Bitter Orange Marinade (Marinado de Naranja Agria)

Bitter Orange Marinade (Marinado de Naranja Agria)

The Spruce / Ali Redmond

Prep: 5 mins
Cook: 0 mins
Marinate: 8 hrs
Total: 8 hrs 5 mins
Servings: 8 servings
Yield: 1 cup
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
154 Calories
5g Fat
28g Carbs
2g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 8
Amount per serving
Calories 154
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 5g 7%
Saturated Fat 1g 4%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 76mg 3%
Total Carbohydrate 28g 10%
Dietary Fiber 5g 16%
Total Sugars 18g
Protein 2g
Vitamin C 112mg 562%
Calcium 79mg 6%
Iron 1mg 4%
Potassium 385mg 8%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

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, with thick, rough skin. 

"The marinade came together quickly, and it smelled so delicious! I used bottled bitter orange juice, which made it even easier. This marinade would easily be enough for 8 pieces of chicken. I marinated chicken thighs overnight, roasted them the next day, and served them with maduros. A wonderful meal that my whole family enjoyed." —Diana Andrews

Bitter Orange Marinade Recipe Tester Image
A Note From Our Recipe Tester


  • 5 cloves garlic, minced

  • 3 bitter oranges, or 3/4 cup bottled bitter orange juice

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil

  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh oregano leaves

  • 1 bay leaf, preferably fresh, finely chopped

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

  • Salt, to taste

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Bitter Orange Marinade (Marinado de Naranja Agria) ingredients

    The Spruce / Ali Redmond

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

    Squeeze the juice from the bitter oranges into a mixing bowl

    The Spruce / Ali Redmond

  3. Add the remaining ingredients and stir.

    marinade ingredients in a bowl

    The Spruce / Ali Redmond

  4. Immerse pork or another type of meat such as chicken in the mixture and let marinate for eight hours up to overnight in the refrigerator.

    Bitter Orange Marinade (Marinado de Naranja Agria) with chicken in a pan

    The Spruce / Ali Redmond


  • This marinade makes enough for about 8 pieces of chicken or pork. Marinate for 8 hours up to overnight. After marinating, you can grill chicken, bake chicken, grill pork chops, or even roast a large pork shoulder. If marinating a large cut of meat, you might have to double the recipe (you'll need about 1/4 cup of marinade for each pound of meat).
  • Marinating is best accomplished in the refrigerator for optimum food safety, not at room temperature.
  • 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. 

Recipe Variations

  • 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.

How to Store

You can make the marinade up to 3 days ahead. Store it in a clean, covered container in the refrigerator.

What can you do with bitter orange?

While the raw pulp of a bitter orange is generally not eaten, bitter oranges are famously used to make marmalade, and the juice works well in dressings, sauces, and marinades.

Is sour orange the same as bitter orange?

Yes, bitter orange is also referred to as sour orange or Seville orange.