Guyanese Garlic Pork Recipe, a Christmas Tradition

Travel to Guyana… via the Kitchen!

It’s hard to resist the tantalizing aroma of a Guyanese garlic pork recipe wafting through the house on a crisp Christmas morning. Guyanese cuisine, deeply rooted in South America, is a delightful blend of flavors, and this dish is no exception. The Guyanese garlic pork dish is a beautiful representation of Guyanese Christmas tradition. Introduced by Portuguese settlers, it’s more than just a national dish of Guyana – it’s a memory, a legacy, and a delicious bite into history.

However, what really makes this dish a standout is its intricate method of preparation. It’s not just about throwing some pork and garlic into a pan; it’s a labor of love. Every Guyanese household has its own personal cookbook, passed down through generations, and this recipe is often the star. The dish has traveled, evolved, and been lovingly perfected over time. It’s a testament to the resilience and adaptability of Guyanese culture.

And, as part of a world recipe challenge, our very own Althea Brown brought this dish to the space station. Yep, you read that right! This dish is not only beloved on Earth but has also made its mark in space. How’s that for universal appeal?

Garlic Overload: Why It’s the Star Ingredient

Garlic, with its robust flavor, has always been a champion in the kitchen. From heads of garlic to individual garlic cloves, this ingredient is essential in achieving the deep, rich flavor of our Guyanese garlic pork recipe. Plus, garlic has a slew of health benefits, making this dish not only tasty but also nutritious.

Different types of garlic impart varied flavor profiles to dishes. For this recipe, the mass of garlic used, combined with spicy peppers like wiri wiri or scotch bonnet pepper, gives it a kick that will dance on your taste buds. And if you’re feeling adventurous, make your own garlic oil for an added layer of flavor!

Pork Talk: Choosing the Perfect Cut

When it comes to this dish, pork shoulder is the star of the show. Cut into 1-inch cubes or pieces of pork, it’s the ideal choice for absorbing all the seasoned meat goodness. The marbled fat in the pork shoulder ensures that when cooked, the meat becomes tender and flavorful. Remember, this isn’t just any meat dish; it’s a Guyanese garlic pork recipe with a Portuguese origin.

Selecting fresh pork is vital. Look for pork pieces that have a pinkish hue with white fat. Avoid any meat that looks gray or has a strong odor. And if you’re buying your pork from a butcher, don’t hesitate to ask for their recommendation. After all, when it comes to main courses, especially special occasions like Christmas, you want the best.

While pork shoulder is the typical way to go, some adventurous souls in our family reunions have experimented with chicken breasts, giving a lighter twist to the dish. Though not traditional, it’s an interesting take on the classic, proving that the Guyanese garlic pork recipe is versatile and ever-evolving.

Marination Station: Prepping the Pork

The secret to the perfect Guyanese garlic pork lies in its marination. The seasoned meat is traditionally marinated in a pickling liquid of vinegar, hot peppers, and a plethora of spices. This method ensures the flavors seep deep into the pork cubes, making every bite a flavor explosion. The medium heat of the peppers, combined with the tang of the vinegar, creates a wonderful taste!

To start, in a large bowl or plastic bag, mix cups of vinegar, tsp salt, black pepper, roasted cumin, fresh thyme, and your choice of spicy peppers. Add the pork pieces, ensuring they’re fully submerged. Allow the meat to marinate at room temperature for a day or two, occasionally turning the meat to ensure even flavor distribution. This process is essential for the full recipe experience.

Now, for those with more modern tastes, there’s a twist. Instead of the traditional method, you can marinate the pork in a food processor-blended mixture of garlic, hot peppers, and spices, then store it in glass jars in the refrigerator. This method, though not the typical way, is a testament to the recipe’s adaptability.

Kids in the Kitchen: Making it a Family Affair

Who can deny the joy of little hands helping in the kitchen? Getting kids involved in making the Guyanese garlic pork recipe can turn cooking into a fun family affair. Plus, it’s a great way to introduce them to the rich Guyanese Christmas tradition. However, for those tiny taste buds, you might want to tone down the heat. Opt for fewer hot peppers or even leave them out entirely. After all, we don’t want any surprise fire drills on Christmas morning!

