Any trip to the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico is not complete without one (or preferably, more than one) samplings of Cochinita Pibil. This version of slow-cooked pork is likely the most famous dish from this region in Mexico.
The meat is flavored with achiote and sour oranges, and slow cooked to perfection. It’s also a perfect dish to make in the Instant Pot. It comes out succulent and juicy, and is perfect in tacos or in a fresh bread roll (torta).
Before the Spanish arrived in what is today Mexico, Mayan people made the dish with game meats such as venison and wild boar. Today’s cochinita resulted from traditional Mayan cooking methods and pre-Hispanic spices blending with pork introduced by the Spanish.
In fact, word cochinita comes from “cochi”, meaning “the one who sleeps,” because local Mayan people observed that pigs went to sleep after eating.
Before cooking, the pork leg, shoulder, or even whole suckling pig, is first rubbed with a paste made from a mixture of achiote, bitter orange juice, and spices for eight hours or more.
The traditional cooking method utilizes an underground oven, called a pib (hence the “pibil”). A large hole is dug in the earth, and it is lined with burning wood and hot stones, and cover the pit with local wood and more banana leaves.
The meat is wrapped in banana leaves and placed in the hole. The oven is then covered with wood and more banana leaves, and the meat slowly steams for hours, emerging tender and moist.
This traditional labor-intensive cooking method is rarely used any more. The dish is now normally made stovetop or in the oven. We’re making it even simpler (and far less time consuming) by utilizing the Instant Pot.
The distinct color of the dish comes from a generous use of achiote, made from ground annatto seeds. The annatto tree originates in Central America and Mexico, and produces a fruit pod filled with red seeds. The achiote paste made from these seeds is bright orange or red, and will impart that color to anything it touches – including your hands while prepping the dish.
Achiote is still used today, as it was in Mayan times, as a natural coloring in things like butter and cheese. In addition to brilliant color, the annatto emparts a nutty, earthy flavor that is quite unique.
Bitter oranges or Seville oranges called “naranja agria” in Mexico are an equally important ingredient in this recipe. The bitter citrus juice not only adds a distinct flavor to the dish, but the acidity also helps to break down the meat to make it even more tender. And don’t worry, if you can’t find the oranges, the recipe below offers a substitution made from a mix of oranges and limes.
Don’t forget to Pin this recipe or bookmark it for later!
Here are some additional Instant Pot Recipes you might enjoy!
- 1 pork shoulder or pork butt meat, 2-3 pounds
- 5 garlic cloves, peeled
- 3/4 tablespoon black pepper
- 1 tablespoon cumin
- 1 tablespoon red chile powder
- 1/4 teaspoon cloves
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon powder
- 1 tablespoon Mexican oregano
- 4 tablespoons achiote paste
- 2 sour oranges, zested and juiced (or 1 orange and 1/2 grapefruit, zested and juiced, and 1 lime, juiced)
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- ½ white onion, thinly sliced
- Pickled Onions (as a garnish)
- Chopped Cilantro (Optional)
- Salt and cut the pork into even sized pieces, and set aside
- Turn the Instant Pot to "Saute"
- Toast the peeled garlic cloves in dry pot, until they are charred all over. This provides a smoky flavor to the dish. Remove the garlic.
- Toast the peppercorns, cumin, red chili powder, cloves and cinnamon in the pan for one minute. Remove from pot.
- Blend the spices, along with the oregano, garlic, achiote paste, citrus zest, juice and vinegar, in a food processor or blender, until smooth.
- Place pork in the Instant Pot.
- Pour spice/liquid mixture into the pot, and turn the pork to make sure the meat is completely coated with the mixture.
- Place sliced onion on top of the pork.
- Add enough stock to pot so the pieces of pork are just covered with liquid.
- Close the Instant Pot, making sure the vent is set to "sealing".
- Cook on manual for 60 minutes, allowing natural release for 20 minutes.
- Shred the pork in the pot and make sure it is mixed well with the juice. Let it sit in the juice for at least a half hour.
- To serve, place a portion of the cochinita on a warm tortilla shell (or on freshly baked french bread).
- Top with pickled onions and cilantro.