In Memory Of Karen Nicole Smith, 1972 - 2016

Enticing Garlic Pork At Christmas.

While it’s common in Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago to see garlic pork served on Christmas morning and during the holiday season, that was not the case in our home. Pork dishes did make it to the table, but it was stewed, baked in the oven, grilled and even fried, but no garlic pork as far as I recall. On the islands food plays a huge part of the Christmas celebrations and as a kid I remember getting excited with the scent of cake and ham baking in the oven and the many other delicacies being prepared in the kitchen, than I would to open gifts on Christmas morning. Christmas memories for me surround scents (food, new curtains, paint and the new sheets on the bed that had a hint of moth balls), sounds (parang, people singing and the odd intoxicated person rambling on) and joyous emotions (the smiles, inviting people to your home and everyone in an overall good mood).

Garlic pork is one of those dishes where the influence came from people who arrived from other countries and settled in the Caribbean. This is why it’s mainly popular in Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago, since this is where most of the Portuguese settlers called home. Looking at the preparation I can only assume that this was done out of necessity, as there were no readily available refrigerators back then, to keep the meat for long periods of time.

Here’s my take on this classic Christmas dish called garlic pork.

You’ll Need…

4 lbs pork
2 cups vinegar (everyday white vinegar)
1 scotch bonnet or habanero pepper (any hot pepper you like)
1/2 cup shado beni (optional)
2 tablespoon salt
20 cloves garlic
oil for frying (vegetable or any oil which can handle high heat)

* You’ll need some patience as this must marinate for a few days at least.

Notes. Shado beni may not be traditional to this dish, but it’s what make’s it uniquely Trinbagonian so you know I had to add it. Thyme works great with this as well as oregano, but I didn’t have any fresh herbs so I couldn’t be bothered. If using thyme and/or oregano, I’ll recommend using about 1-2 tablespoon chopped. After marinating, I’ve seen some people boil the pork, then fry.. not my thing, so I just fried. You may also see some recipes call for cider vinegar.. since this will be marinating in a ton of garlic, I really don’t see the use for anything but basic vinegar.

It’s now time to trim the pork. In my case I purchased a leg portion with the middle bone… so all I did was cut away into 1 inch cubes. You’ll notice that I did leave back a bit of the fat.. that’s just my preference. Try to use  a cheap piece of pork and not something expensive like a tenderloin (unless you have the coins). For those of you worried about the fat, a regular loin would be a great option for this.

I then rinsed the pieces of cut pork with a little vinegar and water and drained. Then I chopped the shando beni, garlic and pepper very fine. Again, this is just my way of doing things, but you can certainly put everything except the pork into a food processor or blender and make a paste instead.

In a bowl I placed the vinegar, salt, shando beni, pepper and garlic and gave it a good whisk.

Up next is to marinate this (I did say you’ll need some patience). Traditionally this is marinated in an earthen jar or anything that’s non reactive, but in my case I’m using a freezer strength zip lock bag (which I will double up on in case of any leaks). First I placed the washed and drained pieces of pork, then I poured the seasoning mixture in and made sure every piece got coated. I also try to remove all the air I can, so the only thing the meat gets into contact with during the marinating process is the seasoning/vinegar.

 After doubling up on the bags, I placed it in the fridge and allowed it to marinate for 4-5 days. During which time I’ll massage it a couple times at least, to move the pieces of meat and seasoning around a bit. You will notice a couple things…. if your bag/s is not sealed good, you will have a very strong garlicky scent when you open your fridge (not good) and the pieces of meat will go from being pink to a very non attractive pale white. That is normal. The vinegar is breaking down the meat and curing it at the same time. BTW, I’ve been told that traditionally this was left in a cool dark corner of the kitchen/house and not in the fridge as I did.

After 5 days I removed it from the fridge and drained it using a colander. I then removed most of the big pieces of garlic and discarded them. Now try to get as much liquid/moisture away from the pork. Squeeze, then place on paper towels, as we all know what will happen when liquid hits heated oil.

 In a heavy saucepan, heat a couple tablespoons of vegetable oil (enough to cover the bottom of the pan) on a med/high setting. Ensuring you’ve dried up most of the liquid the pork was marinating in, start adding a few pieces to the pan. Try not to overcrowd the pan or if they touch they can form steam and you’ll get boiled pork rather than fried.You may have to cook the pieces for about 7-10 minutes or so and flip them around so you get that golden brown color on all sides. You’ll obviously have to do these in batches. I had a paper towel lined plate waiting to soak up all the excess oil when they were done cooking.

