Recipes · Cooking tips · Techniques

Cuban Roast Pork (Lechon Asado)

Cuban Roast Pork (Lechon Asado)

In Cuban Culture, roast pork, or lechon asado, is the meal served on all special occasions. Christmas, Weddings, New Year’s… roast pork is on the menu. This is a traditional recipe using a homemade mojo marinade.

 

Cuban roast pork is a two-day event. The pork needs to marinate in the refrigerator overnight. Then you roast it, low and slow for hours, so make sure you plan for that.

 

Oh, and something else to plan for, have plenty of snacks on roasting day because while that pork is cooking your house will smell amazing. Everyone will be asking: “when will it be ready?” “Is it ready yet?” Enjoy!

 

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To make this Cuban Roast Pork you will need

10 pound Pork Shoulder (pork picnic)

2 Heads of Garlic, peeled, divided

1½ cups Sour Orange Juice (3-4 pounds Sour Oranges)

2 tablespoons Olive Oil

1 teaspoon Oregano, dried

¼ teaspoon Cumin

1 Bay Leaf

2 teaspoons Kosher Salt (plus 1 tablespoon to crisp the skin) divided

 

You will also need

A large pan to marinate to pork

A large marinating or roasting bag, if desired

Plastic Wrap to cover the pork while marinating

A large roasting pan with a rack

Aluminum Foil

 

Make the mojo marinade

Peel the garlic. Reserve 8-10 whole garlic cloves. Smash the remaining garlic cloves; place them on a cutting board and give them a good whack with a meat mallet.

 

Add the garlic and about ½ teaspoon kosher salt to a mortar and pestle. Work the garlic until you break it down into small flat pieces.

 

Add the smashed garlic, sour orange juice, olive oil, oregano, cumin, 1½ teaspoon salt, and the bay leaf to a medium bowl or jar. Stir or shake to combine well.

 

Let the marinade sit in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour, a couple of hours is better. Shake or stir well before using.

 

Get step-by-step instructions checking out our traditional mojo marinade recipe. There’s even a substitute for sour orange juice, just in case you can’t find them in your area.

 

Prepared Mojo Marinade in a large mason jar with the lid on

 

Marinate the pork

Cook’s notes: We lined the pan with a large roasting bag (I think they’re made for turkeys). We found them in the foil and plastic wrap section of the supermarket. These bags are great, they contain the mojo and you can seal them tight with a knot.

 

Place the pork in a large pan, make small slits (about 1-2” deep) on the skin side of the pork and insert the reserved (whole) garlic cloves into the slits. Tip: Dip the clove in the marinade for easy insertion.

 

Turn the pork over (skin side down) and make about 10-12 small slits (about 1-2” deep) in the meat. Using a ladle or spoon, start pouring the marinade into the slits you made.

 

Then pour the remaining marinade over the pork. Sprinkle another ½ teaspoon or so of salt over the pork, if desired.

Cuban Roast Pork Marinating Steps Collage

 

Seal the bag by making a tight knot on the top, or cover the pan well using a generous amount of plastic wrap. Seriously use several layers.

 

The smell of this marinating pork is strong and will permeate the refrigerator. While the pork roast marinade is delicious, I don’t want my refrigerator smelling like it for days.

Pork with Mojo Marinade in a Bag

 

Marinate the Cuban roast pork, skin side up, in the refrigerator overnight. You want the fleshy side sitting in the marinade.

 

Time to roast

Remove the pork from the refrigerator 30 – 45 minutes before roasting (providing it’s cool in your kitchen). Preheat oven to 325°F. The marinated pork will be a grayish color, that’s normal; it’s the citrus working on the meat.

Pork After Marinating Overnight

 

Place the pork on a roasting pan, skin side down. Use a roasting pan that has a rack so the pork shoulder is not sitting on the bottom of the pan.

 

Pour the marinade over the pork. Brush any loose pieces of garlic off the pork. They will start to burn quickly.

 

Also, pour just a little bit of water in the bottom of the roasting pan. You’ll have to add a little more during the roasting time too. The drippings and garlic on the bottom of the pan will start to burn and smoke. The water keeps this in check.

 

About 1½ – 2 hours into the roasting time tent the pork. Take a piece of aluminum foil (about the size of the pork shoulder) and loosely cover. Just place it on top, don’t wrap it.

 

Roast the pork for 7 – 8 hours until the internal temperature reaches at least 170° F. Check the temperature with an instant read thermometer on several different spots.

