Pernil - Puerto Rican Pork Shoulder

Pernil – Puerto Rican Pork Shoulder or Picnic Ham

Pernil - a garlicky herby fall of the bone tender Puerto Rican Pork Roast with crispy Chicharron

If you’ve never had the classic Puerto Rican pork roast, Pernil, you’ve been missing out. It’s beyond fantastic – slowly roasted, garlicky, herby deliciousness, done when it’s just about falling off the bone tender.

Pernil - Puerto Rican Pork Shoulder

Pernil – Puerto Rican Pork Shoulder

Pernil is really “stupid simple” to make, but you’ll want to start a day ahead, if possible. You’re going to stab this roast all over, lovingly rub every crevice, nook and cranny with adobo, a mixture of garlic and herbs, wrap it tightly and refrigerate for up to 24 hours.

There are a couple of things you’ll need to know about buying a roast for Pernil:

  • Traditionally this is made with a picnic (unsmoked) ham, which is not a commonly found grocery store item in many areas of the US. My recipe calls for a pork shoulder or Boston butt as it is sometimes called.
  • If you go with the shoulder cut, which is just fine, look for one with the fat cap. You’ll get the roast and the cap will form crispy bits something like Chicharrón, called Cueritos. If your roast doesn’t have a fat cap, it will still be delish but you’ll prepare and cook it just a little bit differently. Instructions for both are in the recipe.
Pernil - Puerto Rican Pork Shoulder

Pernil – Garlicky, herby deliciousness!

So what do you serve with Pernil? You can go all out traditional and add Puerto Rican sides, or do like I did here in South Dakota in the dead of winter because, well because I’m an American and I can, lol! I’m just teasing, but seriously, we really can’t pick up some of the ingredients needed to make the traditional sides, and at least I didn’t use any cheese or bacon, the two most famous American condiments.

I made what I call Rice with a Puerto Rican Flair, served some black beans doctored up with cumin and garlic and a sweet Northern Style Cornbread. There were no complaints. πŸ™‚ But just to make sure, I served a Puerto Rican cocktail called Coquitos, laced with Rum.That we CAN get here! But that’s another story – and another recipe!

Pernil - Puerto Rican Pork Shoulder

Pernil – another view of that rendered fat cap.

While some don’t consider pork to be the healthiest of meats, there’s no denying how versatile and succulent it can be. And talk about a budget cut – this roast was almost five pounds at 98 cents a pound. I bought several and chucked them in the freezer. If your roast isn’t exactly a size called for in a recipe, see this handy dandy Chart.

I’ll show you a couple of ways to rework some of the leftovers from this roast and from the Country Style Ribs in the Slow Cooker I made not too long ago. I promised then, and I haven’t forgotten. πŸ™‚ In the meantime, enjoy!

Pernil - Puerto Rican Pork Shoulder

Pernil – Puerto Rican Pork Shoulder


  • Servings: varies
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print
  • 4 1/2 to 5 pound pork shoulder, preferably with the fat cap *
  • 7 to 8 cloves peeled garlic
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons vinegar

Place garlic, oregano, salt and pepper in a food processor. Pulse until the garlic is broken down. Slowly add the olive oil and vinegar and process until a relatively smooth paste is formed. Scrape down often.

Using a very sharp knife, remove the fat cap from the roast leaving it attached on one end (the narrowest) so you can lift it like a “flap.”

Stab the roast all over, deeply, forming pockets throughout the meat. Rub the paste mixture into the roast, making sure to get some of the mixture into the pockets. Place fat cap back on top.

Lay overlapping sheets of plastic wrap on the bottom of a shallow dish, using enough to hang off the sides and enough to wrap the shoulder in. Place the shoulder in the dish and pull the plastic wrap up and over, sealing tightly. Marinade for at least 6 and preferably 24 hours. If there is no time to marinade, it will still be good, but the longer, the better.

When ready to cook, remove roast from oven, unwrap and let sit for an hour at room temperature. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. for at least 30 minutes.

Place pork in a pat at least 2 to 2 1/2 inches deep. Cook, uncovered, for one hour at 400 degrees F. Turn oven down to 325 degrees F. and continue to roast until roast is tender and when a fork inserted in the side will turn easily. Calculate around 20 minutes per pound.

Watch the drippings in the bottom of the pan and add a little water if they begin to look dry. When finished if the fat cap isn’t rendered to your liking, either remove it and place it on a rack over a small pan and turn the oven up to 400 degrees to crisp it, watching carefully, or leave the roast in the oven and turn the oven up to 400 degrees until crisped.

Let roast sit for 15 to 30 minutes at room temperature, lightly covered with foil, before serving. Slice or break apart the shoulder meat, break the cueritos (crisped fat) into pieces and arrange around the meat. Keep them dry, but any juices may be defatted and drizzled over the meat.

Note: If your pork shoulder does not have a fat cap, simply stab it all over, rub, marinade, bring to room temperature & roast the whole time at 325 degrees.

If you’re looking for a few leftover ideas for this roast, think Cuban Sandwiches or Pork Fried Rice. You won’t go wrong with either!

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I’ll be taking this recipe to Fiesta Friday Link Party!

Update: I’m proud to say this recipe was one of the Fiesta Friday Features.

Pernil - a garlicky herby fall of the bone tender Puerto Rican Pork Roast with crispy Chicharron

32 thoughts on “Pernil – Puerto Rican Pork Shoulder or Picnic Ham

  1. Pingback: Pernil – Puerto Rican Pork Shoulder or Picnic Ham β€” Frugal Hausfrau – saye monibah

  2. You did it again Mollie!! This looks fabulous! I can imagine this smelling wonderful in the kitchen as it’s roasting away. It looks like leftovers would make some perfect tacos!! Fun to catch up on your bright inviting posts!! take care friend…

  3. Ok, I need to have a serious talk with my girlfriend. She’s Puerto Rican and she never made me Pernil! How rude! But she’s made me lots of Aroz con gandules and tostones, so I guess she’s forgiven πŸ˜„ But still! I need to show this to her to shame her, lol πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚

    • Oh, it did! Sometimes this is grilled – can you imagine that on a sunny California evening? πŸ™‚ Thanks for the pin, Liz!! I’ll be by soon to see what you’ve been up to! πŸ™‚

  4. Pingback: Pernil – Puerto Rican Pork Shoulder or Picnic Ham | My Meals are on Wheels

  5. I have a couple of shoulders in the freezer too. I can’t help to pick them up when they are a dollar a pound. I am definitely going to have to give this a try!

  6. Oh my goodness that looks so delicious, it would be the perfect accompaniment to all the vegetables we buy in the market and I was cooking over on the blog today! I am definitely going to try this, thank you

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