Cuban-Style Roast Pork

Family-FriendlyPork Roast

Cuban-style roast pork is marinated in a garlicky-citrus mojo sauce to deliver flavorful, succulent meat. Cuban pork is easy to make, and the best part is you can use the leftovers to make Cuban sandwiches. Go ahead—wow your family two nights in a row!

Photography Credit: Marta Rivera

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.

A baking tray with an uncooked pork roast inside. Wooden bowls of spices, as well as an onion, garlic and citrus fruit are placed to the right and above the pork.

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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.

A clear blender pitcher has chopped onions, spices and liquid inside to make the best mojo marinated pork roast. Juiced limes, measuring cup, salt, spices and pork roast are set around the pitcher on a marble background.

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!

Top view of mojo marinated pork roast with a dark crust sits on a white platter. A bowl of fried plantains and a bowl of red rice are above the pork.

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.

A white plate of sliced cuban style pork shoulder with marinade spooned on top. Fried plantains and red rice are on the plate as well.

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?

Cuban-Style Roast Pork

  • Prep time: 15 minutes
  • Cook time: 3 hours, 30 minutes
  • Marinating time: 4-24 hours
  • Yield: 6 to 8 Servings

Use fresh lime juice for this mojo marinade. Bottled lime juice just doesn’t give the brightness and crisp flavor that fresh limes impart.

Ingredients

  • 6-8 pound bone-in Boston butt or pork shoulder

For the mojo marinade:

  • 1 head garlic (about 10 cloves), peeled
  • 1 large white onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 cup grapefruit juice, from 1 medium grapefruit
  • 3/4 cup fresh lime juice, from about 8 limes
  • 1/2 cup fresh orange juice, from 1 medium orange
  • 1/4 cup white vinegar
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch, to finish the mojo sauce

Special equipment:

Method

1 Prepare the mojo marinade: To your blender or food processor add the garlic cloves, chopped onion, dried oregano, salt, pepper, cumin, grapefruit, lime, and orange juices, vinegar, and olive oil.

Blend or puree the ingredients together on medium speed until the garlic and onions are very fine—almost resembling a soupy paste.

Reserve 1 1/2 cups of the mixture for the sauce and set it aside. You will use what remains to marinate the pork.

Side view of blender pitcher set on a marble background with limes, oranges and halved grapefruit next to it. A person is putting spices in the pitcher.Top view of blender container with pureed marinade inside. Juiced limes, measuring cup, salt, spices and pork roast are around the pitcher and on a marble background.

2 Marinate the pork: Take your Boston butt and make 1-inch-wide slits, 4 inches deep into the meat (be careful not to hit the bone too hard with your knife). This will help the marinade penetrate the inner part of the roast.

Place the pork in a bowl or dish large enough to hold the meat. Pour the mojo marinade that’s still in your blender or food processor over the pork. Give the pork a turn to coat it in the marinade and cover the dish.

A baking sheet rests on a marble background with a raw pork shoulder in it. A hand with a chef's knife is cutting deep slits in the roast. Cuban-style pork shoulder submerged in marinade in a clear plastic container. The container sits on a marble background.

3 Transfer to the refrigerator: Marinate the pork for 4-12 hours in the refrigerator. If the pork is not fully covered in the marinade, turn it over during the marinating time to make sure it’s getting all it can from the mojo. Because I usually begin marinating my pork roast the evening before cooking it, I usually turn it in the morning after it’s marinated overnight.

4 Heat the oven to 350°F.

5 Roast the pork: After the meat has marinated, transfer it to a roasting pan (with or without a rack). Roast the pork, uncovered, for 3 1/2 hours or until a thermometer inserted in the fleshiest part, not touching the bone, reads 165°F.

Cuban-style pork roast covered in golden marinade and resting on a rack in a roasting pan. The pan rests on a marble background. Cuban-style pork roast with a crispy crust resting in a roasting pan.

6 Rest the meat: When the roast is ready, remove it from the oven. The top will be beautifully caramelized from the sugars and the aromatics that were in the mojo. Loosely cover the roast with a large piece of aluminum foil and allow it to rest for 15 minutes while you heat the reserved 1 1/2 cups of mojo sauce.

Mojo is pungent and can be overwhelming in its raw form. To serve it as a sauce, it’s best to cook it to soften the harshness a bit.

7 Make a slurry: In a small bowl, combine the cornstarch and 1 tablespoon from the reserved mojo and stir together until no lumps of cornstarch remain.

8 Heat and thicken the mojo sauce: Pour the mojo sauce and the cornstarch slurry into a small saucepan and bring it to a boil over medium heat while stirring frequently.

Once the mixture begins to boil, lower the temperature and allow the sauce to simmer for 5-6 minutes while stirring occasionally. Allowing the mojo to simmer will mellow out the garlic and onion flavors considerably. The sauce is ready when it reaches the consistency of maple syrup.

Transfer the sauce to a serving bowl. The mojo sauce may be served hot, cold, or at room temperature.

Mojo marinate in a sauce pan. A small glass bowl with thickened marinade and a tablespoon rest on a marble background to the right. Creamy golden sauce in a pan with a whisk. Hand holding a spoon dripping sauce over pan.

9 Serve the roast pork and sauce: After the pork has rested, which allows the juices to settle down and not run everywhere when you cut it, use a carving knife to slice the roast. Serve it with a side of rice and beans and plantains. Pour the sauce over the sliced portions of pork after serving.

LEFTOVERS! Leftovers may be refrigerated for 2-3 days and reheated in the microwave or, my favorite way, by lightly sautéing in a skillet with a bit of mojo sauce until warmed through.  Any leftover mojo sauce should be covered and stored in the refrigerator.

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Marta Rivera

Marta Rivera is trained chef with over 20 years in the culinary field and the blogger behind Sense & Edibility. She graduated from the Baltimore International Culinary College with degrees in Culinary Arts and Classical Pastries. Her cookbook is Taste and See Cooks.

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4 Comments / Reviews

No ImageCuban-Style Roast Pork

Did you make it? Rate it!

  1. Marian

    I make Cuban pork all the time….I usually marinate at least 24 hours for that succulent flavor….I the put in oven at high heat 400 degrees fat cap up. Then lower to 225 in oven or overnight….shear perfection….usually break the pork up once cooked and put back in the juices reserving fat cap to place on top when serving….I do however, cut the fat cap in diamond shapes and poke holes with a knife of the meat….if not cooking overnight, you need to cook for about 8 hours

  2. Mark

    Unfortunately this was a fail for me. My pork was hit 165 in just over 2 hours. This was a concern given the recipe mentioned 3.5 hours. Our pork was dry and not tender. I marinated for 5 hours. This pork was one I had purchased while on sale and put in the freezer. Would that have made the difference? I do this often when I make pulled pork in the smoker but that’s cooking at a much lower temperature for much longer. I’m thinking the 350 cooking temperature might be too high. Any advice for next time is appreciated.

    xxxxxyyyyy

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  3. Adruan

    This was absolutely amazing! It’s really balanced between the garlic and tartness. I made this in the crock pot for cubano sandwiches but we ate it plain with rice and beans as well. I will definitely make again and again, as my family (including my 5 year old kiddo) raved that this was the best pork roast I’ve EVER made. Thank you so much for this delicious recipe! I wish I could give it 10 stars!

    xxxxxyyyyy

Caramelized mojo marinated pork roast with four juicy slices cut from it. A small white bowl of marinade rests next to a larger bowl of red rice.Cuban-Style Roast Pork