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Cuban cuisine is a delightful and tasty blend of Spanish, African, Arabic, and Taino cuisines. This mix of cultures has made for dishes that are bursting with earthy flavors and pungent spices.
The best Cuban recipes are rustic, like easy one-pot meals, building on layers of simple ingredients that are wholesome and filling.
Fortunately, most of the ingredients needed to make popular Cuban meals are easy to find in your local market. You’ll find that the recipes lend themselves easily to family meals, especially Sunday dinners.
Frequently Asked Questions about Cuban Food
What are some traditional Cuban foods?
Cuban cuisine is simple but flavorful. Fresh ingredients are widely used in stews, soups, and sandwiches in traditional Cuban cuisine. Meats are cooked slowly until they become tender and fall off the bone. Spices are kept basic. Most dishes are sautéed or gently cooked without heavy sauces and creams. Traditional dishes are black beans and rice, roast pork, yuca with mojo salsa, and Medianoche sandwiches (roast pork, ham, cheese with mustard, and pickles on soft, sweet bread).
What is a typical Cuban breakfast?
Tostadas and Café con Leche are typical of traditional Cuban breakfasts. A tostada is a piece of crusty Cuban bread that has been buttered and toasted. A Café con Leche is made by combining a strong espresso with warm milk. Ham, egg, and toast are also popular. A quick shot of pure espresso is also a popular and stimulating way for Cubans to start the day.
What is a typical Cuban dinner?
Ropa Vieja ranks at the top of the most popular dinner recipes. Translating to old clothes, the name refers to juicy shredded meat simmered in a mildly spicy sauce of onions, bell peppers, bay leaves, and cumin. Moro is an equally popular rice dish that is normally served alongside Ropa Vieja – a mix of white rice and black beans.
What are the most famous Cuban dishes?
- Masas de Cerdo Frita – fried chunks of marinated pork.
- Picadillo a la Habanera – ground meat cooked in tomato sauce, with potatoes and olives.
- Vaca Frita – boiled and shredded beef that’s been marinated in sour orange and salt, then fried with garlic and onions until crisp.
28 Best Cuban Recipes to Make At Home
These delicious Cuban dishes are perfect to make at home, enjoy a delicious Cuban-themed Sunday dinner with one of these tasty recipes! For more easy Sunday dinner recipes, check out our 42 easy Sunday dinner ideas.
4 Classic Cuban Recipes
It’s tangy and tomatoey with just a little fat. Sweet peppers and onions melt in your mouth and are served over yellow rice with beans. This ropa vieja braised beef stew with peppers and onions resembles a heap of colorful rags, or old clothes.
Known as Moros y Cristianos, this rice dish is symbolic of Spanish history; the black beans represent the Muslim Moors and the rice represents the Christians. Cooked together they absorb the flavors of the dish and the beans lend color to the white rice. It’s an easy side dish that pairs with just about anything.
Warm, sweet, soft, and perfect, sweet fried plantains are a delectable side dish. Crisp on the edges, gooey in the middle, and perfect with a pinch of salt, this popular side dish is a must with any Cuban main course.
The ajiaco is one of the classic dishes of Cuban cuisine that epitomizes its history and culinary expression. The variety of ingredients reflects the cultural diversity of this lovely island. This dish consists of thick broth made of yucca, ripe banana, potato, pumpkin, pork, and beef stir-fry. Typically served hot, it brings together different types of meat and the typical Creole seasoning made of garlic, chili and onion. Utterly irresistible.
3 Cuban Snack Recipes
Guests will enjoy dipping into these Mini Cubano Sandwich Skewers, which are delightful bite-size appetizers! They may be prepared ahead of time and served chilled. Mini Cuban Sandwich Skewers are easy snacks to serve at your next gathering.
Tostones are twice-fried plantains that are soft on the inside and crunchy on the outside. Like a thick potato chip, they are best enjoyed with salt. Sometimes these tostones are accompanied by a sauce or dressing.
