Slow cooker cochinita pibil

Slow-Cooker Cochinita Pibil

Cochinita Pibil, or Puerco Pibil, is a Yucatán-style, slow-roasted pork. Though recipes differ, it is commonly made by first marinating a whole suckling pig in a mixture of achiote (or annatto) seeds, cloves, all spice, oregano, sour orange, garlic, and other spices or herbs. The pig is then wrapped in banana leaves, placed into a pit lined with hot stones and slowly cooked for several hours until it is falling off the bone.

Believe me, there’s nothing I would love more than to follow the “traditional and authentic” route, build a pib (stone-lined pit), marinate an entire suckling pig, and slowly cook some cochinita pibil as the sun sets over Toronto. Alas, apartment living just doesn’t allow for such luxuries. Nor do city bylaws that likely prohibit digging pits in public parks for the purposes of slow-roasting suckling pigs (I think?).

Luckily, there are some workarounds to the pit-digging and whole-hog requirements.

How to Cook Cochinita Pibil at Home

Aside from ingredients, which we’ll get to in a second, the biggest impact on the taste of your cochinita pibil is the method you use to cook it. Dry heat, smoke and steam will each bring something different to the table, pun intended. And, yes, I know! None of these can truly be called cochinita pibil because they aren’t cooked in a pib. But let’s just go with it.

Slow Cooker

The path of least resistance is undoubtedly the slow cooker. It’s as easy as placing the marinated meat in the vessel, turning it on and walking away. You can start it before going to bed at night or before leaving to work in the morning. Either way, you’ll return to a perfectly cooked, incredibly soft and juicy cochinita pibil.

Depending on the thickness of your pork shoulder, it will take you at least 4 hours on high heat or between 7-8 hours on low heat if cooking a bone-in piece of meat. If cooking boneless, you can probably shave one hour off of the low-heat cooking time.

The only thing I’m not crazy about with the slow cooker is the lack of some dry heat, which changes the way the banana leaves taste. When steamed, as is the case in the slow cooker, I find that the intense flavour of the banana leaves is amplified.

Personally, if using the slow cooker, I omit the banana leaves altogether (as shown in the pictures). I know, cardinal sin! But the flavour is just too intense and overpowers everything else. But, hey, you’re the boss, applesauce.

Roasting in Oven

Though roasting in the oven is as easy as using a slow cooker, it means that you can’t leave the house just in case something goes awry.

Similar to the slow cooker, you can roast the cochinita pibil low-and-slow for around 4 hours or lower-and-slower for 7-8 hours. The choice is yours.

One of the benefits of the oven is that the dry heat changes the flavour of the banana leaves while trapping any of the steam inside, keeping the pork super juicy and moist.


Smoking the pork is the method that likely yields the most flavourful results. You get all the benefits from the dry heat of the oven while imparting smokey flavour that mimics the pib.

If you have a Traeger, it’s as easy as using your slow cooker. Simply adjust the temperature setting and go do something else while your pork cooks.

Ingredients “Needed” for Cochinita Pibil

The marinade for the pork differs slightly depending on the family recipe. However, there are a few usual suspects that show up in every cochinita pibil.

Achiote or Annato Paste or Seeds

Achiote, also called Annato, are the seeds of the Bixa orellana shrub. It can be used as a spice, food colourant or textile dye. When used in larger quantities the flavour is earthy, peppery and slightly bitter.

You can buy the seeds raw and whole or in the form of a paste made with other spices and herbs. I recommend buying the paste simply for sake of convenience and flavour, even though it will likely contain a small amount of corn flour.

If buying raw, you will need to bloom the seeds in some fat before soaking in liquid. You will also need to source the other spices required for the marinade, which isn’t difficult.

One thing that is very important to note if making Cochinita Pibil is that most achiote pastes are already prepared with other spices and herbs that you will need in your recipe. For example, the very popular El Yucateco brand contains achiote, all spice, clove, garlic, oregano, and salt.

The flavours in this paste are quite potent so you don’t really need to add any additional spices to your marinade.

You can likely find the achiote paste at a local Latin grocer or online here. If in Toronto, check out Latin World, La Perola or Market-tino.

Sour Orange

Sour orange is commonly used as a marinade for meats. Unfortunately, I’ve never found sour orange in Toronto but a great workaround is to mix orange juice and lime juice together.

This will give an amazing tangy flavour to the cochinita pibil!

Herbs, Spices and Flavourings

As mentioned, each recipe differs in terms of the types of herbs, spices and flavourings used but from what I gather the usual suspects are clove, all spice, and oregano.

Beyond those, I’ve encountered bay leaf, cinnamon, tomato, tequila, habanero peppers, vinegar, chili powder, dried chilies, and peppercorn.

