10-Minute Homemade Mojo Marinade

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My recipe for Cuban-style Mojo Marinade is bright and packed with bold flavor, plus it's incredibly easy to prep–ready in just 10 minutes! It combines citrus juice, garlic and spices, and complements chicken, pork and steak, as well as seafood and vegetables wonderfully. Learn how to make this versatile mojo marinade yourself with this easy-to-follow recipe.
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Grilled mojo chicken thighs on a speckled white plate atop a light blue surface. The chicken thighs are garnished with orange & lime wedges & zest.

Add Instant Garlic and Citrus Sunshiney Flavor with this Homemade Mojo!

It’s no secret one of our favorite ways to add instant flavor to any meal is by using a marinade to amp up the flavor!

We’ve shared everything from our go-to all purpose marinade to our tangy-sweet bourbon and brown sugar-infused marinade, and we’ve even explored delicious global flavors like our widely popular shawarma marinade, but something was missing: a sunshiney and bright citrus marinade.

Enter this Mojo Marinade, the easiest way to add warm Cuban-inspired flavor to any meal!

The warm, citrus, and garlic notes in this homemade marinade are perfect for adding instant flavor to all your favorite meats or veggies!

Our homemade version has everything I love about my favorite restaurant mojo with its signature bright, citrusy, garlicky flavors but strays from tradition ever so slightly in a few simple ways:

  • We swap bitter, sour oranges for a citrus blend of navel orange, lemon, and limes to keep things accessible while maintaining the signature citrus and tart flavor of mojo marinade.
  • We trade fresh oregano for dried oregano for a slightly more mild and less astringent taste.
  • And we add a touch of honey for balanced sweetness with an added bonus of creating crispy, caramelized edges when your mojo-marinated meat is grilled or cooked at high heat. 😍

Aside from the flavor, the very best thing about this mojo marinade is its versatility – it will pair with just about anything from juicy and flavorful Cuban-style chicken and pork to the most delicious flank steak or skirt steak you’ll ever eat.

Citrusy, sunshiney, light, and bright goodness – you’re gonna be obsessed!

Want more marinades for grilling season? We’ve got you covered! Check out PWWB’s 15 Go-To Grilling Marinades next.

Key Ingredients

The beauty of this Cuban-inspired mojo marinade is that it delivers a mega-punch of flavor despite having a pretty simple ingredients list with a few PWWB twists!

Oranges, lemons, limes, zest of all 3, garlic, cumin, salt, pepper, honey, and olive oil arranged on a light blue surface.
Since traditional bitter oranges can be difficult to find in the U.S. (apart from Florida), this Cuban-inspired mojo marinade is made with a combination of navel orange, lemon, and lime.

You will need…

  • A Citrus Blend – Because traditional bitter oranges can be difficult to find in the U.S. (apart from Florida), this Cuban-inspired mojo marinade is made with a combination of navel orange, lemon, and lime. The navel orange provides quintessential orangeness, while the lemon, and lime add a tart, sour flavor comparable to that of traditional bitter orange. If you can find bitter oranges easily, by all means, use them in your homemade mojo!
  • Dried Oregano – Since I find the flavor of fresh oregano to be a bit too bold and astringent, I opt for dried in this homemade mojo recipe. If you DO love the flavor of fresh oregano or you already have some on hand, feel free to use it! You’ll want about 2 tablespoons, roughly chopped.
  • Garlic, and LOTS of it. You’ll need 8 whole cloves.
  • Ground cumin adds warm, earthy flavor.
  • Honey, which is not traditional, but I always love using a touch of honey in marinades to help create those addictive crispy-charred bits on the grill. The littlest bit of honey adds the perfect kiss of sweetness to offset all the brightness of the fresh citrus in this mojo grilling marinade.
  • and a bit of Olive oil, to bring all of the punchy, fresh flavors together in a gloriously golden marinade. This is my go-to!

How to Make Homemade Mojo Marinade

Building off the simplicity of its ingredients, this Cuban-inspired mojo marinade couldn’t be easier to make.

It takes less than 10 minutes to throw together!

