Slow Cooker Achiote Pork: The Old-World Original Pulled Pork Recipe

by Donna on April 5, 2011

achiote pork square

Old-World Pulled Pork Recipe – Achiote Pork, ancient Aztec version updated

I am guessing that pulled pork is one of those dishes, like spaghetti sauce, that varies from family to family. So many great versions out there!

Puerto Ricans call it Pork Pernil. Each state in America’s South has its own version. But “pulled pork” is actually an ancient dish from the Aztecs. I decided to go to the ultimate authority on foods south of our border, Rick Bayless. Let me just start by saying that Rick Bayless is a genius.

Seriously, he is a brilliant Rock Star Top Chef, but at the same time creates recipes that are home-cook friendly. Exhibit A: his Achiote Pork, more complete name: Achiote Cochinita Pibil, or slow cooked pork in a pit. This is made with achiote (annato seeds) paste and onions. Oh, yes, and a huge pork roast. All wrapped up in banana leaves.

So, the original ancient recipe calls for digging a pit (kind of like luau pork) and letting it roast all day. But. Top Chef Bayless, genius that he is, created a slow-cooker version. Genius, I tell you. I decided to go with Top Chef Bayless’ version because that is obviously easier. Also, my husband would have divorced me if I suggested digging up the back yard.

We made this for our weekly Sunday dinner and I had people gobbling up every single morsel and a few asked if they could lick their plates. Yes, it’s that good.

You will have to go to a Latino specialty store – but it will be well worth the trip! You need banana leaves  (I bought a frozen package) and achiote paste (which has a mild rich chile flavor). Then, just get yourself a huge pork roast and let the fun begin!

And, oh yes, the verdict: Tex Mex has nothing on the Aztecs – This pork was beyond delicious!

Adapted from Rick Bayless’ cookbook Mexican Everyday

1 package (3.5 ounces) achiote paste
1/2 cup fresh squeezed lime juice (about 4 limes)
1 tablespoon salt
3 to 4 large banana leaves, fresh or frozen and thawed
3 pound pork shoulder roast
1 large white onion

Mix the achiote paste with a fork in a small bowl with the lime juice and salt. Lay the banana leaves to line a large slow cooker. Rough chop the onion and spread in the bottom of the slow cooker on top of the banana leaves. Rub the achiote mixture all over the pork roast and then place in slow cooker with the lid on. Cook for about 6 hours on high, until pork pulls apart easily with a fork. Take lid off and then cook another 2 to 3 hours, so liquid evaporates. Remove roast and place on a platter. let rest for 15 minutes. Drain juices into a small saucepan. Simmer until reduced. Separate pork into chunks with a fork. Stir onions into pork. Taste and add salt as desired. Drizzle with reduced sauce. Serve warm.

So many pulled pork recipes to choose from! Pulled Pork by other food bloggers:

Lisa did a chipotle pulled pork, non-Texan style
Kalyn waved her low-sugar magic wand on pulled pork
Stephanie did slow cooker Cajun pulled pork
Maria’s friends and family were treated to pulled pork for their superbowl party
Melissa did an Indian take on pulled pork
No -fail Pulled Pork by Lana looks fabulous
I want to try Stephen’s Carolina style pulled pork
Check out Kate’s Pulled Pork Sliders

– posted by Donna

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Peggy April 6, 2011 at 5:26 am

Definitely going to have to try this version out! It sounds utterly amazing!


Donna April 6, 2011 at 10:28 am

Peggy – I promise you won’t regret it!


SeattleDee April 6, 2011 at 12:14 pm

Thanks for sharing this this Bayless winner – a perfect recipe for easy prep and major success. I appreciate the links to pulled pork recipes on other sites and use them as an invitation to see who’s doing what.


Donna April 6, 2011 at 2:49 pm

LOVE Chef Bayless! I wish I lived in Chicago so I could go to his restaurant!


Kristi April 11, 2011 at 11:30 am

I made this for my husband (Guatemalan) yesterday and & LOVED it! He said that it reminded him of the tamales (meat in the tamales) that his mom used to make (she passed away). Thank you so much for sharing this recipe!


Donna April 12, 2011 at 9:26 pm

Kristi – I am so very happy that you liked this recipe. The best thing about food blogging is when people try our recipes and like them!


Jennifer August 6, 2011 at 10:06 pm

Wait, what about the onion? Do you put the onion in with the pork?


Rodger February 2, 2012 at 10:15 am

Good afternoon
I’m having a Super Bowl party Sunday the 5th of Feb. I will be having around 8 to 10 people. Will this recipe be enough? Also i don’t understand the 1.2 cup fresh squeezed lime juice (about 4 times) explain please. Thank you Rodger from New Jersey


Rachel January 11, 2014 at 8:08 pm

I also wonder what to do with the onion, I assume to put it in the slow cooker with the pork?
Anyways, my daughter has a project to make a test a REAL Aztect meal.. And I was not excited to taste until I found this recipe! I loved pulled pork, I cant wait!


Donna January 17, 2014 at 7:47 am

Hi Rachel and Jennifer – THANK YOU for your comment – I have updated the recipe and added the instructions for the onion. You cook the onion under the pork and it falls apart and then gets stirred in to the pork just before serving. Have fun with this ancient recipe!


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