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Cuban Food: 27 Popular Dishes + 5 Secret Recipe Tips

Cuban food has achieved worldwide popularity for its bold flavors and vibrant presentation, as it’s a perfect blend of Caribbean, Spanish, and African food cultures, creating a variety of dishes that are easy to love and even easier to prepare. Find here the most popular Cuban food and recipe tips.

That’s where this guide comes in handy, as today, we’ll walk you through a comprehensive guide that explores the colorful and delicious variety of Cuban food.

Including the most popular dishes and five secret recipe tips that will help you unlock the full flavor potential of Cuban cuisine and create truly memorable dishes.

Traditional Cuban Cuisine – More Than Ropa Vieja and Arroz Con Pollo

Traditional Cuban Cuisine – More Than Ropa Vieja and Arroz Con Pollo

Cuban cuisine is a reflection of the island’s unique multicultural heritage and rich history. Of course, Cuban cuisine is heavily inspired by Spanish cuisine, as it shares a lot of dishes with other Latin and Caribbean countries.

However, what makes Cuban cuisine stand out from other Caribbean cuisines is that it has also been shaped by its indigenous people with noticeable African influence, as African slaves who arrived at the island a few centuries ago enriched the local cuisine with a variety of dishes and ingredients.

This special combination resulted in a unique cuisine that is somewhat familiar to a major chunk of the world’s population while adding a special twist that often exceeds the original dishes, which is why Cuban traditional dishes are widely popular nowadays.

Most Popular Street Food in Cuba

Most Popular Street Food in Cuba

Although Cuban food is mainly homemade-oriented, plenty of dishes found their way to street food stalls and Cuban restaurants around the world. Here are some of the most popular street food items you’ll find in Cuba:

  • Churros: These sweet fried dough pastries are quite popular in Cuba. Cuban churros are often accompanied by various dipping sauces and coated with sugar or syrup for extra sweetness.
  • Tostones: Tostones (some call them “Chatinos”) are delicious fried plantains, which is a variant of banana suitable for cooking. This delicious snack is flattened and fried twice for extra crispiness.
  • Sandwich de Huevo: These egg sandwiches are quite popular in Cuba. They are made from hard-boiled eggs and topped with a generous dollop of Dijon mustard, mayonnaise, seasoning, and cheddar cheese.
  • Papas Rellenas: The golden brown fritters are made from potatoes and filled with a variety of savory ingredients, such as beef, ham, and cheese, typically enjoyed as a snack or as an appetizer with dishes.
  • Pan con Lechón: This savory treat is a combination of traditional Cuban bread and Cuban-style slow-roasted pork, topped with pickled onions and garlicky mojo sauce.
  • Cubanos: Cubanos is one of the most popular types of Cuban sandwiches out there. It includes multiple layers of roasted ham slices and Swiss cheese along with Dijon mustard and pickles. The Cuban bread used for Cubanos is often toasted to give the sandwich a delicious crispy twist.

Cuban Food in the World

Cuban Food in the World

Cuban food has established itself as one of the most beloved cuisines in the Caribbean region, and many regard it as a defining cuisine of the entire region, thanks to its complex flavor profile and unique use of fruity ingredients.

Many restaurants around the world include Cuban food in their menus because they strike a remarkable balance between upbeat and familiar, which is perfect for someone who is open to trying something new but isn’t ready for something too exotic or bizarre.

How Healthy Is Cuban Food?

How Healthy Is Cuban Food?

It’s fairly common for hearty and delicious cuisines to be slightly unhealthy for you, even if you consume them in moderation. However, Cuban food stands out for being one of the few cuisines that balance flavor and healthiness.

This is because many Cuban dishes include a wide range of vegetables and fresh herbs in their ingredients, which are packed with healthy fibers, minerals, and vitamins. Avocados used in traditional dips and dishes are also an excellent source of unsaturated fatty acids.

That being said, some dishes are still quite calories and carbs, which can lead to weight gain if you consume them in large quantities, especially when combined with beef and pork, so you have to keep that in mind.

