Cuban cuisine is a lovely blend of African, Spanish, and Caribbean influences, resulting in a tasty and wide selection of foods. Traditional Cuban food has something for everyone, from tasty seasoned meats and delicious stews to sweet desserts and snacks. Cuban cuisine has become a global favorite because of its use of unique spices and fresh ingredients. Here we shall take you through the 30 traditional Cuban foods that will leave you wanting more.
Cuba’s culinary culture is a unique feature that is difficult to replicate. This is because of the multiple influences that inspire and impact Cuban foods.
This is so because of the country’s years of colonization and trade with many countries from across the world.
Top Traditional Cuban Foods
The 30 must-try Cuban foods listed below will truly enrich your culinary adventure.
1. Ropa Vieja
Ropa vieja is a typical Cuban dish made with tender shredded beef and a flavorful blend of onions, bell peppers, tomatoes, and spices that is slow-cooked.
The name “ropa vieja” translates to “old clothes” in Spanish, and legend has it that the shredded beef looks like ragged clothing.
Tostones, rice, and black beans usually accompany the tasty and tender fried beef.
2. Arroz Con Pollo
Arroz with pollo is a traditional Cuban dish consisting of chicken and rice. It’s a one-pot dish, so it’s quick to make and less work to clean up afterward.
This is a Sunday supper for many Cuban families. This is the perfect comfort dinner for a lazy weekend, with fluffy yellow rice, chicken bits, and a tomato sauce foundation. It is also loaded with vegetables, making it a nutritious dish.
This classic dish has evolved over time and across geographies. The key differences will be in the method and the specific spices and veggies used, which will vary depending on where you are cooking and what is accessible to you.
3. Classic Cuban Picadillo
Picadillo is a popular dish in Cuban households. It consists primarily of ground beef and a thick tomato sauce. The tasty tomato sauce is prepared with garlic, peppers, onions, and, of course, tomatoes.
The traditional Cuban comfort food is spiced with oregano, cumin, and bay leaves. Often, green pitted olives or raisins are added to the dish.
Picadillo is usually served with white rice and fried plantains on the side.
4. Vaca Frita
Vaca Frita (fried cow) is a filling and tasty dish common in Cuba and all of Latin America. It’s a traditional Cuban dish because it’s a near relation to the country’s bread and butter dish, ropa vieja.
Despite its simple look and ease of preparation, vaca frita supply significant nutrition and comfort for the body.
The traditional type of vaca frita is made with meat, specifically shredded beef. It also contains onions, tomatoes, and peppers, much like ropa vieja. However, there is one significant distinction between the two Cuban dishes.
Unlike ropa vieja, which is only cooked once while the meat is stewed, vaca frita is prepared twice: first, while the shredded beef is stewed and again when it is pan-fried.
Vaca frita is a versatile recipe that can be served with rice and black beans or rice and tostones. As a side dish, you may also try french fries, mashed potatoes, or platanos maduros.
If you like, you can make Vaca Frita de Pollo with shredded chicken instead.
5. Cuban Sandwich
All you need to do to cook this traditional Cuban meal at home is to get all the necessary ingredients. You’ll want to get these specific components to obtain the correct flavor, but we’ll recommend a few substitutions.
Let’s go over what you’ll need. Between a special signature bread, swiss cheese, pickles, sliced ham, marinated pork, and mustard are layered. A Cuban sandwich isn’t created with any old bread.
It is baked with Cuban bread, which differs slightly from any other bun or baguette you could expect to find. The palmetto leaf, which is placed on top before baking, is a signature component of Cuban bread.
This leaf gives a unique flavor to the bread, adding to the overall delectability of the sandwich. Salami may be found inside depending on the area. The sandwich is then pressed hard to crisp up the outside.
Flan is a traditional dessert throughout Latin America, not just Cuba. The Cuban form of flan is created with milk, sugar, eggs, and vanilla, and it is frequently sweetened with rum.
The custard is cooked in a caramel-lined mold, which results in a golden brown color and a somewhat sweet, caramelized flavor.
Cuban flan is typically served chilled and decorated with fresh fruit or whipped cream. A delicious way to end a Cuban meal.
7. Lechón Asado: Roasted Cuban Pork
Lechón Asado is a succulent and flavorful Cuban-style roasted pork dish. The pork is marinated in a mixture of sour orange juice, garlic, and spices before being slow-roasted to perfection.
The result is tender, juicy meat with crispy, caramelized skin.
8. Moros y Cristianos: A Tasty Rice and Beans Dish
Moros y Cristianos, or “Moors and Christians,” is a classic Cuban dish that combines black beans and white rice.
The beans are cooked with aromatic spices, giving them a deep, savory flavor that complements the fluffy white rice.
9. Cuban Black Bean Soup
Cuban black bean soup is a popular Cuban dish that tastes well on its own, but it also goes well with rice or salad.
Black beans are inexpensive but incredibly nutritious since they regulate body weight, heart disease, blood sugar, and blood pressure. There are so many varieties of real Cuban black bean soup recipes that it can be difficult to find the original.
