Mojo Butterflied Roast Chicken

Mojo roasted chicken and new potatoes on a platter.

This butterflied roast chicken is super tender,  flavorful and  easy to make. I’ll show you how to butterfly (or spatchcock) a chicken and make the vibrant garlic mojo.  Sour orange juice, lemons, limes and a healthy dose of garlic are the basis for the tart citrus marinade.  Roasting the chicken in a cast iron skillet at a high heat ensures a crispy skin that seals in the juices in only 40 minutes.  Potatoes added to the skillet halfway through the chicken’s cooking time, round out this easy one pan dinner.

Have you ever heard of a sour orange or bitter orange? They’re not just oranges that tend to be on the tangy side.  This is a legit sour orange.

They come in colors ranging from green to brown to well, orange. Their skin can be smooth or rubbly and they’re generally not the prettiest fruit.

Sour orange juice, however is widely used in everything from Cuban  and Caribbean cooking to Asian and European dishes. Since I live in South Florida, I was inspired by traditional island flavors for this tangy garlic mojo marinade.

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For The Sour Orange Juice

You’ll notice when you slice the bitter fruit that it’s LOADED with seeds. That’s a hallmark of this variety. Use a fine microplane to to zest one of the oranges for the marinade.  Slice the bitter oranges in half  and squeeze a little more than half a cup of juice from about 4 oranges. The rest of the juice will come from a lemon and lime.

 For Sour Orange Juice Garlic Mojo Marinade

  • Sour Oranges (juice and zest)
  • Lemon 
  • Lime
  • Garlic 
  • Kosher Salt
  • Black Pepper
  • Cumin
  • Red Pepper Flakes
  • Oregano
  • Cilantro
  • Olive Oil

Add all of the ingredients to a glass bowl and whisk the garlic mojo marinade together. Set aside while you prepare the chicken.

Use a four to five pound chicken that will fit comfortably in your cast iron skillet or heavy pan for this recipe. 

How to butterfly (spatchcock) a chicken

Butterflying or spatchcocking simply means to remove the back bone and press the breast bone to crack it, so that the chicken lays flat. You can ask your butcher to do this for you, but if you’ve got a good pair of kitchen shears, it’s just as easy to do yourself. Check out the video below.

YouTube video


Now that the backbone is out and the chicken is laying flat, get it into the sour orange juice garlic mojo marinade.

I like to give the bird an overnight rest in the tropical flavors before cooking the chicken.

You can slip the chicken and marinade into a zip-top storage bag and turn it occasionally, or tuck it into a glass dish covered in marinade and turn the chicken occasionally.

Note: Using glass is important because the citrus juices will react with metal, consequently mix the marinade in a glass bowl and use either glass or a plastic bag to marinate the chicken.

To make the chicken

  • Preheat the oven with the cast iron skillet inside.  
  • While the oven and pan are heating up, remove the chicken from the marinade and pat dry with paper towels.
  • When the oven reaches 450° – use heavy potholders to transfer the hot skillet to the stovetop. Place the chicken, breast side down into the hot pan. It will sizzle. Return the pan to the oven and cook for 20 minutes.

Butterflied roast chicken continued…

  • After 20 minutes, flip the chicken. Add small potatoes sliced onions and stir them around in the released chicken fat. Roast for 20 more minutes.
  • Transfer the chicken to a carving board to rest and continue roasting the potatoes until they are tender and golden, another 5-10 minutes.

The crispy bits

Whenever I roast a piece of meat and there are any renderings, crispy bits and pan juices leftover, I immediately veer toward pan gravy.  You don’t have to take this extra step, but it really doesn’t take much more effort. 

Transfer the potatoes to a serving platter.

  • Sprinkle the onions and stuck-on bits with the vinegar and stir with a wooden spoon, while scraping up anything that’s stuck to the pan (that’s called the fond and it’s where all the flavor is!) 
  • Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil while stirring constantly.  
  • Stir in the chopped cilantro and transfer to a small serving bowl.

Carving and plating the chicken

Carve the Garlic Mojo Butterflied Roast Chicken and transfer to the serving platter with the potatoes. Serve with the pan jus on the side and enjoy.

We love the depth of flavors in the Sour orange juice marinade with garlic, cilantro and spice. Incidentally, this marinade will work well on chicken pieces that you grill, or for pork tenderloins — either roasted in the oven or grilled.

An overhead photo of the roasted mojo chicken on a platter.

What to serve with mojo chicken recipe:

The pan sauce for the mojo chicken.

More chicken recipes to try:

A platter of Mojo chicken and potatoes.

