The “Best” Lechon in the Philippines


I was rather amused by reader comments and reactions to the previous post on pigs, pork and cheeks. Some readers asked the very loaded question of where to find the best lechon in the country. It’s a subject that I have explored a bit, but not nearly enough, and thus I don’t have an easy answer. Since it’s Friday and most folks are a bit more relaxed, let me first take you through my thinking process before I describe the best lechon ever…

In Marketman’s often opinionated opinion, the best lechon must excel on two critical fronts:

Skin – Thin to medium thickness skin that is crisp as thin brittle, caramelized flavors, salty, smooth and glistening. As you remove it from the lechon, only a thin layer of fat clings to the back of the skin and when put up to the sun or a strong light, you may even be able to see through it, albeit a blur… When you bite it, it cracks, and the crunch, flavor, fat and texture all attack your palate, and if you were blindfolded, any self-respecting Pinoy would know exactly what was placed in their mouth.

Meat – the meat would be tasty and somewhat salty, a perfect foil for the liver sauce if you had it. Alternatively, it would have been sufficiently well flavored from spices tucked into the lechon’s stomach – spices which differ from town to town. In some cases, there is no sauce at all. The fat to meat ratio must not be too skewed in favor of fat, as it is a real turn off to be cutting through the equivalent of pig cellulite. The ribs of a perfect lechon should possess the most incredible flavor, partially due to their strategic location near the stuffing and the salt.

In order to excel… you need to explore the following:

The Pig – The desired size and therefore age… too small and you have lots of thin epidermis but no meat whatsoever… too big and it feels like literally eating a hog. I think a 15-18 kilo live weight piggy is about right, perhaps about 1.5-2.0 months old or so (just slightly older than the piglets in the photograph up top). I suspect there is also a long discussion to be had on the breed or type of pig and I am not qualified to delve further into that except to say that I like the idea of a nice clean scrubbed down little pink pig! (Update, as of September 2008, I now believe a 28-30 kilo pig is ideal — terrific skin, meaty, but not overly fatty.)

The Preparation – I imagine that how the pig is slaughtered and prepared does make a big difference in the end product. The pig’s skin needs to be cleaned thoroughly, the innards removed surgically and cleanly and the stomach sewed back up to ensure that the herbs placed inside stay put. There is also a proper method for putting the pig on a bamboo spit to keep turning it constantly once the cooking begins.

The Seasoning – Everyone guards their seasoning secrets like they were bars of gold. Some say coconut water or Sprite/7Up brushed on the skin. You can see how this would promote a nice caramelized effect on the epidermis. Others say good sea salt, sampaloc leaves, tanglad, even knorr seasoning stuffed into the stomach cavity. It always somewhat annoys me when folks don’t share their recipes unless they are in it for business and they think it gives them a competitive edge… it’s not like most people cook lechon more than once or twice a year on their own…

The Roasting – The roasting pit, the location of charcoal on the sides rather than under the pig, the type of charcoal, the aromatics, if any, all play a critical role. A pan to catch any dripping fat is sometimes filled with water for the dual purpose of catching the fat without it’s bursting into flames and providing moisture that rises with the hot flames. Adjustable heights and thus distance from the flames is imperative. The slow and constant turn is also part of the tradition… this ensure an even browning, but more importantly, a natural basting of the pig as the juices and oils swirl around. Some decent lechons can be made in an oven, but the traditional outdoor preparation is the only way to go, as far as I am concerned.

The Serving – In my opinion, the only way to eat lechon is within 10-15 minutes of coming off of the fire. Any longer than that and you have seriously compromised this legendary delicacy! Allot at least 15-18 square inches of skin for each guest and your meat should then be sufficient unless they are eating like pigs…heehee.

