Top 25 Cuban Foods (Traditional Cuban Dishes) - Chef's Pencil (2023)

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by Yami Cabrera

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  • Central American Foods
Top 25 Cuban Foods (Traditional Cuban Dishes) - Chef's Pencil (1)

Surely you have tried a good Cuban sandwich, or a creamy and delicious Cuban-style flan. Well, those are just the tip of the iceberg of variety found in traditional Cuban cuisine.

There are so much attractions in Cuban culture and, without a doubt, food is one of them. Surprisingly simple and appetizing, Cuban recipes are hidden in a humble culinary style, far from many of the modern technological innovations.

The center of Cuban food is its intense and neutral flavor, a very well balanced taste that doesn´t know extremes. This excellent feature evokes the very nature of the Cuban people. A good Cuba dish is like the eternal joy and charm of its music, dance, and tropical nature.

Cuban food thrives on the same diversity as its culture. Its greatest influences are Spanish, African, indigenous, and other Caribbean cultures. This mixture of flavors is the most precious treasure of Cuban food.

A single Cuban dish contains a story and an unforgettable flavor. There are different versions of each Cuban recipe, always depending on the resources available. What we give you here are the 25 Cuban foods that you really need to experience.

1. Ropa Vieja (Old Clothes)

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Ropa vieja is possibly one of the most recognized Cuban recipes throughout the world. This dish is, apparently, an inheritance of the peninsular culture of the Spanish Canary Islands. The dish consists of previously boiled and shredded meat, cooked in a sauce with onion, bell peppers, bay leaves, and cumin, among other ingredients.

Beef is the meat used in this recipe, but it can also be done with pork or, in some rare cases, chicken. The key to this recipe is to highlight the flavor of the meat. Therefore, always be careful when boiling it. A secret: stew the meat in a good bean broth; this will give you a very special result.

2. Arroz y Frijoles Negros (Rice and Black Beans)

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Rice and black beans are an essential complement to Cuban dishes. Without them, it is impossible to have a good Cuban lunch or dinner. The rice and black beans always accompany the main dish such as Ropa vieja or Lechón asado.

The recipe is simple, but it takes time, especially the beans. No canning involved here. The special processing of these two products is the key to this dish. The key to the rice is to cook it till it falls apart. The beans should have a creamy, smooth texture like a stew.

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3. Arroz Moros y Cristianos (Moors and Christian Rice)

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The Moors and Christians are like this mix of rice and beans. This dish is considered part of Cuba’s African heritage. You can also find another version of this dish calledcongri. The only difference is the type of grain. Moors and Christian rice is made with black beans while red beans are used for congri.

The pre-processing of the black beans is about the same. It is important that the grain is soft before mixing with the rice. Once ready, both elements are combined and seasoned the same as black beans, with garlic, onion, bell peppers, and cumin.

4. Lechon Asado (Roast Pork)

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Roast Pork is one of the special dishes on Cuban holidays. In some cases, the process of roasting the pork starts from the rearing of the animal, and end when it reaches the necessary weight. Currently, this is very common in the Cuban countryside, mostly in the east.

Each Cuban family or restaurant has its own method and techniques for roasting the pork. However, something that doesn´t vary is the long cooking time, and mojo salsa. This quintessential Cuban sauce composed of garlic, seasonings, and vinegar is the secret to achieving the authentic flavor of roast pork.

5. Yuca con Mojo (Yucca con Mojo Salsa)

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Yucca with mojo is another dish always found at Cuban family celebrations. It is a simple and healthy dish usually offered as an appetizer. And that’s because given the high concentration of glucose in this tuber, it is not a good idea to eat it in large It is not recommended to eat in large quantities due to the high concentration of glucose caused by this tuber.

There are two different types of cooking for cassava with mojo: boiled and fried. However, in both cases it is necessary to boil the cassava to obtain a soft texture. After achieving the required texture, it only remains to add the mojo sauce, and sometimes pork rinds.

6. Sandwich Cubano (Cuban Sandwich)

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The Cuban sandwich is one of the most popular contributions of the Cuban American community to Cuban cuisine. This semi-hard bread is the base of two popular sandwiches: pan con lechón (roast pork), and the ham and cheese sandwich.