Since the El Yucateco achiote paste has most of these ingredients built in, I don’t use anything else. Trust me, this stuff is a powerhouse of flavour and a little goes a long way.

Banana Leaf

Banana leaves are traditionally used to wrap the pork before being placed in the pib. Not only do the leaves trap any steam and help prevent the pork from drying out, but they also impart a significant amount of flavour.

As mentioned, steaming the leaves themselves amplifies this intense flavour and aroma, which may or may not be desired. So, if you plan on using the slow cooker, which is the recipe I provide below, maybe omit them altogether or use one or two leaves total.

If, however, roasting or smoking, you will definitely want to use the banana leaves so as to trap any steam trying to escape.

The downside is that the banana leaves can be a bit difficult to find. Your best bet is to try the frozen section of a Latin or Asian market.

How to Serve Slow-Cooker Cochinita Pibil

Tacos are the obvious choice here. However, if you find yourself fresh out of tortillas (cassava, corn, flour, or lettuce-wrapped), I recommend serving the cochinita pibil with some thinly shaved, white cabbage. It makes for a crisp, crunchy, filling side dish that doubles as a salad. Trust me, it works.

As for toppings, the classic paring are pickled red onions. These gorgeous ribbons of pickled goodness not only brighten up the pork colour-wise, but the acid also cuts through the rich, fatty meat.

5 from 1 vote Slow-Cooker Cochinita Pibil Prep Time 10 mins Cook Time 8 hrs marinating time 1 d Total Time 8 hrs 10 mins

Cochinita Pibil is a Yucatán-style, slow-roasted pork marinated in sour orange, achiote paste and various herbs and spices. It’s incredibly delicious and a lot easier to cook than you may think!

Course: Dinner Cuisine: Mexican Keyword: cochinita pibil, easy recipe, paleo Ingredients

  • 3.5 lbs pork shoulder – preferably bone-in
  • ¼ cup achiote paste such as El Yucateco
  • ¼ cup lime juice
  • ½ cup orange juice
  • kosher salt

For Quick-Pickled Red Onions

  • 2 red onions thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tbsp agave syrup
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt

For serving

  • finely shredded white cabbage
  • lime wedges
  • fresh cilantro


  1. Add achiote paste, lime juice and orange juice to a blender. Blend on high speed until smooth.
  2. Rinse pork with under cold water and dry with paper towel. Liberally season all sides with kosher salt and place pork in a mixing bowl or zip-top bag. Pour in marinade and rub all over pork to coat. Cover and place in refrigerate 4-24 hours.
  3. When ready to cook, remove pork from marinade and place in a slow cooker. Discard excess marinade.
  4. Cook on low 7-8 hours or high at least 4 hours.
  5. Transfer cooked pork to a bowl and shred with two forks. Transfer all rendered juices in slow cooker to a jar and reserve for serving.

  6. Spoon rendered juices over cochinita pibil and serve with shredded cabbage, quick-pickled red onions, cilantro and lime wedges.

For Quick-Pickled Red Onions

  1. Add vinegar, water, agave syrup and salt to a small sauce pan. Raise heat to medium-high and bring to a gentle simmer.

  2. Add onion to a mason jar and cover with hot pickling liquid. Let stand at room temperature at least 30 minutes.

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Cochinita pibil is a traditional dish from the state of Yucatán that’s cooked in an oven made inside a hole in the ground (called a pib). But did you know you can make a really good version of this dish in a slow-cooker?

When I found out that January was National Slow-Cooking Month, I knew exactly what recipe I was going to adapt for Crock-Pot cooking. I’ve always wanted to test my theory that cochinita pibil can be done in a slow-cooker, so the fact that it was a nationally recognized month-long culinary holiday-of-sorts was the perfect chance to take on the challenge.

Yes, we’ve posted a recipe here before for cochinita, but let me tell you why this one is different. We’re using a different cut of meat (boneless country-style pork ribs), an easy spice mix made from scratch (no achiote paste in brick-form here), and as with most slow-cooker recipes, you can set it and forget it, making it relatively hassle-free compared to the traditional method of making cochinita pibil.

If you’re making it for guests, you can still serve it wrapped in warm banana leaves to impress them. Just check out our original recipe for cochinita pibil for directions on how to heat the banana leaves so they’re pliable.

And finally, we’re not going to serve our cochinita pibil as a taco like you might expect–we’re going to serve them on tostadas.

This dish can also be served as panuchos by putting the refried black beans inside little tortillas, frying before adding the meat, salsa and any garnishes on top, but trust me when I say store-bought tostadas are going to save you a lot of time. Plus, this recipe is a bit healthier because we’re leaving the frying out. If you can’t find small tostadas or picaditas at your grocery store, you can make your own by either heating corn tortillas in the oven until they’re dry and crispy, or you can get the same result by cooking them longer on your comal.

