Habanero Mojo Chicken

Bring a taste of the tropics to your grill! Bright, tangy, herbaceous, and bursting with fruity heat and bold savory flavors, Habanero Mojo Chicken packs big flavor with simple ingredients.

Habanero Mojo Chicken

I love the fresh and vibrant flavors of the Caribbean. Whether it’s the complexity of Cuban Ropa Vieja and Jamaican Jerk Clams or this sunny celebration of citrus, it’s all about the combination of simple ingredients coming together in harmony.

Why You’ll Love This Recipe

Habanero Mojo Chicken
  • Accessible Ingredients – Unlike a traditional Cuban mojo that calls for sour oranges which can be hard to find in some location, this uses the same zesty and savoy flavors of a Cuban garlic-citrus sauce with ingredients you can find at any grocery store.
  • Balance of Flavors – Don’t be scared by the habaneros in this mojo marinade! The addition of citrus and honey brings out the fruitiness of these peppers. You are in control of the heat and can opt to just add one chile, and also remove the seeds from it. It does have a kick but it isn’t overpowering or the predominate flavor.
  • Make Ahead – Not only can you make the mojo sauce ahead of time, but you can prep your chicken ahead of time. Plus, the leftovers make for really great lunches the next day.
  • Versatility – I used this marinade on grilled spatchcock chicken, but don’t limit yourself to that. This is equally delicious on chicken quarters, drumsticks, a whole cut up chicken, or even chicken wings. Use it in the same way you would any mojo sauce, just adjust the marinating time.

What Is Cuban Mojo Sauce?

Habanero Mojo Chicken

This habanero mojo marinade draws heavily from Cuban mojo Criollo. The predominate ingredients are there including the citrus, a copious amount of pungent garlic, earthy and citrusy cumin, aromatic oregano, and olive oil. Cuban mojo has its roots from the Canary Islands, specifically their mojo verde which includes olive oil, cilantro, cumin or coriander, garlic, and local peppers.

Cuban mojo sauce is a versatile condiment that’s used as both a marinade and also a sauce. You’ll find it on everything from chicken and pork to fresh seafood and even vegetables. There is nothing like tender yucca basking in the tangy bite of mojo.

How to Make Habanero Mojo Chicken

When life gives you a bounty of habaneros, make mojo. Not only does the mojo marinade come together quickly, but there’s nothing complicated about grilling the spatchcock chicken. Go ahead and double up on the sauce. You’ll find yourself adding it to everything!

  • The sauce is boss. Roughly chop your garlic, oregano, cilantro, and habaneros. You can take the seeds out if you want the fruity flavor but not much heat. Zest your oranges before juicing them Add all of your ingredients to a food processor except the olive oil and pulse until it is finely chopped. With your food processor running stream in your olive oil. Reserve a third cup of the marinade for grilling.
Habanero Mojo Marinade
  • Spatchcock your chicken. Place your chicken on your work surface breast side down. Use kitchen shears to cut down either side of the spine. Make sure to save the spine and freeze it as it’s a great addition when making chicken stock. Crack the breastbone so your chicken lays flat.
Spatchcock Chicken
  • Let it marinate! Place your chicken in either a large zip top bag or shallow container with a lid. Pour the remaining marinade over the chicken making sure both sides are covered. Allow it to marinate for 2-8 hours. Because of the citrus in this don’t let it marinate overnight.
  • Light your fire. Prepare your grill for two zone cooking, banking your charcoal to one side. Add wood chips if desired. Make sure your grates are clean. You want your grill around 350 degrees.
  • Prep your chicken. While your grates are heating up remove the chicken from the marinade and lightly pat it dry. Generously season both sides with kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper.
Mojo Grilled Chicken
  • Getting grilling! Place the chicken on the cooler side skin side up and close your grill. Let it grill for 20 minutes and then rotate it so both sides evenly char.
Mojo Grilled Chicken
  • Baste your chicken. When you rotate your chicken after 20 minutes go ahead and baste it with some of the reserved sauce. Continue to check on your chicken every 15-20 minutes, rotating as needed until your chicken reaches 155 degrees.
Mojo Grilled Chicken
  • Sear that skin. Once your chicken has reached 155 degrees move it to the direct side and sear it skin side down for 4-6 minutes, or until the internal temperature is 160.
  • Let it rest. Remove the chicken from the grill and lightly cover it with foil. Allow it to rest for 10-15 minutes before carving it.

