I’ll admit it.  I had no idea what this was when Arthur told me he was doing it.  I had to do an internet search to find out it’s a traditional Mexican slow roasted pork dish from the Yucatan Peninsula.  I figured it was something that Arthur learned from his parents and grand parents who learned it from their parents and grand parent.  Not really.  Arthur reveals where he has learned his vast knowledge of Latin cuisine.  I’ll hand it over to him to explain…

Birthdays in my family are an event where everybody brings something to eat for the party. It’s also a good event to impress others with my grill skills. So, when my oldest son turned 3 in November, I was prepared to do some major grillin. I already had a brisket and chicken set to smoke, but I needed a knockout pork recipe. I turned to my trusty source for Mexican cuisine, the internet, and found a Mexican pork dish called Puerco or Cochinita Pibil. This dish is not usually prepared on a grill, but I feel confident it will come out just as good or better because I plan to add some smoke and flames to it.


5 pounds pork butt, cut into 2 inch cubes:

1pckg of anchiote paste (100g)
2 tsp ground cumin seeds
1 tbsp black pepper
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground allspice
2 jalapeno peppers, minced (keep some seeds)
1/2 cup orange juice
1/2 cup white vinegar
8 garlic cloves
2 tbsp salt
5 lemons
1 shot tequila
banana leaves (optional)

Preparation Instructions:

1. Combine the anchiote paste, cumin, pepper, cloves, and allspice in a blender.

2. Add the chopped jalapeno peppers with the orange juice, vinegar, garlic and salt.

3. Blend the dry spices with the liquid until smooth.

4. Add the juice of 5 lemons and the tequila. Blend again until it is well mixed:

5. Place the cubed pork butt in a large 2-gal zip lock bag and add the marinade. Marinate for a few hours or overnight in the refrigerator.

When the marinating is complete, line a disposable aluminum pan with banana leaves and pour everything into the center of the pan:

Place the aluminum pan on the grill. In addition, leave an opening at the top to allow smoke to penetrate the meat:

Banana leaves are not necessary, the same effect can be achieved with aluminum foil. However, it looks really cool with the banana leaves.

Smoke at around 350 F degrees for 1 hour. I threw in a few chunks of apple and peach wood. After one hour, here is what it looks like:

Cover with Banana leaves and seal the pan with foil, BBQ around 350 F degrees for 1.5 to 2 hours:

And here is the final product:

The cochinita pibil was an absolute homerun at the birthday party. Yeah, most people thought it was pulled pork and it basically is. But the aroma and the flavors were vastly different from pulled pork. This was so easy to do! And it saved me so much time the day of the party because with the prep work done the night before and during the cooking it needed little attention, I was able to do my other tasks:

My parents even thought that the meat would be a good filling for tamales, hmmmm…

Two things I’m going to do differently are: 1) trim more fat from the pork shoulder. There were at times, clumps of fat found in the meat that didn’t melt away. I left more fat on purpose, but it just wasn’t necessary or tasty to eat a clump of fat. Next time, I’ll trim it to a thin layer. 2) Don’t over cook it. There were portions of the pork that were mush, this is a sign that it was overcooked. I either should have lowered the temps or taken the pibil out sooner.

***Editor’s note ~ I wonder if it would be better to smoke the meat for an hour straight on the grill grate, then add to the banana leaves and essentially bake?  I’m wondering if it would have more smoke penetration that way.  Might want to bake it a little less.  Just a thought.  It looks outstanding***

If you have an questions or comments, feel free to leave them below or shoot me an email.

If you are interested in other pork dishes, click here.

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Arthur Aguirre
Major League Grilling’s founder, Arthur Aguirre, is a BBQ enthusiast with a passion to cook anything on the grill. Before reaching the level of pitmaster, Arthur spent years of hopelessly under cooking and overcooking various cuts of succulent meats. With the help of internet forums such as the BBQ Brethren, Char-Broil, and the experts from the GrillinFools, Arthur’s grilling exploits soon followed.
Arthur Aguirre
Arthur Aguirre
Arthur Aguirre

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one comment

I think smoking it for an hour or so would be a GREAT idea. I am going to try that next time. I have made this a few times now and I love the idea of chopping into smaller pieces instead of roasting the whole butt like I have in the past….gets more of that flavor into the meat that way….so next time
1. smoke an hour or so
2. chop into smaller pieces


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