Slow-Cooked Cuban Pork: Part I

For a brand new, printable version of this recipe that has all the steps included, click here!

Part II of this recipe can be found by clicking this link!

I love to grocery shop.  I love to examine labels, produce, proteins and liquids.  I get giddy trying to decide which mangos and avocados to choose.  I carefully flip through piles of cilantro bunches looking to find the bundle likeliest to survive a week or so in my fridge.  I pick through the ‘Manager’s Special’ carts like a prospector.  And, boy, can I hit a sale. *

*All of this presumes, of course, that the boys are home with their Dad, an Evil Genius- but one heckuva Dad,  and not clinging to my thighs begging for Lucky Charms (they can have those when hell freezes over) or leaning precariously off the back of the cart or accidentally goosing unsuspecting shoppers who magically appeared on the third tile in a rousing game of ‘leap over every third tile or suffer the consequences!’   If they’re with me I run through the store like a woman haunted by cute little demons who conspire to make her forget everything she needs to feed her family that week.  But if they’re not with me?  Well then…

Ah, the sales.  I am a firm believer in bulk buying items that my family uses regularly.  Emphasis intended.  We bulk buy olive oil, canola oil, potatoes, onions, flour, yeast, carrots, coffee (that’s so the Evil Genius is less evil and more genius), tea (so I can maintain some semblance of sanity), dried beans, oats and peanut butter, among other things. (Like toilet paper.  I mean really.  Seven people and two toilets?  We buy toilet paper in bulk.)  We have quite a lot of good frozen meat in our chill chest but every now and then a deal comes along that’s too good to leave alone.  Last week, Monsieur Le Evil Genius was at the grocery store doing my bidding. (Actually he was there with a list for me since we had sick kids and I was housebound myself with the crud.)  He has stumbled upon a sale so good that he felt compelled to stock the heck up: pork shoulder for $0.69 per pound.  Oh yes.  The Evil Genius’s not-so-inner cheapskate was singing for joy.  He came home with three of them.  That would be roughly 30 pounds of pork shoulder for those who haven’t experienced the stuff.  I stuffed two pork shoulders into our crowded freezer and rubbed my greedy little hands together.  A 9-pound pork shoulder means only one thing to me.  Slow-cooked shredded pork.

There are a billion things you can do to pork that are delicious.  But let me tell you, what I did with that pork shoulder last week is my all-time favorite.  I’m going to walk you through making the phantasmagorical Cuban Pork and the two most wonderful side dishes in the world: FMC Mango Salsa and Spicy Black Beans*. Oh.  Let’s just talk about this pork for a minute.  The pork, courtesy of it’s long braise in the slow-cooker, is juicy and so mind-meltingly tender and flavorful that you’ll be sorely tempted to eat until you hurt.

Don’t freak out when I tell you this recipe takes a couple days.  It’s not like you’ll be slaving over a hot pan for those couple days.  It’s actually incredibly simple and the hands on time is less than roasting a chicken or making spaghetti. You just have to plan ahead.  And buy a big, honkin’ pork shoulder.  If you’re wondering whether it’s worth it, just have a gander at this…

Cuban Pork and FMC Mango Salsa with rice on a tortilla. Not pictured? The Spicy Black Beans...

Cuban Pork and FMC Mango Salsa with rice on a tortilla. Not pictured? The Spicy Black Beans...

* See?  The beans again! This week we’ll be doing black beans.  The bean recipe will be here on Friday so you can have the weekend to prepare your feast and then eat off of it all next week.  I got your back!

Yes.  This recipe makes a gigantic amount of pork.  Much too much for even my family to eat in one meal unless we have a good deal of company eating with us.  But that’s the idea.   This falls in the category that I like to call ‘component foods’.  If you make this dish and freeze the leftovers in individual serving sizes, you have instant meals at your fingertips.  You have the leaping-off point for so many good dishes like pulled pork sandwiches, shredded pork and pineapple pizzas, pork burritos and more.  By all means, though, prepare this for a party.  The work is all done ahead of time and you’ll feed your guests like royalty.

