What Is Hornado?

Angie Bates

Hornado is a traditional Ecuadoran dish consisting of marinated, slow-roasted pork. In Ecuador, it is sold in some restaurants and at vendor stands, where a whole pig is often roasted. Hornado also can be homemade, but it requires three days of preparation time.

A roasted pig is often referred to as a hornado dish.
A roasted pig is often referred to as a hornado dish.

Although a whole pig can be used, a large pork leg is often used instead. Hornado usually is made for large groups, and the leg generally weighs 10-20 pounds (4.5-9.0 kg). Traditionally, chicha, an alcoholic drink made from fermented corn, is used to marinate the pork. Beer is often used instead, however. Lard also is traditionally used, but butter is frequently substituted.

Peeled, halved potatoes might be added halfway through the cooking of hornado.
Peeled, halved potatoes might be added halfway through the cooking of hornado.

Spices and other flavorings, such as fresh lime juice, also are added to hornado. Cumin, garlic, salt, pepper and annatto seed generally are included as well. Annatto is a type of seed that is often used for dyes but also serves as an earthy spice in many Latin American dishes.

To make hornado, the pork leg is first cleaned, then placed in the pan in which it will be roasted. Lime juice is drizzled over the meat. Then slashes are cut into the leg, and the spice rub — sometimes called an aliño — is rubbed over the meat's surface and into the created slashes. The aliño is made from the cumin, salt, pepper and crushed garlic.

The meat is then placed in a refrigerator and allowed to sit for 24 hours. Afterward, the beer or chicha is poured over the pork, which is then returned to the refrigerator to marinate for two more days. The beer will not completely cover the meat, so the leg should be flipped every several hours for an even marinade.

After marinating, the pork usually is baked for two to six hours. It should be flipped once during cooking. The pork usually is basted, or bathed, while cooking.

Butter or lard is mixed with olive oil and annatto seed, and when the beer mixture has all evaporated from the pan, the butter or lard mixture is poured over the meat. Peeled, halved potatoes might be added halfway through the cooking process as a side. The pork juices and marinade add a unique, tasty flavor to the potatoes.

Hornado is served with a variety of sides. In addition to sliced potatoes, it is often served with llapinachos, a type of cheese-stuffed potato pancake, or rice. It also might be served with sliced avocado, lettuce and onions.

Recipes for hornados often call for lard or butter.
Recipes for hornados often call for lard or butter.

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Discussion Comments


@Sara007 - If you're looking to try hornado in Ecuador I would also suggest that you try out humitas, which is steamed cornmeal put into a corn husk and the local tortillas, as well as empanadas. They can have a huge variety of fillings, and it really depends on the vendor you're dealing with.

As far as prices go, you can sample hornado for just a few dollars. When we were checking out the street markets we got a pretty good spread of food for very little cash. The idea is to really buy a variety of things and see how the flavors compliment everything else.


My husband and I are going to head to Ecuador for a vacation pretty soon and I am really looking forward to trying some of the local dishes. Hornado seems like it would taste fantastic, and with such a long preparation time, I can't see myself ever making it on my own.

Does anyone have any idea of how much hornado would cost if you were buying it in a traditional setting like at a Ecuadoran vendor stand?

I am hoping that I can find some cheap eats while in Ecuador as I have heard the the exchange rate is really favorable these days.


@Izzy78 - I think being able to find a pork leg would all depend on your grocery store. I doubt that a regular supermarket would sell them, but if you found a real butchershop or specialty market, I'm sure it would be no problem. You can always try to ask the butcher at your store if they can get a pork leg for you. At least in my experience, butchers are usually glad to help out someone who wants to experiment with a new type of meat or cut.


@TreeMan - I actually had some other recipe that called for annotto, and I couldn't find it. We don't have any good specialty markets in my area, though, so I'm not sure if you could find it somewhere. What I read to use as a substitute was saffron. The dish came out fine, so that's what I would go with if you can't find annotto.

Has anyone ever been to Ecuador or South American and had real hornado? I've always wanted to visit some of the countries in South America. If I ever get a chance, I'll definitely be on the lookout for hornado.


@jimmyt - Can you buy whole pork legs at the store? I know I've never seen them, but maybe it is just where I go to shop. I love trying recipes from other countries besides the normal Mexican or Chinese fare.

Has anyone ever had hornado? I know what all of the spice are except for annatto. What does it taste like? Can you usually buy it at the store, or would you have to go to a Mexican or other Latin American supermarket.? Are there any good substitutes for it?


This article made me hungry just thinking about it. I have been to a pig roast before where you let a whole pig cook over a fire, and it was by far the best pork I've ever had. I'm sure hornado would be just as good with all of the different seasonings.

Even if you didn't have access to a whole pork leg, it sounds like you could make a home version of it just using the spices that are mentioned and putting them with pork chops or a pork loin.

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