What is Cuban food? Authentic Cuban food is actually a blend of other cuisines such as African, Spanish, and Native American, as well as the Caribbean. Cuba was colonized by Spain and the Spaniards brought their cuisine with them so this is the biggest influence on Cuban food.
The Cubans eat a lot of rice so expect to get it with every meal if you visit the country. They also mix rice with black beans and this is a staple in all of the Caribbean. Plantains are also popular in Cuba as is seafood.
Our 20 Best Cuban Food Dishes + 5 Drinks
- 1. Ropa Vieja with fried plantains
- 2. Arroz a la Cubana – rice with fried banana and a egg
- 3. Traditional Cuban rice with black beans and pepper
- 4. Cuban beef picadillo with potatoes
- 5. Fufu de platano Cubano
- 6. Cuban caldo gallego – white bean soup
- 7. Cuban Mojo marinated pork
- 8. Cuban bread
- 9. Traditional Cuban sandwich with cheese, ham and fried pork
- 10. Rice with black beans and grilled pineapple
- 11. Cuban flan
- 12. Cuban escabeche
- 13. Guava Cream Cheese Pastries
- 14. Meat croquettes – popular Cuban food
- 15. Fried chicken chunks
- 16. Pork cracklings
- 17. Cuban omelet with fried ripe banana
- 18. Cuban pork marinade
- 19. Cuban empanada
- 20. Chicken skewers with sweet peppers
- Traditional Cuban Drinks – 5 Recipes
- 1. Cuba Libre
- 2. Mojito
- 3. Pina Colada
- 4. Cubanita
- 5. El Presidente
1. Ropa Vieja with fried plantains
Ropa vieja with fried plantains is among Cuba’s and one of most-loved dishes. It is a simple and tasty way to feed a crowd.
Put 3 lb. flank beef steak in a Dutch oven. Add water to cover the meat. Put salt, onion, peppercorns, and bay leaf in the oven. Cover and cook for 3 hours.
Transfer the beef to a carving board and let cool.
Use the cooking liquid – strain it through a fine-mesh sieve set over a bowl and reserve.
In a heavy sauté pan warm the annatto oil. Add vegetables – onion, carrot, bell pepper, chili, garlic – and cook for about 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cinnamon. After 3-5 minutes remove the sauté pan from the heat.
Add reserved beef cooking liquid to the vegetables. Simmer for 10 minutes. The cooked meat cut before adding to a tomato sauce.
Add fried green plantains and cooked white rice for serving.
2. Arroz a la Cubana – rice with fried banana and a egg
Arroz a la Cubana is a rice dish popular in Cuba. Its ingredients are rice, fried plantain or banana, egg, and tomato sauce.
3. Traditional Cuban rice with black beans and pepper
Traditional Cuban rice with black beans and pepper. It is a simple side dish in the Cuban style. You can take canned black beans but I highly suggest dried black beans – take 1 pound of black beans and soak them overnight.
Cook beans in a large pot with garlic and bay leaves. Add water to cover the beans by two inches. Bring to a boil and cook for 90 minutes or up to two hours.
Cook 2 cups long-grain white rice. In the large Dutch oven heat olive oil, add onions, peppers, garlic, and spices. Cook for 5 minutes. Add rice and fry for 2 minutes.
Pour in 4 cups of water and add cooked black beans. Stir once then bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and cook until liquid has been absorbed.
4. Cuban beef picadillo with potatoes
Cuban beef picadillo with fried potatoes is a classic Cuban dish. It is made with ground beef with a base of sofrito. Add olives and raisins. Some people add capers to the dish.
Take a large skillet, heat olive oil, and add finely chopped onion and bell pepper. Sauté for about 4-5 minutes. Add peeled and minced garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes.
Add 1 pound ground beef and cook until brown – about 10 minutes. Stir in 1/4 cup sherry, 1/4 cup tomato sauce, 1/2 tsp cumin, 1/2 tsp dried oregano, salt, and pepper.
Stir in 1/4 cup dark raisins, 1/4 cup olives, and bay leaf. Reduce heat to low and cook for about 10-15 minutes.
Fry potatoes and add them to the meat mixture. Cook for about 3-5 minutes.
5. Fufu de platano Cubano
Fufu de platano Cubano is one of the simplest Cuban recipes. This is a cheap side dish that perfectly combines most of the foods.
