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Aug 31, 2007 08:27 PM

Cochinita Pibil with Peach-Habanero salsa?

I'm at home with my parents for Labor Day weekend. I want to spend the day tomorrow (Saturday) cooking and I also want to make something special for my family. Combine that with my recent pining for Mexican, and I've decided to make Cochinita Pibil tacos. Now, I've never actually make this dish before, but I've tried it at a few taquerias and really want to recreate that myself.

I am planning to make the Robert Rodriguez's recipe included in the features of 'Once Upon a Time in Mexico', with perhaps a few alterations (I can't help myself.) I'm going to serve the finished product (cooked in the oven or crock pot) on tortillas from the local tortilleria. Plus I'm going to make a small batch of pickled red onions. I may use the recipe here on CHOW.

My dillema is, what salsa should I make to go on top? When I've had it, it's always been sans sauce, but I love to make salsas, plus in my research I've read that tradionally it's served with a habañero salsa. I've found a few recipes for traditional habañero salsa online, though none really jump out at me. My idea was to make a habañero peach salsa, a recipe which was recently blogged by Homesick Texan ( ). Part of me is eager to create this sweet-spicy concoction, add to that my parents and brother do not have a taste for overly spicy foods and my hope is that the peach will temper the peppers. But then, since I've made neither the pibil nor the salsa before, I'm not sure these flavors will complement each other. If the pork is juicy enough, I may just serve the salsa on the side with chips.

So, to wrap up an unnecessarily wordy post, I'm hoping some Chowhounders who have more experence with Mexican/Latino cooking can help me out. Will the sweetness of a fruity salsa marry well with the pibil, or am I better off using a more typical salsa? Since I'm going to be investing so much time (and as a broke college student, opportunities to cook like this are rare), I really want this dish to be excellent.

Also, I'm planning to cook up some rice and simple black beans (what is the most common bean in the Yucatan?) and maybe some guac. Any other pointers to round out the meal would be appreciated as well.

Gracias in advance.

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  1. Sorry, too late to help you, but I'll offer my two cents. I made cochinita pibil a couple weeks ago, and I'd think that a peach salsa would cover-up too much of the orange flavor of the pork marinade. All I wanted with mine was a dot of habanero heat to lift the basic flavors.

    4 Replies
    1. re: Melanie Wong

      Agreed habaneros perfectly accent the existing floral & fruity characteristics of Pibil. I don't know why people insist on so much on combining stone fruit based salsas with Yucatecan food... I don't think it works well.

      One of the regions in Puebla (the Mixteca) however does have a long standing stone fruit salsa tradition (stemming from a seasonal glut of stone fruit)... and the pairing is usually dark chile based sauces over rich meats. A perfect example of the flavor combinations is the Manchamanteles style of moles.... very, very different than Pibil.

      1. re: Eat_Nopal

        I'll be very interested in hearing how the OP's feast turned out. I used El Mexicano achiote paste and there was a metallic edge to the flavor that didn't work for me. This was the first time i've used achiote paste and I'm wondering whether that was unique to this brand or . . .?

        1. re: Melanie Wong

          I've good luck with a brand called DelMayaB , no metallic overtones. Also, with a coffee or spice grinder, achiote paste is super easy to make from scratch.

          1. re: Melanie Wong

            While I should support them since they are my clan & somewhat related... El Mexicano / Marquez Bros... products are consistently lower quality than their competitors. Unless you can get your hands one of those artisanal, unbranded bulk pastes they sell in the mercados around the Yucatan... it really pays off to make your own. Achiote Seeds are fairly easy to find.... they are hard as rocks so you need to soak overnight... but everything else is as straight forward as making raw salsas.

      2. I'm sure this is too late for your meal... and I know this really isn't what you are looking for, but when I've made and had cochinita pibil, it's never been served with an additional salsa, generally, because the pork is cooked in that great achiota-sour orange sauce, which makes it's own sauce. So adding another sauce/salsa, you are changing the fundamental premise of the dish.

        I think you are on the right track with the pickled red onions. Garnishes are all I need to accompany pibil tacos: pickled red onions, some slivered habaneros, and cilantro are all I think it would need.

        Hope it turned out well!

        1. Sorry I missed your replies. It turned out that I did not make the Pibil after all. In search of some of my ingredients, I went to the only place I knew to find Latin ingredients in my parent's town: the weekend flea market. When my mom found out where I was going on Saturday morning, she had to come, to feed her feminine shopping needs I guess.

          So, we went to the flea market that morning. Me in search of achiote seeds or paste, sour oranges, and some other Mexican goodies. Her in search of everything else under the sun. Well, would you believe that we were there for several hours? Yep, and by lunch time we were both getting pretty hungry. We ate at a little taqueria/restaurant inside of the market and had what I believe to be the best Mexican in that particular county. It was so late and we were so stuffed on pastor, carnitas and carne asada that my plans for a cochinita pibil had to be put on hold.

          But! I do plan to make it the next time I am visiting the rents. Your responses have definitely given me some good pointers for when I do make the pibil. I think I'll follow adam's advice and just serve sliced habañeros in place of a salsa. As far as achiote paste, I am now more certain that I'll make my own (that is if the coffee grinder doesn't conk out, those annato seeds are tough.)

          Thanks again everyone and I will report back once I have made the dish, probably sometime this month.

          6 Replies
          1. re: Agent Orange

            Do give making the achiote paste for cochinita pibil from scratch a try, I think you will be plesantly surprised at how easy it is and how good the end product is. I've made the cochinita pibil achiote paste recipes from both Diana Kennedy and Rick Bayless and they are equally good. Also, don't be tempted to use the Goya Naranja Agria (Sour Orange) product. It is dreadful. If you can't find the sour oranges, you can use a combination of regular orange juice and lime (or lemon) juice, which, while not exactly the right thing is still far better than the Goya product.

            Good luck. Cochinita Pibil is a terrific dish and not at all difficult to make :-D

            1. re: Agent Orange

              May I suggest you seek out a bottle of El Yucateco Habanero sauce. It's the real deal down in the Yucatan and it is what most folks use.


              My personal favorite is the Kutbil-Ik but that's pretty hard to find. The red Habanero is my second favorite.

              1. re: bkhuna

                I have the Kutbil-Ik at home and use it fairly regularly. With that said its definitely no subsitute for an easy homemade Xnipec. I did see Kutbil-ik at some places around Merida... and I know that in recent generations its became more widely consumed (just like Maruchan instant noodles there & in the interior)... but NO serious Pibil master would even remotely consider putting that stuff on their freshly cooked food. It really belongs as on the Maruchan & the occasion last minute addition to soups.

                1. re: Eat_Nopal

                  I enjoy the Red Habenero on Pibil. It's a better pairinig for me than a sweet salsa.

                  1. re: bkhuna

                    Agreed... but the best pairing is a Xnipec (a simple pico de gallo using habaneros & sour orange juice).