How To Make Pernil (Pork Roast)

Every now and then, you find a food story that puts you smack-dab in the childhood kitchen of the author. You can almost smell and taste the food, and the memories. That’s the treat you’re getting today as Sili of My Mamihood shares a special dish. If you love pork shoulder recipes, get ready! She’s teaching us how to make pernil – pork roast or pork shoulder – just as her Papi did – with a side of love.

How to Make Pernil

Ever since I can remember, there were simple rules in my house.  One of them was pernil = party.  Pernil is pork roast or pork shoulder.  During my childhood days in New York, every time I was climbing the stairs to the apartment and smelled the mixture of garlic and cilantro baking in the oven, I knew something special was going on.  It’s a plate that my father cooked mainly during the holidays or special occasions – Christmas Eve, a christening, birthday parties, you name it. It goes great with chick peas and rice (coconut rice is best), potato salad and a fresh green salad.

The second rule in my house: food = love.  And let me tell you, there’s been enough love in my family to fill a state-of-the-art football stadium!  My papi, the self-proclaimed cook (a title my mami gladly conceded) always said that he could stand to see many things in life but the one thing he couldn’t bear was to see someone hungry.  So, in my home there’s always enough food to feed at least 2 greedy people (or 4 modest ones).

As I’ve grown in this environment I have learned many of my life lessons in the kitchen.  I learned not to stereotype as my papi, a proud Dominican man, has never had a problem throwing on an apron and getting down and dirty in the kitchen (while getting the kitchen down and dirty at the same time!).  I learned that rice pudding is the best way to say I’m sorry.  That I didn’t have to learn how to cook as long as I found someone like papi!

But, inevitably, although I’ve fought it most of my life (refusing to cook for my male cousins and uncles even as they harassed me about not knowing how to cook when I knew better) cooking is in my blood.  It calms me down on those days when nothing else seems to do the trick.  Because behind it all is the rule: food equals love.  One day I’ll write a book and give it the title: Todo Lo Que Necesito Saber Lo Aprendi en La Cocina de Papi (Everything I Need to Learn I Learned In My Father’s Kitchen).

How to Make Pernil

I hope that my love of cooking and of family comes through in this recipe, as I sit at my desk after eyeing a leftover plate of pernil and chick peas and rice in the fridge (I call it my muse).  May you cook up as much love for your family as we’ve cooked up in mine.


1 small head of garlic
1 bunch of cilantro
2 tablespoons of vegetable oil
2 tablespoons of Adobo
1 green pepper
2 limes
1 pork roast or pork shoulder (sometimes called picnic shoulder)


Preheat the oven at 350 degrees.  Peel the garlic (I find it easier to peel garlic if you let the head sit in water for an hour or so) and cut the cloves in two.  Cut up the green pepper into slices.  Place in a blender.  Add the cilantro, the vegetable oil, the Adobo and blend on slow.  This will make a pasty substance.

Take the roast and wash.  Use one lime to scrub the roast while washing.  Then, take a sharp knife and “stab” the roast making approximately 1 to 1.5 inch cuts (about 6-8 of them, depending on the size of the roast).  Take your pasty seasoning (sazon) and fill the holes with it. You’ll also want to use the seasoning to later the roast with (the roast will have a green tint to it due to the seasoning, don’t worry about that).  If you like a tangy taste, you should use the 2nd lime over the roast now (or you can opt to use the lime once it has cooked and each person can add it to taste).

Place the roast in a deep pan, cover it with aluminum foil and put it in the oven.  The roast will take approximately 2 hours to cook (slightly more if it’s larger).  You can use a meat thermometer to ensure that the roast has cooked thoroughly (this takes the guess work out of it).

Once the roast cooks, take off the aluminum foil, increase the temperature to 400 degrees and let it brown.  Once it’s reached the level of browning that you like, take out and enjoy.  I personally prefer the skin to be crunchy but not too dry so be careful.  I tend to give it about 25 minutes (10-15 if you set it to broil).  You can take it out of the pan once it has cooled down, put it on a plate, garnish it with some parsley and serve y ¡A buen tiempo! (this means, at a good time! And it’s what people that aren’t eating tell those that are. The sentiment behind it is: this is good timing!).

