International Recipes and Cooking Around the World

Pernil al Horno

Pernil al Horno Recipe (Puerto Rican roast pork shoulder)

(Puerto Rican roast pork shoulder)

Image Creative Commons by roland

Average: 4.3 (44 votes)

In the Puerto Rican countryside, you can often find roadside stands where whole pigs are roasted and plates of the succulent pork (lechón asado) are sold to passers-by. Pernil al horno is the popular homemade version. Pork shoulder is marinated in a flavorful mixture of garlic, oregano and vinegar and then slowly roasted until the meat is almost falling apart.

6 to 8 servings


  • Pork shoulder or butt -- 4 to 6 pounds
  • Olive oil -- 1/2 cup
  • White or red wine vinegar -- 1/3 cup
  • Garlic cloves -- 10 to 12
  • Oregano -- 1 tablespoon
  • Salt -- 1 tablespoon
  • Pepper -- 2 teaspoons
  • Flour -- 3 tablespoons
  • Butter -- 3 tablespoons
  • Water, stock, white wine or beer -- 1 1/2 cups


  1. Cut deep crosshatches in a diamond pattern in the fat covering the pork. Do not cut into the meat itself. Add the oil, vinegar, garlic, oregano, salt and pepper to a blender or food processor and process until smooth. This is your marinade, or adobo. Rub the pork all over with the marinade and refrigerate for at least 3 hours, preferably overnight, turning occasionally. Before roasting, let the meat come to room temperature by removing it from the refrigerator a half hour to hour before you put it in the oven.
  2. Preheat oven to 350°F. and place the roast, fat side down, in a roasting pan just large enough to fit it. Cover the pan with foil, place in the oven and roast for 1 hour.
  3. Remove the foil from the pan and carefully turn the roast fat side up. Place the roast, uncovered, back in the oven and roast for another 2 to 3 hours, or until the roast is very tender and well browned on the outside. Baste the meat with the accumulating pan juices from time to time. A meat thermometer inserted into the center of the roast should read 165°F when it is done.
  4. Remove the roast to a cutting board, cover it lightly with foil and let it rest for 15 to 20 minutes while you make the gravy.
  5. Knead the flour and butter together with your fingers to make a doughy paste and set aside in a small bowl. Strain the pan juices from the roasting pan and discard any fat that rises to the surface (there will be a fair amount). Add enough water, stock, wine or beer to the pan juices to make 2 cups.
  6. Bring the pan juices to a simmer in a saucepan over medium heat. Whisk small pieces of the butter-flour paste into the pan juices until the gravy is thickened to your liking. Reduce heat to low and simmer for another 5 to 10 minutes. Adjust seasoning to taste.
  7. Slice the roast thinly and serve with the pan gravy on the side.


  • The adobo marinade is traditionally made with a mortar and pestle. The blender or food processor are quicker.
  • Instead of vinegar, use the juice of two sour oranges (naranjas agrias), or the juice of one orange and two limes.


WoW!! This is the best site for tips on truely authentic Puerto Rican cooking as I remember my Abuela's kitchen. Thank you!!


Do you put it fat side up? Do you cover at the beginning or at the end?


i bought a pernil but the guy gave me two cups of a white thick cream and i have no idea what it is. maybe grease? he explained what to do in spanish and i couldn't understand. pls help, don't want to ruin thanksgiving!

I don't have any idea what that cream is, but to make a good
pernil, buy a 6-7 pounder and season it well. Place in fridge
overnight and remove from fridge 1 hour before placing in
oven. Place in oven for 1 hour at 400 degrees then lower heat
to 300 and cook another 3 hours. It should come out great!!

Possibly it's the "roue" for making gravy? A watery starch mixture (flour, cornstarch...) which acts as a thickening agent. That's my only guess.

I want to know how to get the fat nice and crispy when cooking Pernil al Horno
Also, would like the original recipe for Pasteles and also Rice with Pink beans.

I too would like to know how to get the fat nice and crispy...and also the recipe for pasteles.thank you

well when u are actually getting the pernil seasoned you just put salt on the "cuerito" or the skin wich that's what's the cuerito is hope this help you... lol and sorry about my english i need more practice.

