Walking around the streets, there’s a big chance that you can already spot several Cuban inspired restaurants that you’re familiar with.
You probably already have your take on what food in Cuba is like, given its notoriety. You could probably name a few.
Who doesn’t know their famous street foods like Cubano Sandwiches? Or their decadent and sinful Tres Leches Cake? Lastly, everybody knows that rum and coke is a delicious combination.
But Cuban cuisine is so much more than that.
Given the history, Cuban cuisine is a unique blend of different cultures. Traditional recipes have influences from many different areas of the world. For example, empanadas Spanish roots, and Ropa vieja has Caribbean spices.
African, Caribbean and even Chinese recipes have influenced the modern day cuisine of Cuba. Generally speaking, Cuba shares methods and techniques with Spanish and African cooking, but with some Caribbean flavor in their spices and ingredients.
Go through our complete list of must-try Cuban dish. We’ll even throw in our recommendations of which Cuban drinks to try.
Either it’s the meaty main dishes or vegetable-based side dishes, we’ve got you covered.
And trust us, it’s not just rice and beans.
1. Arroz con pollo
Arroz con pollo is a classic Latin American dish that’s so simple; it can be cooked in one pot. It’s also perfect as an all in one meal because it has vegetables, rice, and chicken.
You can enjoy Arroz con pollo all year long, but the best time to have it is during the colder months.
For a good Arroz con pollo, you should use the dark meat of the chicken so that it stays moist. It’s a flavorful meal that fills you up and gives you a sense of comfort.
2. Bistec de Palomilla
This traditional meat dish features a cube steak with a simple lime and garlic marinade. Bistec de palomilla is a Cuban staple that you can find in most household. It’s usually served with sauteed onion and rice on the side. The Cuban steak is a flavorful meal that’s hard to ignore.
Served with rice, beans, and sweet plantains, Boliche is a Cuban pot roast made from beef stuffed with ham. The meat is let to brown with onions and olive oil then simmered until it’s soft. The slow process makes the meat somewhat tender, and the ham gives the beef an exciting mix of flavor.
Butifarra is a sausage that was based on ancient Roman sausage. It’s made out of raw pork and spices, but nowadays it has many variants.
In Cuba, Butifarra is cooked on a grill or skillet. Often served with plantains or good Cuban bread. The juicy sausages have a nice garlic kick, and the flavor is very meaty as there’s no spicy burn.
This Cuban style deviled shrimp is spicy, fragrant and perfect over rice. The shrimp is heavily spiced with onions, garlic, pepper, pimentos, parsley, and many other ingredients.
It’s sauteed and then simmered in white wine, making it tender and flavorful. The spicy shrimp is usually served for large crowds and is excellent with rice or even pasta!
Originally, Frita is an assembly of seasoned ground beef and pork patty on Cuban bread topped with potatoes. But nowadays, they also have variations where they add lettuce, onions, and ketchup. This meal can also be found in South Florida.
7. Fufú de Plátano
Fufu de Platano is a classic dish of mashed plantain. According to the legend, the recipe was created during the British domination in Cuba.
The plantains are cut, boiled and then mixed with seasonings and pork meat. They’re then fried until brown and tender. Simple and cheap, the perfect breakfast food!
Morcilla is a blood sausage, usually cooked in stews. It’s thicker than the regular sausage and is stuffed with pig’s blood, rice, onions, and spices.
The taste is somewhat mild and tangy, and a little bit spicy. Even if it has a pig’s blood, we think that Morcilla is worth a try. You may be surprised how much you like this dish!
9. Moros y Cristianos
This dish is a traditional Cuban that can be found in every Cuban restaurant. Moros y Cristianos is a Cuban version of rice and beans.
The difference between Moros y Cristianos is that the beans, rice, and seasonings are all cooked in the same pot. That way the flavor reaches new depth and is a lot richer.
