A mojo marinade is a combination of citrus juice, garlic and oil. It’s very popular in Cuban cuisine.
Mojo injects wonderful flavor to meat. It’s commonly used as a pork and chicken marinade like in this Cuban roast pork and this mojo marinated grilled chicken. But it works great on all poultry like in these mojo marinated Cornish hens. However you use it, this garlic and citrus marinade will add a tropical flair to your meal.
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What’s in a Cuban-style mojo?
Now, let me start by saying that just about every Cuban home-cook has their own recipe for mojo. And Yes, their mojo is always the “Best”. Mojo recipes get passed down from one generation to the next and everybody puts their own spin on it.
Ingredients vary widely and include herbs, spices, even onions and peppers are added to mojo. While most ingredients may be different from recipe to recipe, at its essence a Cuban mojo must contain: Fresh Garlic, Oil (usually Olive Oil or Lard), and Citrus Juice. The citrus juice traditionally used in mojo is sour orange.
What are sour oranges?
Sour orange, also called bitter orange and Seville orange, is a type of orange with a rough, bumpy skin and a sour juice. The color ranges from orange to a pale-yellow with green streaks.
The inside can be vibrant to dull orange in color, and they have a lot of seeds.
Unlike the sweet orange, sour oranges are not eaten out of hand like fresh fruit, instead they are most commonly used to make marinades. Sour orange (or naranja agria in Spanish) is the prominent ingredient in the popular Cuban mojo marinade.
Where can I find sour oranges?
During the latter part of the year, near the Christmas season, many Latin markets will stock sour oranges. You can find them through-out the year too, but it’s hit or miss.
What can I substitute for sour orange juice?
If sour oranges are not available in your area you can make a pretty good substitute by combining orange juice (fresh squeezed is best) and lime juice at a 2:1 ratio. Two parts orange juice to one part lime juice. Shake or stir the juice to combine well.
Another alternative to consider is bottled sour orange juice. It’s not made with sour oranges; the ingredients include grapefruit juice and other citrus. Even if it’s not the real thing, bottled sour orange juice will still get us that sweet and sour taste we’re looking for. Sour orange juice can be found in the international section of large grocery stores, or find it online – bottled sour orange juice.
This is my family’s mojo recipe. We like to keep it simple around here, so other than the sour oranges you probably have most (or all) of these items in your cupboards already. To make this Cuban mojo you will need:
- 1 Garlic Head, peeled and smashed
- 2 teaspoons Coarse Salt, divided (½ teaspoon to breakdown the garlic and 1½ teaspoon for the marinade) – we used Kosher salt, it works really well
- 1½ cups Sour Orange Juice – how many oranges to use will depend on how large and juicy they are, we used 5 sour oranges
- 2 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 1 teaspoon Dried Oregano
- ¼ teaspoon Cumin
- 1 Bay Leaf
You will also need:
- Mortar and pestle
- Jar or container with a tight fitting lid
- Meat mallet to smash the garlic (or use the side of a large knife)
- Mesh strainer
How to make mojo marinade
Juice the sour oranges.
Use a mesh strainer to strain the juice, they contain a lot of seeds and this is the best way to catch them all.
Peel and smash the garlic by separating the cloves and cutting off the tough end. Place the cloves on a cutting board and give each one a good whack with a meat mallet or the side of a large knife. Once you smash the garlic you can pick the peel right off.
Add the garlic and ½ teaspoon salt to a mortar and pestle. Work the garlic until you break it down into small, flat pieces.
Add the smashed garlic, sour orange juice, olive oil, oregano, cumin, 1½ teaspoon salt, and the bay leaf to a bowl or jar. Stir or shake to combine well. Let the marinade sit in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour, a couple of hours is better. Shake or stir well before using.
You may also like these classic Cuban recipes:
- 1 Head of Garlic peeled and smashed
- 1½ cups Sour Orange Juice
- 2 tablespoons Olive Oil
- 1 teaspoon Oregano dried
- ¼ teaspoon Cumin
- 1 Bay Leaf
- 2 teaspoons Coarse Salt divided
- If you’re making the sour orange juice: combine 1 cup of orange juice (preferably fresh squeezed) and ½ cup lime juice. Stir or shake the juice to combine well.
- Juice the sour oranges. Use a strainer to catch all the seeds.
- Peel and smash the garlic cloves.
- Add the garlic and ½ teaspoon salt to a mortar and pestle. Work the garlic until you break it down into small flat pieces.
- Add the smashed garlic, sour orange juice, olive oil, oregano, cumin, 1½ teaspoon salt, and the bay leaf to a medium bowl or jar. Stir or shake to combine well.
- Let the marinade sit in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour, a couple of hours is better. It will keep overnight too, if you want to make it ahead of time.
- Shake or stir the mojo marinade well before using.