This 5-ingredient cochinita pibil recipe is extra-easy to make in the Instant Pot or slow cooker, it’s full of the best savory citrusy flavors, and it can be served in everything from tacos to burritos, nachos and more.
We ate approximately 1 million tacos during our trip to Mexico City this summer. Which meant that, naturally, I came home with approximately 1 million new recipe ideas to try. (I hope you’re ready for lots of Mexican food this fall!) But amongst all of the amazing dishes we tasted, this trip officially convinced me that my first priority upon arriving back home needed to be finally learning how to make one of my favorite classic pork recipes that we saw offered at just about every street taco stand in Mexico City…
…cochinita pibil. ♡
Also known as puerco pibil or cochinita con achiote, this traditional Mexican pulled pork originally hails from the Yucatán Peninsula, but is now widely popular all over Mexico and beyond. The pork itself is flavored with a super-simple marinade of tart citrus juice and achiote paste (<– our bright-red starring ingredient that looks spicy, but actually tastes quite mild and delicious). Once the pork has been marinated in the achiote mixture, it is traditionally wrapped in banana leaves and cooked underground pit-bbq-style until it is ultra juicy and fall-apart tender and crazy delicious. It’s then shredded and served with pickled red onions and fresh cilantro, plus maybe a few sliced habañero peppers if you’re looking for an extra kick. Basically, think of cochinita pibil as carnitas’ more colorful, citrus-y, achiote-y, slow-cooked, cousin from down south. So flavorful and so good.
Well similar to pork carnitas, there are about a million ways to serve up cochinita pibil — loaded up into street tacos, tucked into burritos, sprinkled on nachos, or whatever else may sound good. Also, as is the case with most pulled pork recipes, I’m also pleased to report that cochinita pibil cooks up beautifully in the pressure cooker or slow cooker too! To be sure, this method would not be considered authentic. (Here is a recipe making pibil the traditional way.) But if you’re like me and don’t currently have easy access to banana leaves or an underground bbq pit, this recipe provides an accessible way to make a quick batch of cochinita pibil that still tastes absolutely amazing.
Oh and bonus?! With pressure cooking or slow-cooking, there’s also no need to let the pork marinate for hours and hours in advance before cooking. So all you need for this recipe is about ten minutes of prep time, plus about 1 hour in the Instant Pot (or 4-8 hours in the Crock-Pot). Then the most delicious batch of authentic-tasting cochinita pibil can be yours to enjoy in time for dinner.
Let’s make some!
Cochinita Pibil Ingredients:
Alright, let’s chat about the ingredient list first before we get to the actual recipe. To make cochinita pibil, you will need:
Achiote paste: The famous main ingredient of this dish! If you are new to working with achiote paste (pronounced ah-chee-oh-teh), it is a vivid red-orange seasoning paste made from ground annatto seeds and other Mexican seasonings. As I mentioned above, it looks like it packs a lot of heat! But in reality, it’s actually quite mild. You can purchase achiote paste Latino markets or on Amazon. (I recommend purchasing a brand without food coloring, such as Yucateco.) Or if you’re feeling inspired, you can make your own achiote paste from scratch instead.
Pork: In the Yucatán peninsula, cochinita (which means “baby pig”) pibil is traditionally made with suckling pig. But for this version, I recommend using pork shoulder or pork loin.
Orange and lime juice: This dish is also traditionally made with bitter Seville oranges, which you are welcome to use if your market carries them. But for an easy substitution, I recommend just using a mixture of freshly-squeezed orange juice and lime juice.
Ground cumin: I like adding in a teaspoon or so, just to round out the flavors in the marinade.
Salt and pepper: For seasoning.
Cochinita pibil is also traditionally served with the following toppings and/or sides:
corn or flour tortillas (for tacos, burritos, tostadas, etc)
How To Make Cochinita Pibil:
To make this easy cochinita pibil recipe in the Instant Pot (pressure cooker) or Crock-Pot (slow cooker), simply…
Prep the marinade. Combine the achiote paste, orange juice, lime juice and cumin in a blender or food processor. Then pulse briefly until combined.
