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A suckling pig prior to being roasted for consumption at an American tailgate party

A suckling pig (or sucking pig, according to the OED[1]) is a piglet fed on its mother's milk and slaughtered between the ages of two and six weeks. Suckling pig is traditionally cooked whole, often roasted, in various cuisines. It is usually prepared as a treat for special occasions and gatherings.

The term derives from the word "suckling", which refers to a young mammal still being suckled.[2]

The meat from suckling pig is pale and tender and the skin is crispy and can be used for pork rinds. The texture of the meat can be somewhat gelatinous due to the amount of collagen in a young pig.



There are many ancient recipes for suckling pig from Roman and Chinese cuisine. Since the pig is one of the first animals domesticated by human beings for slaughter, many references to pigs are found in human culture. The suckling pig, specifically, appears in early texts such as the sixth-century Salic law. As an example of a law governing the punishment for theft, Title 2, article 1, is, in Latin, Si quis porcellum lactantem furaverit, et ei fuerit adprobatum (malb. chrane calcium hoc est) CXX dinarios qui faciunt solidos III culpabilis iudicetur. "If someone has stolen a suckling pig and this is proven against him, the guilty party will be sentenced to 120 denarii which adds up to three solidus." The words "chrane calcium" are written in Frankish; "calcium" (or "galza," in other manuscripts) is the gloss for "suckling pig," porcellum lactantem.[3] These glosses in Frankish, the so-called Malberg-Glossen, are considered the earliest attested words in Old Dutch.[4]

Regional dishes

There are various preparations for suckling pig in Western and Asian cuisines.


Spanish-speaking countries: Lechón

Lechón being roasted in Cadiz City, Philippines.

Lechón is a pork dish in several regions of the world, most specifically Spain and its former colonial possessions throughout the world. The word lechón originated from the Spanish term leche (milk); thus lechón refers to a suckling pig that is roasted. Lechón is a popular cuisine in Spain, Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, other Spanish-speaking nations in Latin America, and the Philippines. The dish features a whole roasted pig cooked over charcoal.

In most regions, lechón is prepared throughout the year for any special occasion, during festivals, and the holidays. After seasoning, the pig is cooked by skewering the entire animal, entrails removed, on a large stick and cooking it in a pit filled with charcoal. The pig is placed over the charcoal, and the stick or rod it is attached to is turned in a rotisserie action.

Philippine lechón

Lechón kawali

In the Philippines, lechón is often served with vinegar, lechon sauce (made out of chicken livers or liver pate combined with vinegar, garlic, and pepper),[5] plum sauce, or other sauces, or with other seasonings or accompaniments. The term lechón also came to mean any meat prepared by cooking on a pit, such as lechón baka (roast beef) and lechón manok (roast chicken) . There are other Philippine versions of lechón. Lechón kawali involves chopping the meat into small pieces, boiling it, and then frying it. Lechón paksiw involves boiling lechón leftovers in a vinegar mix or lechon sauce, and then stir-frying it along with other ingredients.[6] Another variation, known as Pritchon, consists of a deep-fried piglet chopped into small pieces and wrapped in pita wedges (à la Peking Duck), and served with an array of special sauces.


A preparation of suckling pig from Chinese cuisine

Within Chinese cuisine, the pig is usually consumed in small quantities via siu meat within the siu mei category of Cantonese cuisine. When served as a whole, it is known as , ru3 zhu1.


Spanferkel, German cuisine

The European cuisines of Romania, Spain, Portugal, Germany, Croatia,[7] and Georgia[8] favor it highly as well. It also accompanies goose as the traditional Christmas feast of families in Russia and Serbia.

Suckling pig is known in German cuisine as Spanferkel. It can be roasted in the oven[9] or grilled, and is often served at festive occasions such as Oktoberfest.[10]


The suckling pig is still used in Cajun cuisine in the southern U.S., where the Cochon de Lait festival is held annually in the small town of Mansura, Louisiana. As its name implies, during this festival, suckling pigs are roasted and made into items such as pork rinds and boudin. Other uses for the suckling pig, throughout the nation, include slow roasting in the oven or (as in a Hawaiian-style pig roast) in a pit. The latter remains popular in the American Deep South.

See also


  1. ^ "Sucking pig," Oxford English Dictionary (Oxford University Press), 1989,, retrieved 2009-10-08  
  2. ^ Oxford English Dictionary (Oxford University Press), 1989,, retrieved 2009-10-08  
  3. ^ Gorlé, Frits; John Gilissen (1989). Historische inleiding tot het recht, Volume 1. Kluwer. p. 166. ISBN 9789063216542.  
  4. ^ Ruth Schmidt-Wiegand, "Die Malbergischen Glossen, eine frühe Überlieferung germanischer Rechtsprache," in Beck, Heinrich (1989). Germanische Rest- und Trümmersprachen; Volume 3 of Ergänzungsbände zum Reallexikon der germanischen Altertumskunde. Walter de Gruyter. ISBN 9783110119480.  
  5. ^ Lechon Sauce or Liver Sauce
  6. ^ Lechon Paksiw
  7. ^ Langenfeld, Annemarie (2009-09-20). "Spanferkel und Pizzen heiß begehrt". Der Westen. Retrieved 2009-10-08.  
  8. ^ Dadiani, Niko. "Gochi (Roast Suckling Pig)". About Georgia. Retrieved 2009-10-08.  
  9. ^ Scheibler, Sophie Wilhelmine (1866). Allgemeines deutsches kochbuch für alle stände, oder gründliche anweisung alle arten speisen und backwerke auf die wohlfeilste und schmackhafteste art zuzubereiten: Ein unentbehrliches handbuch für angehende hausmütter, haushälterinnen und köchinnen. C.F. Amelang. pp. 157-58.  
  10. ^ Dittrich, Michael (2009-10-07). "Oktoberfest mit Spanferkel" (in German). Stimberg Zeitung. Retrieved 2009-10-08.  

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