You can blend the black beans until they are absolutely smooth, or you can leave them as a mixture of liquid and vegetable bits. There is no such thing as a correct way.
Both variants are available in most Cuban eateries. Everything comes down to personal taste. Sour cream can be added for extra creaminess.
You can also add diced veggies like bell peppers, tomatoes, avocados, or onions to your sopa de frijoles negros. It blends well with fluffy white rice as well.
- 15 Best Sushi Restaurants In NYC
- 15 Best Sushi Restaurants In Miami
- Top 20 Most Popular Foods In Iceland
- Top 30 Greek Foods–The Most Popular Dishes In Greece
- 20 Must-Try Asian Foods That Should Be On Your Foodie Bucket List
Croquetas are a popular Cuban appetizer appreciated by both natives and visitors. These tiny, cylindrical nibbles are prepared with mashed potatoes, seasoned ground beef or fish, and a creamy béchamel sauce.
They are breaded and deep-fried till golden and crispy, giving each bite a subtle crunch. Croquetas are commonly served as an appetizer or snack and can be eaten on their own or with a mustard dipping sauce or ketchup.
They are a traditional Cuban dish that can be found on the menus of most Cuban restaurants across the country.
11. Lechon Asado
Lechon Asado is a traditional roast pork shoulder dish served on holidays and special occasions. It is a pork meal that is slow-roasted and seasoned with herbs and spices such as oregano, garlic, and cumin, giving the meat a deep and savory flavor.
The Cuban pork shoulder is marinated overnight in a blend of citrus juices, garlic, and olive oil, which helps tenderize and flavor the meat.
Traditional Cuban food is often roasted for several hours until the skin of the roast pork is crispy and the meat is moist and luscious. Lechon Asado is frequently served with congri and fried plantains, which are traditional Cuban accompaniments.
12. Tostones: Crispy Fried Plantains
Tostones are a green plantain-based Cuban snack. The plantains are cut, fried, flattened, and cooked once more until crispy and golden brown.
These savory and addictive bites are often served with a dipping sauce or as a side dish.
13. Yuca con Mojo: Cassava with Garlic Sauce
Yuca con Mojo is a straightforward but sumptuous Cuban side dish. Cassava, also known as yuca, is boiled till tender before being served with mojo, tart garlic, and citrus sauce.
The combination of flavors makes it a delicious addition to many Cuban meals.
14. Platanos Maduros
Sweet plantains, also known as Platanos Maduros, are a common side dish in Cuban. These ripe plantains are cut and deep-fried till golden brown.
Maduros are commonly served with a variety of Cuban main courses, such as ropa vieja or lechon asado, but they are also popular on their own. Platanos Maduros can be served as sweet or salty, depending on the spices used and the method of preparation.
They can be seasoned with a range of spices, such as cinnamon and nutmeg to enhance their natural sweetness, or salt and pepper to give them a savory flavor.
With its delightfully sweet and crunchy flavor, platanos maduros are popular among both Cubans and visitors.
Tamales are a traditional Latin meal made of masa (cornmeal dough) and filled with seasoned meat, mostly pig, and vegetables like onions, bell peppers, and garlic.
Wrapped in a corn husk, the tamales are steamed until the dough is cooked and the filling is delicate and tasty. Tamales are a classic Cuban dish that is usually served on special occasions like holidays and family gatherings.
They can be eaten on their own or with picante salsa or hot sauce. The renowned street meal is thought to have been introduced to Cuba by African slaves and has now become an essential part of the country’s culinary history.
17. Fricasé de Pollo
Fricasé de Pollo, often known as Chicken Fricassee, is a hearty stew popular in Cuban cuisine.
Comforting Cuban cuisine often includes marinated chicken in a tasty blend of oregano, garlic, cumin, and lime juice. It is then fried with peppers, onions, and tomatoes in a saucepan.
After that, the chicken is cooked in a rich sauce consisting of white wine, chicken broth, and potatoes until soft and juicy.
Fricasé de Pollo is a favorite dish for Cuban family dinners and special events, and it is commonly served with rice and beans or yuca.
Empanadas are a common snack or appetizer in Cuban and Latin America.
These popular street food is usually loaded with a tasty mixture of ground beef, peppers, onions, garlic, and tomatoes seasoned with cumin and oregano.
The filling for empanadas can also be made with ham, chicken, cheese, or vegetables. The empanada dough is then rolled over the contents and deep-fried until crispy and golden brown.
19. Medianoche Sandwich
The Medianoche Sandwich is a close cousin to the Cuban Sandwich but is typically made with sweet egg bread, giving it a slightly sweeter taste.
It’s the perfect late-night snack to satisfy cravings with its delicious filling of roast pork, ham, Swiss cheese, pickles, and mustard.
20. Café Cubano
Cuban coffee, commonly referred to as un cafecito or café Cubano, is a strong and highly caffeinated coffee beverage that originates in Cuba.
It is created by brewing carefully ground dark-roast coffee beans with sugar to produce a sweet yet powerful flavor.
A creamy coating of froth is created on top of the coffee during the brewing process. The froth, known as espuma, is an essential component of a true cup of Cuban coffee.
