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19 Cuban Recipes That Deserve A Spot In Your Kitchen Rotation

I'll take two of everything.

Cuban Recipes Everyone Needs To Try
Charlotte Gomez / BuzzFeed

Cuba is the largest island in the Caribbean — and it's home to some of the best food and drinks in the world. 🇨🇺

Its cuisine mixes flavor-packed Hispanic and Creole influences and churns out favorites like savory ropa vieja and picadillo, plus drinks and desserts like classic mojitos and tres leches cake. Here's a sampling of some of the best Cuban recipes and dishes you can make at home!

1. Fricase de Pollo

A plate of fricase de pollo with white rice and fresh herbs.

This chicken stew packs a ton of flavor thanks to its mojo marinade (a garlic and citrus masterpiece) and a tomato and white wine-based sauce. The recipe calls for store-bought mojo marinade, but if you want to make your own — or can't find it at your local store — all you need to do is mince a ton of garlic, chop some oregano and jalapeños, and mix it all with orange, lemon, and lime juice.

Get the recipe: Fricase de Pollo

2. Cuban Beef Empanadas

Armando Rafael /

Empanadas are a staple food all throughout Latin America. This classic Cuban version is filled with picadillo – a highly customizable (and highly delicious) ground-beef filling.

Get the recipe: Cuban Beef Empanadas

3. Ropa Vieja

A bowl of ropa vieja served over rice.
Bobbi Lin /

This beauty is one of the most emblematic dishes of Cuba. Ropa vieja literally means "old clothes" but there is nothing old or sad about this specialty: A shredded beef stew cooked in a tomato and bell pepper sauce, with a little help from some white wine and spices, like paprika and cumin, for extra flavor.

Get the recipe: Ropa Vieja

4. Cuban Sandwich (Cubano) by El Cochinito

A Cuban sandwich sliced and plated.

This sandwich might be one of the first specialties that comes to mind when people think about Cuban food, but Cubanos as we know them were likely born in Florida, as a lunch for Cubans working in the tobacco industry in Key West and Tampa. All that really matters though, is that it makes for a ridiculously satisfying and yummy meal.

Get the recipe: Cuban Sandwich (Cubano) by El Cochinito

5. Cuba Libre

A Cuba libre cocktail garnished with lime.
Roger Kamholz /

With its name ("free Cuba") dating back all the way to the Spanish-American War and Cuba's independence, the Cuba Libre is a piece of Cuban history in a glass. It's also a better version of a standard rum and coke, with a pop of lime and a dash of Angostura bitters added to the mix.

Get the recipe: Cuba Libre

6. Cuban Coffee (Cafecito)

Two cups of Cuban coffee.
Guy Ambrosino /

Cafecito is a kind of sweetened espresso shot that's a staple of Cuban lifestyle. To get the full experience, prepare it in a moka pot and share it with friends and loved ones.

Get the recipe: Cuban Coffee

7. Enchilado de Camarones

A plate of enchilado de camarones served over white rice.

Also known as Cuban shrimp Creole in English, enchilado de camarones is a quick and satisfying meal, ready in about 35 minutes. Shrimps are simmered in a sauce made with tomato, garlic, green bell peppers, white wine, and green olives.

Get the recipe: Enchilado de Camarones

8. Daiquiri

A glass of daiquiri.
David Lebovitz /

A love letter to great rum, a daiquiri only requires a few ingredients: rum, lime juice, and simple syrup. And if you want to make your own simple syrup, the recipe includes a step-by-step for that as well.

Get the recipe: Daiquiri

9. Torticas de Morón

A sheet of torticas de moron.

These are basically Cuban shortbread cookies. Originating from the city of Morón in central Cuba, they're an all-time favorite you can serve with coffee or as an afternoon snack. This recipe tops them with a guava paste and cream cheese spread that takes the classic to a whole new level.

Get the recipe: Torticas de Morón

10. Arroz Congri

A plate of arroz congri with a side of plantains.

Congri is a close sibling to Moros y Cristianos, which is what the combination of white rice and blacks beans is called on the island. The name is a nod to the war between the Muslim Moors (Moros) and the Christians (Cristianos) that took place in Portugal and Spain in the Middle Ages. Congri adds sautéed bell peppers and bits of bacon to the traditional combo for even more deliciousness.

Get the recipe: Arroz Congri

11. Picadillo

A pan of picadillo.

Picadillo — the flavorful ground-beef filling for Cuban empanadas — can also been eaten on its own, or served over rice as a main dish. It's pretty low effort, ready in under 40 minutes, and you can customize it with whatever ingredients you have on hand.

Get the recipe: Picadillo

12. Carne con Papas

A bowl of carne con papas

A hearty staple of Cuban family cooking, carne con papas is a beef stew, served with potatoes, and flavored with paprika, cumin, tomato sauce, and beef stock.

Get the recipe: Carne con Papas

13. Tres Leches Cake

A slice of tres leches cake

A classic throughout Latin America, tres leches cake owes its name to the use of three types of milk in its recipe: whole milk, sweetened condensed milk, and evaporated milk. They're poured over a warm sponge cake for an extra moist and decadent result. This version also tops the cake with a meringue icing.

Get the recipe: Tres Leches Cake

14. Mojito

A glass of mojito
Tara Donne /

Cubans truly are the kings and queens of cocktails — and arguably none of them is more refreshing and synonymous of summer than the classic mojito. All you need is mint, white rum, lime juice, simple syrup, and club soda.

Get the recipe: Mojito

15. Pastelitos de Guayaba

Pastelitos de guayaba con queso are a specialty of Cuban bakeries. They're hand-held puff pastry pies filled with guava paste and cheese. What more could you need in life??

Get the recipe: Pastelitos de Guayaba

16. Arroz con Pollo

A pan of arroz con pollo

This Cuban comfort food classic is the perfect dish for a rainy day dinner. The chicken and rice are cooked together in one pot and simmered in chicken stock, tomato sauce, and plenty of spices.

Get the recipe: Arroz con Pollo

17. Papas Rellenas

These are potato balls filled with picadillo and then deep fried for extra decadence. Sign me up!

Get the recipe: Papas Rellenas

18. Quick Cuban Black Beans

A bowl of quick Cuban black beans

Ready in under 30 minutes, this side packs a ton of flavor without many ingredients (black beans, onion, green bell pepper, garlic, and a few spices) or much effort.

Get the recipe: Quick Cuban Black Beans

19. El Presidente

A glass of El Presidente
David Lebovitz /

El Presidente has been called "the Martini of Cuba". An elegant and perfectly balanced cocktail, it mixes golden rum and vermouth blanc with triple sec (an orange-flavored liqueur) and grenadine. The perfect way to feel extra fancy from the comfort of your home.

Get the recipe: El Presidente

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Charlotte Gomez / BuzzFeed