18 Cuban Foods You Need To Try At Least Once

Although booking a direct flight to Cuba remains a hassle for American travelers, a culinary trip to the island is easily within reach.

18 Cuban Foods You Need To Try At Least Once

Despite its name, the modern version of the Cubano or Cuban sandwich may have actually originated in Southern Florida, Thrillist reports. The source explains that the sandwich has evolved since its first, fish-based rendition by the indigenous Taino tribe around 500 years ago.

Cuban Sandwich

Medianoche means "midnight" in Spanish, and that is exactly the time at which you'd want to gobble up this sandwich to fuel your night of dancing and soak up excess alcohol. All the same, it's a perfectly viable option any time of the day.


You might want to ignore the English translation — "old clothes" — and instead focus on the delicious flavors of the dish. The origin is not limited to Cuba and versions of ropa vieja are popular around the Caribbean. According.

Ropa Vieja

Lechon asado could be viewed as an ode to pork, and Cuba Journal points out that the dish is found at any large celebration. In particular, HuffPost indicates that lechon asado is traditionally served on Christmas Eve.

Lechon Asado

Although you can eat this any day of the year, the long preparation tends to warrant a special occasion. The dish is cooked in a charcoal-fueled closed grill (aka a Chinese box), another hint at the Chinese influence in Cuban cuisine.

Lechon Asado

You'll end up with fall-off-the-bone meat and crispy skin. Serve the meat with mojo sauce for more citrus, garlic, cumin, and oregano flavors. As for a side dish, when in doubt Cubans are always fond of rice. Bean Train notes that black beans and rice are a popular accompaniment, as well as boiled cassava drizzled with more mojo sauce.

Lechon Asado

As far as old recipes go, ajiaco dates back to the pre-Columbian period according to Smithsonian Magazine. The dish gets its name from aji, a chili pepper that provides plenty of depth of flavor.

Ajiaco Cubano

Chicken is a popular protein in Cuba and there are countless ways to enjoy it. According to 196 Flavors, fricasé de pollo is inspired by the French chicken stew, fricassée. The source indicates that the dish can, in fact, be traced to various cultures, each providing their own touch.

Fricasé De Pollo

Vaca frita is a direct description of what you'll be served: fried beef. It's not  deep-fried but instead, it is first boiled until the meat softens, 196 Flavors explains.

Vaca Frita

Then, the beef is shredded, marinated in garlic, lime juice, and salt, and finally pan-fried until it is pleasantly crispy, according to Britannica. The source adds that flank or skirt steak are common cuts used for the preparation since they are lean and dry out fairly quickly.

Vaca Frita

Meatloaf tops many a list of comfort foods, and Cuba happens to have a version of the classic dish. Pulpeta is a combination of ground beef, pork, and ham, as well as eggs, onions.


Arroz con pollo (aka "rice with chicken") is another fuss-free dish that is as simple as it's delicious. Most countries across Latin America have some version of the meal, and Amigo Foods remarks that it is among the most popular dishes consumed in the region.

Arroz Con Pollo

Congrí is also named arroz con moros y cristianos, which has a culturally relevant meaning regarding the various ethnicities present in Cuba historically. The dish highlights a battle centuries ago between Spanish Christians and Muslim Moors.


Rice is certainly at the heart of many Cuban dishes, and this is no exception when it comes to arroz imperial. The dish contains a lengthy list of ingredients, including regulars like chicken, bacon, sofrito (a garlic, bell pepper, and onion sauté), as well as green peas, mayonnaise, and cheese.

Arroz imperial

Amigo Foods explains that picadillo comes from the Spanish word "picar," meaning to chop, which is an essential part of the preparation. There's no straightforward rule as to what meat is used in the recipe, although a traditional Cuban rendition is made with ground beef, according to the source.


Sifting through the endless meat-based recipes fundamental to Cuban cuisine, it's easy to forget that the country is an island. It follows that along the coast, seafood is an important part of what is being served.

Enchilado De Camarones

Platanos maduros (or "ripe fried plantains") are a common side dish and snack across Latin America, West Africa, and India where they likely originated, according to Amigo Foods.

Platanos Maduros

Popular across Latin America, tamales vary regionally but generally consist of masa (a corn-based dough) wrapped in a corn husk and steamed, though they can be roasted, grilled, or fried, Toasty Kettle explains.


Every cuisine deserves a crispy bite-sized snack, and in Cuba they are found as croquetas. According to The New Tropic, as with many culinary creations, the food originated in France as a way to use up leftovers by forming them into a mass within a breadcrumb shell and frying it.


Being a common staple in Cuban cuisine, rice also takes on a sweet flavor profile in arroz con leche, or "rice with milk."

Arroz Con Leche

Creamy unctuous flan is found in many regions of the world, but according to Eater, a few elements set the Cuban version apart from the rest. The custard dessert is made with sweet condensed and evaporated milk on the island, unlike the fresh milk preparation elsewhere.


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