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    Pernil (Puerto Rican Roast Pork)

    Pernil – This awesome Puerto Rican roasted pork shoulder is a special recipe. I’ve been wanting to cook this for you for some time…

    We love our Latin food here at GypsyPlate. From great seasonings like mojo marinade, to mains like picadillo and barbacoa pork, we’re always cooking up tropical delicacies.

    But this may be my favorite yet. Marinated pork shoulder slow roasted into tender perfection with an amazingly tasty crispy skin. If you love flavor, this may be the best pork recipe ever. Sound good? Read on…

    Shredded pork on a platter with rice and orange slices.

    During our trip to Puerto Rico, we went to the “Pork Highway”, a little excursion out of San Juan, to try Pernil, the country’s famous roasted pork. It’s a road with lots of restaurants known for their tasty pork dishes. Even though it’s popular with tourists, locals love it too. The pork is cooked on open spits until the skin is crispy and the meat is deliciously juicy. It’s no wonder this place is so popular, it’s a meat lover’s dream!

    pork cooked on open spits

    I remember enjoying every last bit of the delicious pork, alongside their renowned Arroz con Gandules and sweet plantains. After all these years, I’m quite proud to bring back those unforgettable flavors right here on GypsyPlate.

    Pernil in a bowl with arroz con grandules and plantains.

    What is Pernil?

    Pernil is the traditional centerpiece on Puerto Rican Christmas spreads, though variations are also found throughout the Caribbean.

    A whole pork shoulder is marinated in garlic, herbs and other great Latin seasonings overnight, sometimes up to 48 hours, for some amazing flavor.

    Then, it’s slow roasted for hours until the meat is fall off the bone tender, and the skin is amazingly crispy and delicious.

    Puerto Rican roasted pork.

    The marinade can vary, but it commonly includes sofrito, adobo, sazon, oregano and garlic. Lots of garlic. YUMMM!

    If your typical seasoning repertoire is “a dash of salt and a dash of pepper”, this may not be the recipe for you. This one is all about flavor!

    Check out our collection of favorite Caribbean Recipes!

    Tips and Tricks

    Close up of shredded pernil.
    1. I only use pork shoulder, or as a second option Boston butt. Any other cut won’t be moist and tender.
    2. I don’t skimp on marinade. This is a big piece of meat, it can handle a lot of seasoning.
    3. Don’t hurry. Oven temperatures can vary, so the times listed here may need adjusting. You want your roast to measure 180-190 degrees with a meat thermometer to be nice and tender.
    4. Knock! At the end of cooking, give the skin a tap. It should be nice and hard. If not, broil it for a few minutes until it is. You don’t want to miss out on that crispy skin!

    Ingredients Needed

    Chopped garlic.
    • Pork Shoulder
    • Garlic – Cut into slivers.
    • Sofrito – It is readily available in the Latin aisle of the grocery store, but is so much better fresh. Try my easy homemade sofrito recipe.
    • Adobo – A great Latin seasoned salt.
    • Sazon – Another Latin seasoning.
    • Oregano
    • Olive oil
    • Orange juice

    Puerto Rican Pernil Recipe

    First, I mix together my marinade ingredients in a bowl: sofrito, adobo, sazon, oregano, and olive oil.

    The marinade in a bowl.

    Grabbing the sharpest knife in my kitchen, I carefully cut the skin away from the meat, leaving a small bit attached on one end. If necessary, I slice through any part of the skin that wraps around the bottom of the roast. My aim is to cut down to the meat, keeping the fat attached to the skin.

    Pork shoulder with the skin pulled back.

    I place the roast in a roasting pan, positioning it bottom side up, then start by making deep holes all over the meat. Into these holes, I insert slivers of garlic and pour in some of the marinade. I ensure that the entire bottom of the roast is covered with marinade, using about a third of it. Then, I flip the roast over.

    With the skin pulled back, I repeat the process of making holes and stuffing them with garlic and marinade on the top side of the roast. Then, I generously slather the top with more marinade, making sure to leave about a quarter of it for the skin.

    Marinade applied to the pork.

    I carefully place the skin back onto the roast and make deep criss-cross cuts, being careful not to cut all the way through. Then, I rub the remaining marinade onto the skin, making sure to work it into the grooves for maximum flavor.

    The skin put back on and covered with marinade.

    I cover the roast tightly with foil and refrigerate it for 24-48 hours. On the day of the feast, I take the pernil out of the refrigerator an hour before roasting to let it come to room temperature. Then, I preheat the oven to 350°F.

    I cover the pernil with aluminum foil and roast it according to the table below. During the last hour of cooking, I add orange juice to the pan, cover it, and continue roasting. In the final hour, I increase the oven temperature to 450°F and remove the foil. Afterward, I remove it from the oven and let it rest for 30 minutes before serving.

    The roasted pernil in a pan.

    I set the skin aside, as it’s delicious to eat separately. Then, I transfer most of the juices into a bowl. Using two forks, I shred the meat and toss it with some of the juices until it reaches my desired juiciness.

