If you’ve ever been to Colombia or are planning a trip there now, you’ve probably heard raving reviews of the country’s delicious cuisines. But no dish is as beloved as lechona. Tasting this delicious delicacy is practically worth the price of a ticket to Colombia!
Wondering “what is lechona?” and how this iconic dish is made? In this article, we’re shedding light on this delicious pork meal, including how it’s made and where you can find it on your trip.
What is Lechona?
In English, Lechona translates to “suckling pig”. But don’t get it twisted. This dish is very different from the standard pig on a spit you’ve tasted at barbecues and luaus.
Lechona supposedly originated from the Department (region) of Tolima, but it can now be found across all of Colombia. Tolima. In most cases, it’s made in a clay oven and served with a delicious side of arepa and curd. And sometimes alongside bandeja paisa, it’s one of the most popular dishes in all of Colombia.
Lechona is typically reserved for special occasions like holidays, birthday parties and going away events, but it’s often served at larger social events. And that’s because one lechona can produce as many as 100 portions!
How is Lechona Colombiana Made?
Like many delicious dishes, lechona takes time to make. In fact, the cooking process for it can take upwards of 10 hours! And that’s not including the prep work involved.
To make lechona, you start off with the whole pig. You carefully remove pig’s bones while leaving some meat and the skin still intact. Once this is done, the shell of the pig is cleaned and dried.
After, you season the meat you’ve removed with a generous helping of spices like garlic, scallions, cumin, salt, and pepper. Then you make your filling. Most lechona fillings have white rice, peas, pork fat, rice, and onion, but the filling can differ depending on where you are.
Once you’ve stuffed the filling, it’s time to seal the pig by sewing or trussing it. You may want to brush sour orange juice over the pig for your glaze. And after you’ve done all this prep work, simply place your pig in an oven that’s set to medium heat and let it sit for 10 hours!
This lechona recipe does not use a whole pig, so you won’t have to cook as long as the 10 hours mentioned above.
- 1/4 cup pork fat
- 1 teaspoon sazon with azafran or color
- 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 4 chopped scallions
- 3/4 cup peas
- 1 1/4 cups cooked white rice
- 2 pounds pound pork meat, cut into small pieces
- 2 pounds pork fatback skins
- Salt and pepper
- Use a medium pan to melt the pork fat. Then add the garlic and scallions. Cook 3 to 4 minutes.
- Mix the pork meat, cooked rice, peas, sazon, ground cumin, salt and pepper in a large bowl.
- Add the pork fat, garlic, scallion mixture to the bowl. Cover and place it in the refrigerator for about 1 hour.
- Rinse the pork fatback skin thoroughly under cold water and mat it dry. Lay the pork fatback skin on a baking sheet lined with tin foil.
- Preheat the oven to 475 F.
- Remove the rice mixture from the fridge and use it to top the pork fatback skin.
- Start rolling up the pork fatback skin to encase the rice and pork meat mixture completely.
- Use a kitchen string to tie and hold it together.
- Bake uncovered to allow the skin to brown for approximately 45 minutes. Then cover with foil and cook for an additional 45 minutes.
- Remove your lechona and place it on a cutting board. Allow it to rest for at least 15 minutes.
Tip: Serve with your favorites Colombian side dishes; arepas, patacones or potatoes.
Where to Find the Best Lechona
Lechona can be found in cities and restaurants across Colombia. But don’t be surprised to get a slightly different version of the dish depending on where you are.
For example, in Tolima, the stuffing in lechona is made of pork and pea. In Bogota, however, rice and potatoes are added to the mix. These small modifications can yield surprisingly big results, so you’ll want to try out both before you make a decision on which one is best.
If you visit Tolima, you should try the traditional lechona from Boquerón, a place famous for its take on the dish. They even sell cans of lechona, so you can take it with you after your trip.
Bogota is stacked with dozens of lechona restaurants. But if you want some truly delicious lechona, be sure to check out Donde Pacheco.
Time to Dig In
In Colombia, there’s never a shortage of delicious meals. Lechona is just one of many examples of amazing flavors of Latin food!
Interested in learning about other Colombian dishes? Check out our Colombian food blog to learn more about this country’s delicious cuisine!
Or if you are ready to try some authentic productos Colombianos, visit our online store and shop for freshly imported foods and drinks from Colombia.
Our blog is all about sharing our love of Latin American foods & drinks. We will bring you articles and recipes of the very best Latin American & Spanish cuisine. Amigofoods was founded in 2003 and is the largest online grocery store offering a wide variety of hard to find freshly imported foods & drinks from all over Latin America and Spain.