Serving the dish can be a playful endeavor. How about creating a mini Guyanese garlic pork sandwich using plait bread? Or crafting cute pork skewers with colorful veggies? The goal is to make the dish appealing and fun for the little ones.

Lastly, it’s all about presentation. Let the kids unleash their creativity. Give them a variety of toppings and sides and let them plate their own Guyanese garlic pork masterpiece. Who knows, you might have a budding chef in the making!

Cook It Up: From Pan to Plate

Here’s the moment we’ve all been waiting for: bringing the Guyanese garlic pork recipe to life! Start by heating a large skillet or frying pan over medium heat. Add a bit of vegetable oil, just enough to coat the pan. As the pan heats up, take the pieces of pork, which have been marinating in that flavorful mix, and pat them dry with paper towels. This ensures they get that coveted golden brown crust when fried.

Now, lay the pork cubes gently into the frying pan, taking care not to overcrowd them. Fry until they are golden brown on all sides. The aroma will transport you straight to a Guyanese Christmas morning! Once done, remove the pork pieces and let them rest on paper towels to drain any excess oil. Don’t forget to keep that seasoned meat juicy; avoid overcooking!

In a heavy saucepan, combine cups of vinegar, cups of water, brown sugar, cinnamon sticks, and orange peel.

For this recipe, I used my Cuisinart 4 Quart Heavy Saucepan. It holds a good amount of liquid and evenly distributes the heat so the bottom doesn’t burn. It’s my go-to pan for all my simmering. Check it out here.

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Bring this mixture to a boil, then simmer, allowing the flavors to meld. This mixture is your pickling liquid, and boy, will it pack a punch!

Once the vinegar solution has cooled slightly, pour over the fried pork in a large jar or bowl. Let it sit at room temperature, letting all those flavors get to know each other!

Here’s how much pork to use for your next gathering:

Number of GuestsSmall Appetite (lbs)Medium Appetite (lbs)Large Appetite (lbs)

Sides & sauces: Complementing the Main Attraction

The Guyanese garlic pork recipe is undoubtedly the star, but even stars need a supporting cast. Let’s talk about the typical way this dish is served during Christmas time in Guyana. Plait bread, with its soft, fluffy insides and slightly crispy crust, is a match made in heaven with the garlic pork. It balances the tangy, spicy flavors beautifully. Another staple? Cassava root, either boiled or fried, adds a delightful texture contrast.

Now, for the sauces! While the Guyanese garlic pork recipe has Portuguese settlers to thank for its origins, the sauces are truly Guyanese. Black cakes and pepper sauce, with their deep, rich flavors, complement the tangy pork perfectly. And if you’re feeling adventurous, some homemade wiri wiri pepper sauce on the side will hit the spot!

For those special occasions or family reunions, presenting this dish alongside other wonderful Guyanese dishes like traditional rice or fried plantains makes for a festive spread. And if you’re feeling generous during the Christmas season, consider gifting jars of this seasoned meat as holiday gifts. It’s a taste of South America in a jar!


What is Garlic Pork Made Of?

Guyanese Garlic Pork is a tantalizing dish, steeped in a rich cultural history. At its core, it’s made from:

  • Pork: Typically, a fatty cut for richness.
  • Garlic: Loads of it, finely chopped or crushed.
  • Vinegar: Often cane vinegar, for that authentic tang.
  • Thyme and Other Herbs: For that aromatic depth.
  • Hot Peppers: For a kick of heat.
  • Salt: To enhance all the flavors.

What is the National Dish of Guyana?

The national dish of Guyana is Pepperpot. This is a hearty stew made with meat (usually beef, mutton, or pork), cassareep (a special sauce made from cassava), and a blend of aromatic spices and peppers. It’s often served with bread or rice and is a staple during special occasions, especially Christmas.

Why Do Chinese Eat Garlic While Eating Pork?

In Chinese cuisine, garlic is a prized ingredient for several reasons:

  • Flavor Enhancement: Garlic adds a robust flavor to pork, complementing its richness.
  • Balancing Yin and Yang: In traditional Chinese medicine, pork is considered a “cooling” food, while garlic is “warming”, creating a balance.
  • Health Benefits: Garlic is believed to have health-promoting properties, including aiding digestion, which is particularly beneficial when consuming heavier meats like pork.