Hello, I am of Puerto Rican descent, I cook my lechon in the oven till the meat is at proper pork temperature in the center. Slow and low about 7 hours. Then, I take the Lechon out of the oven and using a fillet knife I remove the skin by sliding the knife under the skin and avoiding the flesh. I remove the skin and cut a straight line with my kitchen shears in it so that I will be able to lay it flat on the top of my lechon. Before I apply it though, I always scrape the fat off the back of the skin and off the flesh as well. But if you believe that your meat is done enough you can place the skin with the out side facing up on a foil lined cookie pan, in either case put the broiler on. Keep an eye on it, when the skin is medium brown and bubbly it will be crispy similar to pork rinds. Just for info. I season my lechon with a mash of minced garlic, kosher salt, fresh ground black pepper and oregano generously. I pierce deep holes all around the pork through the skin and press the mash inside. I also rub it all over the outside lightly and let it sit in the refrigerator all day and overnight. I like to prepare thhis early in the morning the day before. I hope you like it! All my friends do. Eva

I'm having a hard time with the skin (cuerito) to look nice and crispy... How long I have to leave in the oven?
I just got married and my lovely husband is from Puerto Rico, so I'm trying to learn how to make a good Pernil...

Hi, My name is Elizabeth my family as myself are Puerto Rican and I've learned to make pernil since I was 12 and I'm 36 now. I've been taught to yes roast the pernil to start fat side down covered with foil, start temp at 350 for an hour to heat the inside of the pan then turn down to 300 to 325 ovens vary for about 4 1/2 hrs. take out of the oven carefully flip the pernil over the cuerro is very tender. Baste the pernil with juices from the pan dont be afraid to puncture meat with baster to get the juices and flavor into the meat. Recover with foil and roast until pernil is 3/4 done (about 3 hrs. depending on size of pernil) turn up heat to 375 and uncover the pernil baste it and leave in about 1 more hour the cuerro becomes nicely browned and crispy. works for me evey time every week. I make arroz con gandules y tosino and pernil almost every week. My dad means the world to me and was born and raised in Puerto Rico and thats his favorite meal especially at Christmas time and I love to see him happy. You might also try to make alcapurrias and pappa rey yena. Those are some of his favorites also. Good luck.

I first would like to comment on your character. What an amazing wife you are to learn to cook PR food for your husband. He is going to appreciate this on a deep level. Unfortunately, my wife doesn't like to cook, but her beauty makes up for it. I have learned how to cook PR food from my mom. If you're having problems with crispy skin you could rub olive oil on your pork. But it shouldn't be a problem. Try 350 degrees covered for 3 hrs, take off the lid for the last hr to crisp up the skin. Also, Goya makes a bitter orange marinade that I sometimes use on my Pernil. It adds a unique citrus flavor to your Pernil that your husband might enjoy. There are also some good Pr cookbooks out there. Try "Daisy Cooks!" But you'll learn that everyone make their sofrito differently. Anyway, Good luck!!!!

When I make pernil, I cook it covered at 350* for the first 3 hours. Afterwards, I pour off the fat, and continue to cook it at 400-450* without the cover until the skin gets hard.

mira nena, if you want the crispy skin, after it is completely cooked, set it to broil. mix water and salt in a spray bottle and spray it a few times. this will cause it to crisp up almost instantly. just keep an eye on it so you dont burn the skin.

Ok so I think I cheat a bit with the seasoning. I buy a large picnic and peel the skin almost all the way off, leaving it attached at the end of the bone. I pierce the meat in several places then coat with a mixture of adobo, garlic powder, pepper and vegetable oil. Then I marinate it in about half a bottle of mojo and leave it in the fridge approximately 24 hrs, turning every few hours so it's all coated. The next morning I put it in a covered roaster at 250 degrees. After approx 5 hours, depending on the size of the shoulder, it should start coming off the bone. At that point put the oven on broil at 300 degrees to have the skin get crispy. Just watch it closely. Deelish!
PS you can use this also for a wicked pulled pork by taking the meat off the bone and adding mesquite marinade for the last 1/2 hour.