Famous and Popular Cuban Dishes You Have to Try

Famous and Popular Cuban Dishes You Have to Try

Now that you’ve learned more about Cuban food, it’s time to dive into some of the most delicious dishes that this cuisine has to offer. To make this section easier to browse, we’ve classified the dishes into various categories, so let’s check them out.

Soups & Salads

Soups & Salads

While many tropical and sub-tropical countries aren’t big on soups and stews, Cuban cuisine boasts a delicious variety of soups, both hot and cold. You can also enjoy a variety of savory salads, infused with a plethora of aromatic ingredients.

Ajiaco Cubano

Ajiaco Cubano

Starting off with one of the most iconic soups in Cuba, although it’s also quite popular in many Latin countries, especially Columbia. Ajiaco is a type of soup made from sauteed vegetables, including yuca, onions, potatoes, peppers, plantains, and more.

The unique aspect of the Cuban Ajiaco is that it’s fairly thicker than other varieties, which makes it more filling. The one-pot stew is quite flexible with ingredients, which makes it a great way to make do with leftover ingredients after hosting a big dinner.

Sopa de Frijoles Negros

Sopa de Frijoles Negros

This dish literally translates to “black bean soup”, which is one of the Cuban staple dishes, characterized by its remarkable flavor and various health benefits. Black beans are a great source of fiber and amino acids, which makes it a perfect vegetarian-friendly dish.

Like Ajiaco, this soup comes in a variety of consistencies, depending on personal preferences, and you can top it off with a wide range of delicious vegetables as well as rice, making it a more filling main dish.

Fricasé de Pollo

Fricasé de Pollo

Chicken Fricassee is another Cuban staple, characterized by its delicious savory flavor and tender chicken texture. The dish includes slow-cooked chicken in a marinade of white wine, chicken stock, lime juice, and herbs until completely tender.

You can also add various vegetables to the dish to make it more filling, such as peppers, tomatoes, onions, yucca, beans, and potatoes. The soup is enjoyed on its own as comfort food or eaten on dinner with a side of Cuban rice.

Ensalada de Aguacate

Ensalada de Aguacate

Ensalada de Aguacate or Cuban avocado salad is an excellent example of how simple yet remarkably delicious dishes some Cuban dishes can be. This one originated in Cuba, but like many other dishes on this list, it’s also popular in many Latin cultures.

As the name suggests, sliced ripe avocados are usually the main highlight of the dish, but it also includes a variety of diced vegetables and herbs to make its flavor more enticing, such as tomatoes, onions, and coriander.

Carne Con Papas

Carne Con Papas

Carne con papas is a classic Cuban stew made with chunks of beef and potatoes as well as onions, garlic, and bell peppers. It is known for its thick texture, which is perfectly complemented with a side of white rice.

While the combination of beef and potatoes is popular in many regions around the world, this hearty stew has an iconic delicious flavor that stands out with the addition of Caribbean seasoning and white wine.

The beef is also marinated in a mixture of citrus juices and spices before being cooked, which makes it quite juicy and tender.

Potaje de Lentejas

Potaje de Lentejas

Potaje de lentejas, commonly known as “Cuban lentil soup”, is one of the most beloved soups all over Cuba. The Cuban version stands out from other varieties by adding potatoes, carrots, pumpkins, and various spices for a unique flavor.

In general, Potaje de lentejas is a fairly affordable and versatile soup, as it’s made with plenty of ingredients and served with white bread or rice. Some varieties of the soup also feature smoked ham, but you can add other cuts of meat as well.

Sopa de Pollo

Sopa de Pollo

Chicken soup is another simple yet highly popular traditional Cuban dish. What makes this one unique is that it’s both easy to make and quite healthy, as it features a variety of healthy vegetables and herbs, such as onions, potatoes, celery, carrots, thyme, and parsley.

Starters, Sandwiches, and Sides

Starters, Sandwiches, and Sides

In addition to soups and salads, it’s common for Cuban food also includes a wide range of appetizers, starters, and side dishes.

