The first time Chef Lyana Blount tried mojo sauce and mofongo was when she was a little girl at her grandmother’s house in the Bronx. She remembers her grandmother coming home after a long day of work to take care of her and her two siblings. Along with mofongo and mojo sauce, which her grandmother called “pica verde,” she would make tostones (fried green plantains) with the meal.
“Her go-to dishes were potatoes and bistec with onions, tostones with bistec or pollo, and yucca, green banana, avocado and red or green onion, sometimes with bacalao (salt fish),” Blount said. “Even though these meals were simple, they were always dressed with a sauce that always brought the dish to life.”
In ours and RITZ Crackers’ recipe series Savory Roots, the diversity of Latin American sauces is explored in a unique and flavorful way.
Today, Blount, who is Black and Puerto Rican, is the owner of the pop-up restaurant Black Rican Vegan in the New York City area. There, she recreates many of the traditional dishes she remembers from her childhood for her community. This includes mojo sauce, which Blount said she enjoys eating now with vegetables or rice and beans and paired with RITZ Crackers.
Blount said mojo sauce is the kind of sauce to top off any succulent meal. When people ask her for a simple recipe that they can follow to make a delicious vegan dish at home, Blount suggests mojo sauce and mofongo. She is confident anyone can make the dish because she would make it herself at home, too. Before Black Rican Vegan was a full-blown business, cooking was her hobby.
“I learned through food and through love and watching my uncle and my mom cook that these foods are very welcoming,” she said. “It’s a way into my heart and my space.”
Blount wants others to find a way into her heart, too, which is why she is sharing her recipe for mojo sauce and mofongo, and giving it a unique twist with RITZ Crackers, which she uses as a substitute for traditional chicharrón since both are salty and crunchy.
Other ingredients for the mojo sauce include green plantains, garlic cloves, olive oil, salt, vegan butter and vegetable oil. While the ingredients are simple, Blount said there is a lot of history behind the dish, which was most likely invented in the Canary Islands because it was the first place where all the ingredients converged.
“Mojo sauce is a delicious consequence of the Canary Islands’ role as a bridge between Europe, Africa and the Americas – chili peppers from South America, pimentón and olive oil from Spain, and cumin from North Africa,” Blount said. “And let’s say that the long-lost Guanche cuisine, which developed over 1,500 years before the Spanish arrived in the Canaries, had its influence as well.”
Mojo sauce, it turns out, was too tasty to stay in one location. It eventually crossed borders and took on a host of different ways to be prepared – depending on what part of the world the kitchen was located. “It definitely translated to different islands, including Cuba and Puerto Rico,” she said. “It’s very popular in the Americas, too. Everyone loves mojo sauce. Sometimes it’s made with spice; sometimes it’s made without spice.”
No matter how someone makes their mojo sauce and mofongo, Blount is confident that it will become a new favorite for years to come, especially when served with RITZ Crackers. “[Mojo sauce] is so easy to make, and now you can make it for your friends and your family at home,” she said. “You can create a vibe that’s welcoming and loving. I’m sure they’re gonna love it.”
Below is the recipe and step-by-step instructions to make Blount’s mojo sauce and mofongo:
- 2 green plantains (peeled and cut into half-inch pieces)
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1 cup of olive oil for the sauce
- ½ a teaspoon of salt
- 1 tablespoon of vegan butter
- 3 cups of vegetable oil for frying
- RITZ Crackers
- Fry the plantain pieces in 3 cups of vegetable oil for about five minutes in a small pot over medium heat at 350 degrees. The plantains would be submerged.
- Remove from heat and place the plantain pieces to the side.
- In the pilón, add your olive oil and garlic, and mash until the garlic has a paste-like consistency.
- Add salt, butter and the green plantain and mash.
- Mash until the mofongo becomes moldeable with no hard pieces. This can take about two minutes to do. Everything should be well combined.
- Add two Ritz Crackers and incorporate them with the mashed green plantains.
- Mold the mofongo into a bowl and add 2 spoonfuls of mojo sauce on top.
- Serve with RITZ Crackers.