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Mojo chicken on a platter with roasted potatoes.
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4.58 from 7 votes

Mojo Chicken

Traditional Cuban flavors combine in a citrusy, garlic marinade for this easy spatchcock chicken. Use a cast-iron skillet to get the deep golden crust on the chicken and ensure even cooking.
Author: Lisa Lotts
Course Main Course
Cuisine Caribbean
Keyword chicken, navel orange, spatchcock
Dietary Restrictions Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free, Low-Carb
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Servings 4


  • 4 pound chicken spatchcocked (backbone removed)


  • 4 sour oranges
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 lime
  • 6 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • ¼ cup fresh cilantro chopped
  • ¼ cup olive oil




  • Zest one of the sour oranges and transfer the zest to a bowl. Cut the oranges into quarters and juice them over a glass measuring cup. Juice the lemon and lime over the measuring cup until you have about 3/4 cup of citrus juice. Set aside.
  • In a small bowl, combine the garlic, kosher salt, pepper, cumin, oregano and red pepper flakes. Add the sour orange juice mixture and whisk to combine. Stir in the chopped cilantro and olive oil.


  • Flip the chicken onto the breast side so that the backbone is exposed. Use a pair of poultry sheers to cut out the back bone, going up either side of the spine of the chicken (not down the spine itself.) Save the back bone for stock.
  • Flip the chicken over so that the breast side is facing up. Use the flat palm of your hand to press firmly on the chicken’s breast until it breaks and you’re able to flatten out the bird. 


  • Pour about half of the marinade into a glass baking dish. Place the chicken into the dish and make sure the inside of the chicken is in contact with the marinade. Arrange the chicken with breast side up and pour the remaining marinade over the bird.  Rub the bird with the marinade to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 12 hours or overnight, flipping the chicken once or twice during the marinating time.


  • Remove the chicken from the refrigerator about an hour before you’re cooking it, so that it comes to room temperature.
  • Preheat the oven to 450°. Place a 10″ cast iron skillet in the oven to heat.
  • Remove the chicken from the marinade and pat dry with paper towels. When the oven and pan are hot, use a pair of pot holders to CAREFULLY lift the pan and move it to the stove top. Place the chicken, breast side down into the pan and return to the oven. Roast for 20 minutes.
  • After 20 minutes, flip the chicken. Add the onions and potatoes and roll them around in the rendered chicken fat to coat. Arrange the onions and potatoes in a single layer around the chicken and continue cooking for 20 minutes or until chicken is done.
  • Transfer the chicken to a cutting board to rest and continue to cook the potatoes and onions for an additional 10 minutes. Remove the skillet from the oven. Transfer the potatoes to a serving platter. 
  • Place the skillet over a medium high heat. Add the vinegar and scrape up the fond from the bottom of the pan. Add the chicken broth and continue to stir and scrape the pan to loosen any bits from the bottom. Stir in the chopped cilantro and transfer the jus to a bowl for serving.
  • Carve the chicken and transfer to the serving platter with potatoes. Sprinkle with additional cilantro for garnish and serve with jus.


Calories: 258kcal | Carbohydrates: 33g | Protein: 3g | Fat: 14g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 761mg | Potassium: 651mg | Fiber: 6g | Sugar: 15g | Vitamin A: 450IU | Vitamin C: 100.6mg | Calcium: 100mg | Iron: 1.6mg

Pin “Butterflied Roast Chicken” For Later!

Sour Orange Juice Garlic Mojo Butterflied Roast Chicken is tender and flavorful. Cooked in a cast iron skillet it's ready to eat in about an hour. #spatchcockchicken #mojochicken

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  1. 5 stars
    This was delicious! I did cheat, I used Badia’s sour orange marinade and went to Whole Foods and bought a spatchcock cocked chicken…doesn’t matter because you recipe made my cheats SING! Thank you for another summer recipe!

  2. Paul Gerhold says:

    5 stars
    i am going to cook this the first time using store bought Mojo Marinade. I know that is sacrilegious but before I make my own marinade I need to know if the sour oranges referred to in the recipe are the same as grow from sour orange root stock found in old Florida orange groves. I have lots of them on my property and would be happy to find a use.

    1. If the oranges you have on your property have a thick skin and are very sour and seedy, then yes, those are sour oranges and you can use them for the marinade.

  3. Hi Lisa, I love the detail of your recipe and great pictures. I just received a box of sour oranges from my sister who grows them in her yard in Florida. This looks like the perfect way to use part of them; but, I’m wondering if using chicken parts and following the cooking time would work. Cooking for two and a whole chicken is more than we need. Thanks for your help and the great recipe. I’ll update once I’ve prepared the dish.

    1. Definitely you can just use the marinade for the parts and either roast or grill the chicken!

  4. Such a detailed recipe! So many questions answered, now everyone should be an expert to make a yummy orange chicken. It looks so delicious!

  5. 5 stars
    That marinade sounds so good. What a great way to make dinner extra special. Loving the flavor combinations in this.

  6. 5 stars
    This looks SOOOOO good! I love all the flavors! I haven’t seen sour oranges in the store, would you just use a mixture of lemons & an orange instead?

    1. You can use lemons and limes as well as an orange, but be on the lookout — sour oranges can be found in many latin and asian markets.

  7. I loved it! This recipe is really comforting and satisfying!

  8. 5 stars
    Wow, Lisa, I love the vibrant photos, and the sound of that amazing orange mojo marinade! This recipe is calling out to me. Thanks for the handy guide on prepping the chicken.