Every year, as a kid, I remember looking forward to seeing relatives and cousins that I hadn’t seen since Christmas Eve and staying up way past my bedtime. Christmas is my favorite holiday ever.
My uncle would get up at the crack of dawn on Christmas Eve to marinate a pig which would lay completely sliced open on the table. It was quite a sight! He would marinate the pig with mojo while making sure the skin was very dry in order to achieve that delicious crunch pork skin that we all love so much. It was the best.
I remember every Noche Buena dinner just brimming with delicious mojo roast pork and all the fixings. Plus, all those leftovers were enjoyed for lunch on Christmas day the next day.
And while the roast pork was never made in the oven (it was made outside in the ground or in a ‘caja china‘), this traditional recipe that I’m sharing with you today is marinated Cuban-style with a flavorful homemade garlic-citrus marinade and slow-roasted in the oven to perfection.
This is one of those traditions that I feel everyone should adopt. Add it to your menus this year! I promise this Cuban roast pork recipe is SO good, that you’ll want to make it all year long.
When you’re done with this recipe, make my Vaca Frita Recipe (Cuban Crispy Shredded Beef)!
Ingredients for the Garlic Paste for Lechon Asado
First things first, we have to make a seasoned garlic paste. Here’s what you’ll need:
- Black peppercorns
- Onion powder
- Olive oil
You mash all these up together either in a mortar and pestle or in a food processor until you get a paste.
Recommended For This Recipe
How To Make Cuban Roast Pork with Crispy Skin
- Separate the skin from the pork. Why is this important? Well, when you gently separate the thick pork skin from the pork, you’re able to marinate the actual roast. But make sure not to cut the skin off completely. We need the skin for crispy pork cracklings!
- Marinate the pork. Now that the skin is flapped over, pierce the pork a few times with the knife and pour the mojo marinade over it. Next, rub the garlic paste, evenly, all over the pork, and then place the skin back down. Cover the entire roasting pan with aluminum foil and place it in the fridge to marinate for 2-3 hours or overnight. The longer, the better.
- Time to roast! Remove the pork from the fridge, allow it to come to room temperature, remove the foil, and pat the skin down with a paper towel before roasting. The dryer the skin, the crispier it will be! Roast for 4 hours with the mojo marinade and garlic paste.
- Get that crispy skin. After 4 hours, remove the roasting pan from the oven. Increase the oven temp to 450 degrees F. Remove the foil and drain the liquid but do not discard it. We’re going to use that later. Bake the pork for another 30 minutes, uncovered, to crisp up the skin. Keep an eye on it to make sure it doesn’t burn!
- Shred the pork! After 30 minutes, remove from oven and allow to rest for 20 minutes before shredding with two forks. Feel free to pour the leftover marinade mixture over the shredded pork before serving.
If you have any leftovers, why not make my Cuban Sliders with Shredded Roast Pork?
How long do you cook Cuban lechon asado in the oven?
A good rule of thumb is to roast the pork for 30 minutes for every pound.
- 8-pound pork roast = 4 hours
- 9-pound pork roast = 5 hours
- 10-pound pork roast = 6 hours, etc.
As long as the internal temperature reads 145 degrees F on a food thermometer, it’s fully cooked.
What does mojo pork taste like?
Mojo pork tastes like the perfect combination of citrus, garlic, and spices. It’s not spicy at all. On the other hand, it’s slightly sour and tangy.
Plus when you marinate the pork with the garlic paste and mojo marinade, it tenderizes the meat bringing out the fresh flavors while it’s in the oven. That’s why it’s so darn delicious!
Allow the pork to marinate for at least 4-8 hours or overnight for maximum flavor.
Have leftover pork? Make my Masitas de Puerco (Cuban Fried Pork Chunks)!
Do you cover the pork roast in the oven?
Yes! Covering the roasting pan with aluminum foil helps lock in the flavor and retain the meat’s juiciness. Before you do that, however, lightly spray the aluminum foil with nonstick cooking spray.
This helps the foil not get stuck to the skin while it’s roasting in the oven. I made the mistake of not spraying the foil and all that delicious pork skin crackling was stuck to the foil. It was upsetting!
- Room Temperature: It’s not recommended to store the shredded pork at room temperature for an extended period due to the risk of bacterial growth. Serve it fresh or refrigerate it promptly.
- In the fridge: Store leftover lechon asado in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days. To reheat, place it in the oven at a low temperature to maintain its tenderness.
- In the freezer: To freeze, wrap portions of lechon asado tightly in plastic wrap and then aluminum foil or a freezer-safe container. It can be frozen for up to 3 months. Thaw it in the refrigerator before reheating.
Honestly, I can’t say anymore good things about this Cuban-style roast pork. It’s one of my favorite traditions from my childhood and I hope it becomes a tradition in your family too!
Tender Lechon Asado (Cuban Roast Pork Recipe)
- In a mortar and pestle, mash the garlic cloves, salt, peppercorns, onion, oregano, cumin, and olive oil until you get a paste. You're going to use this paste along with the mojo marinade for the pork. Set aside.
- Grab the thick pork skin that is on top of the pork. Using a sharp knife, gently separate the skin from the pork enough for it to flap over backward. Do not cut it off completely.
- Using the same knife, pierce the now uncovered pork a few times and pour the mojo marinade all over it. Leave the skin flap flipped back the whole time.
- Next, generously rub the garlic paste, evenly, over the pork then flip the skin back down to cover the garlic paste. The skin must remain dry.
- Cover the entire pork roast with aluminum foil and place in the fridge to marinate for 2-3 hours or overnight. The longer, the better.
- When you're ready to roast the pork, preheat the oven to 375ºF.
- Remove the pork from the fridge and allow it to come to room temperature.
- Pat the skin of the pork with a paper towel before roasting. Remember the dryer the skin, the crispier it will be. This is the best part of Cuban roast pork! Leave the marinade in the roasting pan and the garlic paste on the pork. You will cook the pork with both of them.
- Lightly spray aluminum foil with nonstick cooking spray. Cover the pork and the entire roasting pan with the oiled foil. This will help the foil not get stuck to the pork skin while it is roasting in the oven.
- Place the pork shoulder in the oven and roast for 4 hours until the internal temp is 180ºF. (A good rule of thumb is to roast the pork for 30 minutes for every pound. Example: An 8-pound pork roast would cook for 4 hours.)
- Bake for another 30 minutes, uncovered, to crisp up the pork skin. Keep an eye on it to make sure it doesn’t burn!
- Remove the roasting pan from the oven and allow the pork to rest for 20 minutes before shredding it with two forks.
- Feel free to pour the leftover marinating liquid that you drained from the roasting pan over the now shredded pork so it stays juicy, moist, and delicious. Serve the roast pork with yuca and congri/moros. Enjoy!