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.
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?
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.
What to serve pernil with?
Want more Puerto Rican holiday recipes?
Check out these popular Puerto Rican recipes from Delish D’Lites!
- Pavochon: Thanksgiving Turkey Puerto Rican Style
- Asopao De Pollo (Puerto Rican Chicken & Rice Stew)
- Carne Bif (Puerto Rican Stewed Corned Beef)
- Pollo Guisado (Puerto Rican Chicken Stew) Includes Slow Cooker Version!
- Puerto Rican Pasteles De Yuca
- Coconut Cream Cheese Flan (Flan De Coco)
- Natilla (Puerto Rican Custard Dessert)
- Budin (Puerto Rican Bread Pudding)
- Coquito (Puerto Rican Coconut Rum Drink, Egg-Free & Vegan Versions)
Puerto Rican Pernil (Roast Pork Shoulder)
Use a boning knife to remove the skin from the roast, set aside. Leave a layer of fat on the pork shoulder.
Once the skin is removed, poke the roast all over with the knife to create slits.
Smash the garlic, adobo, pepper and oregano with a mortar and pestle, or blitz in a food processor.
Add olive oil to the paste, and stir to combine. If using the sazon and sofrito, stir it in now.
Slather all sides of the pork shoulder with the garlic seasoning paste, making sure to push some into the slits you created earlier.
Place the skin on top of the seasoned pork shoulder, and rub with 2 teaspoons of olive oil and a good pinch of salt.
Marinate covered overnight, or up to 24 hours. If you don’t have time to marinade, don’t worry. It will still be delicious.
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.
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.
Freeze leftovers in a plastic freezer storage bag for up to 3 months. Reheat in the microwave as needed.