A few days ago, I posted a recipe for charred salsa verde, a delicious, mild salsa The Chef and I made as part of a Mexican feast for our family last Sunday. Today’s recipe is the star of that Mexican feast … cochinita pibil tacos.
Cochinita pibil is a Mexican pork dish from the Yucatán Península. Traditional preparation of cochinita pibil includes marinating the meat in citrus, coloring it with achiote (ie, annatto) paste or seeds, and wrapping in meat in banana leaves to roast.
I first had cochinita pibil at one of my favorite Mexican restaurants, Milagro Modern Mexican, in Webster Groves. (If you haven’t made a visit to Milagro, you need to rectify that immediately. Not your typical “Americanized” Mexican cuisine, Milagro’s take on both traditional and contemporary Mexican fare is always thoughtful and always delicious.)
Shortly thereafter, I stumbled on Spice Foodie’s delicious sounding (and delicious looking!) recipe for cochinia pibil “the easy way,” and I knew the universe was trying to tell me something. I needed to make cochinita pibil. Well, when the universe beckons, I comply.
I started by doing a bit of research as the only thing I knew about cochinita pibil was that it’s delicious, and I found another recipe from one of The Chef and I’s favorite chef’s, Rick Bayless, that also sounded good … so, a pinch from here, a pinch from there, a few splashes of Rhubarb and Honey, and my recipe for cochinita pibil was born.
While not completely traditional (I skipped the banana leaves), I was quite pleased with how my cochinita pibil turned out. Slightly sweet with a hint of woodiness from the cinnamon, the pork was both tender and flavorful … and since the marinade isn’t full of heat, it was perfect for the entire family … even my 10-month-old and 3-year-old nephews gobbled it up.
Cochinita pibil is amazing all by itself, but it also shines when used in tacos, tostadas, tortas, or any other Mexican dish … and that’s exactly what I did with cochinita pibil tacos.
The Chef and I set up a little taco bar so everyone could build their own tacos with whatever “fixins” they wanted. In addition to flour and corn tortillas, we offered up taco toppings that included sliced avocado, pickled red onion, queso fresco, the aforementioned salsa verde, and sliced jalapenos and a variety of hot sauces for those who wanted to spice up their tacos a bit … but you could use any taco toppings you fancy!
Cochinita Pibil Tacos
- 1 1/4 cups orange juice
- Juice of 2 small limes
- 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 2 teaspoons cumin
- 2 teaspoons coriander
- 2 teaspoons black pepper
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 1/2 tablespoons Mexican oregano
- 2 tablespoons achiote paste
- 8 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
- 1 5-pound bone-in pork shoulder
- Flour or corn tortillas
- Taco garnishes
1. Make a marinade by combining the first 11 ingredients (orange juice through garlic) in a blender. Blend until smooth.
2. Place the pork shoulder in a large plastic bag; pour marinade over pork. Turn pork to coat it evenly with marinade. Seal bag; refrigerate pork at least 6 hours or overnight. (Pork can also be marinated in a large bowl with a cover; in this case, I recommend using tongs to turn meat as the achiote will color your hands.)
3. When ready to cook, preheat oven to 350°F. Place pork (fat side up) and marinade in a large roasting pan; cover with aluminum foil. Cook for 5 to 6 hours or until pork becomes tender and falls apart easily.
4. Remove pork from roasting pan; shred and serve with tortillas and taco garnishes.
NOTES: Achiote paste is a Yucatan-style seasoning made from annatto seeds, garlic, some sort of acid (either vinegar and/or citric acid), spices, and salt. The brand that I use, El Yucateco, is all natural and should be readily available in most Mexican or International grocery stores.
The Chef and I are big fans of pickled red onions; they are a perfect accompaniment to most Mexican dishes and also wonderful with grilled chicken or fish or atop many sandwiches. Here’s our recipe for pickled red onions; I hope you like them as much as we do.
Pickled Red Onions
- 1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
- 1/4 cup pickled jalapeno juice (from a jar of pickled jalapenos)
- 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1. Combine all ingredients in a medium-size bowl.
2. Let marinate for at least 30 minutes.
NOTES: Leftover onions can be refridgerated for up to 1 week.