The Flavors And Heritage Of Traditional Cuban Cuisine

Cuban cuisine has been influenced by its surrounding neighbors.

The Flavors and Heritage of Traditional Cuban Cuisine

Hence, you will notice that the flavors and heritage of Cuban cuisine has a huge Spanish and Caribbean influences.

Some Cuban recipes have similar techniques to those used in Spanish or African cooking, yet some spices used are inspired by Caribbean cooking.

As a result, you will find that Cuban cuisine is a mixture of several cuisines. 

We are going to discuss all the different flavors and heritage of traditional Cuban cuisine.

Read on to gain a deeper understanding of the kind of cuisine you may come across if you ever go to visit Cuba. 

Cuban Cuisine History

Due to Cuba being colonized by Spain, the main influence on Cuban cuisine is Spain.

However, other notable influences are the indigenous people from Cuba known as the Taino people.

Additionally, Africa has had an influence on Cuban cuisine due to African slaves being brought to Cuba.

There is sometimes a French influence for some of Cuban dishes, and this is due to French colonists that made their way to Cuba from Haiti. 

It is important to note that Cuba is an island, therefore their traditional cuisine is influenced by what they have around them.

Therefore, seafood plays a big part in their diet. While also due to the climate of Cuba, this also has a massive impact on the type of cuisine available throughout Cuba.

Due to having a very tropical climate, there are particular fruits and vegetables that are commonly seen in Cuban meals. 

The following are some of the most popular flavors and dishes that you will come across in traditional Cuban cuisine. 

Beans And Rice

As mentioned before, traditional Cuban cuisine is making use of what you have around you.

In Cuba, a really popular dish that you will often see offered is rice and beans.

This is used as a side dish to the majority of Cuban dishes. This is because there are always sufficient amounts, and it is seen as a comfort meal. 

Normally, white rice and black beans are paired together, and offered in quite large portions.

Rice and beans is a common dish you will find in Cuba.

It can be served with fish or a range of meats such as chicken or beef. It can also be served plainly by itself. 


Plantains are another popular ingredient and flavor that you will find used in Cuba.

This ingredient has a similar flavor and texture to a banana.

Commonly, you will find plantain is fried to create a salty taste, or they can be stewed to become much sweeter. 

A popular starter that you will see in Cuba is fried plantain, which is then stuffed with anything.

Traditional Cuban Cuisine - Beans And Rice

For example, they can be stuffed with mushrooms or shrimp or beef. 

Mojo Criollo

Mojo Criollo is a great example of African influences in Cuban cuisine.

A lot of African influences are on the spices and sauces used in Cuban dishes. 

You will see that mojo criollo is one of the most consumed sauces in Cuba.

It is typically made with oil, sour orange juice and garlic. It can be used to prepare meats such as pork or chicken. 

Ropa Vieja

When it comes to meals you will see served in Cuba, one of the most popular ones is the ropa vieja.

This is a traditional-stewed beef dish, where the beef is cooked slowly for a long time and then shredded.

In addition to that, the beef is cooked with garlic, wine, onions, peppers and tomatoes. 

This dish is then served with a classic side of rice and beans and plantain to create a hearty and warming dish, which also tastes incredible. 


As mentioned above Cuba is an island therefore they have an abundance of seafood that is commonly seen in their cuisine.

In any restaurant you go to, you will always find multiple fresh fish dishes to choose from.

This could be a simple garlic flavored shrimp served in a wine sauce or a mahi filet marinated in a mojo criollo sauce. 

Traditional Cuban Cuisine - Ropa Vieja

It’s worth noting that when you are looking at menus in Cuba when it says pescado, this is referring to fish.

Yet when it says camarones this means shrimp and gambas are speaking about jumbo shrimp that are usually served in their shells. 

Cuban Sandwich

A staple in Cuba is the Cuban mix sandwich. This is usually made using ham, roast pork, pickles, Swiss cheese and mustard that is then pressed between two pieces of crusty Cuban bread. 

This is a sandwich that is loved by a lot of people.

There will be different variations of this sandwich that people will try to replicate all over the world, however, only in Cuba will you find the true Cuban sandwich being made properly. 

The most important thing about this sandwich is the bread and the pork.

The pork is a staple meat that is used in Cuban cuisine, while the bread has a similar texture to a French baguette, however, it is a lot fluffier and lighter.

The Cuban bread is created using a small amount of lard, which helps to give it a unique texture that also makes it different to a French baguette. 


Cuba has their own kind of coffee, which is different from the coffee that you have at home.

You can easily drink this coffee without milk, yet it doesn’t need any additional sweeteners.

Traditional Cuban Cuisine - Cuban Sandwich

On its own, Cuban coffee is extremely sweet and strong. Any coffee lovers out there, need to try Cuban coffee. 

This coffee can be drunk, or it can be used in various sweet dishes, to add sweetness, and that strong coffee flavor. 


When a lot of people think of Cuba, they will think of the rum that they produce.

The rum that is produced in Cub is made using their own sugar as well. Rum has deep roots in Cuba and its culture. 

A lot of alcoholic beverages made in Cuba will use rum in some way.

Some of the more popular uses include rum punch with tropical fruits that are also grown in the country, and mojitos that are created using sugar and mint leaves and rum. 

Final Thoughts

The cuisine of Cuba is influenced by a lot of other cuisines that have been brought to Cuba.

This means there are French, African, Spanish and Caribbean influences on Cuban cuisine.

However, there are particular dishes and flavors that are unique to the cuisine of Cuba such as rum, tropical fruits, coffee and rice and beans. 

Traditional Cuban cuisine uses what the Cubans have available to them.

Thus, in a lot of Cuban restaurants you will find a lot of seafood being served alongside rice and beans.

This is because seafood, beans and rice are all in abundance in Cuba. 

We hope this article has been insightful. Now, you should have a better understanding of the flavors and heritage that is found in traditional Cuban cuisine. 

Jim Stanton
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