7. Yuca Fries
These Yuca Fries are crispy on the outside, fluffy on the inside, and with that sprinkling of sea salt, they are just sufficiently salty! A popular root vegetable that came to Cuban from Africa, yucca is a hardy starch that holds up to deep frying and takes on the flavors from seasonings very well. They pair nicely with pork dishes and Cuban sandwiches.
4 Traditional Cuban Foods
Think of this dish like a rice casserole with layers of shredded chicken, bell peppers, cheese, and other toppings. It’s an easily varied recipe that sometimes includes sweet plantains. It’s usually served as a main course and is the highlight of buffet dinners and family gatherings.
Beef Picadillo is a popular Latin dish made in about 30 minutes using tasty ground beef cooked in tomato sauce and seasoned with aromatics, herbs, and spices. This is a fantastic weeknight supper, especially if you’re short on time and money.
10. Yuca con Mojo
Another food that is traditionally served during Cuban family gatherings is yucca with mojo sauce. It’s a simple, nutritious dish that’s typically served as an appetizer. It’s a delicious vegan Cuban dish made with citrus, onions, garlic, spices, and yucca, of course. It’s a great side dish alternative to potatoes.
11. Arroz con pollo
It’s the original one-pot dish! Chunks of juicy, seared chicken, yellow rice, and sauteed vegetables simmer with saffron and smoked paprika for a great Spanish flavor. Peas add pops of color and earthy flavor. It’s a tangy take on comfort food and so easy to make.
3 Cuban Inspired Breakfast Recipes
Here’s a fun and tasty twist on the American classic steak and eggs! A traditional eggs benedict recipe is spiced up with the addition of succulent chunks of Ropa Vieja snuggled underneath a beautifully poached egg. This is definitely one to save for Sunday Brunch. Bring out the Mojitos, too.
These are like French toast sandwiches out of a chef’s dream. Taking the sweet and moist slices of a typical French toast recipe and adding in luscious slices of guava jam is mind-blowing. This will be a hit for anyone with a serious sweet tooth. The guava jelly melts, oozing from the sides and melding with maple syrup. Oh my!
These Cuban Breakfast Sandwiches take the best elements of a Cuban sandwich and combine them with a perfectly fried egg and a crisp, toasted English muffin. The addition of the egg to slices of roast pork, ham, and swiss cheese is genius. The salty yolk blends in beautifully with melty cheese drawing all the flavors together.
4 Best Cuban Recipes
Fricase de Pollo is a Cuban-style chicken stew with onions, garlic, red peppers, potatoes, green olives with pimentos, and a tomato-based sauce. Bitter orange is the superstar that makes this dish a tangy delight. It’s comfort cuisine in a single pot. It’s simple to make and delicious. This is best served with white rice and fried plantains.
Just about every Hispanic and Latin culture has one form of tamales or another, but most people are familiar with the Mexican version, which are a corn mixture stuffed with filling and wrapped in a corn husk and then steamed. But they are time-consuming.
Cuban Tamales are much easier, quicker, and just as delicious. And in an Instant Pot, well, you’ve just cut your time in half.
It’s a simple tomato-based sauce that is easy to prepare and can be used as a base in many Cuban recipes. This version is slightly on the spicy side because that’s how Cuban food is best enjoyed. This sofrito focuses more on the tomatoes and spices and is normally served over rice and beans.
18. Cuban Croquetas
Crispy, bite-sized logs of smooth ground ham with a breadcrumb coating are simply perfection. This classic Cuban snack is simple to prepare and uses cupboard staple ingredients, but does require multiple steps. But they are so very worth it. The crowd-pleaser is Cuban ham croquettes. You can use leftover chicken, however, which is equally as tasty.
And an easy way to try out Cuban flavors is to gather everyday ingredients and play around with the flavor profiles from this vibrant culture. A Wanderspice Global Spices and Herbs Kit is a fantastic subscription that takes you on a monthly culinary journey with a host of unique spice blends and pastes from around the world, including Cuba.