During each batch you may be required to add a bit more oil to the pan to avoid the pieces of meat sticking. While this fry you may notice that (if you have pieces of fat as I did) it will ‘burst’ and splatter, so use a splatter screen if you have one. How long and how brown/crisp you want your garlic pork pieces is entirely up to you. If I was making this for my dad I know he’d want it crispy, so I’d have to keep it cooking for a bit over the 10 minutes I mentioned above.

I do hope you guys give this garlic pork a test drive this holiday season and if you’re stuck in the bitter cold of Northern climates, pretend for a second that you’re enjoying a tropical Christmas.

Before you go I invite you to leave me your comments below.. even if it just to say hello. It’s always appreciated. And don’t forget to join us on facebook and do check out the cooking videos.

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  1. Debbie da Silva
    December 10, 2020 / 6:54 am

    Sorry- I am portuguese- family from madeira – trini raised
    This is not how we traditionally do it
    A week to 14 days we soak the pork chunks in a glass jar in apple cidar vinegar and red wine with lots of garlic thijm ,oregano ,bay leaves and salt ,pepper obtional the best way to actually taste the flavor of the pork because frying makes it hard and zaps the flavor- we cook the pork in its own juice for a good length of time on low heat so it stays moist
    We usually eat it with our christmas brunch or for cutters when guest come by

    • admin
      December 12, 2020 / 7:57 am

      Debbie, do keep in mind that your/family recipe is not the only way a recipe is done. Do you think people from India come here saying that the recipes here for curry is the same as theirs? No one family got the copyright to a single recipe, it’s about creativity and adding your own nuisance.. even if you family is from madeira. BTW- the recipes found in Portugal is different than the ones found in Trinidad and Guyana. It’s very normal to add shado beni and even the thyme we use is not the same.

  2. April 20, 2019 / 8:35 pm

    What is the garlic pork best served with? What would be an ideal side dish?

  3. Audrey
    January 9, 2018 / 6:21 pm

    Boy I’m Guyanese and my sister made some , I claimed I no longer eat pork but the garlic pork was wicked, I tasted one piece and went back for seconds and thirds until I got caught by a nephew who said why you eating that I thought you were vegetarian and I I replied all year Ian except for Christmas . Thanks to Chris for keeping our traditions alive. You are a boss

  4. Jackie Chan
    December 24, 2017 / 11:25 pm

    I just realized when I was making this years batch of Garlic Pork, that I had 1 marinating since last Christmas.
    Oddly, the meat has turned back to pink again.

    1. How long can Garlic Pork be stored for?
    2. How safe to cook and eat or should I ditch it?
    3. How different will a year old marinated taste vs days old marinated batch?

    Thanks in advance.

  5. Dawn
    May 8, 2017 / 4:08 pm

    Having been raised by a Portugese mother & grandmother I am all too familiar with this dish. I however refrain from using your “everyday” white vinegar because of the sulphites which is also present in most vinegars. I also prefer using not just the regular thyme but also the ‘Spanish” or broad leaf variety. Soaking is also mandatory & the longer the better. Can be soaked year round & should be kept in an earthenware jar for best results.
    Thank you for keeping us in touch with our heritage via food.

    • Jackie Chan
      December 24, 2017 / 11:25 pm

      I just realized when I was making this years batch of Garlic Pork, that I had 1 marinating since last Christmas.
      Oddly, the meat has turned back to pink again.

      1. How long can Garlic Pork be stored for?
      2. How safe to cook and eat or should I ditch it?
      3. How different will a year old marinated taste vs days old marinated batch?

      Thanks in advance.

  6. Imaikop
    February 25, 2017 / 3:45 am

    Looks very appealing and easy to cook will surely try it

  7. Judith T
    December 11, 2016 / 2:31 pm

    Looks good- will definitely try it

  8. Judith T
    December 11, 2016 / 2:30 pm

    Have to try this recipe for sure

  9. Nadine R
    November 18, 2015 / 10:31 am

    Good Morning Chris,

    Thank you for all of your amazing recipes. I’ve tried to make a few, some for successfully than others, but regardless of the success knowing they are here is amazing. My parents are from Guyana and Trinidad so your recipes remind of my childhood. My grandmother and mother (who are Trini) taught me a lot about cooking but when you don’t put those lessons into practice enough you lose them, enter your recipes to remind me along the way.