Marketman believes that 95-97% of all lechons consumed today are sub-standard. Nasty view, I know, but let me explain why. As I write above, any lechon older than 15 minutes is one notch down in the ratings…therefore any lechon delivered to your home that has been wrapped up for hours has lost a lot of its potential oomph. The skin starts to wrinkle, the fat coagulates, the juices sag to the bottom of the pig. This applies to commercial lechons that sit there for several hours out in the open when sold in markets or groceries in those glass cases. Because of this treatment, vendors tend to OVERSALT so that the flavor jars your memory and you instantly think, yum, it’s lechon. Filipinos are so conditioned to see “lechon” and they immediately assume “festive meal” and frankly, many don’t care that it isn’t that hot or fresh because whatever the reason for having the lechon is reason enough to feel good about the meal…does that make sense? To me, an old lechon should be make paksiw. I actually like paksiw better than a substandard lechon.

Last year before the holidays I had planned to try and make my own lechons so that I could put the ultimate post on them. But to do it properly I would have to spend an arm and a leg and not be assured of the proper results. So, I decided to seek counsel from some family friends who I consider to have some of the best lechons I have ever tasted, period. This family has a weekend home where guests are often invited. At a typical lunch where lechon is to be served, at least 3 pigs are prepared for say a dozen guests. The pigs are selected the day before, they are cleaned and scrubbed an immaculate pink in the wee hours of the morning by their own staff and stuffed and spiced with their secret mixture of herbs and aromatics. The pigs are then roasted for about 2-3 hours depending on size in a specially designed lechon pit (covered with a roof in case it drizzles) and the timing is planned to coincide with the start of the meal. Once ready, the pigs are placed in huge platters (often staggered in cooking by 10-15 minutes so they arrive in succession) and guests are immediately summoned to start lunch with basically as much skin as they can handle. With steam still rising out of the rear end of the lechon, you take timid small squares of skin until you let go and cut humongous swaths of epidermis and realize this is truly a good thing. These friends have the finest lechon skin I have ever tasted. And part of the reason is that you are eating off of the fire. Frankly, I rarely get much meat at these meals because I am so overwhelmed with the stunning skin. They serve their lechon with liver sauce and or patis and calamasi on the side. Delicious. And I wouldn’t even attempt to replicate it myself.

But when we aren’t at this spectacular home with spectacular lechon, I do occasionally order lechons for special occasions, staff or office parties and the big question is always, from where? In Manila, we rely on a place called Lechon Family which does a Cebu style lechon and even if the skin is an hour old, it manages to retain some crisp and the meat is well-flavored. I have my driver standing by so that it is taken off of the flames and put into the back of the car and rushed home. In Cebu, the office has one of its suki lechoneros and the result, if eaten shortly after it is delivered, isn’t bad either. Better yet, the ribs, in Cebu are the best I have ever eaten. So yes, I have gotten you this far in the post and I don’t have a great answer to the burning question, who does the best lechon. Perhaps for the benefit of readers, you can all leave your comments or opinions on where you have recently eaten some great lechon so that we have a combined resource to refer to the next time we need some of that national favorite…roasted pig!

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63 Responses

  1. Yes, I agree with you that lechon, whether hot cold, greasy or makunat ang skin, is a trigger for happy memories of gatherings for special occasions. What can I say? It’s a Pinoy thing!!! We love our lechon in all its variations (and reincarnations – lechon paksiw, nilagang lechon, etc)! :)

  2. I have always thought that Cebu lechon is best because of the stuffing (tanglad and dahong sibuyas). I remember I would always ask for a big handful of dahong sibuyas which I would dip into suka along with the lechon, all eaten with several puso or a big steaming plateful of rice of course! Heaven! (Haven’t been home for 5 years, so am drooling as I type)!

  3. you’re absolutely right that you get the best lechon skin if the lechon’s butt is still steaming. I also love lechon paksiw more than lechon itself. No lechon here in beijing though – tagal ko pa makauwi.. nakakamiss

  4. marketman, last thanksgiving my mom and i roasted a cuchinillo in my la germania pro oven and it came out so well. we rubbed the insides with knorr cubes aside from the usual tanglad. the skin was basted with olive oil every now and then. and since it was a little piglet, it hardly had fat under the skin. we have a pig farm and my mom often roasts pigs on an open fire. she makes the best tasting lechon in our opinion. the meat is so juicy and tasty that you dont need any liver sauce or vinegar for dipping. unfortunately it is done commercially but only for some friends. this was the first time that we replicated her recipe in our oven. looking forward to thanksgiving again.

