Street vendor grilling at vibrant outdoor market.

Origin of Cuban Gastronomy

Cuba’s culinary landscape is like a history book, each dish narrating a chapter of the island’s diverse past. Influenced by Spanish, African, and Caribbean cuisines, Cuban food is a tapestry woven with the threads of colonization, trade, and cultural exchanges. But what makes it uniquely Cuban? Let’s dive in.

Cuban Cuisine: A Melting Pot of Influences

The fusion of different culinary techniques and ingredients is what gives Cuban food its unique charm. From the Spanish olives to the African yuca, every element tells a story of migration and fusion. But, how do these diverse influences come together on a Cuban plate?

Main Dishes

Ropa vieja

This Creole dish is usually reserved for special occasions and consists of long-cooked filamentous beef in a special broth, accompanied with a sauce of tomato, onion, olives, garlic, salt and pepper and served with rice You can easily find it in restaurants.

The plantain banana

The plantain banana is a fruit that is eaten like a vegetable. It is served fried, very often in slices, and serves as an accompaniment to main dishes. If the slices are thin, they are called mariquitas; when cut into thicker slices, they are called tostones.

Vaca frita

A recipe very similar to the previous one, but with the use of fewer ingredients: the fried cow is shredded beef that is seasoned with salt, lemon is added and it is cooked with a garlic and onion frying. It has no sauce, unlike old clothes, and is eaten with rice and/or patacones (fried plantains).

Arroz Congri (Moros y Cristianos)

Arroz Congri, also known as Moros y Cristianos, is a classic Cuban dish consisting of rice and black beans cooked together along with spices like cumin, oregano, and bay leaves. The rice is usually sautéed with a sofrito—a blend of bell peppers, onions, and garlic—before the beans and water or stock are added. The dish gets its distinctive color from the beans, and it’s often seasoned with pork pieces or bacon, which adds depth to its flavor. Arroz Congri is a staple in Cuban cuisine and is served as a hearty and flavorful side dish that pairs well with a variety of main courses, particularly grilled or roasted meats.

Arroz con pollo

This chicken rice is a popular and easy to find dish in Cuba. Its speciality lies in the spices that accompany the meat and rice, as it is usually accompanied by cumin, saffron, olive oil and oregano, but also by tomatoes and sometimes even peas, for a complete meal.

Crocodile meat

Not very commercialised, fans will have to go as far as Guamá or Giron to find some. The taste would be quite similar to that of veal, and it can be cooked, for example, with a spicy pineapple sauce.

Papas Rellenas

These appetizers are made from mashed potatoes, rolled into a small ball in egg and breadcrumbs. They are sometimes filled with meat and peppers, as well as garlic and onions. They can be found on most Cuban tables at mealtime.

Lobster

Cuban lobsters are quite famous, you can find them in most restaurants, prepared in various ways. They can be spicy and spicy, or cooked with sofrito, but it is said that the best ones are eaten right after fishing, grilled with a simple lemon fillet. The best would be to try it in a private house

Please note: lobster fishing is highly regulated and is not possible during the breeding season.

Ajiaco

In Cuba we only ate it once, but when we traveled to Colombia we swelled up like chili! And it is delicious! It is a soup prepared with meat (in Cuba they use mainly beef and pork), corn, yucca, potatoes, green bananas, guasca, avocado, lime and spices (cumin, pepper, chili and salt).

Picadillo a la criolla

Another of the typical Cuban dishes you have to try before you go. It is prepared with minced beef and pork minced beef stewed in onions, tomato, pepper, garlic and spices. Usually accompanied by white rice and black beans and fried plantains.And often ingredients such as olives, wine or raisins can be added. It is also known as “picadillo a la cubana” or “picadillo a la habanera” but they are all the same dish.

Cuban-Style Stuffed Pineapple

Pineapples are Cuba’s favourite fruit: they are found in sauces, spiced or stuffed with minced meat. In the latter case, beef and ham are added, as well as butter and sugar during cooking, for exotic sweet/savoury flavours.