You need 5 green plantains, 2 tbsp of lemon juice, 1 pound of bacon, 6 cloves of garlic, 2 tbsp of olive oil, a pinch of salt.
Wash the plantain well. Cut it into 3 to 4 pieces for each plantain according to the size. Do not get the skin out.
Take the big pot with enough water. Add salt and lemon juice. Boil water, add plantains, and cook for 10-15 minutes over average heat.
Cut bacon into cubes and saute it in a pan with oil for 2 or 3 minutes. Add garlic.
Peel plantain one by one. Mash the plantains. Add a little hot water if needed. Add bacon, salt and serve hot.
6. Cuban caldo gallego – white bean soup
Cuban Caldo Gallego is loaded with white beans, smoked ham, meat, and vegetables. This soup came to Cuba from Spain and became a popular Cuban food.
Take 14 ounce dry white beans (rinse and soak overnight). Cut into 1 inch pieces 1 pound top sirloin steak. Rinse 1 pound smoked ham hocks (remove the skin, fat, and bone, chop ham).
Also, you need 2 tbsp olive oil, finely diced onion, diced carrot, peeled and cut into 1-2 inch pieces potato, minced 3 garlic cloves, 1 bunch Swiss Chard (rinsed, stalks removed, and chopped leaves), dried oregano, and cumin, salt, bay leaf, water.
Make a base for soup: heat the olive oil in a large pot add the onions and carrots. Cook for 3 – 4 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the garlic, oregano, and cumin. Cook for 1 minute. Add the meat and cook for 3-5 minutes.
Add water to the pot. Then add the ham and white beans. Bring the liquid to a boil, lower the heat, cover, and cook for 60 minutes. Stir the soup occasionally.
Add the potatoes, bay leaf, and chard to the Cuban Caldo Gallego. Continue cooking for 15-20 minutes. Add salt to taste if needed.
7. Cuban Mojo marinated pork
This is a simple recipe for slow cooker mojo Cuban pork. I love slow cooker recipes and this Cuban pork is packed with flavor and very easy to make.
For slow cooker, mojo Cuban pork takes about 4-pounds bone-in or boneless pork butt (pork shoulder). With a thin knife, make a few slits all over the surface of the pork.
For marinade mix 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp ground black pepper, 3/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice, 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lime juice, zest of 1 orange and 1 lime, 1/2 cup olive oil, 8 finely chopped cloves of garlic, 2 tsp dried oregano, 2 tsp ground cumin. If you like, you also can add 1/4 cup chopped cilantro.
Place the pork roast in the slow cooker. Add marinade, cover, and cook on high for 5 – 6 hours or on low for 8 or until tender.
The next step is optional: to crisp up the top, remove the pork from the slow cooker and bake on a preheated 400 F (200 C) oven for about 20 minutes.
Serve with the juices from the slow cooker.
8. Cuban bread
Traditional Cuban bread is delicious. It is very similar to a French baguette and has a crisp crust. It is great in a Cuban sandwich or as an accompaniment to a meal. It does have a short shelf life so make sure to eat it within 2 days.
Ingredients: 2 packs dry yeast, 5 cups bread flour, 1 tablespoon salt, 1 tablespoon sugar, 2 cups hot water
Mix together the yeast, flour, salt, and sugar. Warm the water up to a temperature of 125 degrees F and add to the flour mixture. Combine thoroughly.
Add the final cup of flour and make sure that you mix it in well. The next step is to knead the dough on a floured surface for up to 10 minutes.
Put the dough in a bowl and leave to double in size. This should take around half an hour.
Form the dough into 2 loaves and put on a greased baking sheet. Put a pan of hot water on the lowest rack of the oven and then place the loaves on the middle shelf. Bake the loaves for three-quarters of an hour at 400 degrees F.
When the loaves are a golden color remove from the oven and enjoy.
We hope that you have enjoyed our selection of Cuban food recipes and will try them out. Perhaps it will make you want to research some Cuban main courses which you will be able to enjoy with the Cuban bread.
9. Traditional Cuban sandwich with cheese, ham and fried pork
The Cuban sandwich is very popular street food. It originated among the working classes in the late 1800s and early 1900s. They bought the sandwich from street vendors and you can still do it to this day.
