Mojo Marinade

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A citrusy & bright Cuban-inspired mojo marinade made with the best combination of citrus zest, freshly squeezed citrus juice, plenty of garlic, & a few simple spices. Homemade mojo marinade is so bright & flavorful, plus it couldn't be easier to make - you need 8 simple ingredients & you can throw it together in 10 minutes or less. The perfect mojo grilling marinade for Cuban-style chicken, pork & steak this summer!
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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One of my favorite discoveries upon moving to Milwaukee for college was Cuban food. There’s a really legit Cuban restaurant in the heart of downtown Milwaukee. For whatever reason, eating there a handful of times in my first semester freshman year made Milwaukee feel like a place I could call home someday. (Ahem…their cute bartenders & extra-strong mojitos probably helped matters, too. You know how that goes. *wink*)

Earlier this spring, I was wrapping up recipe testing for PWWB’s grill marinade line up & something felt a little incomplete. We mastered some awesome staples, we explored lots of delicious global flavors, but something was missing: a sunshiney & bright citrus marinade.

Enter mojo, an easy marinade filled with bright, citrusy, & warm Cuban-inspired flavor. This homemade mojo marinade was highly requested from the PWWB community on Instagram, & I’m so excited to share it with you today! It pairs with just about anything, & it couldn’t be easier to make.

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.

Cuban-Style Mojo Marinade – Recipe Highlights

This mojo marinade is…

  • LIGHT & BRIGHT. Made with the zest & the freshly squeezed juice from oranges, lemons & limes, this Mojo marinade recipe tastes like total sunshine.
  • GARLICKY, as all good things in life are, right?!
  • SIMPLE. This recipe calls for just 8 total ingredients, many of which are probably already in your pantry. Plus, it can be mixed up in 10 minutes or less. Easy!
  • VERSATILE. The best part? You can use it on just about everything. Cuban-style chicken. Juicy & flavorful Cuban-style pork. The most delicious flank steak or skirt steak you’ll ever eat. Seriously!

Citrusy, sunshiney, light & bright goodness, you’re gonna be totally obsessed. ♡ Read on to learn more about this Cuban-inspired mojo marinade, or jump straight to the recipe & get grilling!

This Cuban-inspired mojo marinade is made with fresh, flavorful ingredients.

The best part about this Cuban-inspired homemade mojo marinade recipe is the fact that it delivers a mega-punch of flavor despite having a pretty simple ingredients list. A few simple & fresh ingredients work together to create a boatload of flavor.

Mojo marinade ingredients arranged on a light blue surface: oranges, lemons, limes, zest of all 3, garlic, cumin, salt, pepper, honey, & olive oil.
Note: full ingredients list & measurements provided in the Recipe Card, below.

The cast of characters includes…

  • Fresh citrus – a combination of freshly squeezed orange, lemon, & lime juice creates the perfect tart-sweet citrus flavor. Something that sets this mojo marinade recipe apart from others is the use of both the citrus zest & the freshly squeezed citrus juice, which creates the intensely citrusy flavor we’re after in this mojo marinade.
  • Garlic, & LOTS of it. You’ll need 8 whole cloves.
  • Spices – a little bit of dried oregano & 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.
  • & a bit of Olive oil, to bring all of the punchy, fresh flavors together in a gloriously golden marinade. This is my go-to!

A couple of notes on ingredients:

Sour oranges vs Navel oranges: It’s worth noting that traditional mojo marinades lean on the tart, citrusy flavor of bitter oranges, a staple ingredient in Cuban cooking. Because 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, & lime. The navel orange provides quintessential orangeness, while the lemon & lime add a tart, sour flavor comparable to that of bitter orange. If you CAN find bitter oranges easily, by all means, use them in your homemade mojo!

Fresh vs. dried oregano: Similarly, traditional mojo marinade recipes typically call for fresh oregano. Because I find the flavor of fresh oregano to be a bit too bold & astringent, I opt for dried in this homemade mojo recipe. An added perk? Dried oregano is always on my spice rack – & I’m guessing it’s always on yours too! If you DO love the flavor of fresh oregano or you already have some on hand, by all means, use them in your homemade mojo! You’ll want about 2 tablespoons, roughly chopped.

