If you’ve never had the pleasure of taking a bite of mojo-marinated Cuban roast pork, I’m about to become godmother to your future children.
When I say mojo, I don’t mean the vibe lost when you get older, I mean mojo (pronounced mo-HO) the citrusy, garlicky marinade/sauce beloved by many Hispanics in the Caribbean and, soon enough, it will be loved by you too!
People of Caribbean descent, be they Cuban, Puerto Rican, or Jamaican, are passionate about bold flavors and ample seasoning. This roast pork will give you an insider’s view into our love of flavorful food. The mojo marinade, with its heavy hand of garlic and tart blend of citrus juices, creates a succulent piece of meat and doubles as a sauce when spooned over the finished roast.
WHAT IS THE BEST CUT FOR ROAST PORK?
Cuban roast pork can be made with either pork shoulder or Boston butt. The difference between the two cuts of meat are minimal. Boston butts come from the top of the pig’s forelegs, just above the pork shoulder.
I prefer a bone-in Boston butt, because it cooks faster and is more tender than the shoulder. The shoulder is tougher, so it will require an additional 30 minutes of cooking time to make it tender.
Despite shoulder meat being slightly tougher, if I find pork shoulder on sale, I’m going with that over the Boston butt, because, I mean, your girl likes to save money.
Bone, or no bone? That is the question! When it comes to whether or not you should purchase and roast meat on the bone—always go bone-in.
The truth is, the more a cut of meat is processed, the more it’s going to cost. My grocery store was charging $2.69 a pound for a boneless, skinless Boston butt and only $1.49 per pound for bone-in with a minimal fat cap. Yeah, I have twins to put through college, so that dollar-twenty is valuable to my bank account.
Not only will choosing a bone-in roast save you a few coins, the bone also helps retain some of the juice that would otherwise be lost during the cooking process. The more muscle that’s exposed to heat (as happens when solid roast is cut open to remove the bone), the faster it will dry out during cooking. Cost and juiciness are enough to make the bone worth dealing with, right?
FAT = FLAVOR
Boston butt has fat marbled throughout the meat and usually has a fat cap on the surface. Make sure you select a butt that has that fat cap on it, and don’t trim it before roasting. The fat melts down into the butt, adding flavor and basting the meat as it cooks, which also lowers the chances of ending up with a bone-dry roast.
WHAT IS MOJO MARINADE?
I polled my friends and family, and there’s no English translation for mojo. Sorry, I tried.
No matter! The explanation is simple: Mojo is just a garlic and bitter orange-based marinade with lots of oregano.
Mojo is used to flavor a wide variety of meats in Caribbean cuisine prior to cooking. When simmered long enough to cut through the bite of that raw garlic, mojo can also be used as a sauce on finished dishes.
We sometimes dip fried plantains in raw mojo, but you have to be really comfortable in your personal relationships to pull that move—the garlic is so strong in raw mojo that it’s straight up vampire-repellant.
HOW TO MAKE MOJO WITHOUT BITTER ORANGES
Mojo is traditionally made using the juice from bitter oranges. If you have access to them, it’s worth seeking out the difficult-to-find bitter orange to make “authentic” mojo.
But the bitter orange is not easily found in the contiguous United States, and I don’t want you to miss out on the flavor bounty of this dish just because you can’t find them.
So, for this recipe, I omitted the bitter orange juice, increased the amount of lime juice and added grapefruit juice to end up with not quite authentic, but still great results. Hey, sometimes you have to work with what you’ve got!
HOW LONG TO MARINATE CUBAN PORK ROAST?
Mojo is a highly acidic marinade, which means the longer the pork is allowed to marinate, the more the enzymes in the marinade will break down the meat, eventually turning it into a mushy mess.
I recommend marinating the roast for at least four hours, and for the sweet spot, 12 hours (or overnight).
Don’t marinate the pork for more than 24 hours, or you’ll risk mushy meat.
HOW TO MAKE MOJO PORK ROAST IN THE SLOW COOKER
If you’re pressed for time and want to leave this roast to do its thing while you’re at work or busy with life, throw it in the slow cooker for eight hours on low, or four hours on high. You won’t have the caramelized crust at the end of roasting, but it won’t leave you wanting for anything in terms of flavor.
WHAT TO SERVE WITH CUBAN PORK ROAST?
Make like an islander, and serve this Cuban pork roast with white rice and stewed beans, Spanish rice, or fried plantains. A cool, crunchy slaw is another great accompaniment to slices of roasted pork. Be sure to ladle over a generous amount of the mojo sauce, as well.
WHAT TO DO WITH LEFTOVER PORK ROAST?
Leftovers are one of the blessings this recipe provides. Cuban pork roast may be kept for about three days and reheated by sautéing it until you’ve warmed it through.
But, my favorite way to repurpose Cuban pork roast is in sandwiches or quesadillas.
If you have leftovers, you must chop some up to use in Cubano sandwiches. Cuban (a.k.a Cubano) sandwiches combine Cuban roast pork, ham, Swiss cheese, and pickles on soft bread to form a whole higher plane of amazingness. There’s no if, ands, or buts about it!
In fact, I’ve made this Cuban pork roast for the sole purpose of making Cubanos!
Another way to repurpose leftovers is to layer the meat with cheese between flour tortillas to create a Cuban quesadilla. Be sure to have mojo sauce on hand for dipping!
MAKE AHEAD TIPS FOR CUBAN PORK ROAST
If you need to feed a crowd, marinate and roast your pork; then slice or shred the meat from the bone. Store the cooked, shredded pork in freezer bags for up to two months. When you’re ready to serve it, thaw it under refrigeration and reheat as needed.
You can also make the marinade up to one day before you want to marinade the pork.
NEED MORE PORK ROAST RECIPES?
- Bacon Wrapped Pork Roast
- Slow Roasted Pork Shoulder with Savory Apple Gravy
- Braised Stuffed Pork Shoulder
- Slow Cooker Cider Pulled Pork
- Slow Cooker Chinese Pulled Pork