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Puerto Rico: Pernil Asado (Roast Pork Butt)

Pernil Asado (Pork Roast) is the dish that symbolizes Christmas, the centerpiece of the Puerto Rican Christmas Eve or Noche Buena feast. There are even carols that sing its praises.

What you may not be aware of is that this dish has a connection to Tainos, the inhabitants of the Caribbean islands who were living here when Columbus and his fellow explorers first arrived from Europe in the late 15th century.

Pernil Asado (a marinated pork shoulder that’s roasted slowly in the oven until meats is tender and skin on top is cracking and crisp) typically accompanied by arroz con gandules (rice and pigeon peas). Is a a meal tradition passed on to new generations to carry on the Puerto Rican cuisine torch.


  • 1 5-8lbs pork butt, bone-in
  • 1 cup sour orange juice
  • 1/2 cup lime juice
  • 1 medium onion, quartered
  • 3 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 2 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon oregano
  • 10 garlic cloves, pealed and crushed
  • 2 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped cilantro



  1. Combine the orange juice, lime juice, vinegar, olive oil, onion, garlic, cilantro, cumin, oregano, paprika, salt, and pepper in a blender or food processor and puree into a smooth paste.
  2. Rinse pork under cold water and pat very dry. Place skin-side up in a large roasting pan. Make small incisions along the surface of the pernil skin and fat.
  3. Rub the entire pork butt with the paste, carefully lifting the skin without tearing it, to rub some inside, and getting into the incisions as well. Cover with a plastic wrap and set aside in the refrigerator to marinate minimum 2 hours. If time allows, marinate overnight.
  4. When ready to cook, remove from refrigerator and let sit at room temperature 30 minutes to take off some of the chill.
  5. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Cover roasting pan tightly with foil and place in oven on the lowest rack and bake for 2 hours. Remove the foil and cook for another 2 hours or until skin is completely crisp and the juices from the pork run clear. (If a thermometer is inserted in the thickets part of the pork butt, it should read from 170F to 180F degrees). Remove the pernil from the oven, and set aside to rest at room temperature for about 20 minutes. Carve and serve.

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