IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Pernil (Puerto Rican Slow-Roasted Pork Shoulder)

Nathan Congleton / TODAY

Chef notes

This marinated and slow-roasted pork shoulder is often the star of just about any Puerto Rican holiday party or family gathering, but the features that make it such a perfect recipe for entertaining and celebrations also make it an ideal make-ahead dish for busy weekdays. Prep and marinate the pork shoulder over the weekend and let it cook all day in an oven while you go about your day. On day 1, it'll make a perfect meal along with your favorite sides like rice or vegetables. Then use the leftovers to make tasty Cuban medianoche sandwiches or quick pork tacos, or you could even sauté them into a hash with potatoes and top with a fried egg for a filling breakfast. Just like with all traditional family recipes, there are many different versions of pernil, but this is the one I have made for my family for years.

Seville oranges or sour oranges, known in Spanish as "naranja agria," are a key ingredient in a lot of Puerto Rican and Cuban marinades. The tart oranges are closer to a lemon in flavor but have a hint of sweetness that makes for an ideal ingredient in savory dishes. You can find them at Latin and Asian groceries, but if you can't, they can be replaced with either grapefruit juice or a mix of regular orange and lime juice. You can also sub bell peppers for the Cubanelle peppers.


  • 1 (5- to 8-pound) pork shoulder, bone-in with skin
  • 1 cup sour orange juice from Seville oranges
  • 2 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 Spanish onion, peeled and quartered
  • 16 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 large bunch cilantro, bottom of stems removed and chopped
  • 2 Cubanelle peppers (also known as Italian frying peppers), stems and seeds removed
  • 2 tablespoons ground cumin
  • 2 tablespoons dried oregano
  • 2 tablespoons smoked paprika
  • kosher salt (1½ teaspoon per pound of pork)
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • water or broth



Place pork shoulder skin-side up in large roasting pan, right on the pan (not on a rack). Use a paring knife to cut slits into the skin and fat.


Combine orange juice, vinegar, olive oil, onion, garlic, cilantro, Cubanelle pepper, cumin, oregano, paprika, salt and pepper in a blender or food processor and puree until smooth.


Pour marinade over all sides of the pork, rubbing into any crevices and into the slits cut in the skin (use it all). Cover with plastic wrap, refrigerate and let marinate a minimum of 6 hours and up to 2 days.


When ready to cook, preheat oven to 325 F.


Remove pork from refrigerator. Wipe off excess marinade from the skin of pork and pour water or broth into bottom of pan so it goes up 3 inches on the side of the pork. Cover roasting pan tightly with foil or pan cover and place in oven on lowest rack to bake for 4 to 5 hours, or until the meat is tender and pulls away easily with a fork.


Remove cover, raise heat to 425 F and return to oven for another hour or until the skin is crisp.


Serve chopped and shredded along with the skin.