  5. Agreed. Lechon Family has the best commercial lechon in Manila. They’re on my speed dial. Tel. 7249353/7259342. Also agree that the 15 kg pig is optimal, though 20 is still okay. 12kg is just frustrating. If you want a small pig, a cochinillo (or two, or three) would be better.

  6. Lechon is consistently on top of my list of favorite dishes. A friend and I would always joke that we will never acquire sophisticated taste for food because we will always prefer lechon (when cooked the right way) over any, and i mean any, dish. I think Alejos (032) 261-8575 and CNT (032) 254-4249/254-5777 here in Cebu City, make the best lechon. One of their secrets, i was told, is that they use native pigs, usually from Bohol, as the high breed (the clean pink ones hehehehe…)type will yield an inferior result.

  7. The best lechon I had recently comes from Elar’s in QC. The skin tastes amazingly crisp even after spending hours in a styrofoam container (you can order a kilo for those occasional lechon cravings) and the meat literally “melts in your mouth” (that you won’t find the thin layer of fat repulsive).

  8. Thanks a lot MM and readers. I will try to check out Cebu lechon next time. I haven’t had a good lechon in years. But a friend recommends Emma Roa’s lechon here in Bacolod. I wonder what other Bacolodnons would recommend.

  9. i agree, cebu lechon is the best. alejos, cang’s and rico’s are our favorites…..and mila’s lechon in talisay. wow memories. but i think it is only rico’s lechon who sends them thru air cargo. after a few hours, the cebu lechon skin isn’t as crispy na. amazingly, elar’s skin remains crispy for hours. we like that too but we don’t go out of our way to order that. as a true blue cebuana, i dive in to get the ribs and belly meat from the lechon but the manila made lechons taste off in those parts especially inside the in manila, we order also from lechon family and also from genevieve who has a stall in SM megamall supermarket.i can’t remember the name. we usually just text her for our orders.she’s good also. her cell # is 09175283874.

  10. cebu gets all the credit, but cagayan de oro claims to have the best lechon in the country. but for my family, it’s davao, davao, davao lechon alone! whether it’s loring’s, porquitos, joey’s, or the dozen different lechons around the city, davao lechon is tops in our book. the davao lechon is best dipped in sukang tuba with plenty of chopped or thinly sliced onions, and a little toyo. the stuffing, aside from tanglad, onions and spring onions, has whole bulbs of garlic as well, and a host of other spices. i akways make sure i reach into the cavity to get at the herbs and spices- it’s delicious mixed into hot rice!

  11. I’m partial to Emma Roa’s lechon – salty, sour,yummy and the meat is tender and flavorful! Drool…..

  12. Hi! I’ve been around Visayas and Mindanao but so far the best lechon I’ve ever tasted is in Gloria’s Ihaw Ihaw in Iligan City. It’s infront of the Timoga swimming pools. They usually cook 1 lechon for the day so make sure you go there a little bit before lunch when they have just finished roasting. If ever you find yourself in Iligan, this is a must try!

  13. Hmmm…can you imagine if it was logistically possible to get lechons from all over the Philippines, CDO, Cebu, etc. that are less than an hour off of the coals into one room and we had say 100 Marketmanila readers do a blind taste test? Then score each lechon on several parameters and come up with the top lechon in the country? Gosh, we would need lipitor and crestor crushed and dissolved in our Diet Cokes to get beyond 20 square inches of skin…

  14. Having been the designated host for much of my life here, I have always sought relief in fantasizing about founding a food frat such as the txokos of the Basque region of Spain whose members cook, eat and drink together, you know like a clique of like-minded food enthusiasts but alas, Marketman’s readers are all sparsely peppered around the globe. Oh well, perhaps someday soon we can convene a culinary convention, a Market Manila homecoming.

  15. A blind tasting of freshly roasted lechons! Wow, I’m all for that! Yumyum. That’s a great idea for EB # 2 Market Man. Heheh

  16. vicki belo to sponsor the event, hahaha good one, liza.

    apicio, that’s a good idea but the basque associations are a bit outdated. they’re male membership only.

    alas, i would think that a commercial lechon tasting would only measure the ability of the individual lechons to remain crisp. and it wouldn’t be fair if say, one lechon was cooked an hour earlier than another. sounds a bit of a logistical nightmare…

    Actually, it should be Lipitor to sponsor the event.