Some of these dishes are also enjoyed on their own as snacks or even sold in street food stalls. Here are some of the most popular light dishes among Cubans.

Medianoche

Medianoche

The Medianoche, which typically translates to “midnight sandwich”, is one of the most popular sandwiches in Cuban cuisine. As the name implies, the sandwich is a common snack enjoyed after midnight, thanks to its easy preparation process.

Medianoche is also widely known outside of Cuba, and you can typically find it in Cuban restaurants and nightclubs around the world. The delicious sandwich includes thin slices of meat, typically pork, topped with cheese and mustard, then pressed and grilled for a golden brown crust.

Moros Y Cristianos (Congrí)

Moros Y Cristianos

The Moors and Christians is a famous Cuban side dish, although it also goes by “Congrí” in other countries where it’s commonly enjoyed.

The two main ingredients of the dish are rice and black beans, but the dish usually includes a blend of aromatic spices and vegetables that give it a unique taste, such as cumin and garlic.

Tostones

Tostones

Tostones are widely established street food in Cuba, but it’s also prepared in households as a snack and typically served alongside main dishes in traditional cuisine.

Unlike many variants of banana fritters enjoyed in Latin America, this one is usually made with unripe plantains, which is why its flavor and texture stand out remarkably.

Plátanos Maduros

Plátanos Maduros

Another dish that relies on bananas in Cuba is the Plátanos Maduros. This one is different from Tostones in terms of texture, as it’s made from sliced plantains and also uses ripe sweet varieties.

Yet, similar to Tostones, it’s also served as a side dish or snack and enjoyed in various regions around the world.

Croquetas

Croquetas

Croquetas are the Hispanic version of French Croquettes. These delicious deep-fried rolls are made from thick batter, which is mixed with a delicious filling and coated with breadcrumbs and fried.

The snack staple is known for using the creamy béchamel sauce as filling, which complements the crunchy texture of the outer crust perfectly.

Cuban croquetas are usually made with ham, but you can also find different varieties of the dish made with anything from vegetables and chicken to seafood.

Arroz Con Huevo Frito

Arroz Con Huevo Frito

Arroz con Huevo Frito is a straightforward Cuban dish that directly translates to "rice with fried egg”. The dish is a popular breakfast choice known for its quick and simple preparation as well as its delectable taste.

One special aspect of the dish is that the egg yolk is usually left slightly runny, adding a rich and creamy texture to the white rice. Thanks to its easy preparation, the dish is also a beloved comfort food in Cuba, often complemented by its own side, such as avocado, fried plantains, or French fries.

Cuban Tamales

Cuban Tamales

Tamales are a savory dish made from cornmeal dough, called “masa”, and filled with meat, especially seasoned pork along with a variety of diced vegetables. The delicious dish has a characteristic look because the dough is wrapped in corn husks and steamed to perfection.

The unique aspect of Cuban Tamales is that, unlike other varieties enjoyed in Central America and the Caribbean, this one mixes the seasoned meat directly with the dough instead of being used as filling.
Tamales have its roots in Central America, as it’s said to be a staple of the indigenous people who lived in

the region for thousands of years. In addition to being a popular snack, Tamales are also prepared on special occasions for celebration.

Cubano

Cubano

As the name of the sandwich, Cubano is an authentic Cuban dish that is enjoyed by locals all over the country, but it’s also quite a popular snack, typically served as street food and in Cuban nightclubs in the United States.

But despite its name, it’s said that this sandwich was created in Florida by Cuban immigrants, which then found its way into Cuba as it became a massive hit. The sandwich is fairly similar to regular ham and cheese, but it typically doesn’t have tomato and lettuce like the original one.

Yuca con Mojo

Yuca con Mojo

This traditional Cuban dish features a popular ingredient in Cuban cuisine and is often served as a snack during celebrations. Yuca or cassava is a carbohydrate-rich root, which makes the side dish filling and delicious.