3 Delicious Cuban Drinks
The Papa Doble or Hemingway Special is another name for the Hemingway Daiquiri. The Hemingway Daiquiri combines the mildly sweet, dry cherry flavor of maraschino liqueur with the tartness of grapefruit in a basic rum and lime Daiquiri. This one calls for no sugar and double the rum as Hemingway requested.
With the arrival of summer’s heat waves, choosing a simple, refreshing drink to brighten one’s evening can be a top priority. Listed as the house cocktail at the venerable Floridita bar in Habana Vieja, it won’t get more authentic than this testament to Old Havana. Mix sugar, light white rum, and lime juice in a blender. It’s light, refreshing, balanced, elegant, and magical. And sweet, much to Hemingway’s chagrin.
The classic mojito has all but swept the nation here in the USA in popularity. Along with this classic, many equally delicious fruity variations have now also become quite popular. If you’ve never tried a classic mojito yet but like rum, lime and spearmint, you will absolutely adore it. It’s utterly refreshing and brisk.
3 Classic Cuban Desserts
22. Classic Flan
A creamy, caramel-infused sweet custard, Classic Flan is a staple in Cuban restaurants and bakeries. Turned out onto a serving plate, the delicate custard almost floats in a tiny sea of sweet, darkened caramel. Firmer than its French cousin, it holds its shape, so think about what type of ramekin you’ll use. Pair with a strong coffee to counterbalance the sweetness.
23. Tres Leches Cake
A light and airy sponge cake soaked in a sweet three-milk mixture is the foundation of this cloud-like dessert. Topped with a luscious whipped topping, it’s so perfectly creamy! It’s a beautiful vanilla cake, soaked in a sweet blend of different kinds of milk. Those three are sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, and half and half (or in some cases, heavy cream). We said it was creamy!
24. Arroz Con Leche
It’s safe to say that Cuban cuisine has a thing for creamy desserts and Arroz Con Leche fits right in with those custards. This rice pudding uses the same three types of milk as Tres Leches – condensed milk, evaporated milk and heavy cream. Cinnamon and lime zest cut through the sweetness adding balance.
4 Cuban Vegetarian Recipes
Love in a bowl! Brimming over with lentils, plantains, carrots, chickpeas, and the classic Cuban onion and garlic essence. This is a hearty soup with plenty of vegetables and spiced up with cayenne and lime juice. Garnished with a lemon-crema and sweet, yummy baked plantains, this dish is a vegetarian dream.
26. Fufu de Platano
Plantains are quite the versatile root vegetable. Originating from Africa, fufu is a mashed root vegetable dressed with a seasoned sauce. The Cuban version uses plantains, mashed and tossed into a fluffy mound, drenched in a garlic sauce. The starchiness of the plantains absorbs the garlic sauce well. It can be served for breakfast or dinner.
This Cuban Grilled Tofu Sandwich will transport you to the winding streets of Havana. The tofu is marinated in a zesty mojo sauce with just the right amount of sweetness and tanginess, then stuffed between toasty bread with fresh watercress, bread and butter pickles, spicy mustard, melty vegan cheese, and vegan mayo, then grilled to perfection.
The food bowl frenzy isn’t going away anytime soon! Black beans, a crisp mango salsa, and cilantro lime rice are included in this Cuban-inspired dish. Crisp plantains, tostones, complete the dish. If you’re in a rush or need to pack meals to eat on the road, this is an ideal recipe to take and go.
If you’re looking for more tasty vegetarian recipes, check out our 40 easy vegetarian meal prep ideas.
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Jack Slobodian is the Content Director at Mealprepify. He’s a Blogger and Professional Chef who has worked in many prestigious restaurants including luxurious 5-star hotels and James Beard award-winning restaurants. When he’s not cooking or writing you can find him travelling, exercising or spending time with family and friends.