The drink is often served in small servings known as demitasse cups and is usually enjoyed in social settings with friends or coworkers.
Cuban coffee has become a cultural symbol in Cuba, as well as in other Latin American countries and sections of the United States, particularly in Miami, which has a substantial Cuban-American population.
21. Sopa de Pollo: chicken soup
Cuban Sopa de Pollo is a popular dish in Cuban cuisine. To make this classic Cuban soup, veggies, stew chicken, and herbs in water or chicken broth until the flavors combine and the chicken is cooked.
Onions, carrots, celery, and potatoes are common vegetables used in Cuban chicken soup. Herbs, such as bay leaves, thyme, and parsley, are frequently used to season the traditional Cuban soup. For flavor, a splash of citrus juice is sometimes added.
Sopa de Pollo is normally served hot and is a filling and healthy meal, especially during the colder months or when someone is ill. The meal is a favorite in Cuban households and can be found in restaurants all around the country.
22. Chicharrones de Cerdo
Chicharrones de Cerdo, also known as pork cracklings, chicharrones de puerco, or fried pork rinds, are a popular snack in Cuba and other regions of the world, especially in Latin America and the Caribbean.
The meal is produced by frying hog skin till crispy, which gives it a crunchy texture and a rich flavor. Chicharrones de Cerdo can be seasoned with a variety of spices, including cumin, garlic, and paprika.
Fried pig nibbles are usually served as an appetizer or snack. They can also be eaten alone or as a topping for various Cuban foods such as stews, soups, and even salads.
23. Enchilado de Camarones
This classic Cuban seafood meal is popular throughout the Caribbean. Fresh shrimp are sautéed in a tasty tomato-based sauce seasoned with onions, garlic, and chili peppers in this seafood meal.
The dish’s name is derived from the Spanish word “enchilado,” which means “spicy.” Enchilado de camarones is typically eaten with white rice, although it can also be served with sweet plantains or fried yuca.
Turron is a classic Cuban Christmas dish popular in Cuba, Spain, and other Latin American countries.
This nougat dessert is usually created with honey, egg whites, sugar, and nuts like almonds or peanuts.
The turron ingredients are combined and heated until a thick, sticky substance forms, which is then poured into a mold and left to cool and firm.
Mariquitas or plantain chips, are a popular snack item in Cuba and throughout Latin America.
These crunchy and savory chips are the equivalent of potato chips to Cubans. Mariquitas are created by frying thinly sliced plantains till golden brown and seasoning with salt or other spices.
26. Pan con Lechon
Pan with Lechon is another top Cuban sandwich. It’s a soft, white-bread sandwich with delicious, slow-roasted pork.
Before slow-cooking the pork, it is often marinated in an acidic and aromatic mixture of sour orange juice, garlic, and other spices.
The bread is frequently lightly toasted before being topped with slices of juicy pork, finely sliced onions, and a tangy mojo sauce consisting of olive oil, garlic, and citrus.
Pan with lechon is a popular dish among both native Cubans and visitors. It is available in many Cuban eateries and street vendors across the island.
Pan con lechon is a delightful Cuban dish that can be eaten at any time of day due to the combination of tangy mojo sauce, tasty pork, and soft bread.
The Media Noche sandwich is similar to the famous Cuban sandwich, however, there are some notable differences.
Brioche, a slightly sweet, egg-based bread, is used to make media noche sandwiches instead of normal bread.
Roast pork, finely sliced pickles, Swiss cheese, ham, and mustard top this Media Noche. It is then pressed and cooked, allowing the cheese to melt and the bread to warm.
The media noche sandwich is frequently offered as a late-night snack, hence the Spanish term “midnight sandwich.”
28. Bistec Empanizado
Bistec empanizado (breaded steak) is a classic Cuban meal. It consists of tiny slices of beef that have been pressed thin, coated with seasoned bread crumbs, then fried.
Fried beef is frequently served with rice and beans, plantains, and a squeeze of lime juice. Because of its crispy surface and supple and juicy interior, bistec empanizado is a staple among Cuban foodies.
29. Tres Leches
Tres leches cake is a light sponge cake soaked in three types of milk: condensed milk, evaporated milk, and thick cream.
This dish was first made in Cuba and portions of Latin America in the nineteenth century, and it remains popular to this day.
The Cuban version of Tres Leches cake, like most other nations’ versions, is usually topped with whipped cream and adorned with fresh fruit or a dusting of cinnamon.
30. Arroz con Leche
Arroz with leche is a famous delicacy not only in Cuba but throughout Latin America. Rice pudding in Cuba usually incorporates additions like lime zest or grated coconut.
In some Cuban recipes for arroz with leche, evaporated milk is substituted for ordinary milk. The evaporated milk adds a richer, creamier texture to the arroz con leche.
The traditional Cuban rice pudding dish is served cold and garnished with cinnamon and raisins.
Cuban food is a celebration of many influences that have harmoniously merged to create a delicious feast for the taste buds.
Trying these top 30 Cuban foods, from the delicious Ropa Vieja to the classic Cuban Sandwich and the creamy delight of Flan, is an invitation to savor the rich and tasty flavors of this wonderful Caribbean island.