I hope this recipe works out for you. If it doesn’t, I’m totally blaming papi! ;-)

About the Author:

I am a Mami.  To say I love that job is an understatement.  I am also: daughter to the most wonderful woman that ever walked the earth who I sadly don’t have with me as of February 2nd, 2011, a sister to some pretty cool people, a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., an unemployed writer, a lactivist, an opinionated woman, terrific friend (just ask me) and generally a good person as long as you catch me after my coffee and a bite to eat.


  1. I love your post. It reminds me of how much I enjoyed the Sunday “Chicken Dinners” my Dad cooked. He often told me that his mother was a great cook and so was he. In fact, he was the one who taught my Mom how to cook, Hannah for cute or funny photos and photo captions. NO entry fee.
    hannah recently posted..ROR Sitemap for

  2. I love pernil! Mi papi lo hacia tan rico! great site – new follower.
    Irene recently posted..Coffee Makes Me Sleepy

    • Hi Irene! Thanks for the follow! Couldn’t “like” your FB page for some reason but will revisit! Just put up a new design, still working out the kinks but stop by if you get a chance! ;-)
      Sili recently posted..Mami’s Messy Moment

  3. It felt like you were describing my father in this post. While he’s not Dominican (Puerto Rican, in fact), he was a great cook and had his own apron that I got to put on when it was time to help make pastillos.
    Sara recently posted..**Meatless Monday** Powdered Milk to the Rescue

    • That’s the beauty of cooking and love, I think. They transcend cultures, countries and customs, don’t they? I’m glad you were able to connect with the story and that it reminded you of your dad! Thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts.
      Sili recently posted..The Lost Art of Trick or Treating

  4. Hi Sili,
    You are a wonderful writer, I personally can say that your Dad is the best Dominican cook. everything he cooks is very tasty. Your family which I consider my family is very dear to me. I remember spending many holidays together with your family and tey all have been unforgetable memories. I love your family so much and miss spending time together.

    May God bless you and your family, Please cotinue to write.
    Un Beso,
    Lupita recently posted..$1000 to $750,000? Yes Please! Grab Your Book Now

  5. I adore a great pernil! Great recipe :)
    Aly ~ Cooking In Stilettos recently posted..Tried and True: Creamy Cheesy Corn Polenta

  6. I love the story behind this. I had tons of Dominican friends when I lived in Manhattan. It brings me right back. The roast looks good too. ;-)
    Lady Jennie recently posted..We Are Good Parents

  7. Pork shoulder is some of the tastiest meat I have ever had! Caribbeans seem to make it the best, although I feel guilty every time I eat some pork (because my brother has sworn it off–sibling pressure) I can’t always help it.
    Mick recently posted..5 Ways To Boost Your Energy Quickly

    • Oh man! That’s a tough one. Do you sneak the pork in every once in a while or do you end up fessing up because you feel guilty? That’s hard. I don’t know if I could give up pork. I don’t eat it often but recipes like this (even if I only have it once or twice a year) would be hard to give up. And there’s also bacon. mmm…ba-con! ;-)
      Sili recently posted..Pay It Forward: Removing Stains One Mami at a Time

  8. I love seeing a familiar face here! Makes me feel so at home! Great job on your post: your pork sounds delicious!
    Susan in the Boonies recently posted..Atlanta and Zombies Go Together Like a Coke and a Smile

  9. Ixchelle Hicks says:

    I look forward to making this dish. Great story and photo of dad in the kitchen.

  10. Chandra says:

    What a heartwarming story! I loved that the author’s dad could stand a lot of things. But could not stand to see someone hungry. Sounds like an amazing dad AND cook!!!

