Pernil (Puerto Rican Roast Pork)

One day I met a Puerto Rican guy and we started talking about food. (I’m obsessed with food, bite me!) I noticed that he knew a lot of Filipino dishes — longanisa, lechon and my all time favorite, bangus (milkfish), etc. So, I asked him why he seems to know a lot of these dishes and he said that it’s the closest he can get to Puerto Rican food. WHAAAT?!

So I wondered, what is Puerto Rican food? And why is it so close to Filipino food? Aside from the obvious that both countries were conquered by the Spaniards. I looked it up on the world map, Puerto Rico and the Philippines are also on the same latitude. Ever watch Mind Of A Chef? Season 3, Episode 6 — Ed Lee talks about latitude and how it is closely related to food, flavours and cooking.

So after pinning and reading various recipes I decided to actually make something. First of all, I live in Tofino, some ingredients are just not accessible to me. So when it came to deciding what to make, it was a toss-up between the pork or Carne Guisada (which looks like Caldereta), I wasn’t sure I could get whole pork shoulder at the Co-op. But I did! You know what I couldn’t get? Adobo seasoning, so I improvised! I looked up what spices are in adobo seasoning and made it up. The only problem that I see here is getting the ratio of spices right,  you can definitely make your own or if you know someone’s Puerto Rican abuela who will give away her secret adobo spice blend. If you can buy the spice blend, just buy it. Although, I prefer getting an abuela’s secret spice blend, just like I want a someone’s nonna to teach me how to make pasta.

There are plenty of recipes online to refer to when making Pernil. I am not exactly sure if this is authentic and I should also say that I have never made or eaten Pernil before. I do not have a point of reference. I just know how to cook meat. I also made a few tweaks of my own! And lastly, I’m a chef but I am useless at measuring my ingredients.


  • Pork Shoulder with the fat cap on
  • Adobo Seasoning
  • Sazon Seasoning, optional — I didn’t use this.
  • 250 ml green olives
  • 3 bulbs of garlic, peeled, divide into 3 piles
  • 2 small white onions, rough chop, divide into 1/3 and 2/3 piles
  • 1 medium green pepper, rough chop, divide into 1/3 and 2/3 piles
  • 1 medium red pepper, rough chop, divide into 1/3 and 2/3 piles
  • 4 jalapeños, rough chop, divide into 1/3 and 2/3 piles
  • 1 bunch of cilantro, save the stems!
  • Brine – 2L water, 125 g salt, 100 g sugar and adobo seasoning.


Make the brine by bringing up 1L of water, salt sugar and 1/3 of adobo seasoning to a simmer, until dissolved. Add the other liter of water to cool it down. Cool down completely before putting pork in. Leave overnight in the fridge.


Preheat oven to 350C.

Pulse green olives and 1/3 of garlic in the blender with some ground pepper. Set aside. Remove the pork from the brine and pat dry. Rub adobo seasoning all over the pork. Cut into the pork to make pockets. Stuff the garlic and olive paste into the pockets.

Put 1/3 of onions, peppers, garlic and cilantro stems in the bottom of roasting pan. Put the pork on top and cover with aluminum foil. Put in the oven to bake for 2-3 hours or until the internal temperature reaches 160F. And then broil on low to crisp fat cap.

*You can add some water, broth or white wine to keep the pork moist.

In a blender, pulse 2/3 of the onions, peppers, garlic and cilantro to make sofrito (Spanish mirepoix).

While waiting for the pork, I made rice and Brussel sprouts! For this, I sautéed 1 cup of sofrito in some oil, added 2 1/2 cups of rice. Added some of the pork jus and measured out additional water to completely cook the rice. I used the finger trick to measure my rice and liquid ratio.

For the record, I am well aware the Brussel sprouts are not exactly Puerto Rican but I love them. In a very hot stainless steel pan, I added some oil and carefully placed the flat side of my brussel sprout halves to roast it, making it nutty and delicious. When it’s all roast-y, I added 2 spoonfuls of sofrito. And continued to cook it until tender. Season to your taste.

I had SO much sofrito left! So, with the rest I made a bit of relish. For this, I added lemon salt and pepper to taste.

Makes 3-4 servings. (Three people if you’re feeding Allison.)

My friends enjoyed the meal and thought it was really good! Pork was super tender! Which I was happy about! But none of us has ever had Puerto Rican food before! Haha

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