But before we move on to the recipe, let’s talk a little about what a slow-cooker (or Crock-Pot) actually is so there’s no confusion because I often get asked if a slow cooker is the same as a pressure cooker. (The answer is no. In fact, they’re opposites.) A slow-cooker is a counter-top electric device that you plug in and usually has a removable glazed ceramic or porcelain pot, surrounded by a heat-conducting housing. They typically have two cooking settings: low or high, and a keep warm setting. Some of the more expensive slow-cookers have more options for controlling the heat as well as a timer with an automatic-shut off.

The point of a slow cooker is to cook things with steady low, moist heat which makes it ideal for soups, stews and cooking meats that you want to be fork-tender, but without all the fuss of watching it constantly. The lid of the slow cooker typically has a small vent in order to let some of the steam escape and can be removed during the cooking process to stir the ingredients if needed.

So now that you know the difference, let’s get slow-cooking.

What marinating the meat looks like:

Crock-Pot Cochinita Pibil

Yield: 3 1/2 cups of meat

Use your Crock-Pot or slow-cooker for a no-fuss, easy-cleanup variation of a classic Yucatan favorite, cochinita pibil. Tip: Serve on mini tostadas for a perfect party-treat!


  • Meat and marinade:
  • 1 1/2 pounds country-style boneless pork ribs
  • 1 cup fresh lime juice (about 10 medium-large limes)
  • 3/4 cup fresh orange juice
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/2 of a large red onion, cut into 1/4 inch slices
  • Spices:
  • 3 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 1/2 teaspoon ground achiote
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoon whole Mexican oregano
  • Salsa:
  • 1/2 of a large red onion, sliced into small strips
  • juice of 1 large orange
  • juice of 2 large limes
  • 1 roasted habanero chile, finely chopped
  • For tostadas:
  • 1 package of small tostadas or picaditas
  • 1 cup refried black beans


  1. THE NIGHT BEFORE: MARINATING THE MEAT – Start by squeezing the fresh lime juice and orange juice. Once you have the juice, put it in a medium to large glass bowl and add the crushed garlic. It’s important to use glass rather than metal/stainless steel or plastic because glass is non-reactive and non-corrosive.
  2. Combine all the dry spices and mix well; then add vinegar and olive oil. Stir to incorporate the liquids and add to the glass bowl with the citrus juices and garlic. Stir well and add the pork to the bowl, making sure it’s completely covered by the juice. Cover and allow it to marinate overnight in the refrigerator.
  3. Making the salsa: Slice 1/2 of a large red onion into small strips and mix it with the juice of 1 orange and 2 limes. Roast one habanero on your comal or in a skillet, remove the stem (and seeds if you want to reduce some of the heat), and finely chop. Add the habanero to the salsa. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator overnight.
  4. THE DAY OF: Slice the remaining half onion into quarter-inch thick slices and place them on the bottom of the crock-pot. Remove the meat and marinade from the refrigerator and place the meat over the onions. Pour all the juice over the meat.
  5. Place the lid on the crock-pot and cook on high for 5 hours (or on low for 8-9 hours). You should NOT rush and cook this recipe on high heat for half the time – it doesn’t work that way! You’ll end up with tough meat.
  6. You’ll know it’s finished cooking when you remove a piece of meat from the crock-pot and can shred it with a fork without much effort. Shred all the pork. Place the meat in a bowl and add a little juice from the Crock-Pot to keep the meat moist.
  7. Heat the tostadas in the oven at 200º F for a few minutes. Spread warm refried black beans on the tostadas. Add the shredded pork on top of the beans and spoon some of the habanero salsa and onions on top of the pork.

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Slow Cooker Cochinita Pibil


  1. Rub down pork butt with achiote paste.
  2. If the pork is tied up, remove all the string and massage the achiote over the unfolded piece of meat.
  3. In a large bowl, mix together orange juice, lemon juice, vinegar, habanero and the spices.
  4. Place pork in the orange mixture and leave to marinate in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours or ideally overnight.
  5. Turn the pork at least once in the marinade to ensure even saturation.
  6. In a small bowl, mix together vinegar, salt and sugar until the dry ingredients are dissolved.
  7. Place onions in a sanitized glass jar and pour vinegar over top.
  8. Add peppercorns and top up with water until all the onions are submerged.
  9. Set aside at room temperature for an hour to steep.
  10. After this, they will be ready to eat.
  11. If you’re not eating them right away, pop them in the refrigerator to store.
  12. Place pork, marinade and 1 cup of water into a slow cooker and cook on low for 8 hours.
  13. Once the pork is cooked, it should shred apart easily with a fork.
  14. Serve pork in corn tortillas topped with pickled red onions and fresh cilantro (and queso fresco, if you like).

