Poc Chuc, Mayan Grilled Pork

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poc chuc, Mayan grilled pork on a platter
Photo by Holly A. Heyser

Poc chuc is arguably the signature dish of the Yucatan, along with cochinita pibil. Chances are that if you have been there on vacation, you’ve ordered this dish of marinated, grilled pork.

You can make an authentic rendition of poc chuc at home, but you will need to start a day before to marinate the pork get everything ready.

The process of making this dish, which is pronounced “poke chook,” involves making a marinade, pounding out pork loin cutlets, marinating the pork, then grilling it over very high heat along with some red onions, which are then doused with a pickly sauce.

You will want a salsa or two to go along with your poc chuc, as well as avocados, maybe some black beans, and of course lots of corn tortillas.

To get started, you will want pork loin, wild or store-bought. I happened to use javelina loin because, well, I had it lying around after a hunt in Arizona, and also because this Mayan dish was probably invented for javelina, which live in that region.

Yucatecan food is also defined by the use of sour orange juice, too. You can buy it as naranja agria in liter bottles in pretty much every Latin market. If you prefer, you can get close to the same flavor by juicing 2 oranges, 1 grapefruit and 3 limes and mixing all that together.

This citrus will appear not only in the poc chuc marinade, but it will also douse the red onions, and likely add zip to whatever salsa you choose to make.

I will give you the recipe for the marinade below, but if you want an easy hack, buy the Mojo Criollo at the Latin market, which will likely be right next to the sour orange juice. Several companies make it, with Goya being the most common. I prefer the Iberia brand when I don’t make it myself.

Mayan poc chuc on a platter, close up
Photo by Holly A. Heyser

If you are using farmed pork, you don’t necessarily need to brine your meat first, but you definitely will want to if you are using javelina or wild pork. This will help it stay juicy after grilling. Simply submerge your pork in a mixture of 1/4 cup kosher salt to 1 quart water overnight.

The timing of a poc chuc feast is a little tricky, so let me walk you through it.

If you are brining the pork, that starts 2 days before the feast. Either way, you want to marinate the pork the day before, or at least early that morning on the day of. First, make your salsas. I like to have two.

Salsa verde is a good call for one, and then make a standard pico de gallo, only Yucatecan, by using the sour orange juice and subbing the jalapenos for habaneros. Or you can use the grill and char everything and mash it in a basalt rock molcajete. Your call.

Then you will want to grill a bunch of red onions, slice them up and soak them in a spicy pickly sauce. Then make your corn tortillas, if you are doing them homemade. Or if not, heat store-bought ones up now. Incidentally, you can also serve poc chuc over rice.

When everything else is ready, grill the pork until it is medium-well, about 155°F inside. Keep in mind that farmed pork and javelina can be served medium, but wild pork should be served closer to 160°F.

I know it sounds like a production, and it is, kinda sorta. But poc chuc is so good it’s worth it, and the salsas and onions and pork are all great cold the next day. If you have leftovers, that is.

finished poc chuc recipe
5 from 6 votes

Mayan Poc Chuc

This is the signature grilled pork of the Yucatan, a favorite among vacationers. I use javelina or wild pork, but it is normally made with farmed pork. Read the post above for the timing and shortcuts.
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Guatemalan, Mexican
Servings: 8 people
Author: Hank Shaw
Prep Time: 1 hour
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Marinating Time: 1 day

Ingredients 

MARINADE

  • 3 pounds pork loin (see above)
  • 1 head garlic
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 cup sour orange juice (for substitute, see above)

ONIONS

  • 2 pounds red onions, peeled and quartered
  • 1/4 cup sour orange juice (for substitute, see above)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano (Mexican, if possible)
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground clove

MAYAN PICO DE GALLO

  • 4 plum tomatoes, diced
  • 1/2 cup sour orange juice (for substitute, see above)
  • salt
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano (Mexican, if possible)
  • 2 red onions, diced
  • 1 to 2 habaneros, minced
  • 1 cup chopped cilantro

Instructions 

MARINADE

  • If you are brining the pork, submerge it in a mixture of 1/4 cup kosher salt to 1 quart water, then let it sit in the fridge overnight. When you are ready to marinate it, slice the loin into medallions. Put a medallion into a heavy freezer bag and pound it flat with a mallet or empty wine bottle. You want the cutlets about 1/4 inch thick.
  • Blend the marinade ingredients and coat the pork cutlets with it, in a bag or covered container. Let this sit overnight.

ONIONS

  • Get your grill hot and clean the grates. Char the quartered red onions well. You want significant blackening. Take them off when they're ready and cut into slices you'd like to eat on a tortilla.
  • Mix the remaining onion ingredients together in a bowl and toss with the charred, sliced red onions. Let this sit at room temperature. These can be made up to 1 day in advance.

SALSA

  • Mix the chopped onion and habaneros in a bowl with the salt, oregano and sour orange juice. Let this sit while you dice the tomato and chop the cilantro. You can add the tomato to the bowl as soon as it has been chopped, but leave the cilantro out until you are ready to serve. Toss it in at the last minute.

TO FINISH

  • When all is ready, get your grill hot and clean the grates again. Take the pork out of the marinade but do not scrape it off or rinse. Grill the pork over high heat for about 2 to 4 minutes per side. You want the pork to just about be done, so keep an eye on it.
  • Slice the pork thin and serve on corn tortillas with the onions, some salsa, and maybe a side dish of black beans. Sliced avocados are a good garnish. You can also serve this over simple steamed rice.

