This cochinita pibil enchilada recipe, inspired by one used at Bella’s Restaurant in Taos New Mexico, pops with earthy achiote paste and citrus juices, yielding luscious, spicy pulled pork enchiladas. A perfect recipe to feed a crowd.
If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a hundred times: If someone makes enchiladas for you it means they love you.
Enchiladas are a skill and a process that truly are a labor of love.
From preparing the filling, making the sauce, to frying and dipping the corn tortillas … not difficult, but a process that can take at least a couple of hours.
It’s a leisurely way to spend an afternoon, with a delicious and authentic result.
On our last trip to Taos we stopped at Bella’s restaurant just off the plaza, where I enjoyed one of the best platters of pork enchiladas I’ve ever had, Conchinita Pibil wrapped in blue corn tortillas.
There’s absolutely no reason to go to New Mexico if you’re not going to order some sort of entree that includes a blue corn tortilla. It’s a New Mexico specialty that you don’t want to overlook.
I spotted this enchilada description on the menu and the rest was history.
Enchiladas -blue corn tortillas, topped with red or green chile, or mole poblano and filled with your choice of shredded chicken, carne deshebrada or cochinita pibil.
Conchinita Pibil? New to me, so a must try. Blue corn tortilas = yes please. I chose the red chile for my topping.
I savored every bite and vowed to make these pork enchiladas in my own kitchen. The only piece I’m missing are the blue corn tortillas, which are impossible (for me) to find here in Denver. I’m still looking.
This is a great recipe to feed a crowd. You can even make and bake it ahead of time and pop it in the freezer.
Let’s get started.
Ingredients To Make Cochinita Pibil Pork Enchiladas
Cochinita Pibil is made by using a pork shoulder roast marinated and braised in Achiote Paste, lime, orange juice and a lineup of beautiful spices. It’s then shredded and used for Pibil tacos or enchiladas.
- Pork Roast: Purchase a 3 – 4 pound pork shoulder roast, also known as pork butt. When a recipe calls for cutting a pork roast into pieces , I prefer to make things easy and buy a boneless roast.
- Cumin seeds: Toasting cumin seeds brings out the best of their earthy warm flavor.
- Allspice berries: Bring a dynamic flavor of cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves.
- Whole black peppercorns: Adds a more pure pepper flavor.
- Mexican Oregano: Mexican oregano brings a more citrus flavor than regular oregano, as well as some tones of licorice. These flavors are a better fit with Mexican dishes.
- Cinnamon: You can commonly find cinnamon in Mexican cuisine. The most well-known being mole.
- Ground Cloves: An intensely aromatic spice, ground cloves bring a warmness to any recipe.
- Achiote Paste: The star of the show. The deep rust red color alone is spectacular, and Achiote Paste brings an earthy, peppery flavor with a hint of bitterness.
- Orange Juice: Adding orange juice not only adds a sweet flavor, but the acid will help tenderize the meat.
- Lime Juice: Lime juice adds that lime flavor that we all love, and also brightens the overall taste.
- Soy Sauce: The salty flavor of soy sauce penetrates the meat better than salt. It’s also a flavor enhancer which will help bring out the savory flavor in any meat.
- White Vinegar: Vinegar helps break down the surface of meat, allowing flavors to penetrate the meat better. It also brightens flavors in any dish.
- Shredded cheddar cheese: Choose a good quality cheddar that will bring the best flavor to the overall dish. I usually reach for Tillamook. And grate that cheese myself. Those bags of grated cheese contain preservatives that will keep the cheese from melting smoothly.
- Sliced poblano peppers: My favorite fresh pepper to use for Mexican recipes. Shaped like a bell pepper, it’s easy to slice or chop and the flavor is similar to a green bell pepper with a little more kick.
- Sliced sweet onions
- Canned chopped tomatoes: Choose a good quality brand of canned chopped tomatoes. We used Pomi in Culinary School and I also like Red Gold Petite Diced. The smaller the dice, the better the tomatoes will break down for flavor and texture.
- Bay leaves: Always bring distinct flavor and fragrance.
How To Make Pibil Enchiladas
- Step 1: Start by trimming the large chunks of fat from the pork roast and cutting it into 2″ thick slabs. Set aside and start making the marinade.
- Step 2: Heat a skillet over medium high heat. Once the skillet is hot, add the unpeeled garlic cloves and toast them on each side until they start to brown and are fragrant. Remove and set aside. When cool enough remove peels.
