Cochinita pibil is a traditional dish from the state of Yucatán that’s cooked in an oven made inside a hole in the ground (called a pib). But did you know you can make a really good version of this dish in a slow-cooker?
When I found out that January was National Slow-Cooking Month, I knew exactly what recipe I was going to adapt for Crock-Pot cooking. I’ve always wanted to test my theory that cochinita pibil can be done in a slow-cooker, so the fact that it was a nationally recognized month-long culinary holiday-of-sorts was the perfect chance to take on the challenge.
Yes, we’ve posted a recipe here before for cochinita, but let me tell you why this one is different. We’re using a different cut of meat (boneless country-style pork ribs), an easy spice mix made from scratch (no achiote paste in brick-form here), and as with most slow-cooker recipes, you can set it and forget it, making it relatively hassle-free compared to the traditional method of making cochinita pibil.
If you’re making it for guests, you can still serve it wrapped in warm banana leaves to impress them. Just check out our original recipe for cochinita pibil for directions on how to heat the banana leaves so they’re pliable.
And finally, we’re not going to serve our cochinita pibil as a taco like you might expect–we’re going to serve them on tostadas.
This dish can also be served as panuchos by putting the refried black beans inside little tortillas, frying before adding the meat, salsa and any garnishes on top, but trust me when I say store-bought tostadas are going to save you a lot of time. Plus, this recipe is a bit healthier because we’re leaving the frying out. If you can’t find small tostadas or picaditas at your grocery store, you can make your own by either heating corn tortillas in the oven until they’re dry and crispy, or you can get the same result by cooking them longer on your comal.
But before we move on to the recipe, let’s talk a little about what a slow-cooker (or Crock-Pot) actually is so there’s no confusion because I often get asked if a slow cooker is the same as a pressure cooker. (The answer is no. In fact, they’re opposites.) A slow-cooker is a counter-top electric device that you plug in and usually has a removable glazed ceramic or porcelain pot, surrounded by a heat-conducting housing. They typically have two cooking settings: low or high, and a keep warm setting. Some of the more expensive slow-cookers have more options for controlling the heat as well as a timer with an automatic-shut off.
The point of a slow cooker is to cook things with steady low, moist heat which makes it ideal for soups, stews and cooking meats that you want to be fork-tender, but without all the fuss of watching it constantly. The lid of the slow cooker typically has a small vent in order to let some of the steam escape and can be removed during the cooking process to stir the ingredients if needed.
So now that you know the difference, let’s get slow-cooking.
What marinating the meat looks like:
Use your Crock-Pot or slow-cooker for a no-fuss, easy-cleanup variation of a classic Yucatan favorite, cochinita pibil. Tip: Serve on mini tostadas for a perfect party-treat!
- Meat and marinade:
- 1 1/2 pounds country-style boneless pork ribs
- 1 cup fresh lime juice (about 10 medium-large limes)
- 3/4 cup fresh orange juice
- 3 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1/2 of a large red onion, cut into 1/4 inch slices
- 3 tablespoons white vinegar
- 1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 1/2 teaspoon ground achiote
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoon whole Mexican oregano
- 1/2 of a large red onion, sliced into small strips
- juice of 1 large orange
- juice of 2 large limes
- 1 roasted habanero chile, finely chopped
- For tostadas:
- 1 package of small tostadas or picaditas
- 1 cup refried black beans
- THE NIGHT BEFORE: MARINATING THE MEAT - Start by squeezing the fresh lime juice and orange juice. Once you have the juice, put it in a medium to large glass bowl and add the crushed garlic. It's important to use glass rather than metal/stainless steel or plastic because glass is non-reactive and non-corrosive.
- Combine all the dry spices and mix well; then add vinegar and olive oil. Stir to incorporate the liquids and add to the glass bowl with the citrus juices and garlic. Stir well and add the pork to the bowl, making sure it’s completely covered by the juice. Cover and allow it to marinate overnight in the refrigerator.
- Making the salsa: Slice 1/2 of a large red onion into small strips and mix it with the juice of 1 orange and 2 limes. Roast one habanero on your comal or in a skillet, remove the stem (and seeds if you want to reduce some of the heat), and finely chop. Add the habanero to the salsa. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator overnight.
- THE DAY OF: Slice the remaining half onion into quarter-inch thick slices and place them on the bottom of the crock-pot. Remove the meat and marinade from the refrigerator and place the meat over the onions. Pour all the juice over the meat.
- Place the lid on the crock-pot and cook on high for 5 hours (or on low for 8-9 hours). You should NOT rush and cook this recipe on high heat for half the time - it doesn't work that way! You'll end up with tough meat.
- You’ll know it’s finished cooking when you remove a piece of meat from the crock-pot and can shred it with a fork without much effort. Shred all the pork. Place the meat in a bowl and add a little juice from the Crock-Pot to keep the meat moist.
- Heat the tostadas in the oven at 200º F for a few minutes. Spread warm refried black beans on the tostadas. Add the shredded pork on top of the beans and spoon some of the habanero salsa and onions on top of the pork.
Carrie at TikiTikiBlog! says
Beautiful, delicious, amazing! Thank you!
