In the mood for some ethnic home-style cooking? Try authentic Cuban food. More than food for hunger, Cuban food tastes like the celebration of life.
From generation to generation, Cuban mamas and abuelas have passed down culinary traditions that were influenced by African, Spanish, Asian, and Caribbean cuisine. Anything but bland, you'll find a common use of spices to make simple ingredients sensational and sofritos to add complexity. Meats are typically slow roasted, fish is in abundance, and there's plenty of rum to wash it all down.
Out of love of their flavorful cuisine, we rounded up 10 traditional Cuban recipes so you can get a taste of the island in your own kitchen. Grab your spices because your in for a real treat.
Picadillo is a rich and flavorful ground beef Cuban dish perfect for when you're in the mood for something hearty. This recipe starts by browning beef with cumin, onion, garlic, bay leaf and oregano. Bell peppers are added to the mix and it's all simmered with tomato sauce, white wine, olives and raisins. Once all the flavors develop, it's served on a bed of white rice.
2. Ropa Vieja
We can't talk Cuban food without mentioning the national dish, ropa vieja. Spanish for "old clothes", this recipe tastes like anything but seconds. It's hearty as stew, flavorful as chili, and easy enough for anyone to make.
To prepare, cook skirt steak in a pressure cooker or crockpot with stock and bay leaves. Top that with a red sauce consisting of tomato puree, cooking wine, sauteed onions and bell peppers, garlic cloves, and spices. Then pair it with either white rice, fried plantains, black beans or all three.
3. Huevos Habanero
If you're one to like your eggs spicy hot, you are going to go crazy for this recipe. A spicy sofrito gets help from a habanero pepper, then is topped with cheese and an egg. Once the egg is set it's breakfast time.
This isn't just a ham and cheese sandwich, it's a Cuban sandwich. Like all things Cuban, even their sandwiches are bursting with flavor.
To make one right, do what this recipe does and spread butter on a soft baguette then grill it. Next you'll need to slather it in mustard and pile it high with mojo marinated pork, browned ham, Swiss cheese, and dill pickles. Hold on, you're not done! Now brush the whole thing with butter and grill each side or toss it in the panini press. Okay, now you can bite in.
5. Arroz Con Pollo
Even a typical Cuban chicken and rice dish is bursting with flavor. And, it can all be made in one pot! With a list of ingredients a mile long, it may be intimidating to make this recipe at first. But after the first go around you'll realize there's really nothing to it. A little bit of ground cumin here, some oregano there, perfectly marinated chicken, and a flavorful bed of rice and you'll be whipping up a comforting home cooked meal that will do the Cubans proud.
6. Frijoles Negros (Black Beans)
In Cuba, you'll find black beans often accompany every dish and this is the recipe that does it right. To start, Black beans are cooked with bay leaves until they reach a tender consistency. They're then mixed with a sofrito of garlic, onions, bell peppers, and spices, and a little bit of apple cider vinegar for acidity. Flavorful and tender to the fork, a bowl of these tasty beans can be eaten as a side dish or added to any meal in need of some heartiness.
7. Cuban Mojo Shrimp
Mojo criollo is a traditional Cuban marinade that can be used on a variety of meats, but tastes especially fresh when paired with succulent shrimp. Made from sour orange, fresh garlic, and oil, give this mojo sauce and shrimp recipe a try. After the shrimp marinates for about 15 minutes, give them a quick sear and top them on a salad or enjoy all by their lonesome.
8. Yuca con Mojo
Another Cuabn mojo favorite is smothering it on yuca. Not to be confused with yucca, yuca is the root of the cassava plant. It's flavor is similar to that of a potato and a staple side dish in Cuban cooking. Try it in this tasty recipe covered in a citrusy mojo sauce
9. Cuban Bread
In order to make the perfect sandwich you've got to have fresh bread. And the Cubans have just the recipe. Similar to French bread, it has one particular ingredient making it extra special, lard. Use anything else and it wouldn't be the same.
10. Maduros (Fried Sweet Plantains)
Breakfast, lunch, dinner, or dessert, fried plantains are a staple. They make a great side dish alongside black beans and rice and are tasty when sprinkled with some sugar. Just be sure when you make them the plantains are super ripefor the best results.