Top 25 Cuban Foods (Traditional Cuban Dishes)
Have you ever wondered what culinary treasures await you in traditional Cuban cuisine?
Surely you have tried a delicious Cuban sandwich or indulged in the creamy delight of a Cuban-style flan. Well, those are just the beginning of the wide array of culinary delights found in traditional Cuban cuisine.
Cuban culture offers a wealth of attractions, and undoubtedly, food is one of them. Surprisingly simple yet incredibly appetizing, Cuban recipes embody a humble culinary style that stands apart from many modern technological innovations.
At the heart of Cuban cuisine lies a harmonious blend of flavors, akin to a perfectly orchestrated symphony for your taste buds. Just like the music, dance, and tropical beauty of Cuba, a delicious Cuban dish is a celebration of joy and charm.
Its diverse influences from Spanish, African, indigenous, and Caribbean cultures create a culinary treasure trove that will make you want to forget about any diet and simply indulge in a delightful feast for your senses.
A single Cuban dish contains a story and an unforgettable flavor. There are different variations of each Cuban recipe, depending on the available resources. What we present to you here are the 25 must-try Cuban foods that will truly enhance your culinary journey.
Ropa Vieja is arguably one of the most well-known Cuban dishes worldwide. This dish is believed to have originated from the culinary traditions of the Spanish Canary Islands. It features tender boiled and shredded meat cooked in a flavorful sauce with onions, bell peppers, bay leaves, cumin, and other ingredients.
While beef is the commonly used meat in this recipe, it can also be prepared with pork or, in rare cases, chicken. The key to this dish is to accentuate the meat’s natural flavors, so it’s important to handle the boiling process with care.
Here’s a secret: try simmering the meat in a delicious bean broth for an extra-special result.
Rice and black beans are must-have accompaniments in Cuban cuisine. They are essential for a satisfying Cuban lunch or dinner, often paired with main dishes like Ropa Vieja or Lechón asado.
Preparing these two components takes time and attention to detail, with no shortcuts. The key to perfecting the dish lies in the special cooking process. The rice should be cooked until it becomes tender and fluffy, while the beans should have a creamy, stew-like texture.
The Moors and Christians rice dish is a delightful combination of rice and beans, representing Cuba’s African heritage. Another variation of this dish is called Congri, which uses red beans instead of black beans.
The preparation of the black beans is similar in both dishes. It’s important to ensure the beans are soft before mixing them with the rice. Once ready, the beans and rice are combined and seasoned with garlic, onion, bell peppers, and cumin, just like in the black beans recipe.
Ready to savor the irresistible flavors of Cuban Roast Pork?
In the Cuban countryside, the tradition of raising pigs is still cherished, particularly in the eastern regions. One culinary masterpiece that stands out is the Cuban roast pork, which is highly desired and eagerly savored by all who taste it.
During Cuban holidays, roast pork takes center stage as a special dish, offering delightful variations that please different palates. The authentic flavor of this dish is a result of the lengthy cooking process and the captivating mojo salsa, crafted with garlic, seasonings, and vinegar, adding an enchanting touch.
Yucca with mojo is a popular Cuban dish often served at family celebrations. Yucca root, also known as cassava root, is easy to prepare and offers remarkable nutritional value. However, it’s important to keep in mind that it contains a higher amount of carbs, so enjoying it in moderation is recommended.
There are two ways to cook yucca with mojo: boiling and frying. Whichever method you choose, boiling is essential to get that tender texture just right. Once cooked, it’s time to drizzle on the mojo sauce and, if you’re feeling fancy, sprinkle some crispy pork rinds on top.
The Cuban sandwich, a cherished creation from the Cuban American community, elevates Cuban cuisine with its crusty bread and irresistible fillings. Variations include Pan con Lechón (roast pork) and the classic ham and cheese.
This flavor-packed sandwich combines ham, cheese, and savory roast pork. A touch of mustard, pickles, and sometimes mojo salsa complete this culinary delight. Get ready for a mouthwatering experience that embodies the essence of Cuban cuisine.
Not surprising, the Cuban Sandwich is also one of Florida’s most famous foods.