Cuban Roast Pork Underside

 

To crisp the skin

Remove the pork from the oven and carefully flip it over so it’s skin side up. Be very careful during this step as the roast is heavy and hot!

 

Fill a small bowl or cup with water and add a generous amount of salt (about 1 tablespoon for 1 cup of water), stir. Drip the salted water on the pork roast and use a brush to spread it all over the skin. Repeat several times.

Brushing Water and Salt on Cuban Roast Pork Skin

 

If you were roasting on the middle rack, like we were, move the rack down one, just so the pork isn’t sitting too close to the heat element. Switch the oven to the low broiler setting.

 

Very Important Cook’s Note

Do not leave the oven’s side until you finish this step. Turn on the oven light and look in every minute or so. The skin will crisp and brown quickly, it will go from perfectly golden brown to burnt in minutes, if not seconds.

 

Once the skin is bubbling and it may even start to crackle, carefully remove the pork from the oven and allow it to rest at least 15-20 minutes before carving. Serves 8-10

Cuban Roast Pork meat being held by a large fork

 

For more classic Cuban dinners try one of these recipes:

 

 

A roasted pork shoulder on a baking racking rack.
Print Recipe
5 from 2 votes

Cuban Roast Pork

In Cuban Culture, roast pork, or lechon asado, is the meal served on all special occasions. Christmas, Weddings, New Year’s… roast pork is on the menu. This is a traditional Cuban roast pork recipe using a homemade mojo marinade.
Prep Time1 hr
Cook Time7 hrs
Marinating overnight8 hrs
Total Time8 hrs
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Cuban
Keyword: pork
Servings: 10
Calories: 716

Ingredients

  • 10 lb. Pork Shoulder pork picnic
  • 2 Heads of Garlic peeled, divided
  • cups Sour Orange Juice 3-4 lbs. Sour Oranges
  • 2 tbsp. Olive Oil
  • 1 tsp. Oregano dried
  • ¼ tsp. Cumin
  • 1 Bay Leaf
  • 2 tsp. Kosher Salt plus 1 tbsp. to crisp the skin divided

Instructions

  • To make this recipe, you will also need:
    A large pan to marinate to pork, a large marinating or roasting bag or plastic wrap, a large roasting pan with a rack, and aluminum foil.

Make the mojo marinade

  • Peel the garlic. Reserve 8-10 whole garlic cloves. Smash the remaining garlic cloves.
  • Add the garlic and about ½ tsp. kosher salt to a mortar and pestle. Work the garlic until you break it down into small flat pieces.
  • Add the smashed garlic, sour orange juice, olive oil, oregano, cumin, 1½ tsp. salt, and the bay leaf to a medium bowl or jar. Stir or shake to combine well. Let the marinade sit in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour, a couple of hours is better. Shake or stir well before using.

Marinate the pork

  • Note: We lined the pan with a large roasting bag. We found them in the foil and plastic wrap section of the supermarket. The bag will contain the mojo and you can seal it tight with a knot.
  • Place the pork in a large pan, make small slits (about 1-2” deep) on the skin side of the pork and insert the reserved (whole) garlic cloves into the slits. Tip: Dip the clove in the marinade for easy insertion.
  • Turn the pork over (skin side down) and make about 10-12 small slits (about 1-2” deep) in the meat. 
  • Using a ladle or spoon, start pouring the marinade into the slits you made. Then pour the remaining marinade over the pork. Sprinkle another ½ tsp. or so of salt over the pork, if desired.
  • Seal the bag by making a tight knot on the top, or (if not using a bag) cover the pan well using a generous amount of plastic wrap. 
  • Marinate the Cuban roast pork, skin side up, in the refrigerator overnight. You want the fleshy side sitting in the marinade.

Time to roast

  • Remove the pork from the refrigerator 30 – 45 minutes before roasting (providing it’s cool in your kitchen).
  •  Preheat oven to 325°F
  • Place the pork on a roasting pan, skin side down. Use a roasting pan that has a rack so the pork shoulder is not sitting on the bottom of the pan.
  • Pour the marinade over the pork. Brush any loose pieces of garlic off the pork. They will start to burn quickly. Also, pour just a little bit of water in the bottom of the roasting pan. You’ll have to add a little more during the roasting time too. The drippings and garlic on the bottom of the pan will start to burn and smoke. The water keeps this in check.
  • About 1½ - 2 hours into the roasting time tent the pork. Take a piece of aluminum foil (about the size of the pork shoulder) and loosely cover. Just place it on top, don’t wrap it.
  • Roast the pork for 7 – 8 hours until the internal temperature reaches at least 170° F. Check the temperature on several different spots.

