What to Eat in Cuba: 8 Dishes That Prove Cuban Food is Delicious

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Article written by: Rebecca
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Wondering what Cuban food is like? Here are my favourite dishes to try when you visit.

Before we went to Cuba, everyone warned us about Cuban food.

“It’s terrible,” they said. “You’re only going to eat rice and beans and chicken.”

“Cuba is not a destination for food,” others said. “You’re not going to eat anything worth writing home about.”

Maybe it was because I’d arrived with lowered expectations and half-imagining I’d be hungry throughout our trip, but I didn’t find the tasteless food that people described to me. Instead, I found a delightful fusion of Spanish, African and Caribbean flavours, with delicious local ingredients that had me saying, “Más, por favor!”

Here are some of my favourite Cuban foods that we tried during our visit.

1. Congrí / Moros y Cristianos

I’m not usually a fan of rice and beans, but the Cubans have done something pretty amazing with theirs.

Congri is a classic Cuban side dish made from black beans and rice cooked with garlic and green peppers. A similar dish is Moros y Cristianos (which literally translates to Moors and Christians, alluding to the historical roots of the dish), where the beans and rice are cooked separately and then combined.

Flavoured with cumin and garlic and all sorts of other goodness, these dishes are usually served as a side with most dishes in Cuba.

A plate featuring a serving of Cuban roast pork, topped with sautéed onions, accompanied by white rice, black beans, and sweet fried plantains.

2. Seafood

With Cuba being an island, it’s no surprise that seafood plays a big role in the local cuisine.

One thing we easily found in Havana and Trinidad was fresh seafood at incredible prices. There were many days where fresh lobster and prawns were on our plates for both lunch and dinner.

In Havana, one of our favourite restaurants was San Cristóbal Paladar. Located in Centro Habana, we stumbled through the restaurant door just as they were about to shut up, close to starving after our journey from Trinidad back to Havana. They kindly seated us and we feasted on an enormous tasting plate and fresh (interestingly plated) seafood.

This is one restaurant that can’t be missed in Havana – but a reservation is highly recommended.

3. Cuban snacks

Cuba doesn’t have the street food scene of, say, Mexico, but it is easy to find popular Cuban snacks as you wander around.

I developed a slight obsession for the pizzas that were sold out of the windows of cafeterias in Havana. These cafeterias seemed to be the living rooms of people’s houses and hygiene may have been questionable, but that didn’t stop me munching on the bread-plate-sized, crispy-bottomed pizzas topped with plenty of melted cheese.

A close-up of a Cuban "pizza" topped with melted cheese and tomato sauce, held in two hands.

Another favourite were the ice creams we snacked on in the afternoon in Havana: fruit-flavoured ice cream sandwiched between two pieces of sugar-sprinkled sponge.

A person holding a slice of Cuban ice cream sandwich, showing the fluffy, light pink ice cream sandwiched between two layers of sponge cake.

4. Tostones

Tostones – twice-fried plantain chips – were the perfect accompaniment for an afternoon of people watching from the comfort of a bar. Make sure they’re crispy on the outside, soft inside and liberally sprinkled with salt. These golden discs of deliciousness are the perfect side dish or snack.

A white plate filled with fried plantain chips (or tostones), seasoned lightly with salt, set against a colorful background of a picture of a tomato and green pepper.

5. Ropa Vieja

Ropa vieja has to be Cuba’s national dish. This savoury delight features shredded beef cooked in a tomato-based sauce with bell peppers, onions and garlic. The name translates to “old clothes,” but don’t let the name put you off – it’s a hearty and flavourful dish that you’ll want to eat again and again.

A dish of Ropa Vieja, a traditional Cuban shredded beef stew with bell peppers and onions, served with a side of yellow rice and fried plantains.

6. Lechón Asado

Lechón Asado is the star of any Cuban feast. This roasted pork is marinated in “mojo,” a tangy blend of garlic, sour orange juice and spices, then slow-cooked to perfection. The result? Tender, juicy pork with a crispy skin that’s to die for. It’s often served at celebrations and family gatherings, but you can also find it on some restaurant menus.

7. Hearty breakfasts 

For around CUC$5 (US$5) any casa particular will provide breakfast, and we usually ended up stuffed after an amazing spread of bread, honey or homemade jams, eggs, tea and strong Cuban coffee, and a fresh fruit platter. It had been a long time since I’d tasted pineapple and papaya that was so sweet and flavourful.

A breakfast plate featuring an assortment of fresh fruits and vegetables, including a whole banana, slices of guava, diced papaya, and pineapple arranged decoratively.

8. Rum cocktails

You can’t come to Cuba and not try the local liquid treasure – the country’s legendary rum cocktails. Whether it’s a classic Mojito, a refreshing Daiquiri or a minty Havana Special, Cuban cocktails are the perfect way to savour the island’s laid-back vibe.

Mojitos were usually the order of the day, but my husband was also not embarrassed to be seen sipping a creamy piña colada.

Two tall glasses of mojito, a traditional Cuban cocktail, garnished with mint leaves and lime wedges, each with a colourful straw, on a table with a woven top.

Wrap up: Cuban food

The moral of the story? Don’t listen to anyone who tells you Cuban food isn’t good. There’s a rich culinary history in this country that combines a number of different cuisines – and results in some memorable dining experiences. In Cuba, food is made with love and shared with family and friends, so don’t be shy about trying new dishes – you won’t regret it.

Did you find this article helpful? Consider buying me a coffee as a way to say thanks!

Have you been to Cuba? What did you think of Cuban food? What was your favourite eating experience?

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I'm a travel junkie who started dreaming about seeing the world from a very young age. I've visited more than 40 countries and have a Master of International Sustainable Tourism Management. A former expat, I've lived in Australia, Papua New Guinea, Argentina and the United States. I share travel resources, tips and stories based on my personal experiences, and my goal is to make travel planning just that bit easier.

2 thoughts on “What to Eat in Cuba: 8 Dishes That Prove Cuban Food is Delicious”

  1. Can you believe after 11 months being here I still haven’t been to San Cristobal? But it’s on my to do list for this month. As well as finding that ice cream sandwich because I’d kill for one.


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