    • Thanks, Chandra! We had many an argument with him over this because sometimes we’d end up having to throw out food. I think we’ve found a happy medium in having him cook for just a couple more people. Well, the happiest medium is just letting ME do the cooking but, that’s another story I’ll be sharing with everyone as we get close to thanksgiving. In my house it is known as the “turkey incident”…;-)
      Sili recently posted..The Reason For Being

  11. OMG! I love pernil!! And chick peas and rice! Man, I wish I met you at BBCATL. I see you were there. We have a lot in common, Soror ;-). Maybe next time…Besos, Isadora.
    Pearls and Polish recently posted..Caught With My Khakis Down in Mobile, AL

    • I saw you from far away but never got a chance to chat. Yes, I knew it when I saw the “pearls” that we had more in common than we thought ;-). Definitely next time! Thanks for stopping by! And, you’re going to get me to go bold on my polish colors, btw!
      Sili recently posted..Monday Musings: Remembering to Live

  12. One thing that is a MUST in NYC is that in hispanic neighborhoods, there’s a pernil cooking somewhere!

    I love being in a city with diverse cultures and food!

    I know how to make this because of my next door neighbor, but I will pass this link to a friend in Georgia who misses her pernil!

    Thanks! ;-)
    Moni recently posted..What Had Happened Was…

  13. One thing that is a MUST in NYC is that in hispanic neighborhoods, there’s a pernil cooking somewhere!

    I love being in a city with diverse cultures and food!

    I know how to make this because of my next door neighbor, but I will pass this link to a friend in Georgia who misses her pernil!

    Thanks! ;-)

  14. Lol what a funny picture! Those shorts are so sassy!
    Dara recently posted..Old Navy Compression Pants

    • I tried to find a more “conventional” picture but wouldn’t you know it, I couldn’t get to the boxes of photos as I was in the middle of unpacking! I love that you used the word sassy. It’s something my sister would say! Thanks for stopping by!
      Sili recently posted..Mami Reads: One Love

  15. Sounds yummy! I, too, will stop by for dinner :-) great always!,,

  16. I have been traveling now for several days. Can’t wait for a home cooked meal. This is just what will be cooking up in my kitchen this coming Sunday. Thanks Sili

  17. Let me know how it turns out! ;-)

    Now that I gave you the recipe, you probably won’t be inviting me to any more of your parties since you won’t need me to bring this! lol

  18. Let me know how it turns out! ;-)

    Now that I gave you the recipe, you probably won’t be inviting me to any more of your parties since you won’t need me to bring this! lol

  19. Love that story, too bad I am a vegetarian though I bet it smells good. ;)
    Marie Cole recently posted..Euro Bound

  20. shereen says:

    Yummy…. I have always wanted to learn to cook some good pork… I can’t wait to give it a try… In the kichen I go ….

  21. Family food is the best food… and I will now add this to my family eating so that we are now cousins! :)

    Thanks so much for sharing this!

    Maddie at Domestic Anarchy recently posted..Goody Hair for Grown Up Girls

  22. Yum!! I make pork roast quite often, especially in the cooler winter months (don’t like to heat up that oven here in Florida in the summer), but this recipe sounds unlike any I’ve tried. I will be printing it off and trying it!
    Like you, I have so many memories from my childhood of food. My mom was such a wonderful cook, and I miss not having her to call when I have questions. After she passed away, I inherited her recipe box, and I plan to gather her most “famous” ones together and publish them in a little book for my brothers and their families. With pictures, too! (Although I don’t know if I have any pics as good as that one of your daddy! LOL!)
    Great post, Sili! Thank you!

    • Thanks, Julie! My sister and I have made a pact to pull all these recipes out of papi’s head. She managed to get his recipe for goat recently so, I think he’s open to it. None of his recipes are written down so we are VERY interested in getting these written down.