The dish is made by marinating the root in a tangy mixture of limes, onions, garlic, and olive oil. The delicious roots are then cooked through frying and boiling and topped with some delicious sour mojo salsa.

Mains

Mains

Many Cuban main dishes have achieved worldwide popularity, thanks to their delicious flavor and aesthetically pleasing presentation. In this section, we’ll walk you through some of the most iconic Cuban delights from this category.

Ropa Vieja

Ropa Vieja

Ropa Vieja is widely established as the national dish of Cuba and one of the cuisine’s most popular mains. Beef is the most common meat used in this dish, but other variants with pork also exist.

The words “ropa vieja” literally translates to “old clothes”, which is a reference to how the shredded meat used in this dish looks after braising and cooking (similar to the torn fabrics of old clothes).

While the name and the overall look of the dish may not be quite appealing, the tantalizing aroma and delicious flavor of the dish are enough to change your mind.

This is because the shredded meat is cooked in tomato sauce with bay leaves, onions, cumin, and plenty of other condiments.

Arroz Con Pollo

Arroz Con Pollo

Arroz con pollo, or rice with chicken, is another staple of Cuban cuisine. While the dish has a simple name, the complexity of the dish’s flavor profile tells a totally different story. The recipe for this dish can vary from one region to another, but they all agree on how delicious and flavorful it can be.

It’s a popular tradition for many Cubans to eat this one-pot dish on weekends. The dish includes a tomato sauce base that adds a delicious tangy twist that goes perfectly with the chicken and vegetables used in the dish.

Picadillo

Picadillo

Picadillo is another widely popular dish, enjoyed all over Cuba and other countries of the region. The traditional recipe of picadillo includes ground beef simmered in tomato sauce, which is typically seasoned with diced onions, garlic, and fragrant herbs.

The dish is known for its instantly recognizable aesthetic appeal, as it’s traditionally served with fluffy white rice in the same dish. However, when served, the rice and the juicy beef are separated in the middle, creating two half circles.

Vaca Frita

Vaca Frita

Vaca Frita or “fired cow” is another Cuban culinary gem, although it’s not much different from Ropa Vieja at first glance. The hearty dish mainly includes shredded beef that is first simmered in a flavorful broth using the same popular ingredients used in ropa vieja.

Yet, this dish stands out because it’s pan-fried after stewing, which makes it thick and incredibly tasteful. Vaca frita’s versatility allows you to pair it with a variety of side dishes, from traditional rice and black beans to mashed potatoes and Platanos Maduros.

Pulpeta

Pulpeta

If you like meatloaf, you’re going to enjoy this one, as the Pupleta is the Latin take on the American staple. One of the things that immediately stands out about Cuban meatloaf is that it includes hard-boiled eggs, which are cut into slices and incorporated into the meat mixture.

Like many other dishes in Cuban cuisine, Pulpeta is typically served with white rice and black beans along with a heavily seasoned tomato sauce.

Enchilado de Camarones

Enchilado de Camarones

If you’re in the mood for some Cuban seafood, you shouldn’t miss out on this one. Enchilado de Camarones is a popular Caribbean dish with widespread popularity all across Cubans, both inside and outside the country.

To prepare this delicious dish, you need the same delicious tomato sauce used in other recipes of Cuban cuisine. Boiled shrimp are then simmered into this delicious mixture to infuse the tangy, savory flavor into the tender meat and give it an outstanding taste.

Arroz Imperial

Arroz Imperial

Arroz Imperial is another Cuban all-time classic. The dish has a special place in the hearts of the locals because of its delicious flavor and simple preparation process. Imperial rice can be prepared with chicken, but the comfort food variety is sometimes prepared without any meat.

You typically prepare the dish by layering shredded chicken and melted cheese on top of yellow rice and mayo. You can also add some diced vegetables for extra flavor.

Lechon Asado

Lechon Asado

Lechon asado is a classic dish of roast pork, made with pork shoulder. This cut of meat is well-marbled with fat, which keeps the meat moist and flavorful as it cooks.