- Step 3: In the same skillet, heat oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add achiote, oregano, cloves, cinnamon, black peppercorns, cumin, and allspice and cook, tossing and stirring, until the spices are toasted and fragrant, about two minutes.
- Step 4: Transfer the toasted spices to a blender or food processor and add garlic, orange juice, lime juice, vinegar, soy sauce, and a big pinch of salt. Blend until smooth. Season to taste with more salt, if needed.
- Step 5: Place pork in a roaster pan. Pour marinade over meat and rub it in with your hands. Cover, refrigerate, and let it rest at least three hours or up to overnight.
- Step 6: Slice peppers and onions. Drain the canned tomatoes.
- Step 7: Once the pork has marinated, tuck the sliced vegetables and tomatoes, along with bay leaves within the layers of the pork. Cover with foil and bake 300 degrees for three hours.
Step 7: Once cooked, shred pork with two forks, soaking it in drippings from the vegetables, sauce and marinade. The onions and peppers are now so tender that they’ll melt into the meat as you shred.
It’s time to make pork enchiladas.
How To Roll Enchiladas with Corn Tortillas
- Step 1: Set up an assembly line. This is an important step to streamline the process. Place your frying pan (I like to use my omelette pan, perfect size for corn tortillas) on your stovetop burner. Place a plate next to the burner to place the tortillas once they are fried. Add a bowl of enchilada sauce next to the plate. Next station will be the shredded pork. Followed by the shredded cheese.
- Step 2: The final station will be your casserole pan which has been lined with a thin layer of enchilada sauce.
- Step 3: Using the casserole pan as your rolling station. Take a fried tortilla and dip it in the enchilada sauce. Tips on frying tortillas below. Place the tortilla in the casserole dish and add a couple of tablespoons of shredded pork.
- Step 4: Add a heaping tablespoon of shredded cheese. Don’t overfill the enchiladas, as too much might break the delicate shell. Gently roll the corn tortilla around the filling turn seam side down in the casserole.
- Step 5: Continue to fill and roll the enchiladas until the casserole is full. They can fit snuggly, but don’t overfill the casserole dish. You don’t want to smash them. Six fit nicely in a 10″ x 7″ casserole.
- Step 6: Top the enchiladas with more cheese and drizzle on additional enchilada sauce.
- Step 7: Ready for the oven. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 – 25 minutes, or until nice and bubbly.
FAQ’s and Tips For Success
Medium high heat is the key to successfully frying corn tortillas for enchiladas. Heat a skillet over medium high heat, when the skillet is hot, add 1 tablespoon vegetable or canola oil. When the oil is shimmering, lower a single corn tortilla into the oil. Let it cook for 30 seconds. Using tongs, turn it over and let it cook 15 more seconds. Remove to a plate and cover with a paper towel and proceed with the next tortilla. You’ll need to replenish the oil about every third tortilla.
Simply keep that oil at a medium high temperature. If you try to fry the tortillas in oil that isn’t hot enough the tortilla will tear and fall apart when you try to turn it.
Freezing enchiladas after they are cooked works very well. Just cover well. You can bake a whole pan of enchiladas for a latter meal. Simply thaw the enchilada casserole and gently re-heat in the oven at 300 degrees for 30 – 45 minutes. I’ve not had good luck freezing un-cooked enchiladas. They can become soggy and the texture of the cheese becomes odd, affecting both taste and texture. Bake them first.
Corn tortillas are traditionally used to make enchiladas. They have a more “corn” flavor and are sturdier. You most certainly can use white corn tortillas, but they will be more finicking during the frying process. But will work.
No! If you’re using a flour tortilla you’re making a burrito, not an enchilada.
Absolutely! To serve, divide pork between warmed corn tortillas; top with pickled onions, cilantro, and radishes. Serve with lime wedges.
Recipe for Cochinita Pibil Pork Enchiladas
I hope you give these pork enchiladas a try, and if you do, please come back and give the recipe a star rating. And scroll down and leave a comment about your experience in making them.
What to serve with enchiladas? A Mexican Rice side dish is the most popular option, and a Mexican themed salad would be a great choice. Take a look at this recipe for Southwestern Salad with Black Beans. For a heartier side, choose Cowboy Beans. And for dessert, try this Pepita Mexican Chocolate Cake.
Friends don’t let friends eat Mexican food without Pickled Red Onions. Serve them table side as a topping for these pork enchiladas.
