Cochinita Pibil – Yucatan Pork Baked in Banana Leaves

Cochinita means baby pig, so true cochinita pibil involves roasting a whole suckling pig. Alternatively, pork shoulder (butt roast), or pork loin is used in many recipes. The high acid content of the marinade and the slow cooking time tenderises the meat, allowing otherwise tough pieces of meat to be used. The Yucatecan recipes always employ the juice of Seville or bitter oranges for marinating. In areas where bitter oranges are not common, juice of sweet oranges combined with lemons, limes, or vinegar are employed to approximate the effect of the bitter orange on the meat. Another important ingredient in all pibil recipes is achiote (annatto), which gives the meat its characteristic colour and adds to flavour.

Traditionally, cochinita pibil was buried in a pit with a fire at the bottom to roast it. The Mayan word pibil means “buried”.

Cochinita Pibil - Yucatan Pork Baked in Banana Leaves

Cochinita pibil (also puerco pibil or cochinita con achiote) is a traditional Mexican slow-roasted pork dish from the Yucatán Península of Mayan origin. Preparation of traditional cochinita or puerco pibil involves marinating the meat in strongly acidic citrus juice, colouring it with annatto seed, and roasting the meat while it is wrapped in banana leaf.
Author: The Cook
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  • 450 g banana leaves
  • 225 g achiote paste
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • ¼ cup white vinegar
  • ¼ cup orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 2.25 kg trimmed, boneless pork loin or shoulder roast, halved
  • 1 cup water

For marinated red onions

  • 2 medium red onions, thinly sliced
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt

For habanero salsa

  • 8 habanero chillies
  • ½ cup orange juice
  • ¼ cup lime juice
  • ¼ cup lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons salt

Recipe Instructions

  • Run the banana leaves under warm water for about 5 minutes to defrost. Line a medium baking dish with the banana leaves.
  • Combine the achiote paste, garlic, vinegar, orange juice, and salt in a blender until smooth. In a large bowl, rub the achiote mixture into the meat. Place the meat in the prepared baking dish. Wrap the meat with banana leaves. Cover container and refrigerate for 24 hours.
  • After meat has marinated, preheat oven to 190°C.
  • Add 1 cup water to the baking dish. Bake the meat until fork tender, about 2 hours.
  • Serve wrapped meat on a bed of steamed white rice with marinated red onions and habanero salsa on the side. Alternatively, remove meat from banana leaves and wrap in fresh, warm tortillas with marinated red onions and habanero salsa on top.
  • For marinated red onions - Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours before serving.
  • For habanero salsa - In a dry skillet, lightly toast the habanero chillies. Stem, seed, and roughly chop the peppers. Combine all ingredients in a blender until smooth. Pour into a small serving bowl. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

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