoid harmful compounds
- Always have good ventilation when using a gas stove