10. Rice with black beans and grilled pineapple
So simple and tasty grilled pineapple with rice and beans. Add a bit of honey-soy dressing for an ideal taste!
Take 1 cup jasmine rice, 2 cups water or vegetable stock, 2 cups cooked black beans (you can cook your own or use a can of beans), 1/2 pineapple, 1 tbsp regular soy sauce, 1 tbsp honey, 1/2 tsp salt.
Cook your rice with water or vegetable stock. While your rice is cooking, get your grill hot.
Cut the skin off the pineapple and sliced about 1/4 inch thick. Throw the pineapple slices onto the grill. Cook each pineapple side for about 2 minutes until it gets a little char and some grill marks! Remove from grill.
If you are using canned beans, simply rinse and add to the cooked rice. Sprinkle the rice and beans with salt, soy, and honey. Add grilled pineapple and serve!
11. Cuban flan
We wrote in more detail on how to cook a Cuban flan earlier. And here you will find an easier recipe. But if you are preparing this wonderful Cuban food for the first time, I advise you to refer to the recipe link.
You need 1/2 cup white sugar for flan and 1/2 cup white sugar for caramel, 1 can sweetened condensed milk, 4 eggs, 2 cans evaporated milk, 2 tsp vanilla extract.
Using a flan pot or 2-quart pot with a tight-fitting lid, place 1/2 cup sugar in a pot and melt it over medium heat (stirring constantly) until melted and amber in color.
Remove from the stove and move caramel around on the sides of the pot.
Mix eggs with other 1/2 cup sugar, milk, and vanilla and mix well. Place egg mixture in flan pot. If using a 2-quart pot, place aluminum foil tightly over the pot and place the lid on top.
Place the pot into another bigger pot and fill with water until about 1 1/2 inch of water covers the sides of the smaller pot.
Bake at 350 F (180 C) for at least 1 hour. When the flan has cooled remove the lid and place a dish or plate that is bigger than the top of the flan pot and turn it upside down on the plate. Place in refrigerator until serving.
12. Cuban escabeche
Pescado en Escabeche (Cuban Pickled Fish). The sauce in this recipe has a mild sweet taste. You can serve this fish with cassava or plantains. Prepare it the day before dinner and you will surprise your guests with delicious fish!
Use this escabeche sauce for any fish or vegetables.
For the sauce take 2 cups chopped white onion, 1 cup chopped red bell pepper, 6-9 cloves of garlic, 1/2 cup pitted olives, 1 cup extra virgin olive oil, 1 cup apple cider vinegar, bay leaves, salt & pepper for taste.
Prepare the escabeche. Heat a large saucepan to stovetop medium heat. Pour in a little oil for frying. Throw in the chopped white onion, red pepper, and minced garlic. Fry for 3-5 minutes and continuously stirring. Pour in the olive oil and apple cider vinegar. Toss in olives, bay leaves, salt, and black peppercorns. Stir the mixture around and reduce the heat to simmer. Set for 25-30 minutes.
For this recipe, you can take any fish. I like the king mackerel steaks (Kingfish). So, take 2 large Kingfish steaks and 1 lemon. Salt & pepper for taste, olive oil for frying.
Season the fish steaks with seasoning and squeeze half of the lemon. Slowly put each steak into the hot pan with oil, and fry each side for 3-4 minutes.
Place fish steaks into a glass or ceramic container. Pour hot escabeche sauce over the fish and cover the container with a tightly sealed lid. Place in the refrigerator for at least 24 hours.
13. Guava Cream Cheese Pastries
Guava Cream Cheese Pastries are delicious-filled pastries with a crisp puff-pastry shell – a great easy-to-make dessert.
Take one 14-ounce package of all-butter puff pastry and thawed it.
Preheat the oven to 190° C (375° F).
In a small bowl, whisk 1 large egg yolk with 1 tablespoon of milk.
On a floured work surface, unfold the puff pastry and cut it into 6 squares. Transfer the squares to a baking sheet with parchment paper. I love putting the dough in muffin tins.
Cut the guava paste (you need 6 ounces of guava paste) into 6 equal portions and spoon onto half of each pastry square.
Cut into 6 pieces 6 ounces chilled cream cheese and add on top of our pastries.
Fold the pastry over the filling. If you do not use muffin tins, form rectangles and crimp the edges with a fork.