Picadillo is a traditional beef Cuban dish, made with potatoes, onions, garlic, cumin, bell pepper, and many other ingredients. It’s sauteed in olive oil and white wine. It’s then served with black turtle beans and rice.
Pulpeta is the Cuban equivalent of American meatloaf; and some say that it’s a better, much more flavorful version of meatloaf. The Cuban Pulpeta is not baked in a loaf pan, but seared and simmered in Cuban sauce.
The base of the meat is beef and pork, but sometimes ham is also added. After letting the meat simmer, you then cut the meatloaf and serve it on rice with the sauce.
12. Ropa vieja
Ropa vieja is a classic Cuban braise made with flank steak. The meat is cooked and simmered with wine, then baked in the oven. The texture of the meat is a little tougher than your usual shredded beef but still creamy and flavorful.
13. Sopa de Pollo
This dish is a Cuban style chicken soup that’s great for rainy or sick days. The addition of saffron to the soup gives it a different flavor. Give this a try when you’re feeling a little under the weather.
14. Vaca Frita
This dish is a close relative to the Ropa vieja we’ve mentioned earlier. The Vaca Frita is marinated in lime, garlic, salt and then seared until crispy. This dish is unique as beef is crispy and savory.
15. Arroz con Maiz
Nothing is more satisfying and as easy as rice and beans. Arroz con Maiz is a variation of that, but instead of beans, we use corn. For this side dish, all you need to do is mix a batch of rice with some sweet corn. Then add in seasoning and fresh cilantro and wait until it simmers and the water evaporated.
Arroz con Maiz is very simple, tasty and budget friendly. It’s perfect when paired with a little sunny side up egg. Enjoy!
Bunuelo is a fried dough ball traditionally prepared during holidays such as Christmas, Ramadan, or Hanukkah. It’s made from simple, wheat-based yeast dough and anise, then rolled out and cut into pieces before frying. It can also be filled with sweet or savory stuffing. In Cuba, they’re twisted into a figure 8 and covered in anise caramel.
17. Frijoles negros
Frijoles negros is a side dish that means “black beans.” The black beans are usually purchased canned or dried. It’s then seasoned with salt, ham, hocks, onions, garlic, tomatoes and spices. They’re a tasty dish and are very healthy too.
18. Mojo Criollo
This dish is a staple in Latin cuisine. Mojo criollo is excellent as a dipping sauce, poured over boiled vegetables or even as a marinade for roast pork. It’s made with lots of garlic, herbs, olive oil and citrus. You can make them yourself or buy them from the market.
19. Papitas fritas
Papitas fritas are simply fried potatoes. The potatoes are diced and placed on top of a plancha then sprinkled with seasonings. Then the plancha is pressed for about ten minutes so that the Papitas are golden brown and crispy.
20. Pasteles de Carne
Pasteles is a traditional dish, similar to Italian calzone. In Cuba, Pasteles de Carne is a dumpling with meat filling, which makes for a perfect side dish.
21. Platano Maduro frito
This side dish is sliced ripe plantains that are fried in either vegetable or canola oil. The plantains have a sweet, creamy center and a caramelized exterior. Platano maduro Frito is usually a side for rice and beans or roasted pork.
Tamale is a traditional dish made of corn-based starchy dough that’s steamed in a corn husk or banana leaf. In Cuba, they’re wrapped in corn husks, without any extra spicy seasoning.
A special dish called Tamal en cazuela is made out of tamale with meat stuffed into the dough, then cooked in a pot resulting in a hearty cornmeal porridge.
23. Tortilla de patatas
A Cuban Tortilla de patatas is quite similar to the original Spanish omelet or Italian frittata. It’s made out of potatoes, onions, eggs, and salt which are then fried in olive oil. You can also add spinach or garlic to give it more flavor.
Tostada is well known not just in Cuba, but also Mexico and other parts of Latin America. In Cuba, they often consume Tostada as their breakfast. It’s a slice of Cuban bread, buttered and pressed. It’s usually served with Cafe con leche or milk coffee.
