My Mother’s Savory Pernil (Pork Shoulder)

This is my mother’s recipe for pernil. Growing up, she used this recipe as a starter for making BBQ pulled pork sandwiches, but this is a great Caribbean style roasted pork without the BBQ sauce. The mojo is fresh and delicious, while the garlic and herbs add a delightful savory flavor. Serve with smashed or baked sweet potatoes and braised cabbage for a traditional Sunday dinner or special holiday.

cooked pernil



ingredients for pernil

1 6-8 pound bone in pork shoulder
2 bulbs garlic crushed/minced (about 20 cloves)
16 ounces Tamarind Nectar or 1 cup prune juice or 1 cup brown sugar

1/3 cup white vinegar

juice of 2 oranges

juice of 2 limes

1 onion sliced

1 tablespoon coarse salt

1 tablespoon pepper

2 tablespoon dried cilantro

2 tablespoons ground roasted cumin


Line deep roasting pan with foil. Place pork shoulder in pan fat side up.

whole pernil

Score the fat using a sharp knife (about 20 scores throughout the top). Do not go completely through the meat with knife. Be careful not to hurt yourself or hit the bone.

scored pernil

Pour the orange and lime juices, vinegar and tamarind nectar/prune juice/brown sugar over the meat.

Next rub the garlic into the meat (on top and the sides), making sure the garlic is pressed into the scored holes on top.

garlic on pernil

Rub the shoulder with the salt, pepper, cilantro and cumin. Top with onions.

mojo on pernil

Cover tightly with foil and marinate in the refrigerator overnight.

When ready to roast, allow the shoulder to come to room temperature for about an hour.

Then loosen the foil so that it simply tents the pork shoulder. Roast the shoulder for 5 hours at 350 degrees. Every two hours baste the shoulder with the liquid (AKA mojo) from the bottom of the pan. After 5 hours remove the top tented foil completely and roast for another hour or two until skin appears crispy.

Allow the shoulder to rest for 30 minutes before serving. Slice and serve.


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