Colombian recipes for Christmas and New Year’s: pernil de cerdo

Pernil de Cerdo

When I think about traditional Christmas and New Year’s dishes, for some reason sweet things usually come to my mind. But the salty dishes are just as good as desserts and if you are coming to Bogotá during the holidays, there is a high probability that you will get a chance to try a few. One of the best ones is pernil de cerdo asado (roasted pork leg)!

If you are spending Christmas or New Year’s in Bogotá with your family and/or friends, a very special dinner is guaranteed, and of all the possibilities, I bet you’ll be eating pernil de cerdo asado. Why? Well, because in this country, we are pork eaters and pork lovers. If I had to describe this traditional dish, I’d say that it’s so good and so tasty that you’ll be longing for more each time you eat a piece. In Bogotá, buying a good pernil de cerdo that is already cooked is not easy, so I recommend you make it yourself and surprise everyone with a spectacular dish they’ll never forget. But be aware that you’ll need a couple of days in advance to make it because although it’s not a difficult recipe, it isn’t something you can improvise.

A little bit about pernil de cerdo

It’s no secret that Colombians love to eat during the holidays. Pernil de cerdo has been a traditional dish eaten this time of the year for decades (although it’s typical at other kinds of celebrations, like birthdays or graduations). I’m pretty sure a lot of Colombians have tried it at least once in their lifetime. And if there’s something that unites people in this country, it’s the amazing food we have the pleasure to enjoy. Pernil de cerdo was probably brought over by the European conquerors centuries ago and it’s present in almost every Latin American country, each having their own traditional recipes and different ways to make it.

In Colombia, pernil de cerdo asado is basically a pork leg marinated in a sauce usually made with beer, onion, garlic, achiote, and a few other ingredients, and then roasted in the oven for several hours. It’s cooked in two steps: first the marinade, and then the pork leg, which actually has to be marinated for at least two days to bring out the flavor (and that’s why you need to do it ahead of time). It’s also recommended to buy a pork leg that doesn’t have the skin because then it could get very dry. As the main course, it’s usually served with potato salad or sweet plantains, but there are, of course, several different sides you could also make.

Pernil de Cerdo
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For one entire pork leg that makes 20+ servings/ Prices are approximate

  • 10-12 lbs of pork leg (1 lb = $22,000 COP/$6.90 USD, so in total it would be $220,000-$264,000 COP/$69-83 USD)

For the marinade you’ll need:

  • 6 cups of dark beer (six pack  costs $12,300 COP/$3.85 USD)
  • 1 large white onion, diced (500g is $2,200 COP/ $0.70 USD)
  • 8 scallions, diced (500g = $1700 COP/$0.55 USD)
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced (1 = $1500 COP/$0.46 USD)
  • 10 garlic cloves, crushed (3 units = $700 COP/$0.20 USD)
  • 3 tablespoons of ground cumin (1 bag of 55g = $2200 COP/$0.70 USD)
  • 2 tablespoons of  white vinegar (1 500ml bottle = $3800 COP/$1.20 USD)
  • Salt and pepper (1 bag of 1,000g of salt = $1200 COP/$0.40 USD; 1 bag  of 60g of milled pepper = $3,100 COP/$0.98 USD)
  • 1 tablespoon of ground achiote (1 bag of 16g = $3,300 COP/$1.05 USD)

You can find all the ingredients in supermarkets (read our article Bogotá’s Five Most Popular Supermarkets & Grocery Stores) like Éxito or Jumbo. I recommend you go to farmers’ markets, such as Paloquemao  (read our article Paloquemado Market: A Place You Don’t Want to Miss in Bogotá), to find the pork leg and other ingredients, like the red bell pepper, in smaller quantities. Also, you can buy the pork leg on this page: Jamón Casero .


  1. Place the pork leg on a non-reactive roasting pan big enough to fit in the fridge and in the oven
  2. To make the marinade, blend (you can use a food processor so it’s faster and easier) the scallions, red bell pepper, onion, crushed garlic, ground cumin, vinegar, salt, and pepper until it’s smooth.
  3. Make deep incisions on both sides of the pork leg and rub the marinade all over it. Cover the pan with plastic wrap and let it marinate for 24 hours in the fridge.
  4. Pour the dark beer and the ground achiote over the pork leg and let it marinate for another 24 hours. Make sure you turn the leg every 8 hours. When it’s ready to cook, remove from the fridge and let it sit at room temperature for approximately 30 minutes.
  5.  Pre-heat oven to 350ºF. Cover the roasting pan tightly with foil and place in the oven on the lowest rack for about 5 to 7 hours or until tender. To keep the leg from drying out, you’ll need to bathe the pork leg with the pan sauce every 20 minutes (use a soup ladle).
  6. When the pork is tender, remove the foil from the pan and let the pork leg broil for 5 to 7 minutes, or until the skin is crisp and cracking. (Taken from Colombian Recipes).

Bonus tip: the pork leg is even better when accompanied by a delicious sauce. To make one, remove the excess fat with a spoon to take advantage of what’s left in the pan. Then add a little bit of water and stir two tablespoons of wheat flour in to make it tasty. Stir well, heat it up, and serve.

I’m pretty sure you won’t let anyone down with this dish that will be the star of your table! It’s full of flavor and full of history, as the recipe has also been passed down through many generations. And don’t worry if it’s a lot of meat: the leftovers are usually eaten in the next couple of days, whether on a sandwich or on its own. If you want to accompany the pork leg with a wonderful and very traditional dessert, read my other article Colombian recipes for Christmas and New Year’s: Torta Negra. Cheers and bon appétit!

Was this article useful? Do you know other cool stuff about Colombian Christmas and New Year’s recipes? Or maybe an experience you would like to share? Please share and/or comment on this article, and visit our homepage Colture to take a look at my articles and many others to find more essential information about Bogotá before and during your trip.

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