More Enchilada Recipes
- Baked Chicken Enchiladas with Tomato Jalapeno Cream Sauce
- Street Style Red Chile Enchiladas
- Ground Beef Enchiladas
- Beer Braised Pork Enchiladas Verde
And if you love Mexican food like we do, don’t miss my Mexican Food Category. You’ll find lots of recipe ideas to spice up those meal plans including the most popular on my site for Hatch Green Chili.
Cochinita Pibil (Yucatán-Style BBQ Pulled Pork Enchiladas
- 3-4 pounds Boneless pork shoulder roast Large chunks of fat trimmed and cut into 2 inch thick slabs. Or 6 pounds bone-in pork shoulder, cut into large chunks.
- For the Marinade:
- 5 cloves garlic unpeeled
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1/4 cup achiote paste
- 2 tablespoons Mexican oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 2 tablespoons whole black peppercorns
- 1 tablespoon whole cumin seed
- 1 tablespoon whole allspice berries
- 3/4 cup orange juice
- Juice of 1 lime
- 1/4 cup white vinegar
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- Kosher salt
- To Cook The Pork
- 15 1/2 can Tomatoes chopped and drained
- 2 medium Poblano Peppers tops cut off, and sliced
- 1 sweet onion sliced
- 3 whole bay leaves
- To Build The Enchiladas
- 4 cups Enchilada Sauce
- 2 cups Cheddar Cheese Grated
- 18 Yellow Corn tortillas softened by frying
- 3 Tablespoons canola oil to fry tortillas
- For the Pork Marinade: Toss unpeeled garlic in a dry skillet over high heat until starting to toast and get dark spots. Peel the skins when cool enough to handle.
- Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add achiote, oregano, cloves, cinnamon, black peppercorns, cumin, and allspice and cook, tossing and stirring, until fragrant, about 2 minutes.
- Transfer this mixture to a food processor along with garlic, orange juice, lime juice, vinegar, soy sauce, and kosher salt.
- Blend until smooth. Season to taste with more salt if needed.
- Place pork in a roaster pan. Pour marinade over meat and rub it in with your hands. Cover, refrigerate, and let it rest at least 3 hours and up to overnight.
- To Cook The Pork: Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
- Drain tomatoes. Slice peppers and onions and tuck them along with bay leaves within the layers of the pork.
- Cover with foil and cook 3 hours.
- For the Enchilada Sauce: In the meantime make homemade enchilada sauce (recommended) Or open cans of purchased enchilada sauce to equal 4 cups. Place in a wide bowl and set aside.
- Shred pork with two forks, soaking it in drippings.
- To build the enchiladas: I like to use 2 – 3 10 1/2" by 7" casserole dishes. They're a perfect fit for corn tortillas.
- Pour just enough of the enchilada sauce to cover the bottom of the casserole dishes by about 1/2 inch.
- Set up your assembly line in this order. Skillet to fry tortillas, plate to place the tortillas once they're fried. A bowl of enchilada sauce (bowl should be wide enough to easily dip fried tortillas, a bowl of shredded pork, the shredded cheese and a casserole pan lined with enchilada sauce. Keep a couple of sets of tongs handy to handle food.
- Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a heavy skillet over medium high heat. Once the oil is hot, fry the corn tortillas. Using tongs, place a single corn tortilla into the oil and cook or 30 seconds. Turn the tortilla over and cook for an additional 15 seconds. Remove the tortilla to a plate and cover with a paper towel to keep warm. Repeat with the remaining tortillas, adding more oil when necessary and stacking the tortillas on top of each other and keeping the paper towel on top. Expert tip: the corn tortillas will break if the oil is not hot enough. Keep that heat at medium high. The tortillas should be soft, not crispy. You want to be able to roll them easily.
- Place 2 cups of the enchilada sauce into a shallow bowl. A deep dish pie plate works very well. Using tongs or your hands, dip a warm tortilla into the enchilada sauce and then place the tortilla into one of the casserole pans.
- Add a spoon full of the shredded pork, then a pinch of shredded cheese. Don't over-fill the tortillas or they'll break. Roll the tortillas and place them seam side down in the pan, moving the tortilla to the end of the casserole so you can add more rolled tortillas. Repeat.
- Once the enchiladas are rolled, sprinkle liberally with more grated cheese and spoon more enchilada sauce over the top. About 3/4 of a cup of sauce will do.
- Bake the enchiladas until bubbly. 350 degrees for 20 – 30 minutes.
Cochinita Pibil Pork Enchiladas … they’re whats for dinner