  17. One of the best lechon I’ve tasted was one from Iligan. I don’t know where it was ordered but they had the best tasting lechon ribs.

    My take on the sauce, I enjoy the one that’s thick and mushy, made with lots of mashed liver, even if doesn’t look appetizing. I don’t really care much for the watery stuff, parang Mang Tomas lang.

    If you include Cocinillo, El Comedor has my vote.

  18. still Lola Berta’s Lechon from pateros…..old style lechon cooking at its best…..

  19. while we’re at it, does anybody know where to buy the best pork tocino? i just found out that my youngest boy likes it and i’d like to buy some. and i might as well ask where the best bacon in town can be found. Since it’s not exactly health food, if we MUST eat bacon it might as well be the best.

    i do know that sausagemaker Mason Ring of Island Gourmet (tel. 838 5688) makes some excellent American-style bacon, but i’m not sure if it is the best in town (it’s definitely superior to any commercial brand in the supermarkets).

    Is there anything better than the smell of bacon frying in the morning? I remember years ago our pediatrician dr mike celdran telling me what to do when one of my kids who had been sick had lost his appetite. he said, ‘fry some bacon’.

  20. MM, may I do some advertising for my parents? My mother makes and markets(in my opinion) the best tocino, tapa and pork longganisa with the freshest ingredients and absolutely no preservatives. Gonzo, if you like I can give you their contact numbers and my dad can deliver you tocino (made by a Cavitena) that is sooooo good.

    I know Dr. Celdran. His daughter used to be my boss. Dr. Celdran used to be connected with United Laboratories. My dad retired from United Laboratories and now runs the food processing business of my mom. He’s also her special deliveryman. :-)


    PS. MM, your bicol express recipe was so good, I had indigestion from overeating. *burp*

  21. Gonzo,

    I couldn’t find your email so I will post my mother’s celphone number here. Her name is Cora Pacion and her number is 0920-221 7162. You may also contact her through my Dad’s email rodypacion (@) Please take out the ( and ) when you type in the email. Their business is called Pacion Foods and they produce the ff.:
    fish lumpia
    custard bread
    pineapple upsidedown cake

    I think there’s more but I lost track. Just to give more history on my parent’s business, my mother has been making tocino/tapa/longganisa for more than 15 years now. She comes from a long line of Cavitena cooks who are know for our fiesta cooking. Hope you get a chance to try out her stuff. I miss it so much – it’s been almost 3 years since I had them.


  22. Just reading your posts makes me salivate and my blood pressure soar. hahaha I normally go for the lechon which has good sauce also… Sweet and spicy…. MM do you have the recipe for cuchinillo?

  23. hi MM.. been addicted to your posts and i just wanted to share this..when my relatives from the US came last may, we ordered a whole lechon from Aklan during one of the reunions we had.. the lechon cost cheap but the airfare wasn’t but still it tasted good… it was soo delicious since they use native pigs. we first tasted it on my cousin’s debut several years back and it was sent as a gift. The skin was still crispy from the 30min plane ride and the ride from domestic airport to fairview. the meat is tender and it melts in your mouth. it wasn’t that oily and the piglet hasn’t gotten that much fat under the skin yet so you won’t be scared for your heart when you acutally “pig on it”!!!

  24. ive tried emma roa’s lechon from bacolod in a party here in manila once. it was good, considering that it was flown all the way from bacolod. does anyone have a phone number for her?

  25. Dear Friend,

    I am a Korean who is very interested to import “LECHON” to Korea, so that can sell lechon in Korea, the q’ty will be large up to 100ton even start with 10ton at the initial stage.

    can you introduce me 1~2 reliable manufacturers in Philiphine which can supply us to Korea, if you know pls contact me to below contact: e-mail:, phone: 822-5234432, Mob: 8211-97225078, Mr Bruce

  26. Emma Roa from Bacolod makes really good lechon. The skin remains crisp even after hours. We had her lechon for Christmas lunch and it was a success. Imagine, the lechon was shipped from Bacolod at 720am but come lunch time, the skin was still amazingly crispy… ;-)

    I’ll ask my mom for Emma Roa’s number, we always order lechon from her.

