GF Tuesdays: Pernil Tacos & Puerto Rican Coleslaw


by Jun 13th, 2011 // Dinner, Gluten Free

GF Tuesdays: Pernil Tacos & Puerto Rican Coleslaw

Suddenly, I’ve found myself surrounded by a group of Gluten-Free friends. I truly love them but I have no idea what to feed them. I’m a gluten-free dummy. Luckily, my friend, April, from Gluten is My Bitch has been schooling me. After my 100th gluten-free question this week, she finally volunteered to do a series of Gluten-Free (GF) posts.

Hi! April here… I really don’t need an excuse to chow down on Mexican food. But now that I’m gluten-free, that’s my excuse for stopping at the taco stand every single day. Because, for the most part, tacos are gluten-free. (Sadly, burritos are not. Sniff.) So when I feel like entertaining my guests by showing off my taco skills, out comes my favorite Puerto Rican dinner: Pernil tacos with Puerto Rican coleslaw salad.

So what’s a pernil, you may ask? And what’s with the Mexican food being hijacked by Puerto Rican dishes? Pernil is a pork party in your mouth; and it’s about time you partied like you live in an unincorporated territory of America. About a year ago I interviewed PBS star of Daisy Cooks!, and she gave me the lowdown on her favorite dish: Pernil. A traditional Puerto Rican pork roast that you make for Christmas, I decided pernil would taste best on tacos. So I adapted it to my needs wants. While this dish is incredibly simple, you do have to prepare in advance. Like, three days in advance, because the pernil needs to hang out in your fridge marinating in wet adobo for three full days.

Wet adobo is really fun for kids to make because they get to work that mortar and pestle! You start with the garlic, salt, fresh oregano, and peppercorns. Let the kids get it going, but you might want to give small hands a break after awhile so you can really grind those peppercorns down. But they’ll get a thrill at banging this stuff to pieces. Like so.

Next you add the wet ingredients to the mashed up flavors of goodness, and in the end your wet adobe should look something like this.

It smells freaking amazing (if you’re into garlic, which I so totally am!). Next, you’ll be the one to cut those 1 ½ inch slits into the meat before the kiddos get going. Now, I realize seeing a kid rubbing down a pig may not be the most appealing thing to those of you who value hand sanitizer, but this is seriously fun for tiny hands. Seriously.  She really got in there!

Now, you just let that meat hang out in your refrigerator and start thinking about all the taco fixin’s you’re going to need to get in the next few days. I’d love to make my own homemade tortillas, just like Macki, and I will someday. But today I just studied my tortillas at the market to make sure they were marked “gluten-free.” Because some sneaky people put soy sauce in tortilla chips, and wheat flour in corn tortillas. I know! It’s insane. So be alert, celiac.

Throw in a little avocado, a side of nummy beans, and take it all the way to the PR, by throwing some Puerto Rican coleslaw salad on top of those tacos. I like to add the red cabbage to the recipe I found, so it looks pretty.

Pernil Tacos Recipe
adapted from Daisy Martinez

Prep Time: 20 minutes (+ 3 days) Cook time: 2 1/2 hours

4 1/2 pound skin-on pork shoulder roast (you can also use pork butt, it’s equally tender and delicious)
12 cloves garlic, peeled
1 ½ tablespoons fine sea or kosher salt
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
2 tablespoons dried oregano
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

For Serving:
1 ripe avocado, diced
1 package gluten-free tortillas
Puerto Rican Coleslaw (see recipe below)

Start by making the wet adobo 3 days in advance.

1. To make adobo, pound the garlic cloves and salt to a paste using a mortar and pestle. Add the peppercorns and oregano, pounding well after each to incorporate them into the paste. Stir in the olive oil and vinegar.
2. Up to 3 days before you serve the roast, set the roast in a bowl skin side up. With a paring or boning knife, make several slits about 1½ inches wide through the skin of the roast and into the meat. Make the slits as deep as you can. Wiggle a finger in the slits to open them up a bit, then fill each with wet adobo, using a teaspoon. (Or your child’s hands, as seen above.)
3. Turn the roast over and do the same to all sides. If you have adobo left over, rub it all over the outside of the roast. Refrigerate, covered, at least 1 day or up to 3 days.
4. After your roast has marinated for 3 days, preheat the oven to 450° F and set the roast skin side up on a rack in a roasting pan.
5. Roast 1 hour, turn the heat down to 400° F and roast until the skin is deep golden brown and crackly and there is no trace of pink near the bone, about 1 ½ hours.
6. Remove from oven and let the roast rest at least 15 minutes before carving.
7. Cut the pork into pieces, then pile them up to serve. (While Daisy recommends you remove the crackly skin when serving, I’ve found that it adds that special something to leave it on when you’re serving tacos.)
8. Rap the tortillas in a damp paper towel and warm for 30 seconds in the microwave.
9. Assemble your tacos, meat first, handful of slaw and avacodo.

Print Post

Puerto Rican Coleslaw Salad Recipe
adapted from My

Prep Time: 20 minutes Cook Time: O minutes

7 cups very thinly sliced green and red cabbage
1/2 cup grated carrot
2 tablespoons finely chopped onion
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1. Combine first 4 ingredients in a large bowl.
2. Combine juice and remaining ingredients, stirring well with a whisk. Drizzle juice mixture over cabbage mixture; toss well to combine. Cover and chill 15 minutes.

Print Post


One Comment on “GF Tuesdays: Pernil Tacos & Puerto Rican Coleslaw”

  1. 1.) Paul Sussman
    January 28th, 2012

    Just a persnickety note: pork shoulder and pork butt are the same thing. It’s not called pork butt (or often Boston butt) because of where on the pig it comes from, but because it was cut to fit ino barrels, which were called “butts”. Meat from the back of the pig is ham or leg.

Leave a Reply