This Cuban roast pork, lechon asado, is packed with delicious flavors thanks to the citrus and garlic mojo marinade. It's easy to make and delicious for dinner (plus leftovers make great sandwiches!).
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I have been lucky enough to live in and visit a number of countries and the foods are always an important part of that, for me. But I always have more places on my list. One that has been there for some time is Cuba. The more I know people who have been and rave about the food, the more it is on my must-visit list.
Unlike some other cuisines, Cuban food isn't quite as widely found outside the country. It was basically non-existent in Scotland when I was growing up. I'm not sure about there now, but I at least found a few places in London when I lived there.
While you can get some great Cuban food in Florida (as I remember from visits to Miami), it's not exactly common in the Northeast. However maybe that's all the more reason to cook some myself.
What is lechon asado?
Lechón asado means roast pork with a few variations in flavorings, depending where you are. Technically lechon means "suckling pig" (ie young) in Spanish. However older pigs may be used, such as in the Philippines where it's a dish that pre-dates any Hispanic influence.
In Cuba, lechon asado refers to pork marinated in a mojo marinade. The marinade has sour oranges as its base along with typically at least garlic, oregano and cumin as seasoning.
Traditionally, a whole young pig is slow-roasted in a fire pit. It's pretty much an all day affair, so it's not too surprising this is a dish for special occasions like Christmas and weddings (similar to Polish golabki, stuffed cabbage rolls that also take a bit of time).
However you can also make it at home with smaller cuts of meat in the oven.
You can use various cuts of pork but the most typical are either a fresh ham roast (ie uncured) or shoulder joint. This means there's a good level of fat giving tender, shreddable meat. If you use, for example, pork loin it will cook more quickly and be more suitable for slicing.
Making this Cuban roast pork
While it in theory this takes a while to make, it is really incredibly easy. You just mix up the marinade ingredients, rub them over the pork and leave it overnight, turning once or twice to get all the flavor in.
Then when you are ready to cook, you roast it with some marinade in the bottom to keep it moist, and that's it. Save the rest of the marinade and warm it to soften the onions (and make it safe, having been in with raw meat). This mixture is delicious served with the roasted meat.
See how it all comes together in the short video!
The key to the marinade is what are often called sour oranges, or Seville oranges. They are common in Cuba but less so elsewhere as they have limited uses. If you can't find them, you can approximate the flavor with a mix of orange, lime and lemon as I have listed below.
How to serve lechon asado
You can serve this Cuban roast pork as you prefer - we typically have it with a tasty Cuban rice and beans dish as well as fried plantain, when I can find them. Both are pretty typical sides and go really well.
I have made this with about as small a piece of shoulder as you can get and it still serves a good number. If you have any leftover, then it's great in sandwiches too.
It makes a great dish for a dinner party or less formal crowd between the fact most of the preparation is the day before and you get lots of servings from it. You can easily scale up using a larger piece of meat, too.
Lechon asado is easy to make, with fantastically fresh flavors from the delicious marinade. It has the perfect balance of just enough tastiness, without the pork itself being hidden. You can scale it up or down, and leftovers are so goos. In other words, definitely one to add to your regular list.
Try these other tasty roasts:
- Porchetta (Italian roast pork)
- Roast duck with vegetables
- Garlic herb roasted chicken
- Roast lamb with garlic and rosemary
- Schweinebraten (German pork roast cooked with beer)
Plus get more mains recipes in the archives.
Lechon asado, Cuban roast pork
- 3 lb boneless pork shoulder roast (see notes)
- ½ cup orange juice
- ¼ cup lime juice approx 1 ½ - 2 limes
- ¼ cup lemon juice approx 1 lemon
- 1 ½ teaspoon dry oregano
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 ½ teaspoon salt
- 8 cloves garlic crushed
- ½ onion or 1 whole if small - sliced
- ground pepper to taste
- Pat dry the pork roast and prepare a plastic container or freezer bag big enough to hold it plus some liquid.
- Squeeze the juice from the orange, lime and lemon. Crush or finely chop the garlic and thinly slice the onion. Mix the juices with rest of ingredients (dry or fresh oregano, cumin, salt, garlic, onion and pepper) in the container/bag.
- Add the pork into the marinade and turn or seal the bag and shake a little to cover all over. Leave the pork to marinade overnight in the fridge, ideally turning at least once.
- When ready to cook, bring the pork out of the fridge ahead of time - around 30-60min - to allow it to come to room temperature. Preheat the oven to 325F/ 160C.
- Place the pork in a roasting dish with the skin side up, sitting in a little of the citrus marinade juice. Save the rest of the marinade, including all of the onions. Baste the pork with the juice in the dish after 1-2hr and continue cooking. Roast for 3 hours, or a little more if needed, covering with foil if the top gets too brown. You should get an internal temp of at least 170F to be able to slice, or 190-200F to be able to shred when it's ready.
- While the pork is cooking, bring the remaining marinade to a gentle simmer and cook for around 5 minutes to soften the onions. Serve this as a sauce over the pork when serving.
You may also find an Instant Read Meat Thermometer useful as you make this (affiliate link).
See some of my favorite cooking tools and ingredients in the Caroline's Cooking Amazon store.
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This post was first shared in December 2015 and has been updated with new information, photos and video.