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This is a quintessential Yucatan dish, from a region that is quite possibly the “capital” of leaf-wrapped foods. The color and flavor of the marinade are characterized by achiote, or annatto seed. This succulent baked pork is worth trying even without banana leaves, though the taste will not be exactly the same. Simply omit the leaves and cover the baking dish with aluminum foil.

Cochinita Pibil Recipe
Serves 8 - 10

  • 2 banana leaves, passed over a flame to soften
  • 4 lbs. pork leg
  • 200 grams (2 bricks, about 4 ounces each) achiote paste
  • 1 cup bitter orange juice, or use half sweet orange juice and vinegar
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon crumbled, dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 4 large allspice berries, coarsely ground
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
  • 2 tablespoons melted lard or corn oil

Line the bottom of a large baking dish with banana leaves, one lengthwise and one widthwise, letting them hang over the sides of the dishes so that they may be folded over the pork. Place the pork on the leaves. Dissolve the achiote paste in the orange juice; add the remaining ingredients except the lard or oil, and mix. Let sit for at least 8 hours, preferably overnight, mixing it once.

Fold back the banana leaves, drizzle the melted lard or corn oil on the pork, fold the leaves back over the pork and cover tightly with aluminum foil. (Do not drain the marinade; this dish gets cooked in it, making it steamed rather than roasted). Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and cook for 1 ½ hours, or until the meat is falling-apart tender. Remove the foil, fold back the banana leaves, and use two forks to pull the meat apart into shreds. Serve with red onion rings marinated in orange juice vinaigrette and plenty of hot corn tortillas to make tacos.

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