We love to make tacos and tostadas at our house. Mexican food is frequently served during busy weeknights but these Cochinita Pibil tacos are perfect for a Sunday Supper. The flavors of this dish are inspired by the Mexican state of Yucatán on the Gulf of Mexico. Cochinita Pibil, is traditionally suckling pig that has been marinated in the juice of sour oranges, wrapped in banana leaves and slow-roasted in an underground pit (pib). Well, I don’t have an underground pit for cooking and I’ve never seen sour oranges at my local market but these tacos are SO good. This meal is super flavorful and it makes a lot so you can freeze some meat for later. It does take about 4ish hours of prep/cook time from start to finish so plan accordingly. Mostly hands off though!
Cochinita Pibil Tacos
This recipe is adapted from Milk Street. Find the original here.
- 4-pound boneless pork shoulder, trimmed and cut into 1½- to 2-inch chunks
- Kosher salt and ground black pepper
- 2 habanero chilies, stemmed and seeded, divided
- 2 medium red onions, halved and thinly sliced
- 6 medium garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
- 1 tablespoon fennel seeds or anise seeds
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano, preferably mexican oregano
- 1 1/2 cups orange juice
- 1 3/4 ounces achiote paste (⅓ cup grated on the small holes of a box grater, see below note)
- 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro (some extra for serving too)
- 2 tablespoons lime juice
- Pickled red onions, to serve (recipe below)
- Cotija cheese, to serve
- 6-inch corn tortillas, warmed
Note: I could not find achiote paste at my local market or bodega, so I made my own. Combine ¼ cup sweet paprika, 1½ teaspoons ground cumin, ½ teaspoon granulated garlic, ½ teaspoon dried oregano, ¼ teaspoon kosher salt and 3 tablespoons white vinegar to form a stiff paste. You will not need to grate this, just add it in as is.
Pickled Red Onions– 1 cup white vinegar, 2 teaspoons white sugar, 1 teaspoon dried oregano, ¼ teaspoon ground allspice, Kosher salt, 2 medium red onions, halved and thinly sliced. In a medium bowl or pint-size jar, combine all ingredients except the onions, mix/shake to combine. Add the onions, pressing to submerge them in the vinegar mixture. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 3 days
- Heat the oven to 350F with a rack in the lower-middle position. In a large Dutch oven, stir together the pork, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 habanero, half the onion, the garlic, fennel seeds, oregano and 2 cups water. Cover and transfer to the oven and cook until a skewer inserted into the pork meets no resistance, about 3 hours.
- While the pork cooks, in a blender, combine the orange juice, the remaining habanero and achiote paste. Blend until smooth, about 1 minute; transfer to a medium bowl, cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
- When the pork is done, remove the pot from the oven. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the meat to a large bowl. Tilt the pot to pool the cooking liquid to one side and use a spoon to skim off as much fat as possible from the surface, there will be quite a bit of fat, just try your best to remove as much as you can. Set the fat aside.
- Bring the liquid to a simmer over medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until reduced to about ¼ cup, about 10 minutes; remove from the heat. Shred the meat, discarding any bits of fat and gristle; set aside.
- In a 12-inch skillet over medium-high, heat 2 tablespoons of the reserved pork fat until barely smoking. Add the remaining onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, transfer to a small bowl and set aside. Add another tablespoon of the reserved pork fat to the skillet and heat over medium-high until shimmering. Add the shredded pork and cook without stirring until browned and crisped on the bottom, about 10 minutes. Flip and cook, stirring occasionally, until well browned, another 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from the heat.
- To the reduced cooking liquid in the Dutch oven, add the orange juice-achiote paste puree. Bring to a simmer over medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is thick enough that a spatula drawn through it leaves a trail. Stir in the sautéed onion and the browned pork; cook, stirring often, until the pork is evenly coated and heated through. Off heat, stir in the cilantro and lime juice. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
- To serve, transfer the pork to a serving bowl, then serve with the tortillas,pickled red onions and Cotija for tacos.
You can serve these with some rice and beans or just by themselves. A spicy margarita wouldn’t be bad either. 🙂