    I tread the line between both sides when it comes to my cooking style (which is a benefit for my family). My husband is from a Jamaican background so I like introducing the food from my childhood to his palate and our kids LOVE all the different flavours, our oldest wants to be a chef.

    This Christmas I’m going to attempt to make the Garlic Pork (haven’t made it in a while) and a Guyanese staple, pickled onions, which I do need to start by this weekend for it to be ready for Christmas.

    All this to say, ‘thank you’ Chris for this amazing outlet and I look forward to watching more of your videos and picking up some tips and tricks from you and your followers.

    All the Best,


    • admin
      November 18, 2015 / 11:23 am

      Thanks for taking the time to leave such a positive message and for giving my recipes a try. Happy Holidays Chris…

  10. October 6, 2015 / 9:57 pm

    I do this everytime I have left over pork that is cooked already. I just take 20 cloves of garlic put it in a frying pan and brown it up then throw in the pieces of pork and walla short cut to garlic pork, you will smell it a mile away and that taste with the garlic is to die for

  11. Pat
    December 6, 2014 / 4:06 pm

    Every cook has her/his own version of course, but the Garlic Pork I learned and which I still prepare every Xmas season is just slightly different. First, I do have a special large glass bottle which sits on the unheated floor in a cool spot. Second, it has to sit for 10 full days at a minimum to develop the flavour. I used to use white vinegar which is what was available back then, but now I use a milder rice vinegar. I also use only thyme, and more of it in the branch/stick form; I use a bunch of thyme which is big enough to just close my hand around (when I go to the market the produce person usually cuts about 3x the normal bunches which they sell in those plastic clamshells). The garlic and thyme get layered into the jar along with the brine and peppers. Almost 35 years ago I started a variation of my own; I add the tiniest pinch (just a few small grains really) of salt petre to the brine which keeps the meat a lovely pink. I was also taught to add way more garlic, about 10 whole round bulbs. And, of course, you can use any peppers but I remember these special small round peppers we called wiri-wiri peppers which had the most wonderful fragrance and which always spoke of Xmas more than any other. I have a link here to describe them or what I think is the same pepper by a different name:
    I was always told that one had to begin with a cold frypan and leave enough fat on the pork so that the fat could begin to render; we didn’t use oil so the pork cooked in its own fat. But you are right about draining and drying the pork before cooking; if it is still drippy wet you will end up boiling it in the marinade and that will dampen the flavour. I also don’t throw away any of the garlic, large pieces or not; garlic is my aphrodisiac and I fry and eat it all, although you have to watch and remove the garlic from pan to plate before the pork gets nice and brown because burning garlic would be criminal. We try to keep GP as a Xmas dish so it remains special but my husband will usually request it one other time in the year – just to keep his mouth in, he says. Garlic pork (along with souse and pepper pot) are the true aromas of the Xmas/holiday season at our house and help to give our neighbours a reason to call our house The House of Wonderful Aromas. With your help Chris many more people will now have a wonderful new dish to try.

  12. VIJAY
    December 3, 2014 / 8:32 pm

    It looks delicious must try for myself before i serve my guests, got 2 make sure i get right.

  13. Peter.
    November 7, 2014 / 11:14 am

    Another tasty very yummy one Chris.

  14. dayle
    July 9, 2014 / 7:01 pm

    why wait for Christmas Im going to try it now and slow roast over the charcoal BBQ

  15. June 4, 2014 / 2:17 pm

    i love the look of it looks delicious thinkin of going to the grocery store to get the ingredients

  16. Maria
    January 16, 2014 / 1:02 pm

    My coworker told me about garlic pork she had eaten last Christmas. It sounded so good, so I went on google right away to find a recipe. This sounds very close to her description so I am very excited to try it! ^_^

  17. E. Samaroo
    January 4, 2014 / 5:03 pm

    My husband was very inspired by your Garlic pork recipe since watching it last night, so off to Oceans we went today to gather ingredients. He is hoping that it will be better than the Garlic Pork he grew up eating in Trinidad! ….. now we just have to wait a few days to cook it.

