Puerto Rican Pernil (roast pork shoulder)

Okay, I’ve finally decided to start writing out recipes for you all. I know it’s taken me a while – I just haven’t brought myself to do it previously since A. I don’t measure when I cook – which makes writing out precise recipes difficult, and B. figuring out a precise recipe and then writing it all out is v time consuming 😅 But anyway – I’m going to start by back tracking and posting recipes I’ve recorded on Instagram Reels before. This is one of those!

Pernil is a traditional recipe in Puerto Rico – commonly enjoyed during our record-long holiday season (November through mid-January). It is cooked slowly in the over on low temp, and dressed in a blend of traditional seasonings and spices. We had pernil at our wedding in Puerto Rico and it was a huge hit with everyone who traveled in.

Pernil is seasoned and cooked based on it’s weight, so the following recipe is listed PER POUND. Multiply the quantity of each ingredient be the weight indicated on your pernil package.


Pork shoulder or Boston Butt, 1/2 lb. per person

1 tsp. Olive oil

1/4 tsp. oregano

1/2 tsp. adobo seasoning

1/2 tsp. sazon seasoning

1 clove garlic, minced

1 whole peppercorn, or substitute 1/4 tsp. ground black pepper


Note: It’s best to marinate and refrigerate your pernil for a few hours, or as long as overnight if possible, for maximum flavor. If you don’t have time – don’t worry! It will still be delicious.

If frozen, defrost the pernil in the refrigerator. When ready to cook, let come to room temp, about 30 mins, before seasoning.

Don’t forget to multiply the ingredients listed above per pound, then combine in a small bowl and set aside.

Separate the top layer of fat/skin from the meat with a knife, being careful not to fully detach it.

Using a knife, puncture the pernil all over – top, bottom, under the slit of fat, sides, etc! A few slits per side, about 1 inch long and 1 inch deep is great.

Using clean and/or gloved hands, rub the marinade mixture all over the pernil, ensuring to insert it into the punctures. Don’t forget the bottom!

Refrigerate for a few hours up to overnight, if you can!

When you’re ready to cook, preheat oven to 325.

Place pernil in oven safe roaster pan and cover with aluminum foil. Cook for 45 – 60 minutes PER POUND.

Once the initial time is up, remove the tin foil and return the pernil to the oven for at least 30 more minutes, to crisp up the skin. You can up the temperature here up to 375.

Let your pernil rest and cool before transferring to a bowl and shredding with a fork. Reserve a little of the cooking juice to drizzle and mix into the meat, if you want extra jus!

Serve with traditional Puerto Rican sides like Arroz con Gandules, Ensalada de Papa or Ensalada de Coditos.


The Boston Butt cut of pork shoulder is usually bigger – I suggest this cut if you’e cooking for a larger group. This cut is known to be slightly less tender/juicy – so you may consider cooking even “lower and slower” than above. I opt for the regular shoulder cut when possible.

Not all grocers sell cuts with the skin or “cuerito” still attached. This will change the directions slightly as you won’t have any skin to crisp up.

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