Tips From the Beach

Habanero Mojo Chicken
  • Go for bone in, skin on. Whether you’re using a whole chicken or chicken parts, for the best texture for cuts of chicken that are bone in, skin on. This is a citrus forward marinade and skinless chicken will begin to cook faster while changing texture.
  • You can control the heat. Don’t be scared off by the habaneros. The do give this mojo grilled chicken a little heat, but they also add a fruity flavor. Start with just one pepper and taste your marinade. You can also leave the seeds out completely.
  • Discard the used marinade. Don’t baste your chicken with the marinade it hung out it. This is a raw sauce that doesn’t get cooked so reserve some of the mojo sauce at the begining specifically for basting. No one wants cross contamination.
  • Season generously. There isn’t a lot of salt in the marinade so make sure that your season your chicken well. Some of the salt will come off while basting. The general rule is you want a teaspoon of kosher salt per pound of chicken. You can also use a tropical seasoning for this.
  • Zest first. Always zest your citrus before squeezing it.
  • Let rest. I get it. You want to dive in and rip that wing off. Its crispy skin is calling to you. Always let your chicken rest first. This allows it to finishing cooking to temp while letting the juices redistribute into the meat of the chicken.
  • Fresh is best. This mojo chicken recipe doesn’t have a lot of ingredients, so each ingredient matters. Stick with fresh herbs for this recipe and freshly squeezed citrus. Also go ahead and buy the head of garlic and skip the stuff in the jar or tube.

Looking for the perfect side to serve with this? Try Mediterranean Farro Salad with Grilled Vegetables.

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Habanero Mojo Chicken

Habanero Mojo Chicken

  • Author: Nicole Stover
  • Total Time: 1 hour 8 minutes
  • Yield: 4-6 1x


Bright, tangy, herbaceous, and bursting with fruity heat and bold savory flavors, Habanero Mojo Chicken packs big flavor with simple ingredients.


Units Scale
  • 34 lbs whole chicken
  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 8 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 12 habanero peppers, remove seeds for less heat if desired
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, roughly chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh oregano, leaves only
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon orange zest
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste, or favorite tropical seasoning


  1. Add the garlic, fresh herbs, honey, orange zest and juice, lime juice, cumin, and salt to a food processor and pulse until finely chopped.
  2. With the food processor running stream in the olive oil.
  3. Remove 1/3 cup of the mojo sauce and set aside for basting.
  4. Spatchcock your chicken. Place the chicken breast side down on your work surface. Use kitchen shears to cut down on either side of the backbone, removing it completely. Flip the chicken back over and firmly press down on the breasts until you hear a crack and the chicken lays flat.
  5. Place the chicken in a zip tock back and add the remaining marinade. Make sure it is thoroughly coated. 
  6. Allow the chicken to marinate for 2-8 hours.
  7. Remove the chicken from the refrigerator and lightly pat it dry. Season both sides generously with salt and pepper and let come to room temperature while you prepare your grill.
  8. Prepare your grill for 2 zone cooking, banking your charcoal to one sides. Add woods chips if desired.
  9. Place the chicken on the cooler side, skin side up. Cover and allow it to cook undisturbed for 20 minutes.
  10. After 20 minutes rotate your chicken and baste it.
  11. Continue checking and basting your chicken every 15- 20 minutes. When it reaches 155 degrees move it to the direct side and seat the skin for 4-6 minutes, until the chicken reads 160 in the thickest part of the breast.
  12. Remove the chicken from the grill and lightly cover it with foil. Let it rest for 10-15 minutes before carving. 


  • The combination of citrus and honey brings out the fruitiness of the habanero. Don’t be scared of the heat.
  • Bone on, skin on chicken works best for this recipe. You can use the same marinade on other cuts of chicken such as thighs, drumsticks, quarters, or even wings. Just adjust the marinating time. 
  • Prep Time: 8
  • Cook Time: 60
  • Category: Entree
  • Method: grilling
  • Cuisine: Caribbean

Keywords: mojo grilled chicken, habanero mojo chicken, cuban mojo sauce, mojo chicken, mojo sauce

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