What is Naranja Agria?

If you are new to Cuban cooking you might have noticed many recipes contain the ingredient naranja agria. 

If you do not know what that is then you are probably asking yourself, what is naranja agria?

Naranja agria is spanish for bitter or sour orange in english. It is also known as Seville orange.

Naranja Agria is a tart orange citrus fruit with qualities similar to that of lemon. It has a thin peel and lots of juice but no pulp or seeds. Naranja agria is great for making sauces, dressings, marinades, and cocktails (like margaritas!), desserts like sorbet or granita- they’re super versatile so use them any way you want! If they are so tart then you might be wondering why would I want to eat it like a sweet orange? Keep reading and I will explain. 

Why Would You Want to Eat Naranja Agria?

It has been used for centuries as a natural remedy to cure colds and stomach aches. The juice can also be mixed with honey to make cough syrup, or used to create an amazing marinade for chicken and pork. 

It’s low-calorie, flavorful, versatile and available year round! What more could you want? Now, do you know what a naranja agria tree looks like?

What is a Naranja Agria Tree?

A naranja agria tree is an evergreen fruit bearing plant that produces fruit with very sharp and tangy flavor.  The trees are not very tall and grow to be approximately 12-20 feet high. They have oval shaped leaves which can be up to 3 inches in length, and they bear fruits all year round as long as the weather conditions are favorable for them. It’s important to note that it is not like other oranges you might be familiar with like Valencia or navel oranges- these are much more bitter than what you would typically expect from an orange.  

Seville orange (Citrus aurantium) also known as bitter orange.

 Can You Eat a Bitter Orange?

The peel of the bitter orange is often used to make marmalade, but have you ever considered eating the fruit? The bitterness from this citrus fruit may be off-putting at first, but if you are looking for a way to add some variety into your diet and try something new, it might be worth trying. Bitter oranges can also offer many health benefits that other fruits don’t offer. These include being high in Vitamin C and fiber as well as having anti-inflammatory properties. 

 How to Use Naranja Agria?

Naranja Agria is a sour orange that is used in many Mediterranean dishes such as ceviche, olives and cured meats. The high acidity is what makes it work so well in Cuban marinades (Cuban Mojo Criollo) to tenderize different kinds of meats such as chicken, beef and pork. It can be found at any Latin market or online. When shopping for the fruit, make sure to find one with a good weight and skin without any bruises on it. The smell should also be appealing. Once you get your fruit home, rinse it well before use! 

Naranja Agria has been eaten since ancient times but its origins are still unknown today. Some theories point to China or India while others believe it came from Africa then spread across the Mediterranean region through trade routes in medieval times. 

Where to Buy Naranja Agria?

Naranjas agrias are one of the most important ingredients in Cuban cooking. They’re not easy to come by as easily as a navel orange. However, buying naranja agria as a marinade in a bottle is much easier to find. 

-You can check out your local Latin grocery store  near you and they will surely have a couple of different brands such as Goya, Badia or La Lechonera. 

-If you do not live near a grocery store that carries naranja agria check out these brands here on Amazon.

Badia brand naranja agria.
Goya brand naranja agria

Naranja Agria Substitutes

If your local grocery store does not carry naranja agria and you do not want to wait for an Amazon delivery then this simple recipe is a fantastic substitute.

Naranja Agria Recipe

Simply mix a 1/2 cup of each; fresh squeezed limes, fresh squeezed oranges, fresh squeezed grapefruit and white distilled vinegar. Combine all ingredients and its ready for use or save for up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator.

Final Thoughts

Now that you know what naranja agria is and where to find it don’t be afraid to try it in these Cuban recipes that I know you will love – Bistec Encebollado(steak with onions), Cuban Fried Chicken, Pollo Asado, Cuban Breaded Steak and a Cuban Philly Cheesesteak.

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