What Do Cubans Eat?

Maybe you’ve got an upcoming trip to Cuba and are researching the island, or perhaps you just wish to learn more about Cuban culture, but either way, you’re here today because you’re curious about the types of food the Cuban people eat.

Well, Cuban food is a cuisine unlike any other.

What Do Cubans Eat

This is probably due to the many influences from different cultures. There is definitely an influence from the Caribbean islands, but you’ll also find similarities to Spanish, French, Portuguese, Chinese, and African cuisine. 

Many of the meals are often slow-cooked for hours and infused with many herbs and spices, so not only does the food taste delicious but it’s also filled with key nutrients while still being low in saturated fats or sugar. 

So what are the main staples that you’ll find in Cuban meals? Keep reading to find out. 

Popular Staples In Cuban Food

Plantains And Root Crops

Pick any Cuban meal and you’ll almost certainly find plantain or a root crop in your meal. To the locals, they are called ‘viandas’ and this includes plantain and root crops including yams, yucca, and sweet potatoes.

Plantains are very popular in Cuba, this is partly due to how readily available they are, but they are also a fantastic source of potassium, fiber, vitamin C, and niacin.

Sweet potatoes and the like are a  great way to get some fiber and vitamin A. Boniato and Malanga are also very predominant in Cuban cuisine, if you haven’t heard of them before they are very similar to a potato. 

Rice And Beans

The locals in Cuba will probably eat rice in some form for pretty much most meals every day, and this is usually accompanied by some variation of bean.

You’ll often find mung beans, chickpeas, as well as red or black beans beside any popular rice meal. Beans are a great source of both protein and fiber.

One of the most popular dishes in Cuba that features these food items is Congri which blends rice and beans with sofrito.

Sofrito is a delicious mix of onions, garlic, and tomatoes which will give the meal that extra kick of flavor. You should definitely try this meal if you get the chance, it’s authentic Cuban food that tastes amazing. 

Pork And Fish

When it comes to meat, the two most popular options are certainly pork and fish. In fact, most of a Cuban’s protein comes from pork.

One of the favorite ways for the pork to be prepared is for the meat to be flattened and then topped with cheese and ham, and finally rolled up.

Pork is also often served in a delicious sauce that comprises of oil, paprika, cumin, and garlic. 

With such easy access to the ocean, it also probably comes as no surprise that fish is also a popular choice for Cubans. You’ll often find Cubans tucking into canned sardines or some mackerel. 

You will also find that chicken is sometimes eaten, but it’s not as popular as pork or fish as it’s not as easily accessible as the other meats. 

Miscellaneous

There are also many other food items and groups that the Cubans enjoy. Of course, everyone has heard of the Cuban Sandwich – it’s a classic.

But just in case you haven’t heard of it before, it’s juicy pork, ham, swiss cheese, mustard, and pickles packed into two fresh slices of bread. Yum!  

There is a lot of fresh fruit on the island, so it would be impossible to list all the fruit that is consumed by the locals. However, I will mention a few of the most popular.

Papaya, pineapple, mango, and grapefruit are some of the most common choices that you’ll find are consumed daily.

The fruit in Cuba is mouth-watering and since there isn’t much to any use of pesticides it’s almost always organic fruit too. You’ll definitely have to try some for yourself and see how it compares. 

Then of course, with all this food you’ll probably want something to wash it all down with. Calling all coffee lovers – coffee with sugar is one of the most popular drinks you’ll find in Cuba.

However, if you aren’t looking for a caffeine fix then you can always opt for a Malta which is a mix of barley, hops, water, and condensed milk. And then there are always plenty of cocktail options in Cuba if you’re hoping for a slightly boozier option. 

Cuba’s National Food Dish

Cuba’s National Food Dish

Ropa Vieja

If you really want to live as the locals do during your visit to Cuba, it would almost be rude to leave without trying Ropa Vieja, Cuba’s national dish.

What does this meal consist of? It’s a stewed shredded beef dish that is slow-cooked. It usually is made with onions, peppers, tomatoes, garlic, and wine.

You can even decide to go all out and accompany the meal with rice, black beans, and sweet plantains to get the full authentic experience. This meal, I can not state this enough, is absolutely delicious so be sure to give it a try during your stay. 

Final Thoughts

There are plenty of delicious options for food while you’re in Cuba and most of it is really healthy, which is always an added bonus.

Cuban food takes a lot of influence from its Caribbean neighbouring islands but due to its influences from countries like France and Spain, you’ll tend to find that it’s not accompanied by that hot spicy kick as much as you would get from other Caribbean places such as Jamaica. 

But what sounded the most enticing to you? Is it Cuba’s national slow-cooked dish, or perhaps you prefer the sound of the super-fresh organic fruit, or maybe Cuba’s Congri sounds the tastiest?

Whichever meals you try while visiting, I’m certain that you’ll come away both happy and satisfied with this unique and authentic cuisine.

Jim Stanton
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