The Cuban sandwich is made up of ham, cheese, and roast pork. Afterwards, you just add some mustard, pickles, and sometimes mojo salsa.

7. Pan con Lechón (Roast Pork Sandwich)

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If you have ever visited Cuba, you will probably know what this next offering is. The tasty pan con lechón is a typical sandwich that you can buy in any Cuban cafeteria, as well as at small timbiriches (food stands) in the middle of the street.

Bread with roast pork is possibly the most popular sandwich on the island. The soft dough of the bread goes perfectly with the shredded pork, and its special mojo. You can also add tomato, lettuce, and pickles.

8. Arroz con Huevo Frito (Rice and Fried egg)

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Rice with fried eggs is a staple food in Cuban homes. This dish has been a bit denigrated for its simplicity and some describe it as food for low-income families. However, these are just stereotypes.

The truth is that Cubans love this dish, especially when a ripe banana is added. Fried egg and rice is as simple as its name. Its secret is hidden in the texture of the egg yolk. The yolk should be soft to cover the dryness of the rice.

9. Picadillo a la Habanera (Ground Beef)

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The ground beef a la habanera is an exquisite ground meat cooked over low heat with seasonings, tomato sauce, potatoes, and olives. This dish derives from Cuba´s Spanish heritage. Any type of meat can be used for its preparation, but the most common are beef, pork, chicken, and turkey.

This dish is an everyday meal for Cubans. It is regularly served with rice, fried ripe plantains, and, occasionally, beans.

10. Masas de CerdoFrita (Fried Pork Dough)

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Fried pork dough or masitas are another famous Cuban approach to cooking pork. The pork is diced and marinated in lime or sour orange and a little salt and then fried.

This type of fried pork is very common on a plate of authentic Cuban food throughout the island. It is generally served with mojo sauce and onion to soften the fried meat.

11. Tamal Cubano (Cuban Tamal)

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The tamale is a typical food of many places in Latin America, precisely because it is based on corn, which is a major agricultural product in this part of the world. However, each region or country has its own way of developing this recipe.

In Cuba you can find several variants of the tamales recipe that affect both the flavor and the texture of the corn. The flavor of the Cuban tamale ranges from sweet to seasoned meat and sauce. The texture depends on the cooking process: in sheets (solid) or in a casserole (thick or pasty soup). It is important to note that the leaf used to make the Cuban tamale is corn.

12. Vaca Frita (Fried Beef)

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Fried beef is a dish quite similar to Ropa Vieja and the preparation of the meat is practically the same. But, unlike Ropa Vieja, fried beef does not contain tomato sauce.

Boiled and shredded beef is marinated with a little lime or sour orange, and salt. Then it is fried with garlic and onion. A very simple and tasty recipe.

13. Plátano Maduro Frito (Fried Ripe Banana)

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The ripe banana is the most faithful companion to Cuban meals. It is a direct legacy of the African cultures that arrived on the island. The sweetness that it offers to each dish is very special to Cubans. The recipe is very simple. The banana is cut into slices and fried in hot oil. Sometimes a little salt and seasonings are sprinkled on top.

The best combinations of meals including fried ripe plantain are: rice, black beans, and some types of cooked meat; rice and fried egg; and rice and picadillo a la habanera.

14. Bistec de Cerdo Ancebollado (Pork Steak with Onions)

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The pork steak is seen as the Cuban version of a beef steak. Originally this term referred only to beef, but in Cuba it is applied to other meats such as pork or chicken.

Pork steak and onions, in particular, stands out as a Cuban favorite. The steak is generally thin and juicy. In addition, a little salt, garlic, onion and oregano are added.

15. Tostones o Chatinos

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Tostón or chatino is one of the most traditional Cuban starters. It is made with green or ripe banana. To prepare it, the banana is cut into round slices, fried, and then mashed with a mallet. Then they are fried again until golden brown.