Tostones is another form of fried plantains, but they use green plantains instead. Another difference is they cook the Tostones twice. After you cut and fry them, you’re supposed to bash them, and it’s fried again. The Tostones is crispy and tender, which makes it the perfect companion to your meal or coffee.
26. Yuca con mojo
Yuca con mojo is a delicious Cuban dish, consisting of citrus, onions, garlic, spices, and yuca. If you’re bored with potatoes, you might want to try using yuca instead. Some people even claim that these are better tasting than potatoes.
Yuca is available to buy in your local supermarkets. If it’s not harvested in your area, you could probably buy them frozen. The yuca is boiled before mixed with the other ingredients; then the hot oil is poured over the mixture.
27. Arroz con Leche
A Cuban style rice pudding that’s easy and simple to make. The taste is delicious and creamy, and light enough that it’s hard not to finish the whole batch. All you need is to cook the rice with water, lemon zest, and cinnamon stick. Then drain the water and add in milk, condensed milk, salt, and vanilla. Enjoy!
28. Tres leches cake
You can Tres leches cake anywhere in Latin America. This cake is very rich in flavor and should be consumed moderately.
The ingredients are eggs, sugar, flour, milk (regular, evaporated and sweetened), cream and vanilla extract. Decadent and classic, this one is definitely worth the try!
Cucurucho is a delicacy from eastern Cuba. It’s a mix of coconut, sugar and several fruits that are wrapped inside a palm leaf shaped into a cone. The result is a fresh and easy snack or dessert that you can carry for convenience.
30. Dulce de leche
Dulce de leche is well known as a sweet treat across Latin America. The Cuban version of Dulce de leche requires you to curdle the milk to get the sweet curds. Traditionally the preparation takes a bit of time and effort.
The ingredients are evaporated milk, condensed milk, egg, and white vinegar. The result is a very smooth and sweet caramel milk curds that will leave you craving for more.
31. Flan de calabaza
Flan de calabaza is a Cuban pumpkin flan that’s very appropriate in fall! In Latin America, fall usually means the start of the flan season as well. Families typically gather and have flan for their dessert.
The pumpkin flan is made of sugar, pumpkin puree, condensed milk, evaporated milk, and vanilla extract. It has a creamy, caramel texture that warms you up during colder months.
32. Flan de coco
Another variety of flan that’s served in Cuba. This one is a very tropical and fresh flan, served with an authentic Latin American twist. All you need to add to the original flan recipe is shredded coconut. Eat it fresh and cold in the summer to get the whole experience!
33. Flan de guayaba
This flan is made with guava, and still have that jiggly, creamy texture flan is known for. The difference is the fresh guava taste.
34. Flan de huevos
Flan de huevos is a Cuban version of creamy caramel. It’s straightforward to make, all you need is sugar, water, eggs, and low-fat milk. Serve the flan cool after refrigerating for 8 hours, and eat it as dessert.
This dish is another Latin America favorite. It refers to a custard dish made with milk and eggs. In Cuba, Natilla is served cold as a dessert. Made with cornstarch, vanilla, sugar, eggs, lemon, cinnamon, milk and evaporated milk – this dish is a staple during Christmas time.
36. Pudín de pan
Pudin de pan is a delicious, traditional Cuban version of bread pudding. This recipe is very simple to make. It’s just bread pudding, but with a caramel top that makes it a lot more decadent and rich. This dish is something that you should add to your dessert cookbook.
This nougat is not only made in Latin America but also European countries. But each has a different twist to it. In Cuba, this dish is a peanut nougat. Usually sold by street vendors and have two variants: blando (ground peanuts) and duro (coarsely chopped peanuts).
Empanada is a baked pastry, filled with stuffing consists of meat, cheese corn or other ingredients. Cuban empanadas can also be fried in oil and served in refreshing chimichurri sauce.
You can buy this snack at the supermarket as a frozen variety, but why do that when you can make it at home! All you need to do is make bread dough and fill them with the ingredients. Then fry or bake them, according to your preference.
