Cuban roast pork is as Cuban as it gets, folks. This traditional Cuban dish is known as lechon asado in Spanish, and it’s the go-to feast for every special occasion. It’s served for Christmas and, in many Cuban homes, for Thanksgiving, too! The pork is marinated overnight or even longer and then cooked until it falls off the bone and the skin is super crispy.
This dish is such a main event that I couldn’t call myself a Cuban blogger and not have a recipe for Cuban roast pork on my blog. In fact, I didn’t consider myself a full adult until I made my first lechon asado by myself.
Pork Shoulder or Whole Pig?
Depending on the size of your party, you might make a bone-in pork shoulder or a whole pig. We’re a small family, so I’ve only made the pork shoulder. But it’s not unusual for Cubans to make a whole pig. In that case, they usually use a special BBQ roaster called a Caja China (Chinese Box). This cooks the lechon asado in record time with a super crispy skin. (Between you and me, I much prefer the pork roast, the whole pig is a little intimidating!) Don’t tell mom ?
You might wonder why the roaster is called a Chinese Box. No one knows for sure, but I’ve heard two main theories. The one that makes the most sense is that it’s called a Chinese Box because we like to label anything clever or complicated as originating from China. It may not be very PC nowadays, but it is what it is ?
What Makes Lechon Asado So Dang Good!
I’m not a huge pork fan, but this is my favorite way to eat pork! What makes this dish so good? First, it’s the tangy marinade which we’ll talk more about in a minute. And then it’s the crispy bits of meat that are fall of the bone tender and packed with hours and hours of mojo flavor.
But what gets me every time is the crackling. Roast pork with crackling is my guilty pleasure. The crispy, tasty skin that’s cooked until it crackles. This is hard to understand if you’re not Cuban. But Southerners will understand.
At Mami’s house, cooking the pork is a group effort and a spectator sport. Everyone ends up checking the pork roast to see how it’s doing. But I am not fooled. What they’re really doing is scoping out the crackling so they can get first dibs. I see you, little brother ?
The Roast Pork Marinade
The secret to the tastiest pork is to infuse the pork roast with tons of mojo marinade. Mojo is an all-purpose Cuban marinade made with sour oranges, garlic, cumin, oregano, salt, and pepper.
The marinade is inserted into the meat using a turkey baster, and the larger garlic pieces are usually inserted under the skin using a knife. I use the baster a bit, but mostly I end up cutting slits into the roast and filling them with garlicky mojo. You need to let the roast pork sit in the marinade at least overnight, but longer is better.
How To Cook A Roast Pork
The pork sits in the marinade overnight (I can’t emphasize this enough). Then it’s cooked in the oven at 325 degrees for about 4-5 hours, depending on the size of the pork roast. A good rule of thumb is to cook it for about 30 minutes per half a pound.
You need to watch the roast to ensure the skin doesn’t burn and that your less scrupulous family members have not tried to nab a little burnt piece while your back is turned. I usually loosely cover the roast with a tent foil once the skin is crispy to avoid overcooking it.
What To Eat With Lechon Asado
Another must-have side dish for this meal is boiled yuca smothered in onions and mojo sauce. Yuca is a dense and starchy root vegetable also known as cassava. It’s served with lots and lots of onions drenched in mojo sauce.
Of course, you finish this epic meal with the traditional caramel flan. It’s the most popular Cuban dessert, and it’s always served with lechon asado.
What To Do With The Leftover Pork
The best part of this meal is the leftovers! In fact, you always want to make sure to have leftovers to make pan con lechon with yuca fries. The leftover pork bits are pan-fried with a little mojo, topped with sauteed onions, and served on Cuban bread. And the leftover yuca is cut into thin planks and fried. The result is crunchier, heartier “fries.”
I think I actually like the leftovers even more… except that there’s never any leftover crackling ?Print
Traditional Cuban roast pork is marinated overnight or even longer and then cooked until it falls off the bone and the skin is super crispy.
Bone-in Pork Shoulder, 10 pounds
4 ounces sour orange juice (see note)
3 tablespoons crushed garlic
1 1/2 tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground oregano
Juice the sour oranges and mix the garlic, spices and salt and pepper.
Open slits throughout the pork roast and insert the marinade into the roast using a turkey baster . Concentrate the slits on the bottom side of the roast that doesn’t have skin, so you don’t mess up the skin too much.
Place the pork skinless side down in a pan, cover with foil and place the refrigerator for 8-10 hours or overnight.
Heat the oven to 325 degrees and roast the pork, skin side up in the oven for 4 1/2 to 5 hours. Test for doneness with a meat thermometer, it should register 140 degrees at the thickest part.
You may need to cover the skin with a tent foil, if the skin starts to burn.
Sour oranges are available in Latin markets, but if you can’t find you can substitute half lime juice and half orange. You probably need 3-5 oranges.
The suggested yield is a guesstimate. Honestly, I’ve never fed 15, but I always have leftovers for the next day, unless we pig out ?
- Serving Size: 15
Keywords: Lechon asado, Cuban roast pork, Roast pork sandwich, Pan con lechon, Lechon, Roast pork marinade, Roast pork with crackling, Leftover pork roast recipes, How to cook a roast pork