This is the simplest and most basic recipe. Sometimes these tostones and accompanied by a sauce or dressing. Tostones can also be made with different fillings. You just shape it into a pot and fill it before frying.

16. Arroz amarillo Con Pollo (Yellow Rice with Chicken)

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Combined rice dishes are very popular on the Creole menu. They are generally offered for Sunday family gatherings and other celebrations. This dish is the simple version of the Spanish paella, easy to cook in large quantities. But despite its simplicity, it retains a very special flavor.

Yellow rice with chicken can have different textures depending on the cook’s taste. You can enjoy it dry and solid, or more liquid and soggy. This last, more liquid version is also known as arroz con pollo a la chorrera.

17. Arroz Imperial (Imperial Rice)

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Imperial rice is another of the famous Cuban recipes for combined rice. Like the arroz con pollo, this recipe includes colorings or tomato sauce, turning the rice yellow.

This type of rice dish contains various ingredients such as shredded chicken, fried ripe banana, mayonnaise, and bell peppers. All ingredients are prepared separately, then they come together forming a kind of rice cake.

18. Fufú de Plátano (Banana Fufu)

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Banana fufu is one of the few vegan dishes in Cuban cuisine. This healthy meal is made with boiled banana and a fried seasoning known as sofrito. The boiled banana is mashed with a fork and mixed with the sauce, creating a soft, semi-dry dough.

While it is generally vegan, fufu is also be a meat lover’s favorite. This delicious seasoned banana dough is often accompanied by fried pork skin known as chicharrones.

19. Fricasé de Pollo (Chicken Fricassee)

The chicken fricassee is another of the delicious dishes in which meat is accompanied with a tasty tomato sauce with seasonings. The chicken is cut into portions and marinated for a few hours with salt, crushed garlic, onion wheels, chili pepper, bay leaf, and sour orange juice.

Then the chicken pieces are browned in the hot butter or oil, the marinade with the onions, chili peppers, the well-crushed garlic, the bay leaf and the orange are added. To finish, add the tomato puree, dry wine, water, salt and pepper.

20. Enchilado de Camarones (Shrimp Enchilado)

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Another very versatile food that is part of the culinary tradition of Cuba is shrimp. It is an excellent ingredient like lobster. The truth is, while it is not very affordable for Cubans, it is very inexpensive for tourists.

It is said that shrimp enchilados cannot hide because of the aroma from the seasoning as it cooks. Preparing it is very easy, just a sauce of spices and tomato is enough.

21. Ajiaco Cubano

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The ajiaco is one of the emblematic dishes of Cuban cuisine, both for its flavor and for its cultural value. The wide variety of ingredients included represents the cultural diversity of the nation.

This dish consists of a thick broth made of vegetables, yucca, ripe banana, potato, pumpkin, pork, stir-fry, etc. The ajiaco is eaten very hot and brings together different types of meat and the typical Creole seasoning composed of garlic, chili and onion.It is simply irresistible.

22. Carne con Papa (Meat and Potatoes)

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This Cuban food is based on pork or beef. Spices, a rich tomato sauce, and potatoes cut into squares are added. In some places wine is added and in others beer. It is served with rice, fried or ripe plantains, and vegetables.

The truth is that there is no specific season to taste this Cuban dish, so you can try it in any traditional restaurant.

23. Arroz con Leche (Rice Pudding Dessert with Milk)

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Rice pudding is one of Cubans’ most coveted sweet rice recipes. You don’t need many ingredients to make this delicious dessert; it is simply rice, milk, sugar, and cinnamon.

This dessert is often homemade but can also be found in restaurants. It is generally served in round bowls and sprinkled with a little ground cinnamon.

24. Flan

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Flan de leche is possibly one of the most recognized Cuban desserts in the world. It is exquisite and you definitely need to taste it. It is prepared either plain or with added flavors such as coconut, pineapple, etc.

This flan is generally composed of several types of milk: evaporated, condensed and regular. The recipe also includes egg and sugar. The cooked sugar syrup is one of the special secrets of this dessert. It is generally added during and after cooking to seal the edges of the flan.

