Pork Recipes


Pigs are now thought to have been domesticated some 2000 years before dogs and therefore were one of the first herded food sources.  In 1493 Columbus brought eight (4 pairs) red pigs to the original Bahia de Cochinos in Cuba as a sustainable larder a practice Chris exercised on virtually every island he touched over the next decade. The little omnivorous porkers needed no special feed and easily existed on native plants, shellfish and small animals until they were needed. They soon became feral, reproduced, had few predators beside man, and by the early 1500’s numbered in the thousands.  Although their introduction at first certainly increased the available protein for the locals they soon uprooted plants causing erosion and feasting on the local foods that had been the staples for ground dwelling birds and native alike. 

De Soto sailed from Cuba to Florida in the first third of the 15 century with a dozen or so pigs and some 200 horses which were to later populate the southern US as razorbacks and the plains as war ponies. The invader Pizarro, who had been a pig herder in the old country, took 2,000 pigs, along with 100’s of llamas, dogs and horses from stocks in Panama when he headed for Peru.  Many escaped in route and while most ended up in the pot to feed the 200 Europeans and 4000 Indians that comprised his 1840’s expedition. Barbados was porcinly populated in the mid 1530’s and helped to attract and feed immigrate French and English Squatters, known a century later as Buccaneers or pirates, until the English crown attempted to evict them by exterminating the local porkers eliminating the free food source. Anyway these instances certainly confirm that there was lots of squealing going on in the Caribbean because the Iberians loved their salted and smoked pork and passed the enjoyment on to the locals.

Pork was much more plentiful in the countries early diet until it became a commodity and had to be purchased due to mega farmers that required grain to feed their penned pigs who no longer could forage for themselves. I purchase a whole pork loin and cut in for boneless chops, roasts, and stews or cut in into 4 ounce slices and pallard, pound thin, with a meat mallet for cutlets, scallopini or Milanese/cutlets as they’re known here in Panama.  Preserved meats originally played a formative part of the diet first as salted and smoked tasajo and cecina and then later in a canned corned beef mode so many of our recipes can be made using any of these processed meats. 



Chuletas, chops, of both pork and beef are readily available in most urban stores although those of beef are more akin to steaks then chops but either way one can be substituted one for the other. Either dried or canned black beans can be used for this construct and could even use gandules if you wish. For a great flavor profile marinate then broil the chops to impart a smoky taste and if you want to really push the envelope use pimento or allspice wood as a smoking agent.  It’s best if you don’t completely cook the chops before adding them to the beans since they’re going to cook for quite a while so just have a really hot fire and mark the chops on both sides  then combine them with the beans.  You could also just use some adobo paste to marinate your chops if have some lurking in the refrigerator.

            1 tablespoon each thyme, achiote powder, allspice, and chipotles

            2 tablespoons each alcaparrado, culantro and garlic

            4 ounces bitter/Seville orange juice & 2 ounces of olive oil

            8 thinly or 4 thickly sliced pork or beef chops

            12 ounces dry soaked, cooked, or 2 can, black beans

            4 ounces diced red or yellow onions

            4 ounces diced celery

            To taste granulated chicken base and black

  1. Combine, thyme, achiote, allspice, garlic, peppers, & culantro into a paste or use a like quantity of adobo
  2. Add chops and mix to coat, then add orange juice and olive oil and mix, chill overnight
  3. Soak dried beans in 1 quart of salted water overnight, unnecessary if you’re using canned
  4. Drain beans, cook in enough stock to cover, adding more if needed, for 1 hour
  5. Broil chops until just blacked over a hot fire, or quickly sauté
  6. Add chops, minced onions and celery to beans, cook ½ hour or until tender
  7. Adjust seasonings with granulated chicken base or sazon/adobo and black pepper



Panamanian pork is a little leaner with a different flavor profile since it’s fed differently by small holders with not finished in feed lots like that in the US. The coffee elements in this construct you can use left over coffee, Italian Espresso powder or even instant/freeze-dried crystals. You can purchase country ribs, the portion nearer the backbone that are meatier, or the leaner lower spare rib portion.  The euphemistically named baby back ribs aren’t from babies backs just cut small for simple marketing purposes so you can forgo that value added choice.

