This article was updated on the 15th of August 2023 for clarity and to improve text readability.
If you’re wondering what to serve with your pernil, you’ve come to the right place. In this article, I list 33 of the most popular side dishes for pernil.
In a rush? Here’s the short answer.
The most traditional side dishes to serve with pernil are tostones (fried plantains) and arroz con gandules (rice and pigeon peas). For something lighter, yobiteu could go for a Cuban salad, pickled onions, or a grilled corn salad. Less traditional sides include buttery mashed potatoes and steamed broccoli.
Ready? Let’s jump right in.
Tostones (fried plantains)
Tostones are a traditional Puerto Rican side dish for pernil, and it’s easy to see why. These plantains are fried twice, giving them an extra crispy bite that perfectly contrasts with the pernil’s tender meat.
Make sure to use green plantains when making tostones. The yellow ones can be fried too, although they’re sweeter and softer. Save them for dessert instead! And if you can’t find green plantains, you can also use yuca, cassava, or sweet potatoes as a substitute.
Enjoy your pernil with a side of these tostones and a mojito garlic sauce for the ultimate Puerto Rican feast.
Too much meat can leave your mouth feeling greasy pretty quickly, but these quick-pickled onions will fix that. They get their bright, tangy flavor from a simple vinegar and sugar pickling solution, which helps cut through the fatty pork.
And the best part about these pickled onions is that they require minimal effort. You only need to heat the pickling solution and then pour it over the onions and let them sit for a minimum of 30 minutes. But if you have the time, I highly recommend waiting overnight before digging in for a more pronounced sweet-tangy flavor.
Pro-tip: these easy pickled onions last for up to two weeks in the fridge, so you can save time by making them in advance.
Rice and pigeon peas (arroz con gandules)
If you’ve ever been at a Puerto Rican celebration you’ll have probably seen this dish served alongside pernil. It’s a rice dish with a rich, herby flavor from the sofrito (a blend of sautéed garlic, onions, peppers, and tomatoes) and the tomato sauce base, with hints of nuttiness from the addition of pigeon peas.
The Novice Chef uses medium-grain rice for this recipe, but you can also use long-grain varieties in a pinch. Avoid using short-grain rice, though, because it’ll make the final dish too sticky.
Psst… if you can’t find pigeon peas, use pinto beans in their place.
Pernil is a heavy main dish, so why not enjoy it alongside a lighter side dish like this Cuban salad? The combination of crisp and juicy veggies and the zesty dressing are exactly what you need to offset the richness of the tender meat.
Plus, it’s super quick to put together, so you can spend less time cooking and more time entertaining!
You can serve this salad on the side, or shred pernil and toss it in with the salad for a complete and healthy meal.
Spicy BBQ baked beans
The perfect blend of spicy and sweet, these beans pair well with the savory flavors of pernil. And the kick from the jalapenos will keep everyone from getting too sleepy because they’re too full!
Add some crusty bread rolls to the plate to mop up all the sauce and you have a winning dinner.
Pro-tip: these beans are hot enough on their own, but you can easily amp the heat even more by adding more jalapenos and cayenne pepper.
Every meaty main dish needs a vegetable side to go with it, and sauteed spinach is the perfect candidate.
I know what you’re thinking — it’s too simple. But with a dish as rich as pernil, keeping it straightforward is the way to go.
This recipe from Maral Kitchen adds lemon zest and oregano to add a vibrant touch to the sauteed spinach, which also goes nicely with the smoky flavors of pernil.
Pulled pork is rarely seen without coleslaw, so why not pair it with pernil too?
The crunchy veggies add some texture, and the tangy mayo dressing helps offset the richness of the pernil. And if you have leftovers, you can make a pernil and coleslaw sandwich the next day (yum!).
Psst… this Ole Mom uses a pre-shredded coleslaw mix for this recipe, but you can always shred your veggies if you prefer.
Grilled corn salad
Serving pernil for a summer party or potluck? Enjoy it with a side of this colorful grilled corn salad.
The smoky-sweet corn, combined with the juicy tomatoes and creamy avocados make for a refreshing contrast to your savory pernil. Grilled corn is a must for this recipe, but Well Plated also provides methods for cooking the corn in the oven and stovetop instead.
Pro-tip: set out some tortillas on the table as well so people can make their own tacos with this salad and shredded pernil!
Pairing your pernil with buttery, creamy mashed potatoes will turn it into the ultimate comfort food.
You could flavor the mash with cheese, mustard, or garlic but I think plain is best for the savory flavors of pernil. The mash is there to act as a supporting actor, and will really allow the pernil’s adobo seasoning to shine.
Plus, this version from Sprinkles and Sprouts already uses 1½ stick of butter, making this mash extra decadent on its own.
Garlicky steamed broccoli
Steamed broccoli isn’t a traditional side dish for pernil, and it even seems boring at first… but this recipe from Diethood adds a few simple tweaks to jazz it up.
After steaming the florets, they’re tossed with garlicky, buttery breadcrumbs, which add decadence and a bit of crunch. Diethood also adds a spritz of lemon juice, which infuses the florets with a brightness that brings the whole dish together.
And if you’re not a fan of breadcrumbs, you can omit them and toss the florets in the garlic butter mixture instead. They’ll still taste delicious.
Chipotle lime mayo
I’ve gone a little off track because this is a sauce, not a side, but I want everyone to know about this! Chipotle lime mayo is what you need to take your pernil to the next level.
There’s nothing fancy about this recipe — you only need to mix mayonnaise with chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, lime juice, garlic, and onion powder. But the combination of smoky, citrusy notes is exactly what a rich, savory dish like pernil needs for a balanced bite.
What To Serve With Pernil
- 1 portion tostones
- 1 portion cuban salad
- 1 portion sauteed spinach
- 1 portion creamy coleslaw
- 1 portion buttery mash
- chipotle lime mayo … and more
- Prepare your bulgogi according to your favorite recipe.
- In the meantime, choose one of the following sides to serve alongside it.
- Side dishes include: tostones (fried plantains), pickled onions, rice and pigeon peas (arroz con gandules), Cuban salad, spicy bbq baked beans, sauteed spinach, creamy coleslaw, grilled corn salad, buttery mash, garlicky steamed broccoli, chipotle-citrus mayo,
- Serve immediately and enjoy.