Refrigerate for 15 minutes.
Brush the pastries with egg wash and sprinkle with sugar. Bake pastries for 30 minutes until golden.
14. Meat croquettes – popular Cuban food
Croquetas de Carne is a popular snack in Cuba. And the most popular croquettes in Cuba are ham croquettes. Also, you can enjoy the home beef croquetas de Carne recipe here.
For Cuban Croquetas de Carne mince about 1-2 large ham steaks in a food processor until you have 2 cups and set aside.
In a bowl combine 1 cup of milk, 3/4 cup of flour, salt, and pepper.
Melt 4 tbsp. butter in a 2 qt pot, add one minced onion, and cook over medium heat until translucent.
Add the milk mixture. Stir constantly until the mixture begins to thicken. Add the minced ham and stir until it is thoroughly mixed.
Transfer those ham mix to a bowl and put them in the fridge for several hours.
Take a tablespoon of meat. Roll it like a small hot dog.
Beat two eggs in a bowl. In another bowl put two cups of cracker meal on a plate. Do not use bread crumbs instead of cracker meal. You can buy a box of cheap unsalted crackers and grind them into crumbs.
Dip croquettes in the egg, then cracker meal, then in the egg, and in the cracker meal.
Heat the oil in a deep fryer or a pan. Fry croquettes until golden brown. Transfer to paper towels.
15. Fried chicken chunks
There are many options for preparing Chicharrones de Pollo – Cuban-Style Chicken Strips. We already wrote about one of them earlier. Now meet another fried chicken chunks recipe with a wonderful aromatic marinade.
Make a marinade with 6 smashed cloves of garlic, 1 chopped medium onion, 1 cup fresh lime juice, and 1/2 cup light rum.
Take 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs. Cut them in strips.
Arrange the chicken strips in a bowl. Pour the marinade over the chicken. Refrigerate marinated chicken for about 3 hours.
Then season the chicken pieces with salt, pepper, cumin, and ground oregano.
Mix 1 cup of flour with salt and pepper and place in a shallow bowl. Beate 1 egg with 2 tablespoons of water.
Remove the chicken pieces from the marinade. Dip each chicken piece in the egg wash, and dredge in the seasoned flour mixture.
Fry the chicken pieces in heat olive or coconut oil in a large skillet.
Don’t crowd the skillet with the meat. Each side of each chicken strips has to become golden brown.
Serve with rice, black beans, or another side dish.
16. Pork cracklings
Here you will find the Cuban recipe for pork-skin cracklings.
For pork-belly cracklings take 2 pounds boneless pork belly with skin. Also, you need 3 quarts of peanut oil, 1 teaspoon of kosher salt, and your favorite spice mix. Ideal for this recipe is a mix of cayenne, white and black pepper, paprika, chili powder, garlic.
Use a sharp knife to score pork into 1 1/2-inch cubes.
Pour peanut oil into a pot deep. When the oil reaches 225 – 250 degrees, add pork cubes and stir. Cook about 25 minutes until it became lightly golden brown.
Remove to a plate with paper towels. Combine spices in a small bowl. Put cracklings in a bowl, toss with the spice mix, and kosher salt.
17. Cuban omelet with fried ripe banana
Fried ripe plantain omelet is a very popular morning dish in Cuba from basic, everyday ingredients like fried plantains, eggs, and milk. Among many other recipe’s plantains, fried ripe plantain omelet is the most loved Cuban food.
Take large and ripe plantain and cut it diagonal-shaped slices.
In a skillet add ¼ cup of canola oil and keep the heat to medium-high. Add plantains and fry till turn amber-colored, with black-edged sides.
Remove the plantains from the skillet onto the plate with paper towels.
Crack 3 large eggs into a bowl and beat them. Add salt and 2 tbsp of milk.
Add butter to the skillet and heat it over medium heat. Fry eggs for 1-2 minutes. Add plantains and fry for 1 minute. Season and serve hot.
18. Cuban pork marinade
Cubans love pork! And they created so many marinades for pork! This is really an easy-to-make recipe for the marinated Cuban roast pork.
The flavor of the marinade is classic Cuban, citrusy, semy-sweet, and strong.
