Pernil - Pernil al Horno
Puerto Rican Roast Pork Recipe

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This is a delicious Puerto Rican roast pork (Pernil al Horno) that makes a wonderful change for the holidays. My sister's mother-in-law, Regina Perez of New York, introduced our family to this wonderful pork roast. Pernil is roasted slowly in the oven until the meat is tender and the skin on top is crackling and crisp. Every family has their own recipe version of this recipe.

During the Christmas holiday season, Pernil is often made in Latin-American homes. In fact, Pernil is at almost every Puerto Rican wedding, anniversary, birthday, or large party event. If there is no Pernil at the party there is no party!

Pernil Pork Roast
Photo from the Norfolk Examiner newspaper, January 4, 2010.

Regina's Pernil - Puerto Rican Roast Pork Recipe:

Recipe Type: Pork Shoulder
Cuisine: Puerto Rico
Yields: serves many
Prep time: 30 min
Cook time: 5 hr


1 large onion, finely chopped
1 green bell pepper, cored, seeded, and finely chopped
3/4 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed
1/4 cup green olives with pimientos
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder or garlic salt
1/2 teaspoon dried basil, crushed
1 1/2 teaspoons Recaito*
1/2 package Sazon Goya seasoning*
2 to 3 tablespoons drained capers
1 teaspoon Sofrito***
White vinegar
1 (10-pound) pork shoulder roast with bone and skin (fat)****
1 teaspoon paprika
Olive Oil

* Recaito is a cilantro cooking base that can be purchased at markets that stock Latin American ingredients.

** Sazon Goya Seasoning is a Puerto Rican seasoning.

*** Sofritois the base for many Puerto Rican dishes. The blend of aromatic ingredients often includes recao (Mexican cilantro) and aji dulce peppers. It can be made at home or purchased.

**** The Pork Picnic Shoulder is a versatile cut of meat as it consists of the lower shoulder and upper forearm of the animal. The arm and shank bones run through it and it is usually sold with a portion of skin still attached. Pork shoulder (picnic) roast is the preferred cut because of the fat on top.


Recaito, Sazon Seasoning, and Sofrito can be found in Spanish stores or large supermarkets. Look in the spice section.

In a medium bowl, combine onion, bell pepper, oregano, green olives, garlic powder or garlic salt, basil, recaito, sazon seasoning, capers, and sofrito; add just enough white vinegar to cover the ingredients; mix and crush together until well blended.

Preparing the fat (cuerito): To make this roast pork shoulder recipe, you peel back the fat (skin) and make incisions in the meat, which allows the garlicky marinade to seep in.

With a sharp knife cut the fat away from the meat, leaving an edge attached and keeping it all in one piece. Start at the wide end and go to the narrow end with your knife. Do not separate it completely, but leave just enough still connected so that you can flip the fat back over to the side while you season the meat itself. The fat will be placed over the seasoned meat and will cook over the meat giving it more flavor. Season the side of the fat that goes over the meat with a bit of the seasoning.

Using a small sharp knife, cut 1-inch deep slits on all sides of the pork roast (the more cuts the more taste). Using a spoon or your fingers, stuff the prepared seasoning mixture into each slit. Place the fat (skin) back over the roast.  You can season the perníl a couple of days ahead and refrigerate, uncooked. Some folks season and freeze it until they need it.

making slits in roast

stuffing mixture into slits

closing up stuffin slit

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

Place the prepared pork roast, fat side up, onto a rack in a baking pan (with at least 1-inch sides). Place a little water in the bottom of the pan. Mix paprika with a little olive oil; rub over the roast. NEVER cover the roast as you bake it as you will steam the fat (cuerito) to softness. This is considered a mortal sin in Puerto Rican homes.

Bake, uncovered, 4 to 5 hours or until a meat thermometer registers an internal temperature of 185 degrees F. Base with juice every 30 minutes (if roast starts to get too brown during baking, cover with aluminum foil). Do not turn the roast while cooking. Remove from oven and transfer onto a large cutting board.

This is the type of cooking and meat thermometer that I prefer and use in my cooking. I get many readers asking what cooking/meat thermometer that I prefer and use in my cooking and baking. I, personally, use the Thermapen Thermometer shown in the photo on the right. To learn more about this excellent thermometer and to also purchase one (if you desire), just click on the underlined: Thermapen Thermometer.

Let stand 20 to 30 minutes before carving (meat temperature will rise 5 to 10 degrees after it is removed from the oven). After carving, transfer onto a large serving platter.

Serves a large family gathering.

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