To crisp the skin

  • Remove the pork from the oven and carefully flip it over so it’s skin side up. Be very careful during this step as the roast is heavy and hot!
  • Fill a small bowl or cup with water and add a generous amount of salt (about 1 tbsp. for 1 cup of water), stir. Drip the salted water on the pork roast and brush it all over the skin. Repeat several times.
  • If you were roasting on the middle rack, move the rack down one, just so the pork isn’t sitting too close to the heat element.
  • Switch the oven to the low broiler setting.

Very Important Cook’s Note

  • Do not leave the oven’s side until you finish this step. Turn on the oven light and look in every minute or so. The skin will crisp and brown quickly, it will go from perfectly golden brown to burnt in minutes, if not seconds.
  • Once the skin is bubbling and it may even start to crackle, carefully remove the pork from the oven.
  • Allow the pork roast to rest at least 15-20 minutes before carving.

Video

Nutrition

Calories: 716kcal | Carbohydrates: 4g | Protein: 89g | Fat: 35g | Saturated Fat: 11g | Cholesterol: 303mg | Sodium: 727mg | Potassium: 1627mg | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 110IU | Vitamin C: 22.4mg | Calcium: 78mg | Iron: 5.9mg
The nutritional information above is computer generated and is only an estimate. There is no guarantee that it is accurate.This data is provided as a courtesy for informational purposes only.

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13 thoughts on “Cuban Roast Pork (Lechon Asado)”

  • I’m looking to make this tomorrow. Do you know if the meat freezes well? I’m a fan of anything I can freeze and bring out later for a quick lunch / dinner. Thanks

    • Hi Nadia. I have not frozen the pork meat so I can’t speak to the taste and texture. I do know that the pork will keep nicely for a couple of days in the refrigerator, kept covered in a container. My favorite way to heat it up is in a skillet with just a little oil. We will usually make sandwiches the next day with the leftovers. Thanks!

    • Hi. I’ve haven’t personally tested the cooking time for a smaller roast, but the general consensus is 20-30 minutes per pound (depending on the pork cut). Of course, always making sure the meat is up to temperature.


  • I made this today, and it turned out excellent. I would recommend when marinating the meat to use either a small cooking bag (I used turkey sized, which was far too large) or a large bowl or even placing a cooking bag with the meat inside of a bowl in order to more evenly marinate the meat. I used 2 large silicone kitchen tongs to rotate the meat on the rack for crisping, and they worked well. Kitchen forks might also work, but the meat is so tender that it may be torn apart by the forks. Also, make sure to add 1C of water to the roasting pan every hour or so. I added 1.5C when I put the pan into the oven, and 2 hours later I had scorched garlic in the pan.

  • OMGoodness! This will be along side our turkey this Thanksgiving! While most love a good turkey on the holiday, it is not on my favorite list! This looks delish!

    • Thanks Diana! I know what you mean. We stick to the traditional turkey for Thanksgiving but everything else, Christmas, New Year’s, Mother’s day… It’s Lechon! Enjoy and Happy Holidays!!

  • You call for “sour” oranges. Are these a special type of orange? If they aren’t available, what would you recommend as a substitute?

    • Hi Connie. Yes they are a special type of orange; they’re bitter and not as pretty. The color is not very vibrant, they’re greenish-orange and the skin is bumpy, not smooth. Definitely don’t want to snack on one! They’re not available everywhere, or throughout the year. A good substitute is to combine fresh orange juice and lime at a 2:1 ratio. So for the mojo in the roast pork you would use 1 cup of orange juice and ½ cup lime juice and stir or shake well to combine. Take a look at our mojo marinade recipe, there is step by step instructions (including the substitute for sour oranges) and pictures.

    • Hi Carol. Here are some ideas…You can slice or chop it into chunks and serve it with white rice and black beans. Or, you can go the sandwich route and shred the pork (the underside especially shreds up nicely) and serve it with paper thin onions, to make a pan con lechon, or slice the pork thin and make a Cuban sandwich with ham, Swiss cheese, pickles and a little mustard. With the sandwiches, make sure to press/panini them. Hope that helps!

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