For marinade take 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, 1 cup cilantro, 1 tbsp orange zest, 3/4 cup fresh orange juice, 1/2 cup fresh lime juice, 1/4 cup mint leaves, 8 garlic cloves, 1 tbsp fresh oregano leaves, 2 tsp ground cumin, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp black pepper.
If you do not have much time in the kitchen, you can combine all these ingredients in a food processor. Blend them until the herbs and garlic are finely chopped.
Take 4 lb (2 kg) skinless and boneless pork shoulder or pork butt. Place pork with the marinade in a large ziplock bag and place it in the fridge overnight.
Preheat oven to 220°C/425°F. Remove the pork from the marinade. Add to the marinade 2 tbsp lime juice and 1/4 cup orange juice. Place it into a small saucepan. Bring to boil. Turn the heat down and simmer for 1 minute. Use for serving.
Roast pork for 30 minutes. Reduce heat to 190°C/375°F and roast for 1 1/2 – 2 hours. Remove meat from the oven and place it on a plate. Add marinade sauce.
19. Cuban empanada
Traditional Cuban beef empanada recipe is here. And now we cook other cuban food – chicken empanadas.
Take 1 package of store-bought puff pastry and 4 chicken thighs.
Fry 1 finely chopped onion over medium heat in olive oil or until translucent. Add 3 minced garlic cloves and cook an additional one minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and set aside.
Let puff pastry sheets thaw until they are workable.
Place chicken, 1 bay leaf, 1 cup chicken broth, 1/4 cup white wine, salt, and pepper in a saucepan. Add water to just cover. Bring chicken to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer for about 30 minutes.
Remove the chicken (strain and save the broth), and allow it to cool.
Take skin and bone from chicken and finely shred the meat. Stir in the flour, and the onion/garlic mixture you set aside. Stir in 1/4 cup of the broth and simmer for five to 10 minutes.
Roll out puff pastry sheets. Using a mason jar ring or something similar about 2 inches in diameter, cut out circles. Add meat and make empanadas.
Preheat oven to 400 F (200 C). Brush each empanada with the egg and add a few holes in them with a fork. Bake for 15-20 minutes.
20. Chicken skewers with sweet peppers
These grilled chicken skewers in Cuban style are so delicious with charred red paper!
Take 1.5 lbs. chicken breasts and cut into 1.5″ pieces. Add 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, garlic and chili powder, lime and orange juice, salt.
You also need 2 bells seeded and sliced red peppers, 1 peeled and sliced onion.
Skewer the chicken, paper and onion pieces onto soaked bamboo skewers.
Grill on medium-high heat for 10 – 15 minutes, flip, and grill for another 10 – 15 minutes.
Traditional Cuban Drinks – 5 Recipes
1. Cuba Libre
The Cuba Libre is a popular rum cocktail with Coke and lime. Rum and Coke is a classic combination, and lime juice adds a zingy jolt of citrus.
Fill a highball glass with ice and lime wedges. Add rum (1 ounce), Coca-Cola (3 ounces). Also, you can squeeze the lime into your cocktail.
This is an authentic recipe for a Cuban mojito.
For one serving: place into a glass 10 fresh mint leaves and a lime wedge. Take a muddler to crush the mint and lime. You release lime juice and mint oils.
Add 2 more lime wedges, 2 tbsp of sugar. Muddle again.
Fill the glass with ice. Pour 1 ½ fluid ounces of the rum and fill the glass with ½ cup club soda. Garnish with mint and lime.
3. Pina Colada
This is a tasty tropical blend of coconut, rum, and pineapple. Pulse 120 ml pineapple juice, 60 ml white rum, and 60 ml coconut cream with a handful of ice in a blender.
Pour into a tall glass and garnish with an umbrella and a wedge of pineapple.
It is a variant of Bloody Mary, but with rum. Shake 2 shot white rum, 3 shots tomato juice, 1/2 shot fresh lemon juice, 7 dashes hot red pepper sauce, 7 dash Horseradish sauce, 2 pinches salt, 2 pinches black pepper with ice, and strain into ice-filled glass.
Garnish with lime and celery.
5. El Presidente
The El Presidente cocktail hails from Cuba. Add 1 1/2 ounces of white rum, 3/4 ounce orange curaçao, 3/4 ounce dry vermouth, and 1 dash grenadine to a shaker. Filled with ice and shake. Strain into a glass.
We hope you like our choise of authentic Cuban food.