  18. Pauline
    November 24, 2013 / 11:34 pm

    What a great recipe for garlic pork. I have been using a 1950’s cookbook with very scant and very traditional method and have never had much luck in presenting what I remember from GP in Guyana where I lived in the early 70’s. I am having a housewarming this week Caribbean style and am going to try your method. I will let you know how I go.

  19. Heather
    November 1, 2013 / 7:39 am

    My Dad was from Guyana so my Mom used to make this every Christmas. I have tried it but it did not come out quite as I remembered. I will give your recipe a try this chistmas – it looks delicious!

  20. Fiona
    October 16, 2013 / 7:35 am

    Hi Chris.
    I would love to try this recipe but since I do not eat pork,can you recommend what other meat I can use?
    Would beef work?

  21. Anna K
    May 8, 2013 / 11:39 pm

    You've done it again, another mouth watering recipe.

  22. Jen
    April 16, 2013 / 8:59 am

    The fact is that we all had Portuguese immigrants and so the Maderia islands style of cooking is now part of our Cuisine.

  23. Gina
    December 15, 2012 / 1:10 pm

    My aunt from Guyana always made this at Christmas but I always found it was much
    too tangy because of the vinegar, to the point where I could not eat it. I found it was too "acid".
    Is there anyway to remove some of the acidity? Some cousins of mine steam the pork before frying just to remove some acidity. Would really like your feedback on this.

  24. Coral
    April 26, 2012 / 9:31 pm

    In Guyana we use Thyme, garlic and pepper..Like the Antiguans, we layer the ingredients in a bottle and fill it with vinegar. @Sara, we soak the pork 2 to 3 months..

  25. verewiliams
    March 23, 2012 / 11:58 am

    that my line of food in caribbean and also in antigua

  26. Ninette C -Bird
    January 3, 2012 / 6:09 pm

    If dont have the Shado beni , they could use Cilantro as the smell and some say the tate is very simular…. I can notice a difference and I am sure you can too… ,,Now I am going to try this recipe using both …love pork just as long as not to fat

  27. Tyra
    December 23, 2011 / 11:33 pm

    I marinated some and put in the fridge today. I think I will fry it up Christmas moring. I know that is not the four to five days, but it will have to do for this first time. I hope it comes out tasty!

  28. Sara
    December 10, 2011 / 4:02 am

    What's the longest time you can allow the pork to soak???

  29. Lauren
    December 4, 2011 / 4:11 pm

    Just thought I would pass along a ote. My Guyanese mother-in-law fries up her garlic pork with a little tomato paste added to some of the marinade. It makes a very nice sauce to dip your bakes in.

  30. Patricia
    December 1, 2011 / 2:34 pm

    This is extremely interesting. I am going to give this a try for xmas 2011. Thanks Chris.

    • DJ Becool
      December 12, 2011 / 11:49 am

      I got try this to.. looks goods

  31. Jo Mclean
    November 30, 2011 / 2:53 am

    We called it in Antigua( ???not sure of the spelling) Vinha D'alooish. We used wine vinegar, sweet marjoram, oregano and loads and loads of garlic and loads of pepper. We then washed the meat with vinegar. Water was not to touch it. Then packed it in a jar with alternate layers of meat then herbs and we covered the whole thing with the vinegar and left it for at least 1 month. Our family usually got half a pig and did this procedure and we had it for breakfast during the whole festive season starting on Christmas morning. Great memories.

  32. Alf G
    November 28, 2011 / 1:33 am

    That looks very yummy. Me and my family loves pork and will deffinitely do some pork this way for xmas 2011. Thanks Chris and a Happy Xmas to you and yours in advance.

  33. Marian
    November 22, 2011 / 7:13 pm

    Wow this is exactly how I make mine at Christmas but because I like to have it ready in advance I pre cook mine in the oven for 20 minutes and then I freeze it in batches and then when I want it to have with my pastels, ham and oven bake I take out a package and then thaw and fry it up in the oil fresh for that day, my husband and son love it soooooo much!

  34. Jean
    November 19, 2011 / 8:07 pm

    I have to try this!

  35. Emma
    November 19, 2011 / 7:57 am

    That looks delicious!

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