Cuban-Style Citrus – Mojo and Mojito (Part 1 of 2)

Historic Ybor City

Ybor City – Historic Cuban-American Neighborhood

Perhaps because it is so difficult for Americans to go there, I am fascinated by Cuba –with its rich history and culture.  To gain access, Americans must get a license from the U.S. Treasury Department, and that license requires a specific purpose (e.g., journalism, charitable work, government business, etc).   I haven’t applied for a license since I don’t think writing a food blog would qualify 🙂

Not one to be deterred by my misfortunes, this winter, I found my way to a bit of Cuba-in-America:  Tampa, Florida.  Cuban immigration in the U.S. began to escalate in the 1950s with Castro’s rise to prominence, and it continues today, with the U.S. granting special status to Cuban immigrants (Pew Research Center, 2006).  Florida, the U.S. state closest in proximity to Cuba, hosts about 1 million Cuban-Americans – the majority Cuban born.

Not surprisingly, many Florida cities are brimming with Cubans and their delightful culture, music and food.  Tampa is no exception. Our recent visit found us in historic Ybor City, a turn-of-the-century Cuban and mixed-ethnic Tampa neighborhood. While Ybor fell into decay during the Great Depression and thereafter, it was recently the beneficiary of a major restoration.  Even with a bit of added glitz, Ybor retains much of its original character.  And it was in Ybor that I found and consumed enough Mojo, all washed down with Mojitos, that I was dancing the Cha-Cha.

Reproduction Trolley - Runs From Downtown Tampa to Ybor City

Reproduction Trolley – Runs From Downtown Tampa to Ybor City

Never had Mojo or Mojito? Wondering what these Cuban delights have in common? No, Mojito is not a diminutive Mojo.  Mojo is a marinade, typically for chicken and pork, and Mojito is a refreshing cocktail.  But what they have in common is citrus – one of Cuba’s main agricultural products.

If you find yourself with a bowl full of citrus looking for a good use, these recipes will do it.  They are perfect for a warm Cuban- (or Florida-) like summer evening.  Throw the Mojo Chicken on a grill (instead of oven roasting) while you kick back and sip a cooling and refreshing Mojito.

I’ll start with the Mojo Chicken recipe here, following with Mojito in Part 2.

Mojo Chicken

Mojo Chicken

Mojo Chicken

Recipe By: A Global Garnish, LLC

Serves 8

1 tablespoon garlic, minced
1/2 onion, minced
1/2 teaspoon cumin (optional)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper, black
1/2 teaspoon oregano, dried
1/2 cup orange juice
1/3 cup lemon juice, or lime juice
1/2 cup olive oil
4 pounds chicken, bone-in, cut into pieces (or substitute bone-in breasts)


1. Mix first 6 ingredients (garlic through oregano) in a bowl, and add juices.   Traditional Mojo uses Cuban sour orange juice.  Lemon or lime juice added to orange juice will provide a similar tang. 

Whisk in olive oil.  (Do not omit olive oil; it is essential to avoid acid-curing the meat.)

Mojo Marinade Ingredients

Mojo Marinade Ingredients

2. If you are using whole chicken, cut in pieces and trim excess fat.   Alternatively, purchase cut pieces such as chicken breasts (use bone-in). 

3. Place chicken in marinate.  Marinate 8-12 hours.    

4. Preheat oven to 375 deg.  

Remove chicken from marinade (reserving marinade) and place chicken on an oiled sheet (jelly roll) pan or place on a Silpat on a sheet pan.  I prefer to use a Silpat to make cleaning easier after roasting. 

Roast chicken for about 50 minutes to 1 hour or until the internal temperature reaches 160 deg F.  

While chicken is cooking, place marinade in small saucepan.  Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer.  Cook until the marinade thickens slightly.  This can be drizzled over the cooked chicken when serving. 

5. Remove chicken from pan, slice and serve with sauce.

6. DO-AHEAD DIRECTIONS:  Prepare chicken and sauce through step 4.   Remove roasted chicken from pan and refrigerate in a tightly-sealed container.  Refrigerate sauce separately.  These will keep in the refrigerator for a couple of days.   When ready to serve, place chicken in a baking/roasting pan along with two tablespoons of water (to keep chicken from drying).   Cover with foil and bake at 350 deg. F for about 20 minutes.  Then remove cover and finish cooking until heated through.  Warm sauce on stove top.  Slice chicken and drizzle with or serve with sauce. 


Closing with a bit of Florida wildlife.  I think these cormorants are dancing the Cha-Cha  hoping for a bit Mojo Chicken Fish…

Florida Cormorants

Florida Cormorants

23 thoughts on “Cuban-Style Citrus – Mojo and Mojito (Part 1 of 2)

  1. Ah, I love Mojitos! They’re my second favourite cocktail, after gin and tonic (preferably Hendricks with cucumber!). I’ve never heard of Mojo chicken though… sounds and looks incredibly delicious. I might just have to try the two together… yum. Thanks for sharing! x

    • Cucumber in a G&T? No lime? Just one slice?

      I became a G&T fan living in the UK – also a great summer drink. And agree on the Hendricks. With gin, unlike vodka, I think the brand makes a big difference in taste….

  2. I like the sound of this chicken with its sour orange flavoring and I bet the sauce has a great aroma, too. I used to go to Florida just about every Spring to give myself a break from our Winters. Then I “discovered” Europe and, most importantly, cheap air fares. It was good-bye, Ft. Meyers, and Buongiorno, Roma!

  3. Your Mojo Chicken sounds and looks incredible! I just love anything to do with citrus. As for G&T, I used to be partial. Even the odd very strong but very small dry martini just before sups. Prefer wine these days.

    • I lean toward wine as well as it goes so much better than food. But an occasional cocktail before dinner always seems a bit festive.

      And I’m a citrus fanatic too. And speaking of martinis, I like those with a bit of citrus as well….

  4. Having lived in Florida for many years, I love Cuban food. We were lucky enough to have a sour orange tree in our yard which was always used for mojo. Seville oranges will give you the same result if you have access to them.

  5. Pingback: Cuban Style Citrus – Mojo and Mojito (Part 2 of 2) and a Toast to Amazing People | A GLOBAL GARNISH

  6. Pingback: Cuban Citrus – Mojo and Mojito (Part 2 of 2) | A GLOBAL GARNISH

  7. Lovely post and recipe! I’ve actually been to Cuba on a special educational visa (with Global Exchange) even though I am a U.S. citizen (and I think they’ve gotten rid of that special educational visa exception since then…). Unfortunately it was way before I’d started food blogging, so I didn’t take enough photos of what I ate there and don’t remember that many details, but I do remember really enjoying a lot of the food! (And finding it seasoned very simply but skillfully– like it seems like you’ve done with this recipe!)

        • Right. I left home for the better part of a year to go live in Spain and travel Europe/Africa with a friend when I was 18. I came home with about 30 pages of scribbled notes and 1 roll of used film. What was I thinking? Now I struggle to put together memories using those meager photos and notes and my old brain. Certain events stick in my mind clearly, but, alas, so much has faded….

  8. I remember landing in Miami (having flown from London) in the early 80s and was confused – the sight and sound of so many people speaking Spanish, not what I was expecting 🙂 Later on in life I’ve been lucky enough to holiday in Cuba, a joy – but the best bit has to be the beverages 🙂

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