Puerto Rican Pernil (Roast Pork Shoulder)

The star of any Puerto Rican gathering is and must be the pernil. This easy-to-follow recipe yields tender, flavorful meat and a deliciously crispy skin, also known as cuerito.

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The star of any Puerto Rican gathering is and must be the pernil. This easy-to-follow recipe yields tender, flavorful meat and a deliciously crispy skin, also known as cuerito.

Puerto Rican Pernil (Roast Pork Shoulder)

A Puerto Rican Christmas celebration (or any other party for that matter) isn’t complete without a deliciously garlicky, succelent roasted pork shoulder known as pernil. Pernil is the Spanish word for pork shoulder.

What is pernil?

Pernil is the centerpiece of Puerto Rican holiday meals, and any other big celebration that calls for feeding a big crowd.  It consists of large, bone-in pork shoulder roast that is slathered in a pungent blend of garlic, oregano, salt, pepper and olive oil, and then baked low and slow in the oven with the slab of fatty pig skin sitting on top, so it slowly bastes the meat while getting crunchy. Getting hungry yet?

Puerto Rican Pernil (Roast Pork Shoulder)

What cut of pork is pernil?

Pernil is typically made with a pork shoulder, also known as a picnic shoulder. These are cheap cuts of meat, so they require long cooking times. The good thing is that one of these feeds a crowd, so it’s a very budget-friendly dish. You can also make this with a boneless picnic roast, the cooking time will be reduced significantly.

What is the difference between pernil and pulled pork?

Unlike pulled pork, where the pork butt is the cut of choice, pernil is most often made with the picnic—the lower half of the pork shoulder—which has a little bit more connective tissue and is sold with the skin on.

Puerto Rican Pernil (Roast Pork Shoulder)

What to serve pernil with?

Pernil is delicious with typical Puerto Rican side dishes like Arroz Con Gandules, Pasteles De Masa, Tostones (Fried Plantains), and Avocado, Tomato and Watercress Salad.

Want more Puerto Rican holiday recipes?

Check out these popular Puerto Rican recipes from Delish D’Lites!

15 Recipes For An Authentic Puerto Rican Christmas
5 from 1 vote

Puerto Rican Pernil (Roast Pork Shoulder)

Course Main Course
Cuisine Puerto Rican
Keyword pernil
Prep Time 1 day
Cook Time 4 hours 30 minutes
Total Time 1 day 5 hours
Servings 8 people
Author Delish D’Lites


  • 1 pork picnic shoulder 7-8 pounds
  • 20 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 2 tbsp adobo seasoning or salt
  • 1 tbsp dried oregano
  • ½ tbsp ground black pepper
  • cup olive oil plus more if needed
  • ½ cup sofrito optional
  • 2 tsp sazon seasoning optional
  • salt, to taste


  1. Use a boning knife to remove the skin from the roast, set aside. Leave a layer of fat on the pork shoulder.
  2. Once the skin is removed, poke the roast all over with the knife to create slits.
  3. Smash the garlic, adobo, pepper and oregano with a mortar and pestle, or blitz in a food processor.

  4. Add olive oil to the paste, and stir to combine. If using the sazon and sofrito, stir it in now.
  5. Slather all sides of the pork shoulder with the garlic seasoning paste, making sure to push some into the slits you created earlier.
  6. Place the skin on top of the seasoned pork shoulder, and rub with 2 teaspoons of olive oil and a good pinch of salt.

  7. Marinate covered overnight, or up to 24 hours. If you don’t have time to marinade, don’t worry. It will still be delicious.
  8. Place the pork shoulder into a roasting pan, cover with aluminum foil and roast for 3-4 hours at 350F. Raise the oven temp to 400 degrees F, then uncover and cook for another 15-20 minutes to crisp the skin.

  9. If the skin (cuerito) isn't crispy yet, remove and airfry for 15 minutes at 300F, or until it's to your desired level of crunchiness.

  10. Freeze leftovers in a plastic freezer storage bag for up to 3 months. Reheat in the microwave as needed.

Recipe Video

Puerto Rican Pernil (Roast Pork Shoulder)


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I’m Jannese, Founder of Delish D’lites

I’m a Puerto Rican girl living in paradise (Florida), and the creative mind behind Delish D’Lites. I love sharing my family recipes and travel inspired cuisine! My favorite things include collecting passport stamps, twerking to Latin music, and kissing puppies. Follow along on social.