Chicken leg quarters marinated in a fresh citrus, garlic and herb Cuban style mojo marinade and grilled to perfection. Juicy, tender and full of mouthwatering flavor, this mojo chicken recipe is easy enough for any night of the week and also perfect for dinner guests. It will quickly become one of your favorite easy chicken recipes.
If you are looking for the perfect grilled chicken, you must try this Cuban mojo chicken recipe. The marinade is bright, citrusy, garlicky, tangy and takes your grilled chicken to the next level. The punchy citrus flavors are perfect for chicken, pork, steak, seafood, whatever! Serve it with some rice and black beans and you’ve got yourself one of the tastiest chicken dinners you’ll ever try.
What is Cuban mojo?
Mojo (pronounced “MO-HO”) is a multipurpose Cuban marinade that’s perfect for grilled meats and seafood. Authentic mojo is traditionally made with sour oranges (naranja agria), fresh garlic cloves, spices and herbs. The authentic recipes vary slightly but that undeniable glorious flavor comes from bitter orange. In some areas across the United States, sour oranges can be harder to find at most grocery stores. So, for this Cuban inspired recipe we will improvise and instead of bitter orange juice, we will make a mix of citrus juice with orange and lime to get as close as possible to that delicious flavor.
Why chicken leg quarters?
I highly recommend using chicken leg quarters for this recipe. Also labeled as “whole chicken legs” the leg quarters consist of both the thigh and the drumstick. It’s skin on, bone in and has a good amount of fat and flavor. Leg quarters are one of the most economical cuts of chicken and they are perfect for marinating and grilling.
Mojo Chicken Ingredients
The mojo marinade recipe is very simple. The most important thing is that everything is super fresh!
- Chicken leg quarters – this is my favorite cut for grilling chicken. You can also use chicken thighs, drumsticks or cut up a whole chicken to have both light and dark meat. For best results and great flavor, go with a bone in, skin on cut of meat.
- Fresh orange juice – and orange zest
- Fresh lime juice – and lime zest
- Fresh garlic cloves
- Fresh cilantro
- Shallot – this is not a traditional ingredient in authentic mojo criollo marinade. There are some that use minced white onion.
- Olive oil
- Salt and black pepper
Roughly chop the garlic and shallot. Add it to a food processor or blender with the rest of the mojo ingredients and pulse until everything is well combined. You can also do this by hand. In a small bowl whisk together finely minced garlic, cilantro and shallot with the rest of the marinade ingredients.
Pat chicken dry with a paper towel and place in a shallow dish or zip top bag. Pour over about two thirds of the marinade. Make sure the chicken is thoroughly coated and cover or seal the dish or bag. Reserve the rest of the marinade for basting and dipping to add extra flavor.
Marinate the chicken in the refrigerator for 6-8 hours.
How to grill chicken leg quarters
When you’re ready to cook, preheat the grill to medium heat at about 350 degrees. On my gas grill, I like to turn the outside burners on high and leave the middle two on the lowest setting to create two different zones. On a charcoal grill, you can shift the coals to one side to create two zones with direct and indirect heat.
Remove the chicken from the marinade and discard the marinade from the raw chicken. Place chicken skin side down over direct heat on the grill grate and sear for two to three minutes. Flip and sear the other side for two to three minutes.
Place the chicken in the indirect heat zone and close the lid of the grill and cook for 35-45 minutes until the internal temperature in the thickest part of the thigh reaches at least 165 degrees with a meat thermometer. The skin should be golden brown.
Use the reserved marinade to baste generously baste the leg quarters during the last five minutes of cooking time. What’s great about using leg quarters is that they’re basically foolproof and nearly impossible to overcook. They are perfectly tender and juicy between 180-190 degrees.
Remove the chicken from the grill, tent with foil and let it rest for ten minutes before serving.
Mojo Chicken Recipe Tips
- The best time to marinate is eight hours. You can get by with four to six but you will not achieve maximum flavor. Anything more than eight hours is overkill. The marinade has tons of citrus in it and left too long, it will change the structure of the muscle fibers and the texture of the meat may become stringy or mushy. Eight hours is perfect.
- If you have access to sour or seville oranges, use about a cup of sour orange juice in place of regular fresh orange and lime juice.
- Use a bag to marinate the chicken. You can push out all of the air and seal it tightly to ensure that the marinade coats every part of the chicken. I love these reusable gallon size bags for marinating meat.
- I love this recipe on the grill but you can definitely bake it in the oven or air fry it .
- Use an instant read thermometer to take the guess work out of determining if your chicken is done. Grilled chicken sometimes can look a little pink near the bone but as long as the temperature registers at least 165 degrees, it’s done!
What to serve with Mojo Chicken
- Rice and black beans
- Simple salad
- Fried plantains or yuca
More Delicious Chicken Recipes you will love
- White Wine Roasted Chicken Thighs and Leeks
- Grilled Mediterranean Chicken
- Spatchcock Garlic and Herb Roast Chicken with Baby Potatoes
- Chicken Tinga Tacos
- Asian Style Chicken Wings
- Baked Peri Peri Chicken Wings
- Instant Pot Salsa Verde Pulled Chicken
Grilled Mojo Chicken Leg Quarters
- 4 chicken leg quarters
- ½ cup fresh squeezed orange juice
- zest of one orange
- ⅓ cup fresh squeezed lime juice
- zest of one lime
- 8 cloves garlic
- 1 small shallot
- ½ cup fresh cilantro
- 1 ½ teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 ½ teaspoons dried oregano
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- extra cilantro, lime and orange wedges or slices for garnish
Make the mojo marinade
- Roughly chop garlic, shallot and cilantro. Add to a food processor or blender with the rest of the marinade ingredients and pulse until well combined.
- Pat chicken leg quarters dry with a paper towel and place chicken in a zip top bag or shallow dish. Pour ⅔ of the marinade over the chicken and reserve the rest of the marinade for basting and dipping.
- Squeeze out as much air as possible from the bag and make sure the chicken is thoroughly coated in the marinade. Marinate chicken in the refrigerator for 6-8 hours.
Grill the chicken
- Remove chicken from marinade and discard.
- Preheat gas or charcoal grill to about 350 degrees. See post about creating a direct and indirect heat zone on the grill.
- Place leg quarters skin side down over direct heat and sear for 2-3 minutes. Flip and sear on other side for 2-3 minutes.
- Move chicken to indirect heat, close lid and grill for 35-45 minutes until the internal temperature reaches at least 165 degrees. Use the reserved marinade to generously baste the chicken during the last 5 minutes of cooking time.
- Remove chicken from grill and tent with foil. Rest for ten minutes before serving.