Bitter Orange Marinade (Marinado de Naranja Agria)

Bitter orange

By Zeynel Cebeci (Own work) [ CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Prep: 5 mins
Cook: 0 mins
Marinate: 8 hrs
Total: 8 hrs 5 mins
Servings: 12 servings

Bitter oranges are often used in Caribbean cuisine as a breakdown agent in marinades. Sometimes called sour oranges, they add a unique citrus flavor to any kind of meat you might want to prepare. This marinade recipe goes well with pork, and I've also used it with chicken with great results.

Bitter oranges grow on trees — specifically, the citrus aurantium tree. Their fruit is much sourer than regular oranges and, as the name suggests, they're bitter. The flesh carries a hint of an aftertaste when it's eaten raw. Bitter oranges are uglier than regular oranges, too, with thick, rough skin. 


  • 5 garlic cloves (minced)
  • 3 bitter oranges, or 3/4 cup bottled bitter orange juice
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 bunch oregano (fresh and finely chopped)
  • 1 bay leaf (finely chopped)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin 
  • Salt to taste

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

  2. Squeeze the juice from the bitter oranges into a mixing bowl.

  3. Add the remaining ingredients and stir.

  4. Immerse pork or another type of meat or chicken in the marinade for at least eight hours.


  • Although bitter orange is generally considered safe when added to recipes, those with heart conditions or high blood pressure might want to avoid it.
  • Bitter orange can also cause a reaction if you consume a lot of caffeine or take MAO inhibitors for depression. 
  • Marinating is best accomplished in the refrigerator for optimum food safety, not at room temperature. Enclose the meat or chicken in a sealable plastic bag or bags. Work the marinade in with your fingers through the bag, then place it in the refrigerator overnight or for at least eight hours. 
  • Do not reuse leftover marinade for other dishes, even if you refrigerate it. The contact with raw chicken or meat renders it unsafe. 
  • If you're making chicken, consider removing the skin first before marinating so the flavor has a chance to soak into the flesh. 


  • You can make a passable substitute for sour orange juice by combining two parts regular orange juice with one part lemon juice and one part lime juice. Or, as an alternative, try two parts orange juice with one part grapefruit juice and a teaspoon of lime juice.
  • Add minced hot peppers if you prefer a spicier marinade. 
  • You can substitute one or more different fresh herbs for the oregano; thyme and sage are both good options.