Maura Hernandez says
Thanks, Carrie! It was so much fun to challenge myself to make this classic recipe crock-pot style. Hope you like it!
@MauraHernandez Good recipe! Now I’m craving cochinita pibil!!
Oh… I just love that photo of the cochinitas – so colorful and appetizing!
Thanks for such a lovely description on the difference between slow and fast cooking! They are different! But where they are similar is in the result – the pressure cooker needs a little less liquid and a little more reduction but you could get an 8 hour crock-pot roast in 30 minutes in the pressure cooker.
BTW, you can open the pressure cooker FAST, to add ingredients, by running the rim of the top under cold water in the sink (without obstructing the valves) – only takes about 20 seconds!
hip pressure cooking
making pressure cookers hip again, one recipe at a time!
Maura Hernandez says
Laura, I love love love my slow cooker and my pressure cooker and I couldn’t live without either one. I have a great video recipe coming up soon using a pressure cooker. I know you can open the pressure cooker fast by running the top rim under water but it’s a method I’ve never really cared for… maybe because I’m a little scared to do it! I have a friend who sticks her hot pressure cooker in the shower and turns on the shower until it cools, which I find so bizarre but she’s been doing it for years and has never had any issues or damaged her pot by doing it. I might have to just brave up and try your method next time I need to add an ingredient though! Thanks for stopping by! I look forward to checking out some of the recipes on your site. 🙂
Laura @ hip pressure cooking says
Oh wow… I don’t know where your friend’s shower is but for me the obstacle course while holding a hot pressure cooker would be too risky.
Pop by my Facebook page to put a link to your video when it’s done!
you just made my day,you have no idea, I have been trying to find a receipe for ages for COCHINITA PIBIL, when i was a teenager, we stayed the whole summer at my aunts house (apt) in Mexico City, and this meal was one of those unforgetable meals that i have been tryong to reproduce for ever….And your theory as was mine for ages that you could do it in a crock pot is true, I am so excited to try this. The ingredients will be on next weeks grocery list. Meal planning makes my life so simple. and my slowcooker saves me time and energy. I shall have to share my receipe for tacos de desebrada.the meat is made in the slowcooker. and they come out divine.
Maura Hernandez says
Vanessa, I can’t wait to hear how your crock-pot cochinita turns out! Please come back and leave a comment to let me know.
And I’d love to test your recipe in the test kitchen. If you send me an email using the contact form on the ABOUT tab above under CONTACT ME, I’ll be sure to get back to you!
Carolyn G says
This looks so delish! I so need to try this recipe!
Maura Hernandez says
Caro, I just know you’ll love this one! So easy and very tasty! I have to make more soon because it only lasted a few days in my house. My mom was the biggest fan – she was so impressed with this version after also having eaten my original version that gets cooked in the banana leaves. And truth be told, I think I actually like this version better because it’s less fuss overall and much easier cleanup.
This is making me drool – the idea of all those yummy smells blending as it marinates, and “the day of” .. None of these ingredients are very hard to find. I’ll buy them and set up the recipe immediately
Julie Diaz Asper says
This is party food to next level.. Looks tasty!
Roxana A. Soto says
Dios mio, I might just get brave and go ahead and try this one! We were just over our compadre’s house on Sunday and we had delish cochinita pibil and I just couldn’t get enough of it! Vamos a ver que pasa….
Maura Hernandez says
Roxana, I can’t wait to hear how this turns out for you. I know you’ve been all about slow-cooking this year so I’m glad to give you another recipe to try! I love cochinita pibil, but my regular recipe can be somewhat of a hassle to make not because it’s difficult, but because there are a lot of steps and sometimes people tell me it’s also difficult to find banana leaves where they live. The slow-cooker version of this recipe, with all the spices from scratch, is so easy to make that it almost seems crazy to go through all the steps of making it wrapped in banana leaves in the oven. When I have the time to do it the traditional way, I do, but when I just need a quick fix of cochinita and I don’t have a lot of time, the slow-cooker method is perfect!
Donna @ Cookistry says
This is making me hungry! I’ve made pork in a crockpot and wrapped in a banana leaf using a Rick Bayless recipe, and it was great. And I love those pickled onions. I put them on everything.
Hi! Im mexican and this is one of my favorite dishes. Ive never cooked it before though (yes i know that is so embarrasing!) Anyway, i will try this tomorrow in the slow cooker, so hopefully it all goes well!
Laura S. says
Can’t wait to try this recipe – what a great one to adapt to the slow cooker. As for Mexican recipes I already make in the slow cooker . . . hmm . . . I think the only one so far is caldo tlalpeno but I would like to try pozole and tinga . . .
Maura Hernandez says
Laura, I promise you’ll love this. A bunch of my friends made it at their Super Bowl parties and everybody told me it was a huge hit! It’s one of my fave recipes to make in my slow-cooker. I’m working on a pozole recipe adapted for the slow cooker that I’ll hopefully be sharing soon 🙂
i cooked this, and it was reall good, my husband love it. mine was just kind of sour, but it was good.
i am mexican and dont use my crock pot that much, i guess there are no ehough recepies for mexican food.