cuban food to try

7 Traditional Cuban Dishes Everyone Needs To Try

With heavy influences from Spanish, African, Caribbean and Mexican cooking styles, Cuban food is unique and rich. Because of this, each dish is steeped in tradition and jam-packed with Latin flavour. Whether you are planning to visit the island or want to order from your local Cuban joint here are seven Cuban dishes you have to try.

Traditional Cuban Dishes Everyone Needs To Try

1. Ropa Vieja

Spanish for old clothes, ropa vieja is a Cuban favourite and often considered a national dish. This saucy dish consists of shredded beef that’s been slow-cooked in tomato sauce with peppers and onions. It’s simmered until it becomes stewey and served alongside fluffy white rice and plantains.

image: Papis Cuban Grill / Facebook

2. Vaca Frita

Without a doubt, the crispier, more tart cousin to ropa vieja is vaca frita. Beef strips are marinated in a copious amount of lime, salt and garlic and then seared to a crisp. It’s the perfect amount of juiciness and tenderness and goes perfect with a few cervezas.

Image: Paul Eats/Facebook

3. Flan

This creamy custard dessert is a favourite among Cubans and has been since it was adopted from the Spanish centuries ago. A firm cream of sugar, milk and eggs are covered in caramelised condensed milk that makes for the smoothest, sweetest dessert in the Caribbean.

4. Arroz con Pollo

Arroz con pollo or, chicken with rice is a humble yet tasty dinner that can be found all across Latin America. In Cuba, though, they make it their own with olives and loads of regional spices. Picture a paella without the seafood, and you’ve got arroz con pollo.

cuban food to try
image: Sweet Paul/Facebook

5. Costillitas

Imagine the juiciest, fall-off-the-bone baby back ribs smothered in sour and savoury spices, and you’ve got costillitas. These ribs are marinated in sour orange juice, lime, oregano, garlic and olive oil before being cooked low and slow all day. They are the definition of sweet and sour and a Cuban classic.

cuban food to try
image: Kuipers Parrilla/Facebook

6. Picadillo

Another humble and scrumptious dish is picadillo. Ground beef is mixed with garlic, onions, bell peppers and loads of spices before it is simmered on a low heat all day. Additionally, tomato sauce, wine, olives and raisins are added in to spruce it up as it stews. Once it’s ready it is served with white rice and a nice squeeze of lime.

Image: Yoanh Comida Cubana/Facebook

7. Yuca Con Mojo

Last but not least is yuca con mojo. Yuca is the root of the cassava plant and can be found all over the island. Steam it, fry it, bake it, mash it, either way, it is delicious and a Cuban staple. Yuca con mojo is marinated yuca with loads of garlic, lime and then smothered olive oil. Because of its versatility you can enjoy it as a side or make an entire meal out of it.

cuban food to try
image: Asi Somos/Facebook
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Melanie Hamilton
Melanie Hamilton

Melanie is an avid traveller with a passion for history and global foods. She is currently based in Tbilisi, Georgia where most of her time is occupied with qvevri wine and Soviet history. Having do-si-do'd her way across Europe and Latin America, she's enjoyed some of the world's most exciting places firsthand and can't wait to tell you about them.

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Sam Li
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I love the use of marinated beef in these dishes. Cuban food sounds like it sticks to various Spanish traditions. I’m not the best chef, so I’ll consider looking in my area for a specialized Cuban restaurant.