How to make this homemade mojo marinade recipe:

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.
Note: full Recipe Directions are provided in the Recipe Card, below.

Here’s how you do it: Simply combine all of the ingredients in a medium bowl & whisk to combine. If you’re prepping for later use, you can combine all of the ingredients in a small jar & shake to combine.

That’s it! It couldn’t be easier.

With your homemade mojo marinade mixed & ready to go, you can use it immediately or pop it in the fridge for later use. (More on that in a sec!)

How long to marinate:

The 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 & no more than 45 minutes.
  • Chicken & pork – at least 4 hours & up to 6 hours for maximum flavor.
  • Beef – at least 12 hours & up to 24 hours for maximum flavor.
  • Veggies – at least 20 minutes & up to 24 hours.
Side angle of chicken thighs in mojo marinade in a large glass bowl atop a light blue surface.

Make-ahead & meal prep tips:

Great news for meal preppers: despite the suggested marinating periods for this mojo grilling marinade, you can still prep the marinade well in advance!

To make it ahead of time, simply prep the marinade & store it in a jar or an airtight container in the refrigerator. The marinade will keep for up to 5 days. When you’re ready to start marinating (based on the suggested marinating periods, above), simply pour the marinade over whatever meat or veggies you’re using it on – easy peasy!

A little bonus: the flavors of the homemade mojo marinade meld together even more as the marinade sits, a flavorful reward for thinking ahead!

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.

Mojo marinade flavor variations:

Cuban food is traditionally quite mild & mellow in terms of spiciness. I find that the citrusy & 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!

2 easy flavor variations you can try:

  • Spicy mojo: Finely dice a jalapeno pepper & 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) & 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.

How to use this Cuban mojo marinade:

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

A few of the best ways to put your homemade mojo marinade to use:

  • Chicken. I love the way that the citrusy flavor of this mojo balances out the richness in chicken thighs & 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 & juicy meat. Cuban-style grilled whole chicken is a game-changer!
  • Seafood. Mojo marinated shrimp skewers…yes, please!!
  • Pork. Pork & 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.

What to serve with your grilled Cuban-inspired goodness:

Citrusy & garlicky, your mojo marinated proteins & veggies will pair with just about anything! If you want to keep things super traditional, a few must-try Cuban side dishes include…

My ideal plate? Grilled Cuban mojo chicken thighs, served over cilantro lime rice with black beans, & tropical mango salsa. It’s pretty much sunshine on a plate…summertime eats don’t get better than this!

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

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 & tag @playswellwithbutter on Instagram. I LOVE hearing about & seeing your PWWB creations!

Want more grilling marinade ideas? We’ve got you covered! Check out our 15 Go-To Grilling Marinades next. Happy grilling! ♡

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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.

Mojo Marinade

  • 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

Citrusy & bright Cuban-inspired mojo marinade made with the best combination of citrus zest, freshly squeezed citrus juice, plenty of garlic, & a few simple spices. The perfect homemade mojo marinade for Cuban-style chicken, pork & steak!


Ingredients

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

Instructions

  1. Mix the mojo marinade: Add the olive oil, orange, lemon & lime zest & freshly squeezed juice to a medium bowl or jar with the garlic, honey, oregano, ground cumin, kosher salt & 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 & no more than 45 minutes.
    • Chicken & pork – at least 4 hours & up to 6 hours for maximum flavor.
    • Beef & lamb – at least 12 hours & up to 24 hours for maximum flavor.
    • Veggies – at least 20 minutes & 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!

Keywords: mojo marinade, marinade recipe, easy, no-cook, grilling & smoking, gluten-free, vegetarian, easily vegan

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.

If you love this Mojo Marinade Recipe, here are more grill marinade recipes you have to try this summer!

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Thank you so much for reading & supporting Plays Well With Butter. This post includes affiliate links for products I truly love & use on the reg in my own home. All opinions are always my own! Should you make a purchase using one of these links, PWWB will earn a small commission at no extra cost to you, which helps me continue to bring you great original & free content.

Don’t forget to pin this Mojo Marinade recipe for later!!!

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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