What Spice Brings Out the Flavor of Pork?

To elevate pork to its flavor pinnacle, consider these spices:

  • Sage: A classic pairing with pork, offering a slightly peppery, earthy flavor.
  • Rosemary: Adds a woody, aromatic touch.
  • Cumin: Imparts a warm, earthy note and pairs well with other spices.
  • Paprika (especially smoked): Provides a subtle sweetness with a smoky backdrop.

Why is Pork Not Eaten Rare?

Unlike some other meats, pork needs to be thoroughly cooked due to health concerns. Here’s why:

  • Risk of Parasites: Historically, pork was associated with parasites like Trichinella. While less common now due to modern farming practices, it’s still a risk.
  • Bacterial Infections: Undercooked pork can harbor harmful bacteria like Salmonella and E. coli.
  • Food Safety Guidelines: To ensure safety, pork should be cooked to an internal temperature of 145°F (63°C), followed by a 3-minute rest time.

Wrap Up: The Taste of Tradition and Togetherness

It’s clear that the Guyanese garlic pork recipe is more than just a dish; it’s a tapestry of memories, traditions, and flavors. From Portuguese settlers to modern-day Guyanese homes, this dish has stood the test of time, evolving and adapting but always retaining its essence.

The beauty of this dish lies not just in its flavors but in the stories it carries. Every rendition of the Guyanese garlic pork recipe adds a new chapter to its rich history. So, whether you’re making it for the first time or the hundredth, remember that you’re not just cooking; you’re adding to a legacy.

In the spirit of sharing, we encourage all our readers to explore more Guyanese dishes and flavors.

And if you have your own twist on the Guyanese garlic pork recipe or any other Guyanese dish, share it with us! After all, food is about community, and every recipe is an invitation to come together and celebrate!

Guyanese Garlic Pork Recipe, a Christmas Tradition

Course: DinnerCuisine: GuyanaDifficulty: Medium


Prep time


Cooking time






  • 2 lbs pork shoulder, cut into 1-inch cubes

  • 15-20 garlic cloves, crushed

  • 5 wiri wiri peppers (or Scotch bonnet peppers for a spicier version), finely chopped

  • 1 tablespoon black pepper

  • 2 tablespoons salt (or to taste)

  • 1 teaspoon roasted cumin (optional)

  • 2 cups white vinegar

  • 1 cup water

  • Fresh thyme sprigs (about a handful)

  • 1-2 cinnamon sticks

  • 1 orange peel

  • Vegetable oil, for frying


  • Marinate the Pork:
  • In a large bowl, combine the crushed garlic cloves, chopped wiri wiri peppers, black pepper, salt, roasted cumin (if using), and a few sprigs of fresh thyme. Mix well.
  • Add the pork cubes to the bowl and ensure each piece is well coated with the marinade.
  • Transfer the seasoned pork and all the marinade into a large jar or airtight container.
  • In a separate bowl, mix the white vinegar and water. Pour this mixture over the pork until all pieces are submerged.
  • Seal the container and let the pork marinate for at least 2-3 days in the refrigerator, occasionally shaking or stirring to ensure even marination.
  • Cook the Pork:
  • When ready to cook, drain the pork pieces from the marinade but reserve the liquid.
  • Pat the pork pieces dry using paper towels.
  • Heat vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
  • Fry the pork cubes in batches until they are golden brown on all sides. Remove and set aside on paper towels to drain any excess oil.
  • Prepare the Sauce:
  • In a large pot, pour the reserved marinade liquid (vinegar mixture) and add cinnamon sticks and orange peel.
  • Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat and let it simmer for about 10 minutes.
  • Add the fried pork pieces to the pot, ensuring they are submerged in the sauce. Simmer for an additional 20 minutes.
  • Serve:
  • Serve the Guyanese Garlic Pork hot with traditional sides like plait bread, cassava root, or rice. It pairs beautifully with other Guyanese Christmas foods, making your holiday feast complete!


  • This dish is meant to be tangy and spicy. Adjust the number of peppers based on your heat preference. If wiri wiri peppers are not available, Scotch bonnet peppers can be a good substitute, but they are spicier.

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