Every bite of lechon asado will transport you to Latin America. This Cuban roast pork is marinated in a flavorful homemade garlic-citrus marinade and slow-roasted to perfection!
Want to change up your usual pork butt roast? Try this lechon asado recipe.
It’s a simple yet incredibly delicious way to cook pork and transforms a simple cut of meat into something spectacular. With these easy-to-follow steps, you can learn how to make a Cuban roast pork recipe from the comfort of your kitchen!
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What is lechon asado?
In Spanish, “lechón” = young pig (or suckling pig), while “asado” = “roasted.” Thus, lechon asado roughly translates to Cuban roast pork.
The flavors and ingredients in the roast pork vary depending on where you are in the world. In Cuba or Puerto Rico, it’s prepared by soaking pork in a mojo marinade made from citrus juice, oregano, garlic, and cumin. The meat is then slowly roasted over a fire pit or in an oven until the skin is crisp and crackly, and the meat practically melts in your mouth.
Here are some reasons why I LOVE this recipe:
- The magic’s in the mojo. I adore my pork tenderloin marinade, but nothing compares to traditional Cuban mojo (“sauce” in Spanish). A citrus trio is mixed with aromatics, herbs, and spices to create a zesty and warm marinade that sparks magic in every bite. It’s the star of this recipe!
- Fix it and forget it. Like with my Instant Pot pork roast, after marinating, the pork shoulder is slowly roasted to fall-apart tender perfection. Your only job is basting the meat occasionally during the process.
- Failproof. The traditional marinade/slow-roasting cooking method yields flavorful, melt-in-your-mouth meat encased in golden-brown crispy skin no matter what!
- Versatile. You can serve the roasted pork shoulder as a main dish with your favorite BBQ-style sides or Cuban-inspired dishes. The leftovers will never go to waste, either. Pile the succulent pork between slices of crusty bread with traditional Cubano sandwich fixings and dig in!
This Cuban lechon asado is so simple; besides the pork and some seasonings, there isn’t much needed. Here is what you’ll need:
- Pork shoulder. Look for well-marbled bone-in pork shoulder or pork butt for the most flavorful and juicy results.
- Onion and garlic. This duo adds some texture to the marinade, as well as a savory and garlicky punch!
- Olive oil. To create a smooth, cohesive marinade.
- Fresh citrus juice. A trio of freshly squeezed lemon, lime, and orange juice is the backbone of this mojo’s distinct tanginess.
- Salt and pepper. To round out the other flavors.
- Oregano. Dried or fresh (double the amount if using fresh).
- Cumin. Refines the flavor with warm, slightly smoky notes.
How to make lechon asado
I’ve included step-by-step photos below to make this recipe easy to follow at home. For the full printable recipe instructions and ingredient quantities, scroll to the recipe card at the bottom of this post.
Make the marinade. Pulse the onion, garlic, olive oil, citrus juices, and spices together in a food processor.
Marinate the pork. Score the pork and place it in a large container. Pour the marinade over top, then let it soak overnight in the fridge.
Roast. Bring the pork to room temperature, then roast it in a preheated oven. Baste it with the reserved marinade while it cooks.
Make the sauce. Meanwhile, simmer the reserved marinade until it thickens.
Serve. Slice the pork and serve it with the sauce drizzled on top and lime wedges on the side. Enjoy!
What to serve with this dish
Lechon asado is best served with classic Cuban sides, such as black beans and rice (moros y cristianos), fried yuca, fried plantains (tostones), simple green salads, and mojo sauce or salsa criolla.
And while not completely traditional, these sides would be delicious as well-
Recipe tips and variations
- Score the skin: Slicing a few slits into the pork skin gives the marinade a better chance of seeping into the meat.
- Extra crackly pork skin: If the skin isn’t crispy enough, broil the pork during the last few minutes of cooking. Keep a close eye on it to prevent it from burning.
- Check for doneness: Pork is usually cooked through to an internal temperature of 145°F, but for this lechon asado recipe, aim for 190ºF. This way, the meat pulls apart effortlessly.
- Rest before slicing: Let the pork rest off of the heat for 20 minutes before slicing. This gives the tasty, meaty juices time to soak back into the meat.
- Repurpose the marinade: Turn to this recipe for Cuban mojo marinade anytime you want to infuse vibrant flavors into fish, chicken, shrimp, and vegetables.
How to store leftovers
To store: After cooling, transfer the leftover roasted pork to an airtight container and store it in the fridge for 3 to 4 days.
To freeze: Portion the cooked and cooled pork in airtight freezer-safe containers. Freeze for 1 to 2 months. Thaw the leftovers in the fridge before reheating.
To reheat: You can reheat the leftover Cuban roast pork in the microwave or in a skillet over medium heat with a splash of the reserved marinade to prevent it from drying out.
Treat yourself to a Cuban sandwich made with leftover lechon asado! Layer the succulent roast pork between slices of crusty Cuban sandwich bread (similar to Mexican tortas) with mustard, pickles or onions, and Swiss cheese.
Frequently asked questions
For dishes like lechon asado, you should marinate the pork shoulder for a minimum of 4 to 6 hours. Leaving the pork in the marinade between 12 and 24 hours, however, will yield the best flavor and tenderness.
The exact time depends on the size of the pork shoulder and whether it’s bone-in or boneless. Generally, at 350ºF, the pork should take between 25 to 35 minutes per pound (approximately 3 to 4 hours total).
I don’t recommend it because raw meat can potentially contaminate the marinade. If you’re keen on reusing it, boil the marinade in a saucepan for a minimum of 5 minutes to kill any harmful bacteria.
More delicious ways to enjoy pork
Lechon Asado (Cuban Pork Roast)
- Using a sharp knife, Make a couple of slits into the pork.
- Blend the onion and garlic in a blender or food processor. Add olive oil, orange juice, lime juice, and lemon juice to the blended mixture and mix well. Add the spices. Reserve one cup of the marinade to use for the sauce.
- Add the pork into a baking dish and pour the remaining marinade over the meat, ensuring some goes into each of the slits. Refrigerate the pork for at least 10 minutes or up to 12 hours, regularly rotating the meat.
- Remove the meat 60 minutes before cooking to sit at room temperature.
- Preheat the oven to 180C/350F.
- Place the meat onto a roasting pan, reserving the marinade for basting. In the pan, pour one cup of the water and cook for 3 hours, basting every 30 minutes with the marinade. If needed, cover the meat with foil to prevent over-cooking.
- When the meat reaches an internal temperature of 190F, remove it from the oven and set aside to rest.
- Place the reserved 1 cup of the sauce into a small saucepan and cook for 15 minutes until the mixture thickens.
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