Cuban Foods

Traditional Cuban foods are a mixture of Spanish, Caribbean and African cuisines to make their own unique taste. If you are visiting Cuba, make sure you try at least a couple of these popular Cuban dishes.

Black Bean Soup

The exact recipe for black bean soup varies around the island, but the typical version is made with black beans cooked in vegetable or chicken broth. It’s cooked until the beans are very soft, then seasoned with bay, garlic, onions and cumin. Sometimes the entire soup is pureed and served smooth, more more often it’s left with whole beans in it. If you want to make your own Cuban black bean soup, there are some easy recipes to try.

Cuban food and cuisine

One of the many tasty dishes in Cuban food, black bean soup

Arroz con Pollo

Arroz con Pollo is a dish of Spanish origin, and is seen a lot around Cuba. It’s simply rice cooked with chicken. Seasonings for the chicken usually include oregano, cumin, onion and garlic. Cooked with the rice are tomatoes, roasted red peppers, peas and sometimes olives. To make authentic Arroz con Pollo, you would use Valencia rice, or Arborio. Some versions use saffron to color the rice yellow, but in Cuba its more common to add annatto seed oil.


You’ll find croquetas popular as a snack or finger food around Cuba. They’re little rolls of deep-fried flour with a filling of meat. Pork or ham is the usual filling for croquetas, but you can find them with beef, chicken or even cheese. The meat inside is minced fairly finely, which makes it a great way to use up leftover scraps so nothing goes to waste. They are usually eaten with the fingers, but you can also use them as a crunchy sandwich filling.


Picadillo is a has made from finely minced meat (usually beef) and spiced up with plenty of onions, garlic, cumin, oregano and peppers. There is usually a tomato base to the dish, and some regions even add raisins for a unique taste. It’s almost always served along side rice and black beans. Picadillo also makes a tasty filling for other Cuban foods like papas rellenas or empanadas.


Wrapped in corn husks, tamales are a common dish in Cuba. Inside, they are filled with a corn meal dough and pork or chicken filling. They’re boiled until the insides are cooked and firm. Tamales can come in many varieties, sometimes with vegetables or spicy jalapeno peppers inside. You can get them from street food vendors for a snack, or they can make up the main course of a meal. If its your first time eating tamales, make sure to take the husks off. You don’t eat them.

Cuban foods and recipes

Plate of tamales

Other examples of popular Cuban foods are:

  • Plantains – Very similar to a banana, these starchy “fruits” are used in many dishes just like potatoes.
  • Ropa Vieja – Thinly shredded beef cooked in tomato sauce and usually served with rice or beans.
  • Cuban sandwiches – A grilled sandwich with layers of sliced pork, ham, mustard, Swiss cheese and dill pickles.

At the end of a Cuban meal, you might have fresh fruit or one of many traditional Cuban desserts, like rum custard cream.

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