Cochinita Pibil (piglet in achiote) – Mayan legacy to the world

Cochinita Pibil
“Tacos de Cochinita Pibil”

Cochinita Pibil – The signature dish from the Yucatán peninsula, and a delicious legacy from our Mayan ancestors, is one of the most famous in the Mexican cuisine. This mestizo dish is a wonderful result of the fusion between the Spanish and Mayan cultures.

Pibil comes from the Mayan word Pib, which means ‘cooking under ground’, where the meat cooks slowly until tender.

Cochinita means little piggy, as the original Cochinita Pibil recipe involved roasting a whole baby pig between the ages of 2 and 6 weeks. Today, the most common way is to cook it from the pork shoulder.


Pib. under ground oven to cook, steam, bake and smoke food
“Pib – Earth oven. Photo credit: Jeremias Tzul”

Pibil comes from the Mayan word Pib, which means ‘cooked under ground’. This earth oven is a hole in the ground specifically made to trap heat and bake, smoke, steam, or cook the food. With a base of embers and hot stones, the meat is wrapped in leaves and placed to be cooked for several hours under the ground. This pre-hispanic oven was used for big Mayan events, such as Hanal Pixan – rituals for the dead.

Some people believe that Yucatán was the first place in the Americas where people started to eat pork. But in the past, people used to cook a deer, a pheasant or a wild pork instead of the domestic pork. As these species became endangered, pork was used as an alternative.

Nowadays this slow-roasted pork marinated in the achiote sauce – a strongly acidic citrus juice – is cooked in a conventional oven, wrapped in banana leaves and aluminum foil to keep the heat and moisture, until the meat becomes very tender. Thanks to technology, we can save a lot of time cooking this amazing recipe. It can be prepared in a pressure cooker with great results, so in less than 1 hour you will have a delicious dish ready to serve! The slow-cooker (crockpot) is another way to cook cochinita and it is effortless.


Cochinita Pibil cooked in crockpot
“Cochinita Pibil wrapped in banana leaves”

Did you know? Guadalajara owns the Guiness Record for the largest taco in the world – made with 441 pounds of Cochinita Pibil and 44,000 corn tortillas, creating a 1.7 mile long taco!




Achiote – Annato Seeds

Achiote comes from annatto seeds, which impart a vivid burnt orange color to the food. You can find it in different versions: ground or paste.

Besides the achiote – the main ingredient of the Pibil marinade – the Yucatecan recipes always employ the juice of Seville or bitter oranges. If bitter oranges are difficult to find, lemons, limes, or vinegar are employed to approximate the effect of the bitter orange on the meat.



A variation of this dish is called Pollo Pibil, and uses chicken instead of pork.

Mayan dish -Cochinita Pibil at Cocina Corazón
“Cochinita Pibil cooking class”


Serve in tacos or tortas with cured red onions and habanero salsa. It goes perfect with white rice, black refried beans and Easy and Delicious! If you would like to discover how easy is to cook this amazing dish and impress your guests, BOOK A CLASS or host a class in your own kitchen and learn how to prepare this delight in a super fun 3 hour session.





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