7. Pan con Lechón (Roast Pork Sandwich)
If you’ve ever been to Cuba, you’re likely familiar with this next treat. The delicious pan con lechón is a classic sandwich found in Cuban cafeterias and street food stands.
Bread filled with roast pork is the go-to sandwich on the island. The soft bread complements the shredded pork and its flavorful mojo sauce. You can also add tomato, lettuce, and pickles for extra freshness.
Rice with fried eggs is a beloved staple in Cuban households. Despite the notion that it’s a simple meal associated with low-income families, this dish proves otherwise.
The truth is, Cubans hold a deep affection for this dish, especially when paired with a ripe banana. Fried egg and rice live up to their straightforward name. The key lies in the texture of the egg yolk, which should be soft to complement the rice’s dryness.
Ground beef a la habanera is a delicious dish made by cooking minced meat with spices, tomato sauce, potatoes, and olives over low heat. It originates from Cuba’s Spanish heritage. It can be made with different types of meat like beef, pork, chicken, or turkey.
This dish is a popular choice for everyday meals in Cuba. It is usually served with rice, fried ripe plantains, and sometimes beans.
Fried pork dough, or Masitas, is a popular Cuban dish featuring diced pork marinated in lime or sour orange juice and a pinch of salt before being fried.
This crispy fried pork is a common addition to an authentic Cuban meal across the island. It is typically served with mojo sauce and onions, which add a touch of tenderness to the fried meat.
The tamale is a popular dish in Latin America, featuring corn as its main ingredient, which is abundant in this region. However, each country and region has its own unique way of preparing this recipe.
In Cuba, you can find various versions of tamales that differ in flavor and corn texture. Cuban tamales range from sweet varieties to those filled with seasoned meat and sauce. The texture can vary depending on the cooking method, either in individual layers (firm) or as a casserole (thick or soupy). It’s important to note that corn leaves are used to wrap the Cuban tamale.
Fried beef is a dish similar to Ropa Vieja, as the meat preparation is practically the same. However, unlike Ropa Vieja, fried beef doesn’t include tomato sauce.
To make fried beef, boiled and shredded beef is marinated with lime or sour orange juice and salt. Then it’s fried with garlic and onion, resulting in a simple yet flavorful recipe.
Ripe plantains are a favorite companion for Cuban meals, brought by African cultures to the island. They add a special sweetness that Cubans love. Making them is easy: just slice the plantain and fry it in hot oil. You can sprinkle some salt and seasonings on top if you like.
Fried ripe plantains go well with different meal combinations like rice and black beans with meat, rice and a fried egg, or rice with picadillo a la habanera.
Can you resist the temptation of this mouthwatering snack?
14. Bistec de Cerdo Ancebollado (Pork Steak with Onions)
The pork steak is Cuba’s answer to the American beef steak. Unlike the United States or Canada, where steak is usually associated with beef, Cubans primarily use pork or chicken for their steak dishes.
One popular variation is the Cuban pork steak with onions, which holds a special place in the local cuisine. Typically, the steak is thin and juicy, seasoned with a pinch of salt, garlic, onion, and oregano.
Prepare yourself for an unforgettable experience, because once you try the flavorful pork steak with onions, its incredible taste will stay with you forever.
Looking for a delicious starter to kick off your meal? Have you ever tried Tostones, also known as Chatino?
These crispy delights made from fried plantains are a beloved traditional Cuban appetizer.
The process is simple: slice the plantains (bananas), fry them, flatten them, and fry them again until golden brown. Whether you enjoy them plain or with a tasty sauce, Tostones are a versatile and mouthwatering choice.
Plus, have you ever experimented with different fillings for your Tostones? The possibilities are endless!
Rice dishes with a mix of ingredients are popular in Creole cuisine, especially during family gatherings and celebrations. This dish is a simplified version of Spanish paella, easy to make in large amounts while still retaining its special taste.
Yellow rice with chicken comes in different textures, depending on how it’s prepared. You can enjoy it dry and firm or moist and soft, also known as Arroz con Pollo a la Chorrera. It’s up to you to savor this comforting and delicious dish.
