Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >
Aug 31, 2013 12:23 PM

Cochinita Pibil --- with Beef, is it doable or am I delusional?

So I had my heart set on making cochinita pibil for a holiday dinner for 15 people (Jewish new Year) and foolishly thought I could just sub in a different meat. But now that I am looking at it, it doesnt sound like the best idea. The reason I am fixated is that I want to impress relatives with the exotic banana leaves... even plantains... I looked around for beef or lamb in banana leaves and there are 2 options that come up:
Lamb Barbacoa OR
Beef with Guajillo sauce
oh yeah- and I even found an Omani lamb option...

I am now finding myself getting confused with the flavors and the cuisine (Mex vs ME) especially as the Barbacoa includes garbanzos which immed takes me to the ME.... I was going to use a rub of chiles and achiote and then have corn tortillas, but now that doesnt seem like it would work very well.
I need some clarity, some good advice and a dose of reality...
Thanks for all replies and suggestions (asap)!

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Garbanzos are used in Mexico. Like beef, pork and lamb they came from Spain. There are also areas of Mexico, like Merida in the south, that are known for Lebanese influences.

    I don't know of any reason why an achiote based rub couldn't be used on beef. The heavy use of achiote is more typical of the Yucatan (and Oaxaca) than the rest of Mexico.
    is a Costa Rican recipe for beef with achiote.

    2 Replies
    1. re: paulj

      interesting recipe and thanks for the response. the most important element to me is the banana leaves (exotic presentation) and as i thought, the sour orange doesnt really work with beef and certainly not lamb. in reading the recipe, it calls for achiote paste after the meat is done, to mix with the plantains? i have anatto seeds and i love the color and subtle flavor but wasnt sure it works with beef or lamb. do i just add in whole plantains into the banana leaf bundle and cook all together low and slow?
      what cut of beef do you recommend using that would be comparable to pork shoulder? i was thinking either short ribs or 7 bone chuck. i may just go nuts and mix it together with leg of lamb...

      1. re: laterible

        I think paulj is correct that you could do this with beef. I'm dubious about lamb in this recipe, and I am a huge lamb fiend.
        I think chuck would be perfect, actually.

    2. I'd say you could easily substitute brisket or chuck for pork. Most of the flavors would work very well (oregano, cumin, achiote, garlic, etc....). The recipes for cochinita pibil I've looked at don't use chiles, but that should work well too.

      Kenji Lopez Alt does a beef barbacoa recipe that you might like as well.

      1. Pavo(Turkey) Pibil is a good option if you do not want to do Pork,which for a Jewish holiday won't work. Same Marinade and method.
        We have often done it with Turkey Thighs at work and it is very good.
        You could also do Fish Filets rubbed with Achiote Paste wrapped in Banana Leaves.

        1 Reply
        1. re: chefj

          Or chicken -- pollo pibil. And in fact if it's the banana leaf flair you're after, the chicken/turkey/fish options in a way make more sense because they're traditionally cooked and served in small banana leaf bundles whereas cochinita pibil isn't.

          And as sbp said dried chile is not typically used in these dishes. Like most Yucatecan cuisine they're not spicy on their own. (The habanero salsas they're served with on the other hand can be ferociously hot.)

          Oh and don't forget the pickled red onion. :)

        2. I could see the pibil spices working with beef but if the main star is the banana leaves, there are lots of kosher mains you could make. I use banana leaves to cook fish and tamales far more often and easily.

          1. I'm going to give it a shot with some beef stew meat today, I don't see why it wouldn't be pretty tasty.
            I will let you guys know how it comes out.
            BTW, have tried it with boneless skinless chicken thighs and it turned out GREAT.
            The only thing is you cook it for 1 hour less with chicken.
            BTW, I follow the spicehouse recipe, pretty much to the letter.