This is a strategy food that requires a little forethought.  While that limits the speed with which this can be made, it also makes it the ‘do-ahead’ food.  You can prepare it ahead of time and refrigerate it or freeze it.  I have the strategy all mapped out for you.  Here’s how it works.

You cook your pork on ‘Day 1′.  You let it rest overnight in the fridge -call it ‘Day 2′, and shred it on ‘Day 3′.  After you’ve shredded it, it’s good for eating or freezing as is, but there are some fun things you can do to take it to the next level.  For now, though, let’s talk ‘Day 1′.

For a printer-friendly, photo-free version of this recipe, click here!

Cuban Pork: Day 1


  • 1 (8-1o pound) bone-in pork shoulder, make sure it fits into your slow-cooker.  Cut to fit if necessary.
  • 1/2 cup frozen 100% orange juice concentrate
  • 1/3 cup lime juice (fresh squeezed or bottled)
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 8 whole peeled cloves fresh garlic (or 1 Tablespoon granulated dried garlic)
  • 1 Tablespoon (or more, to taste) ground cumin
  • 1 Tablespoon dry oregano leaves
  • 1 Tablespoon or more fresh ground pepper
  • 2 teaspoons kosher or sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, optional
  • if available, 2 stems (no leaves, just stems) fresh cilantro

Drizzle the olive oil in the slow-cooker bowl.


Remove the pork shoulder from packaging and rinse with cold water.

Please pretend this picture is of me removing the packaging and rinsing the roast.  Thank you.

Please pretend this picture is of me removing the packaging and rinsing the roast. Thank you.

Place untrimmed pork, fat side down in the bowl.

Fat side down.

Fat side down.

…Then flip it fat side up.  This coats both sides with a wee bit of olive oil.  Everything’s better with a wee bit of olive oil.


Sprinkle with salt, pepper, cumin, oregano and crushed red pepper flakes.



Black pepper.  I loves black pepper.

Black pepper. I loves black pepper.

Oregano.  I rolled my 'r' when I said that.  Try it with me.  O-rrrrr-egano.

Oregano. I rolled my 'r' when I said that. Try it with me. O-rrrrr-egano.

Red pepper flakes.  Be still my heart.  If I could find a way to make this into toothpaste I would.

Red pepper flakes. Be still my heart. If I could find a way to make this into perfume I would. The Evil Genius likes the chiles.

Use a spoon to dollop the frozen orange juice concentrate over the top of the roast.


Pour the lime juice around the edges of the roast.

If you have to use bottled stuff it isn't the end of the world.  Use the best bottled stuff you can find.

Fresh is best. We all know that already. But if you have to use bottled stuff it isn't the end of the world. Use the best bottled stuff you can find.


Throw garlic cloves around the roast.

Peel your whole garlic cloves easily by pressing down on them firmly with the edge of a bench knife or a heavy pan.

Peel your whole garlic cloves easily by pressing down on them firmly with the edge of a bench knife or a heavy pan. Voila! The skin will come away as easily as can be.


Toss on cilantro stems- if using.

I love cilantro.

Please keep your cilantro stems in the freezer in a zipper top bag. Right next to your onion tops. I KNOW I sound so cheap, but there is an incredible amount of flavor in the bits and pieces of food that most of us throw away. Form the habit of saving these and you'll be grateful you did!


Cover, and turn cooker to ‘HIGH’.

And away we go!

And away we go!

Allow to cook for 1 hour, turn the heat to ‘LOW’  and continue cooking for another 12 hours or until meat falls apart when prodded with a fork. When the meat is tender, turn off slow cooker and place the slow cooker bowl in the fridge. (If your slow-cooker doesn’t have a removable insert, transfer the contents to a large container with a tight-fitting lid and pop that into the fridge.

See you back here on Thursday for shredding and the first of our side dishes: spicy black beans!

On deck for Thursday: Shredding and saucing our Cuban Pork,  and Spicy Black Beans!

In the hole for Friday:  FMC Mango Salsa (a.k.a. The best side dish of all time.  Ever.  Amen.)