Again I prefer to marinate and broil these ribs before I braise or roast them and since a majority of the locals don’t own an oven they would be either finished on top of the stove or over a wood fire outside.  

2 pounds, at least 8 ounces per person, pork ribs

4 ounces dark fruity rum

2 ounces double strength coffee, or two ounces espresso powder or instant coffee

 2 ounces  miel de Cana or molasses

8 ounces stock or water enriched with stock base

2 tablespoons each minced garlic and green peppercorns

1 tablespoon each ground allspice and cardamom

4 tablespoons tomato product, paste, ketchup, sauce or puree

To taste granulated chicken base

  1. Place ribs in an appropriate sized shallow pan
  2. Combine all the remaining ingredients and pour over ribs
  3. Bring the marinade and ribs to a simmer, cover cook for 5 minutes
  4. Remove from heat, cool then refrigerate over night
  5. Remove ribs from marinade
  6. Place marinade in a sauce pot and reduce to a sauce consistency, reserve
  7. Bake or broil the ribs liberally basting with sauce during the last few moments to caramelize



In the US and Europe souse is called head cheese, or if you add corn meal scrapple. In the guise of head cheese rendered ear, head, tail, foot or shank meat of a pig or cow is mixed and allowed to set up in the highly gelatinized stock it was cooked in. This stock has a high level of collagen protein or gelatin that sets up around the shredded meat forming a “cheese” like cold cut or scrapple when corn meal and buckwheat are added. The Panamanian version does not  use the gelatinized stock but instead a pickle of vinegar, citrus and vegetables and is actually just an salmuera or escabechar a brined means of preservation that could even use fruit zest in its construction and in many ways is like a classic French rillette or confit without the fat. Any way it’s a great way to have your guest experience these cuts outside of hot dogs or “lunch meats” and be apprised that in the Caribbean the locals souse almost anything.  Serve it cold

2 to 3 pounds of fresh pork shank cut on the bias, or a boneless more gentrified pork cut

Water to cover

Stock to cover or granulated base enhanced water

2 tablespoons each fresh chopped, rosemary and thyme

8 bay leaves

1 teaspoon ground allspice

1 large yellow onion chopped

To taste minced spicy or sweet peppers placenta and seeds removed

1 cup each; vinegar and lime juice

2 cups diced cucumbers, jicama, blanched chayote or camote

4 ounces olive oil

To taste granulated base and fresh ground black pepper


  1. If using shanks cover with water, bring to a boil for 10 minutes, discard water
  2. If using a gentrified cut fore go the above process
  3. Cover the meat with the stock
  4. Add the rosemary, thyme, bay and allspice
  5. Simmer the above till the meat falls from the bone or very tender
  6. Remove from the fire, cool then refrigerate in the stock over night
  7. Remove shanks from the stock, separate from the bone and shred
    • Place in a non reactive bowl and the peppers, vinegar and lime juice then toss
    • Add your choice of vegetables and the olive oil
  8.  Adjust seasonings, then refrigerate till service           

Souses makes a great topping for hojaldres, tortillas, arepas or even works in a sandwich with cilantro sprigs and perhaps some lime zest, encurtido, chimichurri, or alcaparrado additions. As a child I remember seeing pickled pigs feet and eggs in glass jars on top of the butcher case at a local store staring out menacingly like some preserved scientific specimen.


Ubiquitously found in Latin American and the Caribbean as a holiday accoutrement and originally a whole roast suckling pig known as lechon.  Today it can be found in smaller portions that include boneless or bone in tenderloin, fresh leg or ham, and shoulder or butt in spicy or sweet versions. In Latin America the skin, usually still on the butt or leg portion, is scored and then rubbed with a paste yielding a wonderful crispy skin  much like the glazed holiday ham we’re used to in the US. Various recipes call for letting this “marinade” sit for hours or even days but unfortunately it never penetrate any further then a few millimeters unless you braise the meat in it and is just one of the many myths still espoused in the lore of cooks world-wide. To put it all into perspective it’s simply a pork roast with some lower American spices. Again you can use purchased adobo, aji or recaito sauce or make up one of your own as you’d want to if you prefer a sweet roast and in that case you can even buy bottled, Goya brand, Seville orange juice in many Latin markets.