Nutrition

Calories: 336kcal | Carbohydrates: 20g | Protein: 41g | Fat: 10g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Cholesterol: 107mg | Sodium: 674mg | Potassium: 1017mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 10g | Vitamin A: 483IU | Vitamin C: 37mg | Calcium: 59mg | Iron: 2mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

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About Hank Shaw

Hey there. Welcome to Hunter Angler Gardener Cook, the internet’s largest source of recipes and know-how for wild foods. I am a chef, author, and yes, hunter, angler, gardener, forager and cook. Follow me on Instagram and on Facebook.

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17 Comments

  1. Great recipe. I was getting bored with my normal taco night recipes and this really spiced things up. The sour orange was something new for me as well as using habenaro peppers. I appreciate the little tips you explain. I made blue corn tortillas from some blue corn I had grown in the garden last harvest season. Worked out great. I’ll definitely try this with javelina if I can snag one this year.

  2. I know this was intended for pork or javelina, but we just made this recipe with a wild turkey breast and it was outstanding.

    1. Mike: Absolutely just as good — after all, wild turkeys are a very traditional meat in the Yucatan!

  3. Thanks Hank. Our final meal in the yucatan was poc chuc and we liked that and the sopa de lima so much I potted a miniature lima agria when we returned – and it had fruit this weekend so since I already had 2 day dry-brined pork ribs going I steeped them in a few limas worth of juice yesterday am and grilled last night along with some nopales (done per your 2016 crosshatch directions) and pickled spring onions from the farmers market. Made your habanero salsa using some brined aji limons plus a few dashes habanero sauce. The lima acid really cut the intensity of the marbling on the pork and the salsa ties it together. Normally my wife won’t eat salsas on her meat, this time she cleared two servings! A real winner.

  4. Oh god, I may have to re-think making my own fruit based wine…your recipe is WAY over my pea brain but Thanks anyway..It sounds like the end product would be delicious! Perhaps made by someone else! 🙂

  5. I have found that when sautéing or grilling cutlets that reducing the cook time on the flip-over preserves moisture. On a two minute grill I give it only one minute on the flip, etc. Great recipe for venturing past the usual taco feast.

      1. great, thanks. I actually have both in the freezer. We occasionally find whole pork loin for $1.69#. I cut it into roasts off either end and then chops from the middle. Good way to stock the freezer.

  6. I shall try this, we’ve never heard of this dish but it sounds delicious! Do you rinse the pork after the salt brine? Also..unrelated.. do you have a recipe anywhere for fruit wine and if not do you know of one somewhere that you would recommend? Thanks!

    1. Chris: No, you don’t rinse it. As for fruit wines, look up my elderberry wine recipe. That should serve you well as a guide.

    2. Chris I asked Hank about this maybe a few weeks back too when he was talking about clearing old dried fruits from the freezer. I have four different berry ferments going at four different alcohol content levels, plus about a quarter of elderflower champagne and maybe 10c ginger beer all fermenting.

      Agreed try his elderflower approach, the natural yeasts did work. Per his instructions I am getting more control however from the “brewers yeast” method (ok technically i took some really hoochy sourdough starter and went with that, has so far given a really pure, alcohol-not-funk-driven ferment). Hank wrote up a really extensive writeup, it is worth reading if you are just getting started.

      1. Thanks Jeff! I did read Hank’s writeup regarding the elderberry wine but..and but is the operative word here…it was way over my head in terms of…just about everything! 🙂 I was hoping for something a little less work! But nothing really good is really that easy, is it?

      2. He has a few methods, “the hardest way” which is for really elegant, clear elderflower. And… right I did not buy any special wine thieves or hygromometers or whatever to do that, too much for me. BUT there is another way he suggests in the “clearing out the freezer” post which is how I started, and that one is rock dumb simple:

        – Chop up any old dried fruits in the freezer and/or the “ok parts” of fruit that is starting to turn (cherries and early season nectarines in my house). I even keep a little jar on the counter to fill with whatever my teenage daughter leaves since she rarely makes it through a whole peach.
        – Fill a mason jar half full w water and toss the chopped stuff in it. Leave it on the counter. I put mine in a windowsill to run the ferment faster
        – If flies are a bother cover it in something like cheesecloth or other breathable top. Key is you want to let native yeasties settle on the fruit though so dont screw a lid on.

        Nature will have it’s way – you’ll at least get *some* sort of fermenting yeasts growing in there. It’s so hot out in Norcal that my jar went “bubbly” in less than 48 hours. That’s it. Let the fermentation run as long as you want, when you want to drink it just strain and serve on ice. Mine was very very good, sort of like bubbly fruit-tinged vodka but much weaker…

      3. Oh and if you want to see a pictorial step by step let me know in Replies or google Barely Digestible and leave me an email, I’m posting The Barely Digestible Fermentation Project with cool pics and credit to Hank where it is due (basically everywhere)

      4. Jeff, I tried to leave a message somewhere on your site but there is no place to leave comments. I really don’t want to try and communicate here on Hank’s site which is totally inappropriate so could you please let me know how and where to contact you…besides here?
        Thanks!

        PS. Hank..as soon as I get to the Mexican market I’m going to make your delicious sounding prickly pear salad! Thank-you!