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As a native South Floridian, I have eaten my fair share of Cuban Style Roast Pork (Lechon Asado). It’s easy to find pretty much anywhere in Miami, but can often be dry and bland. And, since it’s not particularly difficult to prepare, it makes more sense to just make your own. Anytime pork shoulder goes on sale at any local grocery store chain, there is a good chance that I will be making lechon asado that weekend.
I originally got this recipe from my mother, but have since tweaked and modified it to suit my personal taste. Once you get the hang of it, you will be able to go the same. You can play around with the amount and types of spices to create different flavors. Normally, you’d be roasting an entire pig in a roasting box (Caja China). But, you can achieve the same flavor with a pork shoulder and your oven to feed a smaller crowd.
This recipe requires a bit of planning, because you have to account for the time that it takes to brine and season the pork.
Let the pork soak in the brine for a day or two. If your brine doesn’t cover the pork all the way, just turn it over halfway through the brining process. If you’re short on time, prioritize brining the skinless side of the pork. The fat from the skin helps to keep the meat near the skin moist, and won’t need the brine as much.
Once the pork is ready to come out of the brine, you can make your spice rub. Use whole spices for a better flavor. Throw them into a spice grinder and grind them to a powder. Add this powder to a mortar and pestle filled with a few cloves of garlic (I pre-mince mine to make it easier) and mash away.
Remove the pork from the brine and pat it dry with paper towels. Place it on the rack of a roasting pan (mine is improvised, as you can see) and rub it with the spice rub. You might want to use a knife to make a few incisions in the skinless areas of the pork and push some of the spice rub in them. Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty. It will be worth it.
After the pork has been rubbed, cover it loosely in foil and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, but preferably overnight.
When it’s ready, it goes into a preheated oven at 225°. Roast it for about 1 hour per pound, or until the temperature of the meat reaches 190°-195°.
Isn’t it beautiful?
When the pork is ready, remove it from the oven and let it sit until you can comfortably handle it with your bare hands. That’s no more than 10 minutes for me, but not everyone has asbestos fingers. Once it’s cool enough, pull the skin off and set it aside, then shred the pork using two forks or your hands. Discard any fat.
Once the pork is shredded, you can take the pan drippings and pour them into a measuring cup. Skim off the fat and reserve the juices. You can pour the pan drippings back into the shredded pork as-is, or make some Cuban mojo sauce and add the pan drippings to the sauce.
I hear that you can make soup with the leftover pork bone, but I usually just gnaw on it like a caveman and then throw it out. The skin makes great cracklings, though.
There you have it, ladies and gentlemen. Serve Cuban Style Roast Pork with rice and beans…
…or put some on a Cuban hoagie roll and stuff your face. Just be careful who you share this with. This pork has been known to cause spontaneous marriage proposals. I suggest you don’t make this for your significant other until you’re ready to take that leap.
Cuban Style Roast Pork
1 8-10lb pork shoulder, rinsed and patted dry
For the Brine
- 2 quarts of water
- ½ cup salt
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1 medium white onion, quartered
- 6 gloves of garlic
- 8 whole peppercorns
- 2 bay leaves
- ½ tsp dried oregano
- ½ tsp cumin seeds
For the Rub
- 1 tbsp whole black peppercorns
- 1 tbsp cumin seeds
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 2 bay leaves
- 6 garlic cloves, peeled
For the Mojo
- 1 large white onion, diced
- 4 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1-2 cups sour orange juice (you can find sour oranges at your local latin grocery store)
- salt, pepper, and cumin to taste
Brine the Pork
In a medium saucepan, bring all of the brine ingredients to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 1-2 hours. Remove from heat and allow to cool completely.
Place pork shoulder in a large bowl, skin side up. Pour the brine over the pork shoulder until the pork is submerged. Cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days.
Season the Pork
In a spice or coffee grinder, combine all of the rub ingredients, minus the garlic. Grind until a fine powder.
Using a mortar and pestle, crush the garlic and the ground spices until they form a paste.
Remove the pork from the brine and pat dry. Apply the spice rub liberally over the pork shoulder. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.
Roast the Pork
Remove the pork from the refrigerator and let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes to an hour. Pre-heat the oven to 225°
Roast pork in pre-heated oven for approximately 1 hour per pound, or until a meat thermometer reads an internal temperature of 190°-195°. Remove pork from oven and allow to cool slightly before shredding.
Make the Mojo
Heat olive oil in a medium skillet. Add onions and saute until soft and translucent. Add the garlic and saute another 2-3 minutes, until fragrant. Reduce heat and add the sour orange juice. Season with salt, pepper, and cumin to taste. Stir until sauce is heated through, but do not allow it to come to a boil. Remove from heat and set aside until ready to use.