  1. Rebecca says

    Theresa- Thank ye ma’am. You should put as much pork shoulder into your freezer as you can possibly cram in there. We’re addicted to this recipe.

  2. says

    I started this cooking yesterday and just let it cook overnight. Then after it chilled all day, I shredded it and added the sauce to it so it will be ready for a fast dinner tomorrow. Not much work for what looks to be enough meat for 4 meals.

    My husband keeps complaining that I am teasing him with the delicious smells that are coming from the kitchen while this cooks. I had to sneak a sample and man, oh man is it delicious. I am excited for dinner tomorrow night!

  3. Phyllis says

    I’ve just put 6 (count ’em, 6) Boston butts of the pork persuasion on to cook. It’s for a supper at church — and Publix didn’t have enough pork shoulders so they sold me the Boston butt at the same sale price. My DSP (darlin’ sweetie pie) insists that all meat must be seared before slow cooking, so I broiled and pan-seared the roasts. I have 3 in crock pots (all I could round up) and 3 in the oven in my turkey roaster. We’ll serve the Cuban Dinner with a salad with oranges, red onions and avocados; black beans and rice; plantains; and tres leche cake. Your salsa sounds wonderful — but I’m already exhausted and cannot add one more thing to this dinner!

  4. Chrissie says

    I’ve got one in the pot now for the Wednesday before Thanksgiving dinner. This is the second time I’ve made this and it was wonderful last time. I used a pork picnic because it was on sale. I also put it in the crock pot very early and we’ll eat it the same day. This recipe is so much better then the pre-package marinade you can buy in the Spanish food aisle. My neighbor is Cuban and I’ve been dying to duplicate the pork she gives us at Christmas and this is by far the closest I’ve come. Thanks!

  5. denise says

    I made this for my daughters graduation made it so simple to make it just melted in my mouth.thanks.

  6. ELizabeth says

    I’ve made this twice now, sharing the ample portions with various friends and coworkers and the results were the same both times….”can you send me the recipe?!” Every time I’d heat some up it would surprise me how good it really is! I caramelize sweet onions and serve with dill pickle and mustard on toasted bakery bread….it’s unbelievable! I can’t wait to share it with my “foodie” brother! Thank you!

  7. Jaime says

    I’m having a Communist-themed birthday party tomorrow and I’ll definitely be making this. Thank you for the step-by-step breakdown. You rock.


  8. Erin says

    My fiance looooovved this dish. He is now requesting a once a month Cuban Pulled Pork night. I invited my parents over for dinner the next night and added the mango salsa this time!! WOW! such an awesome combo!


  9. Donnelleigh says

    How many servings does this make? I’m planning a birthday party and wondering if I need to make one or two crockpots full. Looks wonderful!

  10. says

    The orange juice concentrate and lime juice make this recipe, IMO! We are fortunate to have a great Cuban bakery / sandwich shop here in Central Florida that gets tons of business from us! Their guava cheese pastries and Cuban sandwiches are so good!

  11. says

    OMG, you have got yourself a fan. My oven broke this year for Christmas and I was looking for a recipe I could make in my crock pot. I happened upon your pork and I think I am in love. It was fabulous…compliments and admiration for the master mind behind this. The pork, the beans and the amazing salsa! Yes I am addicted.

    Faithfully following your blog from this point forward!


  12. says

    Oh, this looks lovely. I am scared of intensive labor in the kitchen, but not of a little pre-planning. Pulled pork is one of my faves. Thanks for a new twist. Looking forward to the future installments! :)
    PS – My Munchkin (nearly 2) has not learned to ask for Lucky Charms yet … let’s keep hell good & hot in the meantime!

  13. Maggie says

    My boyfriend and I just finished your meal. His step-father is Cuban, so he had something similar to this growing up. He loved the flavors and how they blended. He said it was spicier than he remembers, but maybe I was heavy handed with the red pepper flakes. This is a definite make again and I just put away at least another two meals worth of meat. Thanks again for sharing. You have found a new follower.


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