Pernil-Style Roast Pork

My coworkers and acquaintances attested to the deliciousness of this pernil-style roast pork recipe. Everyone in the kitchen was from Puerto Rico except for my dad and a part-time Chinese cook. Not only did I get a lot of work done on my high school Spanish, but I also picked up a few new favorite dishes and flavors. A lifelong appreciation for Spanish culture and cuisine has led me to develop this recipe for Pernil-style roast pork.

This is one of my go-to roast recipes, and it goes perfectly with beans, rice, and a simple salad on the side. It’s incredibly flavorful, and it fills the home with a wonderful aroma of porky, Latino cuisine, which, as you might imagine, the whole family adores.

The secret to this crowd-pleasing dish is in the marinade and the selection of a pork roast with a thin layer of fat all over its surface. That, with some beans, rice, and a basic salad, will put you to sleep on a Sunday afternoon.

I won’t use words like “classic,” “traditional,” or “genuine,” but I will state that this is a dish I picked up during some of the best summers of my life while working in a kitchen staffed primarily by Puerto Ricans.

While I first followed the recipe to a T, I have made a number of adjustments over the years to suit my own preferences and dietary restrictions, such as substituting a boneless hog roast for a fresh ham with the skin on. Of course, I’ve enjoyed many a great pernil with crackling skin, so I’m not trying to downplay the merits of a fresh, bone-in, skin-on ham, but this method simplifies the preparation and cooking process.

If you’re reading this recipe on your phone or computer, please try to control your salivation. I’d like to raise a glass of this, one of my personal favorites, with you.

NOTE: I’ve included rice, beans, and salad recipes accompanying the main dish.


  • 6 pound of boneless pork shoulder
  • 5 cloves of minced garlic
  • 2 sliced large onions
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1½ tablespoons of dried oregano
  • 1½ tablespoons of apple cider vinegar
  • 1½ tablespoons of salt
  • 1 tablespoon of fresh lime juice
  • 1½ teaspoons of sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon of onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon of ground cumin
  • Water


  1. Roasts need to be washed and dried with paper towels before serving. The marinade is made by combining minced garlic, olive oil, vinegar, lime juice, and all of the dried herbs and spices in a bowl.
  2. Use the marinade like a rub and cover the entire roast. When using a boneless roast pre-tied by the butcher, it is helpful to massage some of the marinades into the space where the bone used to be. A roast with skin should have a crosshatch pattern scored into it with a sharp knife, and the marinade should be rubbed into the entire roast. The key to a successful roast is a lengthy marinade.
  3. Next, wrap the roast in plastic and refrigerate for at least 18 hours, preferably overnight.
  4. Remove the roast from the fridge and let it sit at room temperature for at least 2 hours.
  5. Turn the oven temperature up to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Lay sliced onions on the roasting pan and fill it with water to a depth of one cup. Arrange the roast over the onions and liquid.
  6. It takes 30 minutes at 425 degrees Fahrenheit to cook a roast. Roast for another 30 minutes after turning the pan 180 degrees. If the roast is getting too brown, cover it with a sheet of aluminum foil, leaving the edges uncovered.
  7. Cook for a further two to three hours at 350 degrees, adding half a cup of water every half hour or so. Don’t let the bottom of the pan dry or burn.
  8. In case further browning of the roast is desired, raise the oven temperature to 425 degrees Fahrenheit for the final 30 minutes of cooking time.
  9. After cooking, meat must rest for 10 to 15 minutes before chopping. For a heartier, more homey meal, try chopping the roast into large pieces. To serve, combine the onions with the pan liquid and pour it over the meat. Accompany with rice, salad, and beans.
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