Make this tangy fresh mojo verde Canario in just a few minutes with a handful of ingredients and an optional hit of spice. You can make it chunky and rustic or smooth and silky with my easy instructions below.
I lived in Spain for over 14 years and loved this sauce so much when we holidayed in Tenerife and Lanzarote.
“Mojo” is a word particular to the islands (some believe it comes from the Portuguese word for sauce “molho”) as on the mainland we would always say “salsa”.
⭐Why you’ll love it
- It’s super quick to make. Just peel the garlic, measure the ingredients, and blend.
- It has a fresh delicious tangy taste.
- The ingredients are economical and easy to find.
- It can be made ahead of time.
- It’s “accidentally” vegan.
🛒Ingredients and substitutions
Cilantro: You’ll need plenty of fresh cilantro (coriander) and it can’t be substituted with another herb.
Salt: I use sea salt in this recipe to keep it traditional. Sea salt has very large crystals but if you don’t have any you can substitute it with kosher salt or use half the amount of finely ground salt and then add to taste.
Chili pepper (optional): Mojo verde doesn’t always have a spicy kick so if you don’t like spicy food just leave it out. If you have access to Canarian hot peppers then you can use one green pimienta picona, otherwise, any mild-medium spicy green chili pepper will do. Remove the seeds, white pith, and ribs for a milder hit of heat.
Olive oil: Use regular high-quality olive oil or virgin olive oil. I wouldn’t break out the extra-virgin for this recipe as it will overpower the other ingredients. Do not use any other type of oil.
Vinegar: Traditionally white wine vinegar is used. You can substitute with red wine vinegar (although it may muddy up the green color a bit), rice vinegar, or apple cider vinegar.
Cumin: Don’t substitute or omit. You need finely ground cumin. If you’re using freshly ground cumin remember it’s stronger than preground cumin so reduce the amount from one teaspoon to three-quarters of a teaspoon.
Garlic: Don’t omit or substitute. I like a nice strong garlic flavor so I recommend using four large cloves but if you’re sensitive to garlic (or your cloves are really huge) you can reduce the amount.
See the recipe card at the bottom of this post for exact quantities.
👩🍳How to make it
Mojo verde is an incredibly easy sauce to make. You can use a blender, a food processor, a stick blender, or even a mortar and pestle.
If using a blender or processor I recommend using the smaller bowls, like the smoothie one, so there is enough volume in it to process properly.
Some people prefer a chunky mojo while others (like me) prefer a smooth emulsified one, I’ll tell you how to achieve both versions below.
First, if using a chili pepper remove the stem, or to reduce the spiciness remove the stem, pith, and seeds.
Add all the dry ingredients (the cilantro, garlic, cumin, salt, and chili pepper) to a food processor or blender bowl.
Now process or blend until as smooth as possible (it should still be a little chunky).
For a chunky green sauce, just add the olive oil and vinegar and stir.
For a smoother mojo verde, add the vinegar oil and process until smooth (this is what you see in the photos on this page).
For a smooth emulsified (creamy) mojo, add the vinegar and then process or blend, while slowly drizzling in the olive oil until the sauce is smooth and creamy.
Your sauce is ready! You can use it straight away or cover and refrigerate until ready.
Hint: Leaving the sauce in the fridge will allow the flavors more time to develop but will also increase the pungency of the garlic and the heat if you use a chili pepper so plan accordingly.
- If you don’t love the slightly claggy aftertaste of cumin, while not traditional, you can toast it before using it in this recipe. Just add the ground cumin to a hot pan on medium-high heat and stir until fragrant and slightly darker and then immediately add to the other ingredients.
- Add a little water and a vegetable stock cube to your blender or processor bowl after decanting the sauce and process or blend to get all the remnants out. Save that water for the next time you cook rice to add lots of extra flavor to it.
- Traditionally, mojo verde was made with a mortar and pestle so if you have one, go for it. Just finely chop the garlic, chili pepper, and cilantro before adding the salt and cumin, and grind until thick and pasty, before adding the vinegar and oil.
As I mentioned above, mojo verde is commonly served with other sauces (mojos) and papas arrugadas. However, in the islands, mojos are used to top anything and everything.
Mojo verde goes especially well with vegetables and light proteins or firm grilled cheese (like halloumi, paneer, provolone, etc.).
Store tightly covered in the fridge for up to five days or in the freezer for up to three months. Defrost in the fridge overnight and whisk the sauce in case it has separated.
❓Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Mojo verde should have just a slight kick from the raw garlic and chili pepper. Canarian food is typically spicier than food from the Spanish peninsula and many Spaniards from the mainland holiday in the Canaries and are sensitive to spice so it can also commonly be found with the hot pepper omitted.
“Mojo” is like mo-ho, but with a guttural sound on the j. “Verde” is pronounced with a soft b instead of a v, making it “bare-day”.
Did you make this dish? Let me know how much you loved it with a star rating ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐and a comment below.
Easy Mojo Verde Canario (Canarian Green Sauce)
- 1 Food processor or blender you can also use a stick blender or mortar and pestle
- 1.4 ounces cilantro A large bunch
- 4 cloves garlic Use large cloves
- 1 green chili pepper Optional
- 1 teaspooon ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon flaky sea salt Or use kosher salt, or half the amount fine salt.
- ⅓ cup plus 2 tbsp olive oil Use regular high-quality olive oil or virgin olive oil.
- 2½ tablespoons white wine vinegar Can substitute red wine vinegar, rice vinegar or ACV.
- Chop off the thick ends of the cilantro (the parts of the stems that don't have any leaves on them).
- Peel the cloves of garlic.
- Cut off the stem of the chili pepper, if using. To reduce the heat further you can remove the white pith, ribs and seeds.
- Add the cilantro, garlic, chili pepper (if using), cumin and salt to the bowl of a food processor or blender. Use a smaller smoothie-type bowl if you have one.
- Process or blend until as smooth as possible (it will still be a bit chunky).
- For a chunky mojo verde, mix in the vinegar and oil. For a smooth mojo verde, add the vinegar and oil and blend or process until smooth. For a creamy smooth mojo verde, add the vinegar and then process or blend while slowly streaming the olive oil in until the sauce is smooth and creamy.
- Adjust salt to taste. Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate until needed.
- If you can get it, traditionally the Canarian pepper “pimienta picona” is used in this recipe.
- I don’t recommend using extra-virgin olive oil as it will overpower the other flavors.
- This has a strong garlic flavor with some heat from the raw garlic, if you’re not a fan you can reduce the amount used.
- If possible use a smaller bowl or jar for blending or processing, like the smoothie jar that comes with some machines, as there may not be enough volume in larger jars for the blades to properly blend.
- You can refrigerate the covered sauce for up to five days or freeze for up to three months.
- Remember this sauce will get stronger as it sits in the refrigerator.
- If you don’t have a food processor or traditional blender use a stick blender or a mortar and pestle. For a stick blender just add the dry ingredients to a narrow bowl or container and blend until in small chunks and then add the wet ingredients. With a mortar and pestle, you’ll need to mince the garlic, cilantro, and chili pepper and add the cumin and salt. Grind until a thick paste and then mix in the vinegar and oil.