Before simmering the meat, the meat is marinated overnight in mojo salsa, which gives Lechon Asado its unique tangy flavor.

The meat is then slow-roasted in the oven for several hours until the meat is quite juicy and tender. The cooking time will vary depending on the size of the pork shoulder, but it is typically around 4 to 5 hours. While making lechon asado is time-consuming, the end results are well worth the wait.

Bread, Pastries, and Desserts

Bread, Pastries, and Desserts

Sugar production is one of the primary industries that support the Cuban economy, so it goes without saying that the country has plenty of sweet treats to enjoy throughout the day. Here’s a brief overview of some of the best desserts

Flan

Flan

Flan is a popular dessert enjoyed all across Cuba and neighboring countries. The delicious dessert includes a custard base, made with milk, sugar, eggs, and vanilla.

This custard is baked in a special metal mold to caramelize its base, which becomes its top when it’s flipped upside down.

As you can see, this one is fairly similar to crème caramel, except flan has a fairly larger diameter and a noticeably shorter base. It’s also typical for Cuban flan to add a small amount of sweet rum to the custard mixture.

Arroz con Leche

Arroz con Leche

This one translates to rice with milk. This iconic dessert is enjoyed in many regions of the world, but the Cuban version stands out for its special use of evaporated or condensed milk instead of milk. It can also include various toppings, such as coconut flakes and cinnamon sugar.

As a result, Cuban arroz con leche is known for its creamy, rich texture that makes it an incredibly rewarding dessert after lunch and an absolutely perfect pairing for anyone with a sweet tooth.

Pastelitos de Guayaba

Cuban pastry

Pastelitos de guayaba is one of the most addictive desserts in Cuba, and it’s common for locals to enjoy this delicious pastry for breakfast alongside a cup of coffee. The flaky puff pastry is typically filled with sweet guava paste, hence the name “guayaba”.

However, you can also find slightly savory versions of the delicious pastry, made with cheese. In that case, it would be called “pastelitos de queso”.

Churros

Churros

Although Churros are not originally Cuban and are enjoyed in many Latin countries as well as Spain, many people believe that Cuban street food stalls selling the delicious dessert are what made it as popular as it is today.

Cuban churros are usually thin, long, and typically served with chocolate dip.

Turrón

Turrón

Turrón is a widely popular confection that is fairly similar to nougat, although it’s different in terms of using honey rather than sugar.

The main ingredients of this dessert also include egg whites and nuts, mostly almonds. In Cuba, Turron is one of the most popular Christmas treats and loved by people of all ages.

Secret Recipe Tips for Cuban Food

Secret Recipe Tips for Cuban Food

One of the true powers of Cuban food is its simplicity, as you don’t need to be a professional chef to recreate many of the previously mentioned dishes at home. However, if you want to take your Cuban food skills to the next level, the following secret tips will have you covered.

Keep a Batch of Sofrito

Keep a Batch of Sofrito

Sofrito plays a pivotal role in Cuban cuisine, serving as a cornerstone ingredient in many traditional dishes, leaving its savory signature in countless Cuban dishes, such as picadillo, arroz con huevos frito, carne con papas, and many more.

Each region can have its unique sofrito recipe, but the most common ingredients include garlic, onion, pepper, tomatoes, and seasonings. These ingredients are finely chopped and cooked in olive oil to make a puree that you can add to other dishes.

Use Fresh Ingredients Instead of Commercial Alternatives

Use Fresh Ingredients Instead of Commercial Alternatives

Many companies offer commercial alternatives to homemade spices and even ready-made sofrito to add to your dishes. While these ingredients can save you some time while cooking, they don’t compare to the more complex flavor of fresh ingredients. Eating fresh also guarantees the maximum health benefits while eating the vegetable-rich dishes of Cuba.

Invest in a Quality Pressure Cooker

Invest in a Quality Pressure Cooker

As you’ve noticed from the dishes mentioned above, many Cuban dishes rely on heavily tenderized meat, such as ropa vieja, vaca frita, and lechon asado. Cooking these dishes can take as much as 4 to 5 hours, and even longer if you put marinating the meat overnight in mind.