Toss the pork. Slice the pork into 1.5-inch chunks. Then place the pork in the bowl of your pressure cooker or slow cooker, drizzle the marinade evenly over the pork, and toss to combine. (Then go ahead and rinse out your blender right away to prevent the achiote from staining it!)
Pressure cook or slow cook. Place the lid on your pressure cooker (set the vent to “sealing”) or large slow cooker. Then either pressure cook on manual for 40 minutes, followed by a natural release of about 15 minutes. Or, slow cook on high for 5 hours or on low for 8 hours, until the pork is tender and shreds easily with a fork.
Shred. Use two forks to shred the pork into bite-sized pieces. Give it a good toss with the remaining juices.
Season. Give the pork a taste, then season with your desired amount of salt and pepper accordingly.
Serve. Then serve the pork while warm, garnished with pickled red onions and chopped fresh cilantro (plus crumbled cotija cheese, if you would like).
Cochinita pibil can also be refrigerated in a sealed container for up to 3 days, or frozen for up to 3 months.
See below for full recipe ingredient amounts and cooking instructions.
Possible Recipe Variations:
Want to customize your cochinita pibil recipe a bit? Feel free to…
Add an onion and/or garlic: For extra flavor, thinly slice half of a white onion and a few cloves of garlic and add them to the pork mixture as it cooks.
Add heat: Add some sliced jalapeño, serrano or habañero chiles to the pork mixture as it cooks. Or for more control over the heat, just use any of those sliced chiles as a topping!
Use vinegar: If you don’t have fresh lime juice on hand, you’re welcome to sub in 1/4 cup of white vinegar instead to make the orange achiote marinade a bit more bitter.
Make it crispy: Similar to my method for making carnitas, feel free to spread the cooked pork out on a large baking sheet and pop it under the broiler for a few minutes to make the ends extra crispy if you would like.
Ways To Serve Cochinita Pibil:
There are so many ways to put a batch of cochinita pibil to delicious use! I’m especially partial to cochinita pibil tacos, topped with guacamole, pickled red onions, plus a sprinkle of cotija and cilantro. But it also tastes great in burritos, burrito bowls, quesadillas, enchiladas, fajitas, tostadas, chimichangas, flautas, nachos, sopes, chilaquiles and more.
¡Buen provecho, everyone! Hope you enjoy this recipe! ♡
This 5-ingredient cochinita pibil recipe is extra-easy to make in the Instant Pot (pressure cooker) or Crock-Pot (slow cooker), it’s full of the best sweet and savory citrusy flavors, and can be served in everything from tacos to burritos, nachos and more.
4 to 5 pounds pork shoulder or pork loin, cut into 1.5-inch chunks
Prep the marinade. Combine the achiote paste, orange juice, lime juice and cumin in a blender or food processor. Pulse briefly until combined.
Toss the pork. Place the pork in the bowl of your pressure cooker or slow cooker, then drizzle the pork evenly with the marinade. Toss briefly to combine. (Then rinse out your blender, so that the achiote does not stain it.)
Pressure cook or slow cook. Place the lid on your pressure cooker (setting the vent to “sealing”) or slow cooker. Then either pressure cook the pork on manual for 40 minutes, followed by a 15-minute natural release. Or slow cook the pork on high for 5 hours or on low for 8 hours, until the pork is tender and shreds easily with a fork.
Shred. Remove the lid. Use two forks to shred the pork into bite-sized pieces, then toss it briefly with the remaining juices.
Season. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed. (I used about 1 teaspoon fine sea salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper.)
Serve. Serve warm, garnished with pickled red onions and chopped fresh cilantro, plus any additional toppings that you prefer.
Storage Instructions: This cochinita pibil recipe can be refrigerated in a sealed container for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 3 months.