How to Make Cuban Pork Roast

My Secret on How to Make Cuban Pork Roast
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How to Make Cuban Pork Roast

How to Make Cuban Pork Roast

If you have ever had the pleasure of celebrating Christmas or any other special occasion with a Cuban family, you already know how delicious an authentic Cuban pork roast is! I think it is the most succulent and flavorful pork I have ever tasted.

It is certainly an interesting change from the American version, pulled pork, which is drenched in barbeque sauce rather than laden with exotic Caribbean spices like a Cuban pork roast.

What I learnt that night at my Cuban’s friend get together was that making a pork roast the Cuban way involves slow-roasting a whole pig in a special wooden “caja china” roasting box for an entire day.

You probably don’t have a “caja china,” but you can still enjoy the flavors of this delicious Cuban food by cooking a smaller roast in your oven or barbeque grill. Pay attention as I’m going to give you the authentic recipe here, which you can scale down for smaller roasts quite easily.

Find Your Ingredients

My friend assured me that the first step to making your roast is selecting the right ingredients and that the hardest part is probably finding the right cut of meat. Cubans either roast a whole pig or a fresh bone-in ham.

If you can’t get an uncooked, uncured bone-in ham at your grocery store or butcher, you can substitute for a pork shoulder. The tricky part is finding a shoulder that has a nice layer of fat on it, and preferably the skin on it as well.

The only other ingredient that might give you trouble in this recipe is sour orange juice. This is a special Cuban flavor and it’s hard to get outside of areas where people do a lot of Cuban cooking. Fortunately, I got the best way for you to substitute the sour orange juice if you can’t find it. Just use two parts orange juice, one part lime juice, and one part lemon juice to mimic the flavor of sour orange juice.

How to Make Cuban Roast Pork – Recipe


  • 1 four to six pound pork shoulder or bone-in ham
  • 2 cups sour orange juice
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 teaspoons each of oregano and cumin
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • 20 cloves of garlic, mashed

Prepping the Meat

On the night before you plan to make your roast, prep the meat by piercing it all over with a knife. Set the meat in a large bowl or cooking pan. Take about 2 tablespoons of salt and rub all over the meat, including down into the holes you’ve just made.

Now create your marinade by blending the sour orange juice, garlic, bay leaf, cumin, pepper, oregano, and salt. This is your “mojo” or Cuban marinade and it’s what gives the roast pork its special Cuban flavor. Pour 1 cup of mojo into a container and set it aside for later. Take the rest of the mojo and pour it over your meat. Again, be sure to get some mojo into the holes in the meat. Add just a dash more oregano, cumin, and pepper to the top of the meat, cover it with foil, and stick it in the fridge to marinate.

Cooking the Roast

When cooking the roast, you can choose to use your oven or a barbeque grill. Either one will do a good job mimicking the effect of the authentic Cuban “caja china”.

If you want to use the oven, preheat your oven to 450 degrees, then reduce it to 225 degrees as soon as you put the roast inside. Continue cooking 6 to 8 hours or until the pork juices run clear when you cut it. If you have a meat thermometer, you’ll know to remove the roast when it hits 195 degrees.

If you want to use your barbeque grill, make sure that you don’t have heat directly under the meat. You can mound up hot charcoal on the sides of the grill, or use only the back or side burners on a gas grill. When cooking on the grill, I definitely recommend using a meat thermometer to make sure the roast hits 195 degrees.

No matter which cooking method you choose, you will want to ladle a bit of the extra mojo over the roast every hour or so to keep it moist and juicy. Be sure you have at least half a cup of mojo left at the end. You will need to sautee some sliced onions and half a cup of drippings from the pork roast in the mojo in order to create the final topping for your pork roast.

Sounds like a lot of work when you read the process on how to make Cuban pork roast but I can assure you it is well worth the effort. The flavor is to die for. This is one of my favorite Hispanic recipes. Let me know what you think of this recipe and if you have any secrets to add to make it even better.

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