6 pounds of boneless pork leg, butt, or loin or more if bone in

1 large yellow onion chopped

4 tablespoons chopped garlic

4 ounces naranja agria, bitter or Seville orange juice or use frozen regular

2 tablespoons each fresh oregano, thyme and rosemary or 2 teaspoons each dried

2 tablespoons fresh or brined green peppercorns

To taste granulate chicken base


1 teaspoon each cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice

4 ounces plumped raisins, soaked in water or rum

2 tablespoons sugar

1.  Combine the first seven ingredients , except for the pork, and process into a paste

2.  Adjust seasoning with granulated base

3.  For the sweeter version add the spices, raisins and sugar then process again

4.  Score the exterior of the chosen pork cut ¼’ deep

5.  Coat with the adobo paste

6.  Roast, and if you want a  glaze; dust with sugar then increase heat the last 15 minutes


Clam Stuffed Pork Loin

Pork loins and tenderloins are readily available but somewhat of a gentrified item especially in the interior where most meats tend to be rather bony with little actual meat hence the many sancochos and guisados served with root vegetables and a side of rice. Instead of cutting the loin open and having to tie it back together I just punch a hole in it with a long thin knife to insert the filling, you can begin the process by using a metal skewer or a butchers steel and attacking the loin from both sides.  If you’re using a larger cut wiggle the knife tip around in the interior to form a pocket for your stuffing. I’ve chosen clams in this construct because of their long Spanish history with pork dishes and fresh clam meat always available you could just use easily use crab, calamari, canned octopus or sardines.  

1 pork tenderloin, or 2 pounds bone in or boneless loin or 1 boneless butt

 6 ounces clam meat, or 1 can chopped clams drained or octopus, sardines

 4 ounces canned hearts of palm, drained chopped small

  1 dozen hard-cooked quail eggs or 3 hens’ eggs grated

  6 ounces fresh queso blanco shredded

  2 tablespoons mince garlic

  2 tablespoon fresh oregano, chopped or 4 tablespoons recaito sauce

4 tablespoons mayonnaise

4 ounces bread crumbs or dry masa

To taste granulated base and white pepper

  1. Puncture the end of the meat in a cross pattern; 1 horizontal and 1 vertical cut ………..
  2. Combine clams, hearts of palm, grated eggs and farmers cheese, mix well
  3. Add  garlic, mayonnaise, breadcrumbs and oregano mix well
  4. Season to taste with granulated base and pepper
  5. Stuff the pork by hand or use a pastry bag
  6. Brown the out side of the meat then finish in the oven



 Traditionally a bacon fat sofrito was used for this recipe but we’ll just settle for another oil of you choice since we’re going to use some Spanish chorizo or pepperoni for our heightened pork flavor. Panamanians don’t use roux or flour to thicken their stews instead relying on reduction, or the cellular breakdown of the various starch components, to increase the viscosity and that’s why condiment toppings are so prevalent. For the European palate it’s often hard to differentiate between stews and soups because both a re usually thinner then our renditions. The vegetable types used in the tropics are regional so I’ve chosen some that are probably available in your local Latin market and you can moderate your choice of those listed in the recipe as well as add or substitute any other exotics you might find.

1   pounds pork stew meat, shanks, ribs or neck bones

8 ounces Spanish chorizo or pepperoni diced

1 large yellow onion chopped

2 tablespoons minced garlic

1 cup fresh, canned or frozen amaranth, calla-loo, spinach, kale or collard greens

2 quarts of stock or base fortified water

8 ounces name white yam. Peeled and cubed

8 ounces chayote, peeled and cubed

8 ounces camote/batata, sweet potato, peeled and cubed

8 ounces plantain or green banana

8 ounces of yucca

1 tablespoon, + or -, pureed canned chipotle pepper

To taste base and freshly ground black pepper

  1. Saute the pork till browned
  2. Add and saute the chorizo, or pepperoni, chopped onion and garlic
  3. Add your choice of greens and sweat till limp
  4. Add stock, vegetables and chipotle, cover and simmer till meat is tender
  5. Adjust seasoning with base and pepper


JERKED PORK ….. Coming

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