Pork Pibil

  • Time: 4 hours
  • Serves: 4
  • Level: hard

‘…have a read of Dad’s story below to find out! This is a classic dish you can find in most Mexican restaurants… but why, when you can make it yourself with your buds round and a couple of beers in the garden. Something we also do as a family – all the dishes in the center of the table with our hands digging in a preparing our wraps. Proper family food.’

'Always intrigued by food I see in films! Can you guess which film Dad's cochinita pibil recipe is from...?'

What you need

For the achiote paste

100g achiote paste or block from Mexican supplier

1 tsp ground black pepper

1 tbs oregano

1/4 tsp ground cloves

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp ground coriander

1 stick cinnamon

1 tsp sugar

1 tbs tomato puree

1 tsp salt

6 cloves garlic peeled and crushed


For the pork pibil

1 kg pork shoulder

Juice of 1 orange

Juice of 1/2 grapefruit

Juice of 2 limes

Grated zest of 1 lemon

Six place mat-sized banana leaves from oriental supplier

2 large onions

1 jar of roasted red peppers

4 large tomatoes sliced



For the pickled onions

1 large red onion

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 tsp black peppercorns

1/2 tsp dried oregano

2 bay leaves

2 cloves garlic sliced

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp sugar

125ml white wine vinegar

250ml water

To serve

8 or more corn or flour tortillas (preferably from an authentic Mexican supplier)

Dad's Recipe Tales

I’ve missed out on pork pibil…

I didn’t eat it when I was in Mexico; I ‘ve never ordered it at a Wahaca restaurant; and I didn’t even see Johnny Depp eat it in the film Once Upon a Time in Mexico.

But I really had to see what all the fuss was about – so I made it myself.

Pibil is a specialty of the Yucatán Peninsula and is of Mayan origin. It’s a slow-roasted meat or fish wrapped in banana leaves and traditionally cooked in a pit. It uses achiote – a bright red-orange substance, which colours the dish as well as giving it an earthy and peppery flavour.

Pork pibil is Wahaca’s most popular dish. It’s worth pausing to consider why this is so. With its acidic and bitter notes, I imagine a pibil must be something of an acquired taste. On the other hand, pork pibil is basically Mexican pulled-pork – and any kind of pulled-pork is always going to be popular. Or it could be that Wahaca’s customers have seen Once Upon a Time in Mexico: and who doesn’t want to eat like Johnny Depp?

I think the real reason people are attracted to pork pibil is because it’s so good. As Rick Bayless says in his book, Authentic Mexican: ‘With its earthy spicy marinade, roasted peppers, fresh tomatoes, fragrant banana-leaf wrapper and crown of crunchy pink picked onions, this dish is one of the glories of Mexican cooking.’


How Dad Cooked It

These recipes are adapted from Rick Bayless and Diana Kennedy to make cochinita (pork) pibil.

  1. Make the achiote marinade. Fry the onions, garlic. Chop one onion. On a medium high heat fry the onions adding the garlic after 5 minutes, keep frying gently for another 5 minutes. Add the pepper, cumin coriander and fry for 2 minutes. Then add the oregano, salt, sugar and cinnamon.  Turn off the heat and add the achiote paste, tomato puree the citric fruit juices and zest of lemon. Cool.
  2. Marinate the pork. Cut the pork into large chunks (about 5 cm). Add to the cooled achiote marinade and marinate overnight.
  3. Preheat the oven to 180C, Gas
  4. Assemble the pibil. Next day chop the onion and fry in 2 tablespoons of lard for 10 minutes. Slice the peppers and and add to the onions stir to combine and remove from the heat. Oil two banana leaves and place shiny-side up in a roasting tin or a large dutch oven type pan. Place the pork and marinade in the centre of the banana leaves. Arrange the onion and peppers on top and the sliced tomatoes. Put two banana leaves oiled shiny-side down on top and fold over the meat and tuck-in folding the remaining leaves over the top. Add more leaves onto to seal the meat.
  5. Cook the pibil. Cover the tin tightly with thick foil or put the lid on the pan and bake at for 2 1/2 hours or until the meat is tender.
  6. Make pickled red onions. Slice the onions thinly to make onion rings. Heat a dry frying pan and toast the cumin and peppercorns for a minute without burning. Put the spices in a pan with remaining ingredients, apart from the onions. Bring to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the onions and bring back to the boil and turn off the heat. Pour the contents of the pan into a glass bowl and let the onions macerate for 4 hours or overnight before using. (They will keep for weeks in the fridge.)

Serve the pibil in tortillas with the pickled onions.

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