BBQ Yucatan Pork

BBQ Yucatan Pork

A recent trip to an international market yielded plenty of treasures to play with in the kitchen.  Among my purchases were plenty of ramen, sausages from Argentina and Columbia, some amazingly fresh produce, and banana leaves!  Yep, a huge pack of them!  I knew I had to use them, so I made BBQ Yucatan Pork, or my twist on it.  “Yucatan Pork” is a version of Cochinita Pibil, a dish dating back to the Mayas.  Cochinita means “small pig,” and pibil means buried.  The dish originally involved wrapping a suckling pig in banana leaves and buried in a pit with hot coals.  It has evolved to be a pork dish, seasoned with achiote paste, wrapped in banana leaves and slow cooked.  My version uses some of the same flavors, but is adaped to be cooked on a grill.

What is achiote paste?

Achiote paste is made of annato seeds, cumin, garlic, pepper, oregeno, coriander and cloves.  You can find it in the latin food section of the grocery or in a latin market.  Achiote paste or annato is used in many traditional Mexican food dishes, and lends a wonderful deep red color to food.  It is used as a sauce, marinade or seasoning rub.  It’s one of my favorite ingredients as I love the rich earthiness it brings to dishes.  For this dish, I made a cooking sauce for the pork, and as it cooks down with the meat it turns into a rich, sauce.

Banana Leaves and adaptations

The banana leaf adds to the flavor of the dish.  You can find banana leaves in latin or asian markets.  They usually stock them frozen.  I got lucky and found some fresh ones, so thaw was nice.This recipe is really quite simple, though you will have to cook it for quite a while to get the pork lusciously tender.  If you can’t find banana leaves, don’t worry about it.  You’ll get great results cooking this in a dutch oven, or on the smoker or grill in an aluminum pan.

Alright, what do I need to do?

This really is easy-peasy and a great value as well.  I used 3 pounds of pork butt (of course, it was Prairie Fresh pork.) Since pork butt is so well marbled, I removed the fat cap from the butt.  Cut the pork into smaller pieces, around 2″ for each piece.  If you are using banana leaves, you will need two nice sized pieces.  Run the pieces under hot water a few times, and this will clean them and keep them from tearing.  For ease, I layed them criss crossed over a half-sized aluminum pan.  I seasoned the pork with my Bold BBQ rub (you should get it, but if you don’t then use your favorite seasoning.)  Then I poured the marinade over the pork and placed in a smoker at 275 degrees for 1 hour.  This allows the pork to pick up some smoke flavor.  After an hour, remove and fold over the banana leaves to form an envelope, secure with twine, and place back in the smoker for 5-6 hours or until the pork is amazingly tender.  I ended up placing the banana leaf packet back in the pan and covering with foil to ensure everything was braising along nicely.

Pickled onions are traditional

Yucatan pork is tradionally served as corn tortillas and thin slices of pickeled red onion.  I am a pineapple lover, so I peeled one, coated it with BBQ rub and sugar, and roasted it as well.  A nice slice of roasted pineapple makes anything better!

As always, I hope you enjjoy!

Looking for some other great pork recipes? Check out my recipes for Smoked pork loin with raspberry balsamic glaze or Gochujang glazed pork porterhouses!

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melissa holding taco

BBQ Yucatan Pork

  • Total Time: 5 hours 30 minutes
  • Yield: 4 people 1x


Here's my take on the famous Yucatan pork! The earthy marinade based on achiote paste lends a brilliant color and flavor to the pork. Of course, I had to incorporate some smoke into the equation!



Marinade/cooking sauce Ingredients

  • 3 lbs pork butt (cut into 2" pieces)
  • 2 TBS Melissa's Bold Rub (or your favorite spicy BBQ rub)
  • 1 cup blood orange juice
  • 1/2 cup cider vinegar
  • 1 brick achiote paste
  • 1 TBS kosher salt
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 TBS ancho chili powder
  • 1 TBS dried oregeno (mexican if available)
  • 1 lime, juice from
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 medium yellow onion (roughly chopped)

Pickled Red Onions

  • 1 medium red onion (very thinly sliced)
  • 3/4 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 TBS sugar
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne
  • 2 cloves garlic (crushed)

Roasted Pineapple

  • 1 pineapple (peeled)
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 TBS BBQ rub


For the Pork

  1. Prepare smoker to run at 275 degrees. Cut pork into pieces and season with BBQ rub. Add orange juice, achiote, vinegar, salt, chili powder, oregeno, red pepper flakes, lime juice, garlic and onion to a blender and puree. Form a "basket" with the banana leaves over an aluminun half pan. Pour marinade over pork, and place in smoker for 1 hour. Remove from smoker, fold banana leaves over pork and tie to form a basket. Return to smoker for 4-5 hours or until tender.

For the Red Onions

  1. Some people just marinade the onions in the pickling liquid for a few hours. I prefer to put in a sauce pan, bring to a boil for 2 minutes, then turn off heat and let onions/liquid cool naturally. This softens the onions somewhat and gets a stronger flavor.

For the Pineapple

  1. Peel the pineapple, leaving the bottom and top attached. Roll the pineapple in the sugar and BBQ rub. Place in smoker for 2 hours, rotating every 30 minutes.
  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 5 hours
  • Category: Main Dish
  • Cuisine: Mexican

Keywords: achiote, pork butt, tacos