If you’re not familiar with cochinita pibil tacos, it’s time to get to know them. Cochinita pibil has long been my favorite Mexican dish. You can only find it at a handful of restaurants around here. When you do, you know you’ve struck culinary gold.
Ginny and I have been glued to our new favorite TV show, Chef’s Table. One of the episodes features a woman in southern Mexico who is a master of making cochinita pibil. Cochinita is Spanish for “little pig” and pib is a Mayan word that refers to the pit in the ground in which the meat is cooked. The full term, pibil, refers to the method of cooking the pig in the ground. This dish goes back hundreds of years in Mayan culture to pre-Columbian times. According to the woman on the show, it is a special dish that is cooked on weekends to bring the whole family together. I would certainly come over for dinner if this was on the menu!
The marinade for the pork is a delicious tangy mixture of achiote paste (made from annato seeds), citrus juice, spices and vinegar. The result you get from this mixture is unlike any other sauce you’ve ever had. You top it off with quick pickled red onions served on a homemade corn tortilla. It’s simply amazing!
Disclaimer: this dish is traditionally made by first digging a pit in the ground and filling it with hot coals. The meat slow cooks over the coals overnight and is ready the next morning. This recipe has one tiny shortcut. I made it in the Instant Pot in 50 minutes. I know, easy right? It was more delicious than I had imagined it would be. I’ve never had it cooked in the ground so I can only imagine how good that would be.
For a rich and complex dish, this recipe is surprisingly easy. You just cut up a pork but into chunks, throw it in the Instant Pot and cover it with the achiote paste marinade. A 3-4 pound pork butt cooks for about 50 minutes and it’s ready to shred and go into the tacos.
Make sure to shave off as much extra fat from your pork as possible so you get a leaner final product. Most pork shoulder/butt you buy has more than enough fat on it to keep it juicy while cooking.
There are several ways to serve this dish. You could go really Paleo and serve it as shredded pork with some pickled onions. Add a guacamole salad and you’ve got a perfect Paleo meal. I served it on homemade corn tortillas with guacamole and chips on the side. Stay tuned for a post on my homemade tortillas. They are easier than you think to make.
If you’re wondering about the ingredients, they arepretty easy to find. I picked up some achiote (annato) paste at nearby Mexican grocery store. Sometimes even Walmart carries this paste. It is the base of the sauce and the rest is easy to find in a decent grocery store.
If you cook the pork in an Instant Pot, be sure to save some of the cooking liquid in the pot. It is the perfect thing to drizzle over your finished tacos to make it sooooo juicy.
PREP TIME: 10 minutes COOK TIME: 50 minutes SERVINGS: 8
- 3-4 pork butt, fat shaved off and cut into chunks
- 1/2 cup achiote sauce mix (see list below)
- juice of one orange
- juice and zest of two limes
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 tsp cumin
- salt and pepper to taste
for the achiote sauce:
- 1/4 cup achiote (annato) paste
- 3 whole cloves
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tsp coriander
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp oregano
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 1 tsp minced garlic
- juice of one lime
- 1/4 cup white vinegar
- Pour all the achiote sauce ingredients into a blender and mix until smooth.
- Take trimmed pork cubes and place into Instant Pot. Pour achiote paste mixture over the pork and rub it in well.
- Add orange juice, lime juice, water and cumin to Instant Pot and stir to get even coverage on the pork.
- Cook the pork at pressure for 50 minutes. Add salt if needed. Remove meat and shred with a fork, removing an excess fat.
- Serve on corn tortillas with some pickled red onion, cotija cheese and/or guacamole salad.