Pernil style roasted pork is a typical dish in Ecuador and many parts of Latin America. The pork is marinated in a sauce of bitter orange juice, onion, garlic, achiote, cloves, cinnamon, cumin and panela and slow roasted in the oven for several hours. The whole process for cooking pernil is close to hornado de chancho, however the marinade and spices are different. Pernil style pork adds clove and cinnamon which give the meat a very special flavor, also while the hornado meat should be very moist, the pernil meat is very dry, but both should be extremely tender. The roasted pork can be served as part of a meal, but many times is used to make sandwiches. Just like with hornado, a pork leg is usually used to make pernil, however a pork loin makes it easier to cut the roasted meat. Pork loin is also more readily available and is smaller than a pork leg (7 lbs vs. 20 lbs).
Pernil is pork marinated in a sauce of bitter orange juice, onion, garlic, achiote, cloves, cinnamon, cumin and panela and slow roasted in the oven for several hours.
- 6-7 lbs pork loin
- 1 tbs ground achiote or annatto seed
- ¼ tsp ground cloves
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 2 tsp ground cumin
- 2 garlic heads, peeled
- 1 red onion, cut in large chunks
- 2 tbs grated panela or piloncillo (see more info on panela in this post)
- Juice from 3 bitter oranges (replace with 2 oranges and 1 lemon)
- Salt (about 2 tbs) and pepper (about 1/2 tbs), adjust to taste
- Whole potatoes sauteed in butter, pickled onions, fried ripe plantains and tree tomato hot sauce.
- Blend the onions, garlic and bitter orange juice to obtain a puree.
- Mix the puree with the achiote, cloves, cinnamon, cumin, panela, salt and pepper. (Warning - this marinade is so strong will make you cry – even if you’re wearing contacts)
- Make several cuts or incisions in the pork loin and add the onion marinade, rub the pork loin with the marinade trying to get it in to the incisions.
- Let the meat marinate for at least 1 day (2-3 days is ideal), turn it over every 6-8 hours. This is a dry roast and the marinade on the roasting pan can leave stains - to avoid this I recommend lining your pan with foil.
- Pre-heat the oven to 275 F, bake for 3 hours, turning the roast every hour.
- Increase the oven temperature to 350F, bake for another 2 ½ hours, turning the roast every 30 minutes.
- Slice the meat finely and serve with whole potatoes sautéed in butter, fried ripe plantains, tomato slices, lettuce, radishes, pickled onions and tree tomato hot sauce.
Another difference between hornado and pernil is that for pernil the skin and as much fat as possible should be removed from the meat, and while the hornado needs to be constantly kept moist by “bathing” it with beer or chicha while roasting. Both roasted pork dishes are delicious with very different flavors and textures. I recommend trying both (well, not making both at the same time) to taste the difference. Also, several Latin American countries have different versions of pernil, which are very different than Ecuadorian pernil. For example, what is known as “pernil” in Puerto Rico is much more similar to Ecuadorian hornado de chancho.
Recommended side dishes:
Step by step preparation photos for pernil roasted pork