Cochinita pibil is a pork dish that is typically cooked underground. However, this recipe uses the slow cooker and tastes just as good! The pork shines in sweet, tangy achiote sauce in this recipe for cochinita pibil.Jump to Recipe
What is Cochinita Pibil?
“Cochinita” translates to little pig in Mexican and ”pibil” is a method of cooking in a large pit underground. Oftentimes, large banana or palm tree leaves are used to cover these pits and hold in the moisture.
Sometimes the banana leaves are used as a natural packet to make items like tamales. Another way the banana leaves are typicall used is as a meat pocket to make something similar to a meat pie.
Although, you can cook almost any meat “pibil style”, pork butt or pork shoulder is the type of meat that really shines with this method because it holds in the moisture so well.
The method of underground cooking with a banana leaf cover is typically used in the Yucatan peninsula of Mexico and in some other countries like Belize and Guatemala. The home cook in the US doesn’t typically have access to underground pits or banana leaves however, so I’ve modified the cooking method to make this wonderful dish in the slow cooker. It also works well in the Instant Pot.
Classic Spices and Substitutions
The key element of cochinita pibil is the achiote (annatto) paste. The paste is often hard to find in places that do not have a high Latinx population but you can order it on amazon- this is the brand I use.
You can change up the pepper and use various substitutes for most of the spices if desired, but you cannot substitute the achiote- it is key in this recipe!
Ideas for Leftover Shredded Pork
A five pound pork shoulder will generally give you more cochinita pibil than you would need for one dinner. There are many delicious ways to use this marinated pulled pork.
It does freeze well, but here are a couple of ways to used it the next day without that feeling of eating “leftovers”:
- It Is a wonderful option for a taco bar, with tortillas (if you are not on a low carb diet), with pickled onions and any other condiments you have on hand;
- Mix the pork into scrambled eggs or reheat the pork and cook a fried egg on top
- Use it as a topping for pizza, nachos or even french fries!
My husband folded our leftover pork into an oven-baked tamale pie that was to die for. It was similar to this harissa tamale pie recipe, but it folded in the leftover pork.
Basically it was a box of cornmeal muffin mix with chiles and pork mixed in and baked in the oven (topped with your favorite salsa). Here is a photo of the finished product:
Low Carb Cochinita Pibil
- 4.5 lbs pork shoulder can use butt as well
- 3 Tbsp achiote annatto paste, 1 1/2 oz
- ⅓ cup fresh squeezed orange juice
- ⅓ cup lemon juice
- ⅓ cup white vinegar
- 1 scotch bonnet pepper can use habanero or another chile pepper, seeded and finely diced
- 2 tsp ground cumin
- 2 tsp smoked paprika
- 2 tsp ground coriander
- 1 tsp salt
- Lime wedges, jalapenos, guacamole, pickled onions optional- for serving
- In a small bowl, combine the achiote paste, orange juice, lemon juice and vinegar. Mix thoroughly until all the achiote paste is wet and combined with the juices.
- Place the meat in a large bowl and add the pepper, achiote/ juice mix, and the spices and rub all over the pork. Make sure to get the juice in all the crevasses of the pork. Place in the refrigerator and let marinate overnight turning the pork at least once to ensure full coverage.
- Place the pork and all the juice mixture in a crock pot or slow cooker. Add 1 cup of water and turn on low for 8 hours or longer.
- Remove pork from slow cooker and shred with two forks. If not serving right away, return pork to the slow cooker.
- Serve with lime wedges, hot pepper slices, guacamole, refried beans queso fresco or pickled onions.
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