While we’re big fans of savoring the cooking experience, investing in a pressure cooker is still a great way to save yourself a ton of time if you’re planning to try out multiple Cuban dishes.

Use Citrus Fruits and Olive Oil to Achieve Acid Balance

Use Citrus Fruits and Olive Oil to Achieve Acid Balance

One of the secrets of Cuban cuisine is striking the right balance when it comes to food acidity, as most dishes contain lime and lemon juice which goes perfectly with the sofrito mixture and blends well with tenderized meat. Luckily, you can optimize the level of acidity in your dish by adjusting the ratio between olive oil and citrus fruits.

Embrace the Use of Fruits as Ingredients

Embrace the Use of Fruits as Ingredients

While savory dishes often take center stage, fruits still play a remarkably versatile role in Cuban cooking. For example, plantains are used to make a wide range of delicious dishes, as they’re starchier and less sweet.

In addition to plantains, many other fruits are used for cooking in Cuba, such as papaya, pineapples, and mangoes, so don’t be afraid of experimenting with these delicious ingredients.

Beverages in Cuban Cuisine

Beverages in Cuban Cuisine

Although Cuban cuisine excels when it comes to food, it also boasts a remarkable variety of delicious beverages and drinks, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic. Let’s check out some of the iconic beverages that are originated in Cuba and enjoyed by people all over the world today.

Mojito

Mojito

Mojito is one of the most delicious punch cocktails, enjoyed in almost every bar around the world. The traditional Cuban perfectly captures the balance between sweet and tangy, with the main ingredients including rum, lime juice, club soda, and mint.

The exact origin and inventor of this widely successful cocktail has always been a matter of debate, but one thing almost everyone agrees on is that the mojito was first made in Havana, Cuba.

Cuba Libre

Cuba Libre

Cuba Libre is another popular Cuban cocktail, characterized by its high sugar content. In many places outside Cuba, the drink is simply known as “Rum and Coke”, which explains the two main ingredients of the drink, although some bars also add lime juice to the mix.

Café Cubano

Café Cubano

Cubans love coffee and consume it on a regular basis, but it’s typical for Cubans to enjoy coffee with plenty of sugar. The sugar is usually added to a few drops of the espresso shot and whipped rigorously to form a thick brown foam, followed by the rest of the shot.

Daiquiri

Daiquiri

Daiquiri is another popular cocktail that was created in Havana, Cuba. The delicious cocktail is made by shaking rum, sugar, and lime juice. Frozen varieties also include frozen fruit (especially strawberry) or crushed ice in the mix.

Cubanita

Cubanita

The Cubanita is a Bloody Mary variant but instead of vodka, it contains rum. The rest of the ingredients are kept as is, including lime juice, tomato juice, horseradish, Worcestershire sauce, and lime wedges.

El Presidente

El Presidente

Created in the early 20th century, El Presidente was named in honor of Mario García Menocal, who ruled the country during World War I. This all-alcohol cocktail is quite strong and shouldn’t be taken lightly, as it’s made from rum, dry vermouth, grenadine, and orange curaçao.

Batido de Trigo

Batido de Trigo

Although Cuba is mainly known for its delicious cocktails, it still has some decent entries in the non-alcoholic section. For example, the Cuban milkshake, also known as “Batido de Trigo”, is a popular local drink made from a mixture of whole milk, puffed wheat cereal, and sweetened evaporated milk.

Ingredients in Cuban Cuisine

Ingredients in Cuban Cuisine

One of the most appealing factors of Cuban cuisine is its unique yet flavorful taste, which is achieved by creating a special blend of ingredients in most recipes. In this section, we’ll show you the essential ingredients that you must have to create authentic Cuban dishes.

