Mojo Criollo is really the Cuban version of salsa. It can be used raw, cooked, as a marinade, as a sauce for beans, rice, meat…it would make old shoes taste good! Mojo (pronounced “MO’ho”) is very versatile and extremely easy. We’re talking maybe 10 minutes of prep and then it just sits and the flavors marry with a wallop of garlic in the front with sweet from the orange, followed by a kick of acid from the lime. Seriously, this mojo can be habit-forming. You’ll find ways of using this simple, but flavor-packed sauce on things not Cuban. I usually have a jar in fridge and it’s good on burgers, potatoes in all their iterations, as a marinade for chicken, stirred into mayonnaise as a sauce for fish, etc.
This is the way The Latin Lovers mother, Nena, taught me to make mojo. She used it raw, but some people prefer to cook the mixture, which tames the garlic quite a bit. Nena used it as a condiment for frijoles negros and on boiled yuca.
In Cuba you would use sour oranges, which are very difficult to find in most parts of the US. They have a hideously high acid level, but you can come up with a nice substitute or purchase sour orange marinade in bottles in some supermarkets. Personally, I don’t like the flavor of the bottled stuff, so I make my own version. I use a mixture of orange juice and lime juice in a ration of 2:1. If I’m using this with fish and sometimes chicken, I usually add lemon juice for half of the lime juice, using the same ratio above. I, of course, have messed with the original recipe…well there never was a recipe, Nena just told me what to add, and that was the version we used. Anyway, I messed with Nena’s version and this is what I do now.
Home-Style Garlic Sauce (Mojo Criollo)
- 10-12 cloves garlic, put through a press or finely minced
- 3/4 to 1 cup very finely diced onion
- 1/2 cup fresh orange juice
- 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
- 1/2 cup good, flavorful extra virgin olive oil (use more if you prefer)
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed dried Mexican oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- a pinch of ground cumin (add more if you wish or omit it)
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
- 2-3 tablespoons finely minced fresh cilantro (optional)
In a mixing bowl, combine all the ingredients. Let the mixture stand at room temperature for about 2 hours before serving. This will keep about a week in the fridge, but it will never last that long! Makes about 2 cups.
It depends on what I’m serving this with, but I usually add the cilantro, the more the better for me, but that’s to my taste buds. I also add the red pepper flakes, but when I made the version that’s pictured here, I used Aleppo pepper flakes and we liked it a lot. I’ve use guajillo flakes and/or powder in the past and that, too was a lovely option.
If you want to take the edge or rawness out of the onion and garlic, then heat the oil and sauté the onion and garlic in it. Add the remaining ingredients and cool to room temperature. Some people use mojo as a marinade. When I use it as a marinade, I double the liquid ingredients, the salt and increase the cumin to 1 teaspoon. I don’t cook the mixture, but other do…it’s your choice.
By the way, I really like Mexican oregano; you should try it. It has a much more interesting and complex flavor profile than regular oregano; more floral and grassy. Again, you can purchase both the Aleppo pepper flakes, guajillo chile flakes/powder and the Mexican oregano at The Spice Mill.