Pernil-Style Roast Pork

This pernil-style roast pork recipe comes from my friends and fellow coworkers from when I was a teenager working in the Kitchen at the Liberty, NY Holiday Inn. Aside from my father and one part-time Chinese chef the Holiday Inn restaurant hired for summer crowds, the rest of the kitchen staff were from Puerto Rico. I was able to not only learn and practice a lot of my high school Spanish, I also managed to pick up some classic recipes and flavors. Over the years, both the Spanish and the love of all foods Latin American stuck, and I used some of my experience to create this Pernil Style Roast Pork recipe. 

Complete with beans, rice, and a simple salad on the side, this one of my favorite roast recipes, because it is just out-of-this-world tasty and permeates the entire house with a beautiful porky, Latin food aroma that (as I’m sure you can imagine) our whole family enjoys.

A Huge Favorite

The key is in the marinade and using a pork roast with just enough fat to give you a nice crispy crust out of the oven. Serve that with beans, rice and a simple salad, and you’re on your way to a lazy food coma Sunday afternoon.

I won’t call this classic, traditional, or authentic, but I will say it’s a recipe I learned while working in a predominantly Puerto Rican-staffed kitchen during some of the most memorable summers of my life.

But I have modified it over the years according to my own tastes and opinions, including using a boneless pork roast instead of a fresh ham with the skin on. Of course, this is in no way meant to disparage the benefits of a fresh, bone-in, skin-on ham—I’ve had many a tasty pernil with crackling skin–but it does make prep and cooking a little bit easier. 

Try to refrain from drooling on your phones and keyboards, and enjoy the recipe. Here’s to sharing favorite foods, because this is one of mine!

NOTE: Following the main recipe, I’ve also included the recipes for preparing the rice, beans, and salad you see in the photos!

Pernil-Style Roast Pork, by thewoksoflife.comPernil-Style Roast Pork, by

Pernil-Style Roast Pork: Recipe Instructions

Rinse your roast and pat dry with a paper towel. Make the marinade by mixing together the minced garlic, olive oil, vinegar, lime juice, and all of the dry herbs and spices in a bowl.

Rub the entire roast with the marinade, ensuring that all areas of the roast are completely covered. If you’re using a boneless roast, already tied by the butcher, try to work some of the marinade in the empty cavity where the bone used to be. If you know how to tie your own roast, marinating the meat before tying the roast will ensure the best results. If you’re using a roast with skin, be sure to score the skin with a sharp knife to form a cross-hatch pattern, and rub the marinade into the entire roast. Taking your time marinating a roast properly is the most important step!

Next, cover the roast with plastic wrap and let it marinate overnight for at least 18 hours for the best results.

Take the roast out of the refrigerator, and let it come up to room temperature–about 2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 425F. Cover the bottom of the roasting pan with sliced onions, and add one cup of water.

Pernil-Style Roast Pork, by thewoksoflife.comPernil-Style Roast Pork, by

Place the roast on top of the onions and water.

Pernil-Style Roast Pork, by thewoksoflife.comPernil-Style Roast Pork, by

Cook the roast at 425F for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, turn the roasting pan 180 degrees, and roast for another 30 minutes. Place a sheet of aluminum foil on top of the roast with the sides exposed if the roast starts to burn.

Reduce the heat to 350 degrees and continue cooking for 2-3 hours, adding about ½ a cup of water every half hour, or as needed. You don’t  want to let the bottom of the pan dry out and burn.

For the last half hour, turn the temperature up to 425F if the roast needs more browning.

Pernil-Style Roast Pork, by thewoksoflife.comPernil-Style Roast Pork, by

Let the meat rest for 10-15 minutes before cutting. Cut the roast into large chunks for a more rustic taste and feel.

Pernil-Style Roast Pork, by thewoksoflife.comPernil-Style Roast Pork, by

Pour the onions and juice from the pan over the meat to serve, alongside rice, salad and beans! If you’re up to it, splurge and make a few tostones!

Pernil-Style Roast Pork, by thewoksoflife.comPernil-Style Roast Pork, by

If you’re interested to know how I prepared these side dishes, read on!

For the sofrito beans:

  • 1½ tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • 1 small tomato, chopped
  • 2 cans of beans–black, pink, or kidney, rinsed and drained
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup chicken stock

Head a pot over medium heat. Add the olive oil, and cook the onion and garlic, stirring occasionally, until transparent. Add the paprika.

Next, add the chopped fresh tomato and continue cooking on medium to low heat until the tomato begins to break up, taking care not to burn the mixture – about 2 minutes.

Stir in the beans, salt, and chicken stock, and bring to a simmer. Cover and simmer for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally until thickened. If there’s too much liquid in the beans, continue cooking uncovered to reduce. Set aside until ready to serve.

For the rice:

  • 3 cups medium or long-grain rice
  • About 2½ cups water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Pinch of fresh ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

If you’re not using a rice cooker, combine the rice and water in a medium-sized pot–there should be about ¾ of an inch of water on top of the rice.

Add the salt, pepper, and olive oil and cover the pot.

Bring the rice to a boil over medium heat, and then reduce the heat to low until the water is just simmering. Keep covered and let cook for another 20 minutes over low heat. Don’t open the cover! You can check after 10 minutes with your nose to make sure the rice is not burning, and if you suspect it may be, then reduce to heat to the lowest possible setting. Turn off the heat after 20 minutes when the liquid is absorbed, and set aside.

For a simple salad

  • 2 ripe plum tomatoes, sliced
  • 1 small red onion, thinly sliced and rinsed in very cold water
  • Iceberg or Romaine lettuce, torn into bite-sized pieces
  • Equal parts olive oil and red wine vinegar
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Place the plum tomatoes and red onions on a bed of your lettuce of choice.

Stir the oil, vinegar, salt and pepper together, and pour over the salad when ready to serve.

Pernil-Style Roast Pork, by thewoksoflife.comPernil-Style Roast Pork, by

Pernil-Style Roast Pork, by thewoksoflife.comPernil-Style Roast Pork, by


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