Chicken thighs in mojo marinade in a large glass bowl atop a light blue surface.
While you can’t go wrong with mojo-marinated chicken, this homemade marinade goes well with any of your favorite proteins or veggies!

To make this homemade mojo marinade, simply combine all of the ingredients in a medium bowl, whisk to combine, and add your protein or veggies of choice. That’s it!

Suggested Marinating Time: Marinating time will vary based on the type of protein you’d like to use. Because of the amount of fresh citrus juice used in mojo, it’s important not to marinate for too long, as it will have a terrible impact on the texture of meat. (Mushy, mealy protein = no good!)

Having tested this mojo grilling marinade on a variety of different proteins with a variety of different marinating times, here’s what we suggest:

  • Seafood – at least 20 minutes and no more than 45 minutes.
  • Chicken and pork – at least 4 hours and up to 6 hours for maximum flavor.
  • Beef – at least 12 hours and up to 24 hours for maximum flavor.
  • Veggies – at least 20 minutes and up to 24 hours.

Easy Flavor Variations

Cuban food is traditionally quite mild and mellow in terms of spiciness. I find that the citrusy and sweet flavors in this mojo marinade also take on a little bit of heat very well…it’s totally not traditional, but it’s really tasty!

Here’s 2 easy flavor variations to try…

  • Spicy mojo: Finely dice a jalapeno pepper and add it to your homemade mojo. Be sure to deseed some or all of the jalapeno if you don’t want to add too much of a kick.
  • Smoky mojo: Chop a chipotle pepper (from a can, packed in adobo sauce) and add it to your mojo marinade. If you don’t want to add too much heat, you can also simply use the adobo sauce from the can – 1-2 tablespoons will be plenty.
Chicken thighs in mojo marinade in a Ziploc bag atop a light blue surface. "Cuban Mojo Marinade" is written in the bag's memo space.
Prep Tip! ⇢ Add all of the ingredients to a gallon-sized bag or a Mason jar and shake to combine. Both provide quick prep and minimal clean-up – so easy!

Meal Prep

Despite the suggested marinating periods for this mojo grilling marinade, you can still prep the marinade well in advance. Prep the marinade and store it in a jar or an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. When you’re ready to start marinating, simply pour the marinade over whatever meat or veggies you’re using it on – easy peasy!

Serving Suggestions

You can use your homemade mojo on pretty much anything. The sky’s the limit!

I love grilling my mojo-marinated meats for a smoky charred finish and keeping things traditional by serving with a few must-try Cuban side dishes like Cuban black beans, yellow rice, or tostones!

Here are a few of our favorite ways to use mojo marinade to get you started…

  • Chicken. I love the way that the citrusy flavor of this mojo balances out the richness in chicken thighs and drumsticks, but chicken breasts work great too! Feel free to go for bone-in or boneless, skinless – whatever you love most.
  • Whole chicken. One of my absolute favorite things in the entire world is a grilled whole chicken, with crispy-charred skin and juicy meat. Cuban-style grilled whole chicken is a game-changer!
  • Seafood. Mojo marinated shrimp skewers…yes, please!!
  • Pork. Pork and mojo are a match made in HEAVEN. If you’re sticking to the grill, leaner cuts like pork chops or pork tenderloin will be great. If you want to make Cuban-style roasted pork, grab pork shoulder.
  • Beef. Homemade mojo marinade might not be the first thing you think of when it comes to red meat, but it’s pretty darn delicious. Stick with cuts that have great marbling, like flank or skirt steak.
Grilled mojo chicken thighs on a speckled white plate atop a light blue surface. The chicken thighs are garnished with orange & lime wedges & zest.
My ideal plate? ⇢ Grilled Cuban mojo chicken thighs, served over cilantro lime rice with black beans, and tropical mango salsa. It’s pretty much sunshine on a plate…summertime eats don’t get better than this!

No Grill? Use Your Stovetop or Oven!

If you do not have access to a grill, this marinade also works great with any other preparation – stovetop, skillet meals, sheet pan meals, etc. Tip! ⇢ You can create a similar caramelized, grilled effect by using a grill pan on the stove or baking in the oven and finishing under the broiler.