  • Rice: White rice is the basic ingredient in the vast majority of Cuban main dishes as well as some sweet desserts.
  • Tomatoes: Tomatoes are used extensively in Cuban cuisine. Tomato juice is also the base of sofrito, which is the primary element of many traditional recipes.
  • Onion and Garlic: The all-time classic combination gives Cuban food an outstanding flavor, which is why they’re present in technically every savory dish of Cuban cuisine.
  • Yuca: The local root vegetable is used as an ingredient in several dishes to make them more filling. Yucas are quite versatile and can be boiled, mashed, fried, and even baked.
  • Potatoes: Similar to yucas, potatoes are extremely abundant in Cuban cuisine and used in plenty of dishes to add both flavor and nutritional value.
  • Beans: Black beans are widely common in Cuba, and they’re arguably the most commonly used side dish to complement rice and meat.
  • Lemon and Limes: Since Cuban food isn’t particularly hot or spicy, most recipes rely on the acidity of citrus fruits to give dishes a tangy kick.
  • Plantains: The banana relative is a popular main ingredient in Cuban cuisine, as its versatility allows you to mash and fry them, which serves as an excellent side dish to main courses.

Herbs and Spices in Cuban Food

Herbs and Spices in Cuban Food

While Cuban cuisine utilizes a variety of unique ingredients, the true uniqueness of the Cuban flavor comes from the combination of herbs and spices used in traditional recipes. In this section, you’ll find a brief overview of the most popular herbs and spices in Cuban food.

  • Cumin: Cumin is a popular spice in Cuban food because it pairs perfectly with tomatoes and potatoes, which are two of the main ingredients of Cuban food.
  • Bay Leaf: It’s hard to find any stews or soups in Cuban cuisine that don’t rely on bay leaf to provide extra flavor and add complexity and depth to the main ingredients.
  • Oregano: This one is a must-have herb while cooking Cuban food because it’s typically used to make various seasoning mixes, such as adobo and sofrito. Oregano adds much-needed warmth to some flavor but with a subtle pungent kick that works well with meaty dishes.
  • Turmeric: While fluffy white rice is a common staple of Cuban food, there are plenty of recipes that are traditionally made with yellow rice, and that’s where turmeric comes into play. It adds a potent peppery hint to the flavor that doesn’t overpower other ingredients.
  • Cilantro: Cilantro (also known as Coriander in seed form) is one of the most commonly used herbs in Cuban seasoning mixes. They’re typically used in meat marinades and sprinkled on dishes for garnishing.

Cuban Food Culture

Cuban Food Culture

Despite the incredible variety of Cuban cuisine, it’s not limited to delicious dishes and beverages alone. In fact, the culture that surrounds food is almost equally important for locals. In this section, we’ll provide you with an in-depth look at Cuban eating habits, meal structure, and more.

Eating Habits

Eating Habits

Food is a central part of Cuban lifestyle and culture, which is why its cuisine has a reputation for being remarkably flavorful. Although most Cuban dishes are popular all over the region, the Cuban variety always has something special that makes it a fan-favorite among many people.

Cubans eat three main meals a day, with lunch being the heartiest and largest meal, typically eaten around noon. Unlike many nations that put a lot of emphasis on breakfast, Cubans typically prefer lighter breakfasts, mainly consisting of fruits, coffee, and a light sandwich.

Meal Structure

Meal Structure

As you can see from the dishes above, many Cuban meals are centered around a few essential ingredients. These include rice, beans, tomato/tomato sauce, and meat.

You can also notice plenty of popular vegetable choices while flavoring dishes, such as onions, carrots, yuca, potatoes, and plantains.

Since Cubans love to eat together, many appetizers and side dishes are usually present at the dining table during meal times. Food is usually accompanied or followed by drinks, whether it’s coffee in the morning or rum cocktails and juices after lunch.

Etiquette

Etiquette

Cubans are very hospitable people, and they love to share their food with others. However, if you’re in a Cuban household, you should only start eating after the host invites you to dig in, typically by saying “Buen provecho”.

Food is typically eaten with utensils, which have the same layout as other Western nations. Since food is enjoyed together, you should expect to pass dishes around, which is customary to go from right to left.

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