  1. Heat a medium frying pan and dry fry the allspice berries, cumin seeds and peppercorns for a few minutes until fragrant. Transfer to a pestle and mortar and grind to a fine powder.

  2. Put the spice powder in a food processor or blender with the onion, garlic, chilli and annatto paste and blend until finely chopped. Add the white wine vinegar and the orange juice and blend until combined.

  3. Trim pork of skin and excess fat (leaving a thin layer). Cut the joint into four large pieces. Put into a non-metallic bowl and pour over the marinade. Stir in the bay leaves. Cover, refrigerate and marinate for at least an hour, or ideally overnight.

  4. Preheat oven to 160°C (140°C fan) mark 3. Transfer pork and marinade to a large casserole. Heat on the hob, until simmering. Cover the casserole with a lid and transfer to the oven; cook for 2½hr, basting the pork every now and again.

  5. Remove the lid, increase the temperature to 170°C (150°C fan) mark 3 and continue to cook for 1hr until the pork is tender and the sauce has thickened.

  6. Meanwhile, make the pickled onions. Put all the ingredients apart from the onions into a small pan; heat until the sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and mix in the onions. Leave for at least 1hr, stirring occasionally, until the onions have softened.

  7. Remove bay leaves from the pork. Using 2 forks, shred pork in the sauce and serve with tortillas, soured cream, avocado, coriander and pickled onions.

    GET AHEAD Up to 2 days ahead, cook and shred pork, allow to cool, then store with the sauce, covered, in the fridge. To reheat: transfer to a pan, bring up to simmer, adding a splash of water if needed, then cover and simmer until piping hot. Pickle the onions up to 5 days ahead and store in a non-metallic bowl.

    GH TIP We used Mexican corn tortillas to make this gluten free, but you could use flour ones, if you like.

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(Last Updated On: June 6, 2019)

Cochinita pibil, also known as puerco pibil or cochinita con achiote, is a traditional slow cooked pork dish from the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico. While it is available in many restaurants, the best cochinita is often found in small street stands throughout Yucatan cities.

Due to the long cooking time of the dish, stands will often open only on weekends (or just Sunday). They open early, and stay open until they run out of pork – in many cases, by 11AM. How do you find the best Cochinita? Get up early on Sunday, and check the corners of the local plazas. The best places will have a line of people, and will sell out early.

One of the ingredients that makes this delicacy unique is a Yucatan sour orange called a Naranja Agria, Bitter or Seville orange, which helps to break down the meat while also imparting a delicious citrus flavor.

The other major ingredient is Achiote chili paste (available in the international section of most major grocery stores), which adds flavor in addition to imparting a brilliant orange color to the meat.

Traditional Cochinita Pibil is cooked in a pit, adding an earthly flavor to the dish. The pork is also traditionally wrapped in banana leaves, which allows the meat to cook evenly while remaining moist. Since a pit and banana leaves are sometimes not on hand, our version is slow-cooked in the oven.

Find our recipe for Pickled Red Onions, without which a traditional Cochinita taco is incomplete!

And feel free to browse our food finds recipes section to see our complete list of recipes inspired by our ongoing travels around the world.


  • 1 pork shoulder or pork butt, 3-4 pounds
  • 6 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 tablespoon red chile powder
  • ½ teaspoon cloves
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon powder
  • 1 tablespoon Mexican oregano
  • 4 tablespoons achiote paste
  • 2 sour oranges, zested and juiced (or 1 orange and 1/2 grapefruit, zested and juiced, and 1 lime, juiced)
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • ½ white onion, thinly sliced


  1. Score and salt the pork, and set aside
  2. Toast the peeled garlic cloves in a dry pan, until they are charred all over. This provides a smoky flavor to the dish. Remove the garlic.
  3. Toast the peppercorns, cumin, red chili powder, cloves and cinnamon in the pan for one minute, until you can smell the peppercorns and cumin.
  4. Place spices, along with the oregano, garlic, achiote paste, citrus zest, juice and vinegar in a food processor or blender, and blend until smooth.
  5. Spread mixture on all sides of the pork, and place on a rack inside a dutch oven. Add 1 cup of water to the bottom of the pan. Place sliced onion on top of the pork.
  6. Cover pan, and cook at 300 degrees F for 3-4 hours, adding water as necessary to moisture in the oven. The cochinita is done when the pork is fork tender and falling apart.
  7. Remove from oven and let sit for a half hour. Use a fork to shred the port, mixing it with the juices at the bottom of the pan.
  8. Place a portion of the cochinita on a warm tortilla shell (or on freshly baked french bread). Top with pickled onions and cilantro, and serve.

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Here are a few related Mexican inspired recipes that you might enjoy!

Feel free to head over to our international recipes section to see our full collection of recipes inspired by our ongoing travels around the world.

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