I cannot wait for you to try this Mojo Marinade! It’s bright, citrusy goodness – just how summery food should be if you ask me.

If you do give it a try, be sure to let me know! Leave a comment with a star rating below. You can also snap a photo and tag @playswellwithbutter on Instagram. We LOVE seeing your PWWB creations!

Print
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Grilled mojo chicken thighs on a speckled white plate atop a light blue surface. The chicken thighs are garnished with orange & lime wedges & zest.

10-Minute Homemade Mojo Marinade

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  • Author: Jess Larson
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 0 minutes
  • Total Time: 10 minutes
  • Yield: 3/4 cup marinade 1x
  • Category: Sauces & Condiments
  • Method: No-Cook, Grilling & Smoking
  • Cuisine: Cuban
  • Diet: Vegetarian

Description

My recipe for Cuban-style mojo marinade is bright and packed with bold flavor, plus it’s incredibly easy to prep –ready in just 10 minutes! It combines citrus juice, garlic and spices, and complements chicken, pork and steak, as well as seafood and vegetables wonderfully. Learn how to make this versatile mojo marinade yourself with this easy-to-follow recipe.


Ingredients

Scale
  • 2 pounds meat or veggies of choice
  • ⅓ cup olive oil
  • 1 orange, zested and juiced
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced
  • 2 limes, zested and juiced
  • 8 cloves garlic, grated
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 ½ teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepperOranges, lemons, limes, zest of all 3, garlic, cumin, salt, pepper, honey, and olive oil arranged on a light blue surface.

Instructions

  1. Mix the mojo marinade: Add the olive oil, orange, lemon and lime zest and freshly squeezed juice to a medium bowl or jar with the garlic, honey, oregano, ground cumin, kosher salt and ground black pepper. Whisk or shake to combine. Set aside, or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Mojo marinade shown in a small jar atop a light blue surface. A halved lime & orange wedge in the foreground, & a halved lemon in the background.
  2. Marinate: Pour the mojo marinade over your meat or veggies of choice. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for the recommended marinating time (see Recipe Notes, below).Chicken thighs in mojo marinade in a large glass bowl atop a light blue surface.
  3. Grill as desired. Enjoy!Grilled mojo chicken thighs on a speckled white plate atop a light blue surface. The chicken thighs are garnished with orange & lime wedges & zest.


Notes

  • Suggested marinade time: Marinating time will vary based on the type of protein you’d like to use. Because of the amount of fresh citrus juice used in the marinade, it’s important not to marinate for too long, as it will really negatively affect the texture of meat. Having tested this mojo garlic marinade on a variety of different proteins with a variety of different marinating times, here’s what we suggest:
    • Seafood – at least 20 minutes and no more than 45 minutes.
    • Chicken and pork – at least 4 hours and up to 6 hours for maximum flavor.
    • Beef and lamb – at least 12 hours and up to 24 hours for maximum flavor.
    • Veggies – at least 20 minutes and up to 24 hours.
  • 10-Minute Meal Prep: If you’d like to marinate something later in the week, I suggest making the marinade in advance, whenever you’re meal prepping for the week. Store it in a jar or an airtight container for up to 5 days – the flavors meld together even more as the marinade sits. At least 4 hours before you’re ready to hit the grill, simply pour the marinade over whatever meat or veggies you’re using it on – easy peasy!
  • Easy vegan substitution: If you’d like to make a vegan version of this mojo marinade, simply swap the honey for an equal amount of pure maple syrup or agave nectar. The marinade will be awesome on veggies, cauliflower steaks, or even grilled tofu!

Recipe by Jess Larson, Plays Well With Butter | Photography by Eat Love Eat

Grilled mojo chicken thighs on a speckled white plate atop a light blue surface. The chicken thighs are garnished with orange & lime wedges & zest.

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Hi there, I'm Jess!

If there’s 1 thing to know about me, it’s this: I am head-over-heels in love with food. I’m on a mission to make weeknight cooking flavorful, fast, & fun for other foodies, & PWWB is where I share foolproof recipes that deliver major flavor with minimal effort. Other true loves: pretty shoes, puppies, Grey’s Anatomy, & my cozy kitchen in Minneapolis, MN.

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