    Shredded pernil.

    How long to roast

    Roast the pernil at 350°F for 35 minutes per pound. Again, ovens vary so these times are guidelines. Make sure the internal temperature reaches 180-190°F.

    5 pounds – 3 hours
    7 pounds – 4 hours
    6 pounds – 4.5 hours
    8 pounds – 5 hours
    10 pounds – 6 hours

    Serving Suggestions

    Many like to squeeze on some orange or lemon juice, or garnish with cilantro.

    The most common side dish for pernil is arroz con gandules, or rice and pigeon peas, which is the national dish of Puerto Rico. It also goes great with tostones or maduros.

    That being said, this super flavorful meat is also a great filler for my tacos, empanadas, bowl meals, or even sandwiches. Leftovers go especially well in Cuban sandwiches.

    The platter of pernil and rice.


    • Sometimes I add orange juice or lime juice to the marinade for a citrusy flavor.
    • I play with seasonings too. Sazon is not always used, though I love the flavor it adds. Sometimes I add a dash or cumin or paprika.
    • You can grind the garlic into a paste with a mortar and pestle and mix it in with the marinade.
    Another shot of the shredded pernil and rice.

    I hope you enjoy this classic Puerto Rican Pernil as much as we do. Whether for a Christmas celebration, a get together, or just a special Sunday meal, this super tasty pulled pork is always a treat.

    If you love big flavors as much as we do, this is bound to become a new favorite. While you’re here, be sure to subscribe to the GypsyPlate newsletter, we’re always cooking up tasty new meals for you!

    Pernil, on our Gypsy Plate… enjoy!

    A serving of pernil on the Gypsy Plate.

    Try these other great Latin American dishes!
    Bistec Encebollado
    Habichuelas Guisadas
    Caldo de Pollo
    Carne Adovada
    Pastel de Choclo
    Barbacoa Beef
    Pollo Guisado
    Birria Tacos


    Pernil (Puerto Rican Roast Pork)

    Prep Time: 20 minutes
    Cook Time: 5 hours
    Total Time: 5 hours 20 minutes

    Pernil is a classic Puerto Rican pork dish that's generously marinated and roasted to tender perfection. It's their traditional Christmas centerpiece, but is great any time!


    • 8 lbs Pork shoulder
    • 12-13 garlic cloves, slivered
    • 8-9 Tbsp sofrito
    • 3 Tbsp Adobo
    • 2 sazon seasoning packets
    • 1 tsp cumin
    • 1 Tbsp oregano
    • ¼ cup olive oil
    • 1 cup orange juice


    1. Mix marinade ingredients in a bowl: sofrito, adobo, sazon, cumin, oregano and olive oil.
    2. With a sharp knife, cut the skin away from the meat, leaving a small bit attached on one end. The skin may wrap around the bottom of the roast, if needed slice through it. Try to cut down to the meat, with the fat attached to the skin.
    3. Place the roast in a roasting pan bottom side up and stab a bunch of deep holes into the meat. Fill the holes with garlic slivers and marinade. Cover the entire bottom of the roast with a third of the marinade.
    4. With the skin pulled back, repeat the process of poking holes and filling with garlic and marinade on the top of the roast. Slather the top with more marinade, leaving about a quarter of it for the skin.
    5. Place the skin back on the roast and score deep cuts in a criss-cross fashion, not cutting all the way through. Rub the remaining marinade onto the skin, making sure to get some down into the grooves.
    6. Cover the roast tightly with foil and refrigerate 24-48 hours.
    7. When ready to cook, take your pernil out of the refrigerator an hour before roasting to allow it to come to room temperature. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
    8. Add orange juice to the pan, cover and roast for four hours.
    9. Increase oven temperature to 450°F, remove foil and continue roasting for one hour, until meat measures 180-190°F with a meat thermometer.
    10. Remove from oven and let rest 30 minutes.
    11. Cut off the skin and place aside. This is great to eat on the side.
    12. Remove most of the juices into a bowl. Shred meat with two forks. Toss in some of the juices until you have the desired juiciness.


    1. Leftovers: This is a big roast, so unless you have a huge gathering, there will be leftovers. The leftover pernil refrigerates well in an airtight container for 3-4 days.
    2. If you want to freeze some, I like to portion it in ziploc bags. Depending on the size of your family, use either quart or gallon freezer bags. Try to get as much air out of the bags as possible to avoid freezer burn, and freeze for 2-3 months.

    Did you make this recipe?

    Please leave a comment on the blog or share a photo on Pinterest

    Picture of Alpana, blogger and recipe developer at GypsyPlate

    Welcome to GypsyPlate! I'm Alpana, former wordwide tour manager and professional caterer, now full time blogger. I love exploring cuisines from around the world, and my recipes have been featured on sites such as MSN, Parade, Brit + Co, CNET and AOL. You can explore my entire collection of sortable recipes in my Recipe Index or learn more about me here.

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