Yucatán Pork with Annatto and Ancho Chiles

This classic Mexican dish of pork shoulder and spices uses a double layer of banana leaves as a flavorful pouch for cooking, but the thick, fibrous leaves are not edible. Slideshow: More Recipes from Andrew Zimmern 

Yucatán Pork with Annatto and Ancho Chiles
Photo: © Petrina Tinslay
Active Time:
1 hrs
Total Time:
6 hrs


  • 1/4 cup annatto (or achiote) seeds

  • 1/2 cup pure ancho chile powder

  • 2 tablespoons dried oregano

  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt

  • 2 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper

  • 1 tablespoon ground allspice

  • 1 onion, quartered

  • 4 garlic cloves, sliced

  • 1 cup fresh orange juice

  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

  • 4 pounds trimmed boneless pork shoulder, cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes

  • Twenty-four 18-inch frozen banana leaves (from two 1-pound packages)—thawed, rinsed and dried (see Note)

  • Twelve 1/4-inch-thick lime slices (from 2 limes)

  • Twelve 1/4-inch-thick jalapeño slices (from about 2 jalapeños)

  • Roasted Tomato and Árbol Chile Salsa, for serving


  1. In a medium saucepan, bring 3 cups of water to a boil. Add the annatto seeds and simmer for 10 minutes. Cover, remove from the heat and let stand for 2 hours. Drain the seeds and transfer them to a blender. Add the chile powder, oregano, salt, black pepper, allspice, onion, garlic, orange juice, vinegar and lime juice. Puree until smooth. Transfer the marinade to a large bowl, add the pork and toss to coat thoroughly. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

  2. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the pork cubes to another bowl. Add 1/4 cup of the marinade and toss to coat.

  3. Light a hardwood charcoal or gas grill and set it up for indirect grilling. Cut the fibrous string off the edge of each banana leaf and reserve. On a work surface, arrange 2 banana leaves in a cross pattern. Spoon 3/4 cup of the pork in the center and top with a slice each of lime and jalapeño. Fold up the top leaf like an envelope to enclose the filling, then wrap the packet in the bottom leaf. Tie up the packet with the reserved banana string. Repeat with the remaining leaves and filling.

  4. When the grill temperature reaches 300°, arrange the packets on the grate away from the heat source and grill, covered, for about 3 hours, until the pork is very tender; replenish the coals as necessary. Serve the pork with the Tomato and Árbol Chile Salsa.


Banana leaves are available at specialty food stores or on gourmetsleuth.com. A pound should be sufficient for this recipe, but have extras in case any are cracked.

Serve With

Rice, fried sweet plantains and cilantro.

Suggested Pairing

Berry-rich Oregon Pinot Noir.

Related Articles