Cuban Food

Find out all you need to know about the best Cuban food and drinks before your trip.

The most vigorous sides of African, Caribbean, and Spanish culinary traditions come together in Cuban cuisine to offer you the gastronomic experience of your life. Expect to find rice and beans in most dishes similar to the rest of the Caribbean, but Cubans have their own touches to these fundamental ingredients that make the scene unique. Boasting a fruitful, tropical climate, Cuba uses fruits and root vegetables as main ingredients in most meals. You will also relish a variety of mouth-watering street food⁠, with the delightful Cuban sandwiches at the center of attention. Learn about the best dishes and drinks to try in Cuba with this food guide. Before you arrive, also keep in mind these Cuban food tips:

  • Tap water is not safe to drink in Cuba. We recommend drinking bottled water and being mindful of the water in cold beverages.
  • Some of the best places to eat in Cuba are paladares. They are independent restaurants with rich menus and affordable options. As for the street stalls, it is good to practice caution, especially when buying uncooked meals and fish.
  • If you want to have breakfast like a local, grab some tostadas (grilled Cuban bread) with a steaming cup of cafe con leche (espresso with warm milk).

Must-Try Cuban Foods

Here are the top dishes of the Cuban food scene that will help you eat like a local:

Cuban food
Ropa Vieja

Ropa vieja traveled all the way from the Iberian peninsula to Cuba and soon became a national dish with much appeal. It translates to “old clothes”, a peculiar name for a dish that is most likely due to the fact that it was cooked with the leftovers of other meals. Shredded beef gets blended with a flavorful sofrito-based sauce and forms the main element on a multi-dish plate. Sides include rice, fried plantains, and fried yuca in vibrant combination.

Cuban food
Cuban Sandwich

Cuban sandwich is among the world’s most famous street food and Cuba’s national pride. You will find inviting food trucks and stalls at every corner in the bustling Cuban cities. They offer this delicacy for a cheap price. The original Cuban sandwich has Swiss cheese, dill pickles, roasted pork, ham, and mustard tucked in two golden slices of Cuban bread. It is a perfect snack to enjoy on the go with a cold beer as you wander the sensuous streets of Havana.

Cuban food
Yuca Fries

Cuba has a long tradition of cooking root vegetables with a variety of methods, and the tasty yuca is one of them. You can’t spend a night in cuba without these gorgeous yuca sticks to accompany your beer. And, we recommend not to resist. When fried, the skin of yuca gets crispy, while the inside becomes so creamy that your taste buds will feast. Dip them in some mojo, a galvanizing citrusy sauce made with garlic, olive oil, orange juice, and onions. You will find the best yuca fries at street food shops.

Cuban food
Arroz con frijoles

Black beans are one of the signature agricultural products all across Central America, and it is a main ingredient in Cuban food. Arroz con frijoles is a plentiful dish that exalts this marvelous food with rice. In Cuba, arroz con frijoles is a luch staple that often accompanies a meaty curry dish. You can also order one with red beans instead of black for a change in flavor. Most restaurants serve both versions.

Cuban food
Bunuelos

These yuca donuts are a hundred percent Cuban, cooked in homes and street stalls during the most festive times of the year. It has roots in Spanish cuisine influenced by the Muslims, but the ingredients are replaced with Cuban products like yuca and anise. Anise is used to spice the dough and later in the making of a sweet dip sauce for the figure eight-shaped donuts. They are lighter than they look and perfect for enjoying as a quick-bite in between walking tours.

Cuban food
Maduros

There is no other Cuban side dish as popular as maduros, fried sweet plantains grown in the fertile lands of Cuba. The best maduros are made with ripe plantains. You can understand the quality of the dish by looking at the crust. If they have black spots on the skin, it means sweeter and more delicious maduros. They make a delightful sweet treat on their own, but you will also love them alongside salty dishes like meats and rice dishes, as it balances the flavor perfectly.

Must-Try Cuban Drinks

Daiquiri

Cuba is all about refreshing, mouth-watering cocktails, and daiquiri is the most recognized. It is made of rum, citrus juice (generally lime), and sugar. Pay a visit to the birthplace of daiquiri in Havana and learn about the origins of this stimulating drink. Word has it that it was Ernest Hemingway’s go-to place for daiquiris. Across Cuba’s hopping bars, you will find varieties made with different fruits and aromas, such as old rose daiquiri and mulata chocholate daiquiri.

Cuban food
Canchanchara

Made since the days of the war of independence and served in palm-sized clay bowls, canchanchara is as traditional as it gets. This meaningful drink was born out of struggle in Trinidad, invented by freedom fighters to keep warm at night. It is a savoury combination of sweet and sour made with rum, honey, lime, and ice. You won’t find canchanchara in every bar, but make sure to seek it out and have a sip before you leave.

Cuban food

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A common misconception is that Cuban cuisine is bland. Yet, Cuba’s culinary culture is far from boring. And no, it’s not just rice and beans. Stemming from different cuisines such as Spanish, African, and even Chinese, Cuban food has its own distinctive flair. With unforgettable and well-balanced flavors, Cuba’s food scene will surprise you. Tuck…

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