  27. Hi, I saw in tv a feature on lechon recently, it mentioned about Porkitos, it has a dealer here in manila and delivers right to your doorstep. I wonder if anyone can help me find their contact numbers. thanks.

  28. hello,I’ve also partly watched that show on a TV mentioning Porquitos lechon but i also missed the number of the dealer who delivers their lechon door to door. Appreciate if you could also send contact number of the dealer to my e-mail add

  29. Hi MM! How’s the book coming along? =) I noticed that you have several posts regarding Lechon and i want to share Cebu’s best kept secret(i’m from Cebu too). Aside from Alejos, CNT, Cang’s, Helen’s Lechon and of course the super authentic Cebu Lechon from Talisay (dubbed the original!), there is actually Rico’s Lechon. Very very delicious, and it never fails in taste! Average is Php2200- Php4,000. Best part of the deal is that they take care of freight from Cebu to Manila, so all you have to do is pick it up at PAL or Cebu Pacific Cargo. They charge Php 600 for shipping fee. Payments acan be made through bank transfers. You can call Rico at (032) 344-0119. And bonus is that he’s really such a nice guy too. Good luck on your quest for the best lechon! =)

  30. Hi all, im planning to start a small lechonan here in Las Pinas, anyone who can help me or teach how to make a nice Gravy??? libre ng lechon and masarap na gravy hehehe….

  31. the best lechon i’ve ever had was from Willie’s in Ubujan District, Tagbilaran City in Bohol back in 2/05 during my last visit to the old country.

  32. Try Naldo`s Lechon House in cebu. They are new but the lechon is very good. 0917-6300-888 or 346-0202

  33. One of the best lechon i tasted are the ones made by the family of my mother in law in Bulacan. Everytime we have a big occassion the made in Bulacan lechon is always the center of attraction. I’d say it is the BEST. Every guest never failed to give favorable comments about the Bulacan Lechon. The skin so crispy, the meat so tender,has the right blend of salt, herbs and spiced and the meat oozing with juices. The sauce…Wow! Malayong malayo sa lasa sa mga commercial lechon sauce. I’ll tell you a short story…when my husband and I were just newly married. His family had a reunion in Bulacan. For the first time in my life I saw a whole clan would wait patiently near the lechon pit while the lechon was being roasted. I asked him why can’t just wait for the lechon when it is on the table?(talk about manners):-) He just told me wait and see (with a smile on his face). When the roasting was done and the whole lechon was being carried towards the table, his relatives followed the lechon from the pit to the table just like have a small procession. When it was laid on the table, his relatives were literally all over the lechon. You should have seen my face and my mouth was wide open( like as in WHAT IS HAPPENING! nawala na ang table manners) There was pandemonium!!! HEHEHE My husband said that what are you waiting for? Kung mabagal ka mauubusan ka! True to his word, when i waited for the coast to clear…there was nothing left except for the bones and some remnants of the lechon meat. ( Good thing my sister in law saved some for me) Each family group would have their preferred part and they would partake the lechon with so much gusto. When I had a chance to taste it…gosh it was heaven…and i said to my husband kaya naman pala ganyan sila kasi talagang masarap…hehehe. so now as the saying goes…when you can’t beat them join them ( sa lechon lang ha?)

  34. Lechon in Iloilo City is under rated. It doesn’t have the strong sibuyas dahon that is used in Cebu and most Manila lechon that i had were way to salty. I like the subtle taste of the one in Iloilo because of the hint of sampalok and lemon. I think they stuff the pig with tanglad and sampalok leaves. A friend told me they usually order from Didang’s in Oton Iloilo. Sorry no contact number though.

