Igrew up in a lively neighborhood that was home to a significant Puerto Rican population. All of life’s occasions, from good grades to holidays to major milestones were cause for celebration. And big celebrations almost always meant lechon asado, Puerto Rican style roast suckling pig.

Carnival is coming soon

In Puerto Rico, one of the biggest celebrations of the year is Carnival, which occurs annually the day before Ash Wednesday. It’s the last day of revelry and indulgence before the somber Lenten season of penitence and prayer leading up to Easter begins.

This year, Carnival falls in February. I’ll be thinking of my old neighborhood as I celebrate by making my adapted version of lechon asado.

This recipe is very easy, but it takes time. To develop the fullest flavor, marinate the pork overnight. If you’re unable to find sour oranges, you can make a substitute by combining 2 parts orange juice to 1 part lemon juice and 1 part lime juice.


  • 1 tablespoon whole black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 tablespoon oregano
  • 1 bay leaf, crushed
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne
  • 5 large cloves garlic, mashed
  • ¼ cup sour orange juice
  • ⅓ cup olive oil
  • 3 to 4 pounds bone-in pork butt or shoulder, with the skin on or a nice layer of fat


  1. Combine the black pepper, cumin, oregano, and bay leaf. Grind to a coarse powder in a spice mill. In a small bowl, combine the ground spices, salt, garlic powder, and cayenne.Add the mashed garlic cloves, sour orange juice, and olive oil until you have a really loose paste. Cover the pork with the paste and place in a glass bowl or other non-reactive container and refrigerate overnight.
  2. The next day, pull the pork out of the fridge and let it come to room temperature while you preheat the oven to 325°F (300°F if using a convection oven).
  3. Place the pork on a roasting pan and place in the oven. Cook until the internal temperature of the pork reaches 160°F (about 40 minutes per pound).
  4. Remove the pork from the oven and cover loosely with foil. Let it rest for 10 minutes before slicing. Serve with rice and beans, or slice thinly and serve it on a sandwich.