Slow-Cooker Puerto Rican Pernil With Pique Criollo Recipe

Fall apart-tender pork flavored with garlic and oregano from the slow cooker. Jennifer Olvera

Assertively seasoned with garlic, oregano, pepper, and enough salt to form a crust, pernil—a Puerto Rican mainstay—lingers in the slow cooker for 18 hours until browned and fork-tender. It's served with vinegar-based pique criollo, a hot sauce made with peppers, garlic, pineapple and herbs.

Why this recipe works:

  • A tropics-like, vinegar-based hot sauce employs peppers, garlic, oregano and pineapple to enliven meat.
  • A salty, garlicky oregano rub is massaged into the pork shoulder, which has been marked with a cross-hatch pattern. Then, it's marinated overnight before the cooking begins.
  • A long time in the slow cooker—18 hours—yields a crusty interior and ultra-tender meat.

Note: After using the pique criollo, it keeps in the refrigerator for about 2 weeks. Use it to enliven other meats as well as beans and rice.

Recipe Facts

Active: 30 mins
Total: 72 hrs
Serves: 10 to 12 servings

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For the Hot Sauce (Pique Criollo):

  • 1 cup distilled white vinegar

  • 1/2 cup distilled water

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

  • 1 tablespoon fresh-squeezed lime juice

  • 2 habaneros, halved, seeds and stems removed

  • 2 jalapeños, halved lengthwise

  • 2 serrano peppers, halved lengthwise

  • 1/4 cup finely diced, fresh pineapple

  • 5 cloves garlic, peeled and halved

  • 1/4 teaspoon black peppercorns

  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano

  • 1 bay leaf

  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

For the Pork (Pernil):

  • 8 cloves garlic, smashed

  • 1/4 cup fresh oregano leaves

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt

  • 1 tablespoon freshly cracked pepper

  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil

  • 4 tablespoons distilled white vinegar, divided use

  • 1 (5- to- 6-pound) bone-in pork shoulder, preferable with fat left on

  • 1 cup water


  1. Combine all ingredients for hot sauce in a large, 32-ounce Mason jar. Seal tightly with lid and place in a cool, dark place to macerate for 2- to-3 days.

  2. To make the rub, bash together garlic, oregano and salt using a mortar and pestle. Add vegetable oil and 2 tablespoons vinegar and thoroughly combine.

  3. Mark pork in a crosshatch pattern 1/4" into the meat, using a sharp knife. Rub all over with prepared paste. Place meat on a large platter. Cover and transfer to the refrigerator to marinate overnight.

  4. Remove meat from the refrigerator and transfer to the bowl of a slow cooker, placing it fat-side up. Add water and remaining 2 tablespoons vinegar. Cover and cook on low for 18 hours, turning once.

  5. When meat is nicely browned and fall-apart tender, transfer to a cutting board to rest for 20 minutes. Cut or pull apart pork in hunks and serve immediately with prepared hot sauce.

Special Equipment

Quart-sized mason-jar, mortar and pestle, slow cooker

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Nutrition Facts (per serving)
442 Calories
33g Fat
4g Carbs
30g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 10 to 12
Amount per serving
Calories 442
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 33g 42%
Saturated Fat 11g 53%
Cholesterol 115mg 38%
Sodium 614mg 27%
Total Carbohydrate 4g 1%
Dietary Fiber 1g 3%
Total Sugars 1g
Protein 30g
Vitamin C 13mg 63%
Calcium 52mg 4%
Iron 2mg 12%
Potassium 485mg 10%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)