Yucca with mojo

Yucca with mojo is a traditional Cuban dish, simple to prepare but with a very tasty result. The yucca is boiled and the mojo is prepared with olive oil, lime juice, salt and garlic. It is usually ordered as an accompaniment to other dishes or to share, almost never as a single dish (although if you are a vegetarian it can save you a nice meal).

Lechon asado

This is a very well known dish in Cuba. Lechon asado is a spit-roasted pig, cooked until the skin is crispy. You may even be able to see a pig roasting in one of the food stalls. If you like, you can try fried pork rind alone – it’s called “chicharrones”.

Lechon asado is often served with a sauce called mojo, made with garlic, spices, oil, onion and a small amount of bitter orange or lime juice.

In Cuba, lechon asado is a typical dish for celebrations. Several times, a whole pig is cooked in the ground and covered with banana leaves. It is a tradition and a feast. In addition, they often roast the pig in a specially designed box called porcelain.

Tamal

The Tamal is an indigenous recipe, made with corn mass and cooked in a banana leaf. It is possible to add elements such as chicken or pork. There are also variants with rice

Street Food

Chicharrones con limon

Perfect to enjoy as an aperitif with a good Crystal Bear

Cuban Pizza

Pizza is an institution in Cuba. We can say that you have not been to Cuba if you do not stop in a ventanita to taste a pizza.

With the Pizza experience, you will also take a lesson on the art of recycling paper. Here we can learn that it is possible to eat in the street without polluting with unnecessary packaging.

Cuban Sandwich

Sandwiches are never missing from Cuban windows, but if you want to try the unique and authentic Cuban sandwich, watch out for the ingredients: Cuban bread, roast pork, sweet ham, mustard, Swiss cheese and pickles in brine. Die!

Sweets

Cuban Arroz con Leche

Arroz con Leche, which translates to “rice with milk,” is a traditional dessert not only in Cuba but also in many Latin American countries, as well as Spain. It is a type of rice pudding made by cooking rice with milk and sugar, and it’s often flavored with cinnamon, lemon or lime zest, and sometimes vanilla.

Cuban Flan

It is a popular Cuban dessert, generally made from eggs and condensed milk, creamy and tender, served with vanilla, lemon or cinnamon aromas. Although there may be slight variations from one place to another.

What is clear is that it is one of the most loved desserts, by locals and tourists alike.

Churros

Nothing more local than walking the streets of Havana with a Bon Churro

Dulce de Mani

Very popular in Cuba, Dulce de mani is sold mostly in the street by street vendors. Another dish to try, especially since it is delicious and it helps the local economy.

Cuban Cake

Cuban cakes are always very colorful, and… very sweet. Enough to give you a revolutionary strength !

Romeo y Julieta

Made with guava and cheese, it is a very popular dessert in Cuba. Ideal also when you go hiking

Coppelia’s ice cream

Ice creams in Cuba are delicious and you can’t leave the island without tasting Coppelia’s ice cream.

Very popular, you will often see long queues, but it’s worth it. They are also incredibly cheap.  

Drinks & Cocktails

Cuban cuisine isn’t just about the food; it’s also about the drinks that accompany it. From morning coffee rituals to evening cocktails, let’s quench our thirst, Cuban style.

Colorful Cuban cocktails, tropical fruits, and architecture scene.

The Art of Cuban Coffee

Strong, sweet, and with a kick – Cuban coffee is more than just a beverage; it’s a morning ritual. But what’s the secret behind its robust flavor?

Iconic Cuban Cocktails

Mojito, daiquiri, Cuba libre – these aren’t just cocktails; they’re part of Cuba’s vibrant history. But how did these drinks become so synonymous with Cuban culture?

Traditional Non-Alcoholic Drinks

Not a fan of alcohol? No problem! Cuba’s non-alcoholic beverages are just as tantalizing. Let’s explore some refreshing options.