RECIPE: Cochinita Pibil Tacos

Cochinita Pibil is an exquisite dish from the Yucatan Peninsula, a region whose cuisine is so different from the rest of the country, it deserves its own category. Cochinita means a suckling pig in Spanish and Pibil is Mayan for cooked underground. This underground cooking method is one of the oldest forms of roasting meat safely and every culinary tradition has some form it. I'm not sure what the legality of digging a pit and cooking a pig underground in New York City is, but I don't want to run the risk, so this recipe is for an oven. This is a great recipe for staying home on Sundays, letting the meat slowly render out its flavor.

Serves 6.

Cochinita pibil tacos


  • 4 tablespoons achiote / annato seeds
  • 2 teaspoons cumin seed
  • 6 whole allspice berries
  • 10 peppercorns
  • 5 cloves
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 1 - 3 habanero peppers
  • 1/2 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • salt
  • Banana leaves (optional)
  • 3lbs pork butt or shoulder, cut into large pieces
  • 1 small red onion
  • 1 teaspoon Mexican oregano



  1. Pre-heat the oven to 325 degrees fahrenheiht.
  2. Put achiote, cumin seed, allspice, peppercorns, and cloves in blender and grind into a coarse powder. Achiote is a very tough seed and needs ample time to break down in the blender.
  3. Add garlic, habaneros, orange juice and 1/2 cup of vinegar to blender and salt to taste. The habaneros can be too spicy for some, so be careful here on the quantity. Blend everything for roughly 4 minutes, or until most of the garlic and spices are broken up.
  4. Line a dutch-oven with the banana leaves, if using, place pork pieces inside and pour the blended spice mixture over the meat. If the meat is not 3/4 submerged in the liquid add water. Cover with more banana leaves and put into the oven. Roast for 4 hours or until the meat is falling apart and the fat has rendered out.
  5. Allow the meat to cool slightly before shredding and assembling the tacos.


  1. Slice the onion thinly and habaneros thinly.
  2. In a non-reactive bowl (I use glass) place the onion, oregano, salt, habanero. Pour vinegar over the onions and mix by hand. Let this chill in the fridge for at least 2 hours. 

Assemble the tacos using handmade tortillas on a comal. Garish with the pickled red onions. Serve with black beans and white rice.