How To Make Pernil (Pork Roast)

By Oct 28, 2011February 13th, 201577 Comments

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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.

About Alina Thomas

Alina is a Northern Virginia wedding photographer based out of Leesburg, VA. She has a passion for arts and design, and strives to express it through her work. She is creative at heart and loves nothing more than sharing her knowledge in photography with other Virginia wedding photographers on her blog each week. Alina loves being a new mom to her first-born and spending time with her husband who helps her run her businesses. Please feel free to follow her on: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest or Google+.


  • hannah says:

    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

    http://www.FunnyPhotosContest.com for cute or funny photos and photo captions. NO entry fee.

    • Sili says:

      That is awesome! Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting. Hmmm, chicken dinners. You’re making me hungry!

  • Irene says:

    I love pernil! Mi papi lo hacia tan rico! great site – new follower.


    • Sili says:

      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! 😉

  • Sara says:

    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.

    • Sili says:

      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.

  • Lupita says:

    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,

  • I adore a great pernil! Great recipe 🙂

    • Sili says:

      Thanks, Aly! Love your blog! One day I will attempt to cook in stilettos. I’m barely staying upright barefoot! 😉

  • Lady Jennie says:

    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. 😉

  • Mick says:

    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.

    • Sili says:

      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! 😉

      • Mick says:

        Hahahah @Sili, I do sneak it in. One time I was so starved for some pork/bacon I ate half a pack of my younger bro’s maple bacon. He never let me live it down, even threaten to tell my other brother.
        For some people eating pork is like committing a serious crime.

        I say:
        “give us free!”

        Bet you don’t know what movie that line^^ is from.

  • I love seeing a familiar face here! Makes me feel so at home! Great job on your post: your pork sounds delicious!

  • Ixchelle Hicks says:

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

  • 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!!!

    • Sili says:

      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”…;-)

  • 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.

    • Sili says:

      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!

  • Moni says:

    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 says:

    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! 😉

  • Dara says:

    Lol what a funny picture! Those shorts are so sassy!

    • Sili says:

      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!

  • Deidre says:

    Sounds yummy! I, too, will stop by for dinner 🙂 great post..as always!,,

  • Tara says:

    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

  • Sili says:

    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

  • Sili says:

    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

  • Marie Cole says:

    Love that story, too bad I am a vegetarian though I bet it smells good. 😉

    • Sili says:

      Well, I think I might have some yummy non-meat recipes for you. However, I have to pry them out of my dad’s head first! Stay tuned ;-).

      BTW, you can try that seasoning on fish as well. It’s yummy and all-purpose.

  • 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 ….

    • Sili says:

      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

  • 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!


  • 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!

    • Sili says:

      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.

  • Patricia says:

    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

    • Sili says:

      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!

  • chanel says:

    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.

  • 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. 🙂

  • Dr. G says:

    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.

    • Sili says:

      Thanks, Dr. G! I love the kitchen. Isn’t it the center of the universe for so many of us? I hope I can pass that lesson down to my frog princess.

  • LBDDiaries says:

    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.

    • Sili says:

      Please be sure to let me know how it turns! I need to take more pics of him in the kitchen but this is one of my faves. 😉

  • Suzy says:

    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!

  • Michelle Scott says:

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

    • Sili says:

      Tonight we have fish and grits on the menu! Let me know if you want me to make extra. This dish is best served hot! 😉

  • Jane says:

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

  • 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

    • Sili says:

      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 ;-).

  • 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.

  • 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!!).

    • Sili says:

      Thanks, Amanda! I know your princess will get all the lessons you are trying to teach her even if she might not know it until later! 😉

  • Will definitely try this recipe! My husband loves pork and I’m always looking for new (to me) ways to make it for him.

    • Sili says:

      Please let me know how it turns out and what you serve it with. I love hearing how people put different twists on recipes!

  • This recipe looks wonderful. I will have to add it to my list of recipes to try.

  • Thanks for sharing. Sounds delicious.

  • We cook pork loin all the time; I look forward to putting a new twist on it with your recipe! 🙂