MOJO CRIOLLO-Cuban Marinade & Sauce

In my post last week, about Cuban Sandwiches, I mentioned "roast pork...seasoned with mojo". I had several people ask what I meant, so this week I'll tell you about Mojo (pronounced moho).

Mojo is a marinade/sauce made with olive oil, citrus juices and spices. I have heard that it originated in the Canary Islands, and was brought to Cuba by the many "Isleños" (Islanders) who immigrated to the Caribbean. 

In modern slang the word "mojo" is also used to mean "self-confidence" and that makes me think of my father and his ancestors. 

My father’s great-grandfather was one of five brothers who came from the Canary Islands to the Americas, to make their fortune. Once in the New World they went their separate ways and never saw each other again. My father told us that 3 of the brothers, (including his great-grandfather) ambitiously divided Cuba in thirds, each settling in a different area. Our great-grandfather in the central portion.

I think of those 5 brothers venturing into the New World, to create the life they wanted and I know that the same adventurous spirit and "make-it-happen" attitude was evident in my grandfather. Abuelo had little  formal education and only $20 when he married Abuela. By the time I was born, through dedicated hard work, he owned a successful sugar cane plantation, a dairy farm, multiple homes and other businesses...until Fidel took it all away. 

Then there was my father, (who I adore) known by most as Aldito but always Papillo to me. He was charming, the life of every party, hard-working, courageous, loved by all.....I'll tell you more about him another day.



A wonderful “criollo” marinade/sauce. You can buy it ready made, if you are fortunate enough to live near a market that sells Latin foods, but home-made is more flavorful. My mother used this as “adobo”or seasoning for meats. You can also use it to flavor Yuca (future recipe), as a dip for Chicharritas, Tostones, etc. 

1/2 cup lime juice

1/2 cup orange juice

4-5 garlic cloves
2 teaspoons granulated garlic
1 teaspoon granulated onion
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon oregano
½ teaspoon black pepper
½ cup olive oil
Mix all ingredients in a food processor, until garlic is chopped very fine. Use right away or refrigerate. It will keep a few days. You can also freeze it and use later. By the way, did I mention I like garlic? 

I would love to know how you use MOJO. 

4 Response to MOJO CRIOLLO-Cuban Marinade & Sauce

May 17, 2012 at 11:08 AM

Do you know what the five brother's names were? Did Papillo say that his brothers were the actual individuals that went about dividing Cuba up into thirds? I'm sure it would be hard to know, but how much of that did he ever substantiate in some way? I don't mean to interrogate, but I am fascinated by their story. Every day I feel that same "adventurous spirit" and desire to "make it happen." Whether in business or my own personal ambitions, I always feel this tremendous drive to brake down barriers and be the best. I've always seen that tenacity in my Mom, but it is channeled into other facets of her life, that sometimes aren't as apparent or easily identifiable to most.

June 6, 2012 at 10:20 AM

I have also been fascinated by this story since he first told it to me. He didn't know the names of the brothers, or have anything to substantiate the story. He had heard it from his father and grandfather.

I have wondered if we could find them through immigration records or something.

June 11, 2013 at 6:52 PM

I have never heard anyone else tell this story. My family (on my father's father's side) also came from the Canaries to Cuba. I use mojo at least weekly for Chicken and Pork with the La Lechonera brand. It's the best store bought by far, but on Holidays we make our own almost exactly as your recipe (we use more garlic!) using it for a big roast pork and there is no better flavor in the world. I even brine chicken with for fried chcicken. Delicious! Thanks for your story and the recipe. I used it to be sure I hadn't forgotten anything and got a nostalgic bonus!
Mucho gusto~

July 8, 2013 at 5:08 PM

Thank you, Michael. Next time I will add more garlic, like you do. I don't think you can ever have too much garlic!

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