Imperial rice is another famous Cuban recipe for combined rice. Like arroz con pollo, this dish includes colorings or tomato sauce, which gives the rice a yellow color.
This type of rice dish incorporates various ingredients, including shredded chicken, fried ripe banana, mayonnaise, and bell peppers. Each ingredient is prepared separately, and then they are combined to form a rice cake-like dish.
18. Fufú de Plátano (Plantain Fufu)
Banana Fufu is one of the few vegan dishes in Cuban cuisine. This healthy meal is made with boiled plantains and a fried seasoning known as sofrito. The boiled plantain is mashed with a fork and mixed with the sauce, creating a soft, semi-dry dough.
Although it is typically vegan, fufu can also be a favorite for meat lovers. This delicious seasoned plantain dough is often served with fried pork skin, known as Chicharrones.
19. Fricasé de Pollo (Chicken Fricassee)
The chicken fricassee is another delicious dish where meat is accompanied by a tasty tomato sauce with seasonings. The chicken is cut into portions and marinated for a few hours with salt, crushed garlic, onion slices, chili pepper, bay leaf, and sour orange juice.
Then, the chicken pieces are browned in hot butter or oil, and the marinade with onions, chili peppers, well-crushed garlic, bay leaf, and orange juice is added. Finally, tomato puree, dry wine, water, salt, and pepper are added.
Shrimp is a true culinary star in Cuba, much like its luxurious counterpart, lobster. While it may be a bit pricey for locals, it’s quite affordable for tourists to enjoy.
Now, let’s talk about the mouthwatering shrimp Enchilados!
This dish boasts irresistible aromas that fill the air as it cooks. Don’t worry, preparing it is a breeze—all you need is a delicious sauce made with spices and tomato. Get ready to savor the incredible flavors of this easy-to-make delight!
21. Ajiaco Cubano
The ajiaco is one of the emblematic dishes of Cuban cuisine, both for its flavor and for its cultural value. The wide variety of ingredients included represents the cultural diversity of the nation.
This dish consists of a thick broth made of vegetables, yucca, ripe banana, potato, pumpkin, pork, stir-fry, etc. The ajiaco is eaten very hot and brings together different types of meat and the typical Creole seasoning composed of garlic, chili and onion. It is simply irresistible.
22. Carne con Papa (Meat and Potatoes)
This Cuban food is based on pork or beef. Spices, a rich tomato sauce, and potatoes cut into squares are added. In some places wine is added and in others beer. It is served with rice, fried or ripe plantains, and vegetables.
The truth is that there is no specific season to taste this Cuban dish, so you can try it in any traditional restaurant.
How can something as simple as rice, milk, sugar, and cinnamon create such a delightful dessert?
Rice pudding, one of the most coveted sweet rice recipes in Cuba, holds the answer. This irresistible treat, often homemade but also available in restaurants, is served in round bowls and sprinkled with a touch of ground cinnamon.
Have you ever tried this delightful combination of flavors in a dessert?
Flan de leche is undeniably one of the most renowned Cuban desserts worldwide, and it’s a must-try for any dessert lover. This delectable treat comes in various flavors, including the classic plain version as well as delightful variations like coconut or pineapple-infused flan.
The preparation of flan de leche involves a blend of different types of milk, such as evaporated, condensed, and regular milk. Additionally, eggs and sugar are essential ingredients. One of the secrets that makes this dessert so special is the cooked sugar syrup, which is skillfully added during and after cooking to create a caramelized coating around the flan.
25. Casquitos de Guayaba (Little Guava Shells)
Guava, alongside mango and Mamey Sapote, is one of the most widely recognized fruits from Cuba. It holds great culinary value, particularly in desserts. One such traditional delicacy is guava Casquitos, which is often enjoyed with regular cheese.
The name “Casquitos” comes from the shell-like shape of the guava fruit. To prepare this dessert, the seeds are removed, leaving behind the shell-shaped flesh. The fruit is then cooked briefly to maintain a desirable texture without becoming overly soft. Finally, a syrup made with sugar is added to enhance its sweetness.