      And, I haven’t received a call yet so, I’m guessing my cousin hasn’t shown him the blog yet…lol.
      Sili recently posted..Mami Reads: One Love

  23. I grew up in New York as well. There is nothing like coming home from school and climbing the stairs to my apartment and smelling all the different, wonderful meals being prepared. My roots are Italian, so always the garlic, the onions, the parsley, the cheese. What smells! And my dad, like yours, was king of the kitchen. Whatever he decided to make, always tasted fabulous and I know, it was because of the love he put into the preparing and knowing he was sustaining his family. Thank you for sharing your story as it brought back so many fun memories. Wishing you all the best ~ Patricia

    • Yum! My dad’s grandfather was Sicilian so, pasta is a must in our home. I’m glad i could bring back some fun memories for you. You’ve just conjured up some of mine with the thought of all of the yummy ingredients you just mentioned!
      Sili recently posted..Mami Musings: Bloogy Bootcamp Lesson

  24. That recipe sounds yummy. Your Papi sounds like my dad. He was always the one cooking and he love to do it. My mom on the.other hand….not so much. I inherited my dad’s love for baking but cooking is still growing on me.
    chanel recently posted..I want to be a soccer mom

  25. My little clan calls it a “Pork Butt” and go crazy for it! So yummy! The second best part of the pig after Bacon. This recipe sounds yummy. Papis are always the best cooks. :)
    Polish Mama on the Prairie recently posted..Rice Keugel

  26. I can taste the love. Your father gave you so many gifts it seems, but the ability to show love to your family and friends through nurturing will stick with your kids the longest. Thanks for sharing.
    Dr. G recently posted..Why do kids fall apart before dinner? Guesting on @AMotherWorld

  27. Yum, yum, yum. I kow what I’m having for supper tonight! Thanks for sharing the love and story, along with the recipe. Love your dad in the kitchen – awesome pix.
    LBDDiaries recently posted..He Swears He Ain’t Misbehavin

  28. Thanks Sili!!! Love the shorts your dad was wearing! LOL, can we say ol’ skool? I bet I have pics of my papi wearing similar shorts!
    Now with the holidays around the corner, I will DEFINITELY be using this recipe. Mmmmm-mmm…. love pernil and I think your house rules should be household-standard:


    Thanks for sharing!

  29. Michelle Scott says:

    Love it Sili! I’ll be over for dinner at 6pm tonight! LOL :-) Great story.

  30. I could imagine what this smells like cooking! Will definitely have to try it. Sounds delicious!

  31. Martina says:

    Sili, I really enjoyed reading the article! You are such a gifted and talented writer. That picture is priceless. (Question: Did you get permission from your dad to post that picture?) Thanks for the sharing the recipe. I will try it soon. Love, Martina

    • Thank you so much for your words. Um, yeah dad knows I used a picture but he doesn’t know which one (and if I described it he probably wouldn’t remember ;-). So…I await for my cousin to show it to him! Thankfully he’s in DR right now and can’t whoop me from across the ocean ;-).
      Sili recently posted..Mami’s Trippin’!

  32. Ebony Mosley says:

    I wish I read this later while I was home and not at work. My mouth is watering. I will try this recipe this weekend. Great post. Thanks! I’ll be checking back for the next recipe soon.

  33. amanda harms says:

    One of the things I try to do everyday is to teach my daughter the countless ways that food can heal us and bring us together. I can only hope she has the same strong memories as you do with your Papi. Can’t wait to try this (and great pic!!).

  34. Will definitely try this recipe! My husband loves pork and I’m always looking for new (to me) ways to make it for him.
    Louise Ducote recently posted..I Had a Dog Like This Once

  35. This recipe looks wonderful. I will have to add it to my list of recipes to try.
    JDaniel4′s Mom recently posted..Read.Explore.Learn- How Many Seeds in a Pumpkin?

  36. Thanks for sharing. Sounds delicious.
    Leigh Powell Hines (@Hinessightblog) recently posted..Remote-Control Romance

  37. We cook pork loin all the time; I look forward to putting a new twist on it with your recipe! :)
    Lynn from For Love or Funny recently posted..Is it wrong to paint your dog neon pink?


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