A favorite snack in places with Spanish influence such as Andalusia and Latin America, Chicharrones is a dish consisting of fried pork belly or rinds. It’s also called cracklings or lardons.
Usually, it has a little bit of meat on top with deep fried crispy fat on the bottom. Try at your own risk, as the greasy, crispy nuggets are very addictive. But some even say that these chiclets are worth the heart attack.
You can always find croquetas in street food stands as well as parties. Croquetas are made out of ham paste or ground ham and are a very typical Cuban food: crispy on the outside and very soft on the inside.
The filling is a mix of ham, butter, milk, flour, onion, and spices; it’s then shaped and breaded with bread crumbs or crushed crackers. Croquetas are then deep fried until golden brown perfection.
You can eat Croquetas in many ways. Make it into a sandwich and douse it in condiments, or even eat it on its own. Croquetas are simple enough that you can make at home.
Medianoche is a sandwich that means “midnight.” It consists of roasted pork, ham, mustard, cheese, and pickles. The difference between Medianoche and the world famous Cuban sandwich is that Medianoche is made out of soft, egg dough.
The sandwich is usually pressed before eating, which makes it warm and soft on the inside.
42. Papa rellena
Papa rellena is a type of croquette popular in the Latin American country such as Chile, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Colombia, Peru and of course Cuba. It was first dated back to the 19th century, right when French cuisine was influencing Latin America.
It consists of mashed potatoes stuffed with seasoned ground meat and various spices. In the Cuban version, the potato balls are also stuffed with seasoned picadillo. You can also find this Cuban dish on the streets of Miami and Tampa.
43. Sandwich Cubano
Sandwich Cubano is possibly one of the most famous Cuban dishes in the world. The origin of this sandwich was cafes catering to Cuban workers in the Key West and Ybor City, Tampa. Then it was brought on to Miami for Cuban expatriates and is still extremely popular until now.
The Sandwich is made with ham, roasted pork, cheese, pickles, mustard, and salami on Cuban bread. After assembling the sandwich, it’s then placed into plancha or presser. The press will make the bread crispy and the cheese melt; then it’s cut diagonally.
The taste of Sandwich Cubano is a mixture of crispy, greasy and cheesy. Making it a go-to meal when you need to fill your stomach on the go.
Mariquitas or Chicaritas are Cuban plantain chips. The plantains are sliced round, fried and salted. They can also be sliced long and are called Margaritas. Locals usually consume these piping hot and sprinkle with mojo.
45. Masitas de Puerco Fritas
These fried pork meat are sold almost everywhere in Cuba; if you’ve seen a Cuban Sandwich on the window, you’d probably see these brown meat as well.
Masitas, the Puerco Fritas, are fried pork chunks, made from pork shoulder and fried in lard. It’s then seasoned with fresh lime juice to give it a bit of a kick. You can eat this on its own or even make a sandwich out of it.
Batido is a beverage made out of tropical fruits that are blended and mixed with milk and ice. The consistency of the drink is similar to smoothies and can be found anywhere from street vendors. It’s perfect as a companion for a hot day of adventure in Cuba.
47. Cafe Cubano
Every Cuban meal can be made even closer to perfect with a Cafe Cubano or Cuban espresso. Cafe Cubano has a thick layer of sweet crema foam (cream) floating over a strong espresso. Simple and luxurious, the ingredients are just ground espresso and sugar.
48. Cafe con Leche
Cafe con leche is a coffee beverage consisting of strong coffee and scalded milk in 1:1 ratio. You can also add sugar or sweetener according to your preference. Similar to caffee latte, it’s usually consumed for breakfast to wake up your senses.
Canchachara was said to have been invented by the soldiers of the 19th century to fend off cold and hunger. The ingredients are rum, honey, and lemon juice. The mixture allows them to keep warm and protect against respiratory diseases.