  35. The best lechon for me still is PORKY’S LECHON of PORKY BEST the number one chicharon maker in Davao. A really perfect blend even the sarsa and the dinuguan (the best I’ve tasted)…perfect. They even facilitate cargo to manila and I think to other cities. I learned about it when I saw them in ABS-CBN a few years ago and since then their lechon never failed to show up in our (and even our friends’) dining table every occasion we have. You can order thru their stalls in leading malls here in Davao. Contact number is (82)296-1289.

  36. Gee….. After reading all the comments …. grabe gutom ko na…. I love lechon and buying a pinoy style lechon in Toronto is not easy. So I decided to build my own lechonan. I’m tired of buying lechon from a Chinese store. Chinese style lechon is like mistisong lechong kawale. It is ok if you dont have any choice but you always want the Pinoy lechon. I’m so excited to try it this coming summer. This going to be my first time to cook a whole pig. Any suggestions how to prepare the pig? Sana wag akong ereklamo ng mga kapitbahay ko….

  37. the lechon bayug and lechon baka in iligan city is yummy,its not cagayan de oro their lechon is over powering with tanglad it loosens the essence of enjoying lechon.cebu and iligans lechon is good.

  38. I am a bit perplexed by the recurring problem of lechon skin losing its crispiness over time. When I was growing up, families who wanted lechon on Sunday had a choice of la Loma/Baclaran lechon or getting Spanish style oven cochinillo from a lady called Viaplana. A major difference was that the cochinillo skin lost its crispiness the next day but the ember cooked traditional product stayed crispy, even a day later. Has something changed? I remember that if you bought a whole pig they were willing to come to your house and cook it there in time for lunch at no extra cost.

  39. you should try Aurelio’s Lechon in Legazpi City Albay. 09209606453
    it is so delicious..

  40. any body know the yummy lechon baboy from tacloban city…
    my boss was watching tv when he saw the add about the timbona family who sell lechon. kindly email me to

    any info will be highly appreciated.

    thanks a lot


  41. I would like to share my experience with Cebu’s lechon particularly with Tessa Cang’s Lechon. I never tasted anything like it. The meat so tender and juicy with not so much fat and skin so crisp. I ask what their secret was and they told me it was the style of roasting which would be for more hours so as to melt the fat and make meat so tender. Yummy….

    For more info : Tessa Cang
    Lahug, Cebu City
    tel no. (6332) 233-3277

  42. Hi all,
    I came across your site while surfing the net for the perfect lechon recipe. I am in the process of researching various Filipino recipes as i am or should i say i would like to start a small catering business in Australia.
    You guys are soo right about Lechon – it is very popular here too. We ordered one for my youngest son’s 1st bday and i must say that it wasn’t up to scratch. I dare say it’s very hard to find a very good Lechon maker where i come from.
    I love cooking (as well as eating haha)and im hoping i can get the biz off the ground without too many hitches.

    Thanks guys.

  43. Does anyone know of good lechon in the San Francisco bay area? Or even better, a lechon master who would be willing to cook a pig for us?!!

  44. Lots of Lechon makers in Cebu are very good in taste no doubt. One of my friend bought from Alejos Lechon and they said Alejos is lo time lechon maker and proven also a good taste and up to now they are still in good shape in Lechon business….as I recall my friend told me that every 24th day of christmas .they reach to 300 to 400 pig to be roasted on that only!..Imagine!!

  45. Please give info on current prices, per kilo ba? Kung whole pig, mga 15 kilos? Is that the preferred size? MM, what do you recommend? Thank you.

  46. Would you share your recipe how to make a lechon and the sauce? I am planning to build a very small business lechonan where I live, but i have no idea how to start, can you pease share?
    thanks a lot

  47. to all lechoneros/lechoneras,

    I can supply native pig from quezon province.
    here’s my SIZE AND PRICE BRACKET….

    LINYA UNO….. 10KG-19KG= 1600/HEAD
    LINYA DOS….. 20KG-29KG= 2700/HEAD
    LINYA TRES…. 30KG-39KG= 3800/HEAD



  48. hello!

    we’ve been experimenting with lechon for these past few months. masarap naman siya, except for the part near the thighs. ang problema e

    1. minsan undercooked siya
    2. pag sinasagad naman namin ang pagluluto dun sa part na yun e napuputol na yung paa.

    how can we solve this problem? thanks

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