But nowadays, Canchachara is served in a clay pot. The ingredients are straightforward, and you can try to enjoy this at home to share with your family and friends.
50. Cuba Libre
The ever famous rum and coke, the drink was created in Cuba in the early 1900s. During those days, Coca-Cola was first imported into Cuba, and thus the drink was born. Consisting of rum, Coca-Cola, sugar, and lime, the drink is a staple in Cuba and can be enjoyed almost anywhere in the world.
Cubanito is a Cuban Bloody Mary, made with rum, tomato juice, lemon, hot pepper sauce, Worcestershire sauce, and pepper. Light and refreshing, some even say that this drink has a health benefit and can lower cholesterol!
Daiquiri is a cocktail with rum, citrus, and sugar as its main ingredients. It became famous during the 1940s as vodka was hard to come by, and rum was abundant. It has many variations, such as banana, avocado, and even the refreshing frozen daiquiri.
53. El Presidente
El Presidente is a cocktail that came to fruition during the 1920s and has been a preferred drink of the upper class in Cuba ever since. It consists of rum, Curacao, vermouth and a dash of grenadine.
Extracted from freshly cut sugarcane, Guarapo is made purely out of raw sugar cane juice and ice chips. Although it poses many health risks, especially to those who have diabetes, Guarapo is still a favorite among low earners due to the high-calorie content.xs
55. Hatuey beer
Hatuey beer was the pride of Cuba, during the 1990s with its lighter, lager style. But since 2009, it was retracted from the market and rehashed into a new product – a pale ale with more color, body, and flavor. It’s now brewed in a microbrewery in South Carolina, but the taste is similar to the old original.
56. Havana Cooler
Another rum-based cocktail from Cuba, Havana Cooler is a refreshing drink that’s topped with mint leaves. After crushing the mint leaves with rum, add in the ginger ale, and your Havana Cooler is ready to be consumed.
Ironbeer is a non-alcoholic soft drink originated from Cuba, invented in 1917. People say that it tastes like a fruitier Dr. Pepper. The drink is now bottled in Miami by Sunshine Bottling Company and still can be purchased from the supermarket.
Malta is a carbonated drink, made from barley, hops, and water. Sometimes they add in corn and caramel coloring. It has a strong beer smell, but the drink is non-alcoholic. Those who’ve tried the drink claimed that Malta tastes a lot like beer, but slightly sweet like molasses.
Aside from the taste, another benefit of consuming Malta is its vitamin B content as some breweries fortify their Malta with vitamin B complex.
Materva is another soft drink originated from Cuba. It’s made from yerba mate tea, with a flavor similar to ginger ale or cream soda. Similar to Ironbeer, the soft drink is now produced in Miami by The Cawy Bottling Company.
A famous drink well known all over the world – Mojito is a traditional Cuban highball. Originally, Mojito consists of five ingredients: rum, sugar, lime juice, soda, and mint. The sweetness and citrus flavor complements the rum perfectly. Mojito has a low alcohol content – about 10%. Nowadays they have a lot of Mojito variations, such as virgin Mojito or rose Mojito.
Jupina is a pineapple soda pop. The intense sweetness and pineapple flavor make it the perfect companion when you’re eating a decadent or greasy meal.
62. Pina Colada
Pina Colada is a refreshing alcoholic drink made from coconut milk, pineapple juice, and rum. It’s usually served blended or shaken with ice and garnished with a pineapple wedge or maraschino cherry. Although it’s a national drink of Puerto Rico, it’s also well known in Cuba.
63. Crema de Vie
A rich and velvety drink, Crema de Vie is what you can call a Cuban eff nog. Just like eggnog, the drink is consumed during Christmas time. The main ingredients are condensed milk, evaporated milk, yolks, and rum.
Try making it yourself and have a toast with Crema de Vie this Christmas!
Saoco was brought to Cuba by Africans; it was a go-to drink as it was easy to make and cheap. The ingredients are rum, coconut milk, and ice. All you need to do is stir, and it’s ready to serve.