25. Casquitos de Guayaba (Little Guava Shells)

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Guava is one of the most internationally known Cuban fruits along with mango and mamey. It has multiple culinary uses, especially in desserts. Guava casquitos is a rich traditional dessert which is accompanied with regular cheese.

Its name is due to the shell shape of the guava. The seeds are scooped out of the fruit, leaving the shell-shaped flesh. the fruit is only cooked for a short time so it doesn’t get too soft. The syrup made with sugar is added afterwards.

Top 25 Cuban Foods (Traditional Cuban Dishes) - Chef's Pencil (27)

Yami Cabrera

Currently based in New Orleans, Yami is a Cuban freelance writer, musicologist, and entrepreneur. She has a B.A. in Musicology from the Instituto Superior de Arte, Havana, Cuba and music is her ultimate passion.

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FAQs

What is the most traditional Cuban food? ›

Ropa vieja is the national dish of Cuba, a hearty stew made with shredded beef, tomato sauce, onions, and peppers. The stew is traditionally served with yellow rice and a glass of cold beer on the side.

What are popular main dishes in Cuba? ›

One of the most popular entrees in Cuban cuisine is ropa vieja. This stewed shredded beef dish is slow cooked in fresh tomatoes, onions, peppers, garlic and wine to create a mouthwatering meal. And following its origins, the dish is accompanied by white rice, black beans and sweet plantains.

What is a traditional Cuban breakfast? ›

Cuba's is not a culture built on breakfast. To be fair, there is a traditional Cuban breakfast: café con leche and pan tostado (not quite cookies, but almost). Imagine the most delicious piece of toast you've ever had, and that is pan tostado—Cuban bread slathered in butter and pressed flat in an electric grill.

What do Cuban people eat for lunch? ›

Sandwiches and tamales serve as lunch for a Cuban on-the-go, including melted ham, roasted pork and cheese on white bread with pickles and mustard.

What is a traditional Cuban Christmas dinner? ›

As opposed to roasted turkey or honey ham, the centerpiece to any Cuban holiday meal is the whole roasted pig. And instead of stuffing and yams, Cubans delight in black beans and rice and garlicky yuca. Read on for a full menu of traditional Cuban food during the holidays with all the trimmings. To Drink.

What food is Havana known for? ›

  • Chiviricos (Fried Dough) Who doesn't like fried dough? ...
  • Goat Platter. Goat Platter or Fricasse de Carnero is popular in Havana. ...
  • Pan Con Bistec. This dish is torn between a satisfying snack and a great choice of dinner or lunch. ...
  • Empanada. ...
  • Ropa Vieja. ...
  • Tamal En Casuela. ...
  • Arroz con Pollo. ...
  • El Fufu de Platano Cubano.
23 Apr 2018

What is Cuba best known for? ›

Cuba is famous for its cigars, its rum made from sugar cane, its ladies, Salsa and other Cuban dance styles, Fidel Castro and Che Guevara, 1950s-era cars, Spanish-colonial architecture, Cuban National Ballet, Buena Vista Social Club and Guantanamo Bay.

What is typically Cuban? ›

The combination of flavorful, juicy pork, Swiss cheese, pickles, mustard, and Cuban bread makes this dish an undeniable hit.

What time is breakfast in Cuba? ›

Normally served between 7:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m., a typical Cuban breakfast might include a tostada (grilled Cuban bread) and café con leche (espresso coffee with warm milk). To eat like a local, break the tostada into pieces and dip them into the coffee.

What spices do Cubans use? ›

Spices: garlic, cumin, oregano, bay leaf, salt, pepper, and cilantro. These ingredients are used in virtually all savory Cuban cooking and are a must-have in your kitchen.

What is a Cuban tostada? ›

In Cuban cuisine, tostada refers to a slice of handmade Cuban bread, cut lengthwise, buttered, and pressed. The bread is similar to French bread or Italian bread and is usually made in long, baguette-like loaves. It is the Cuban equivalent of toast.

Do they eat horse in Cuba? ›

In Cuba, horse meat is a staple food, on par with chicken in the U.S., and many émigrés still long for horse soup and horse steaks.

What is the most common meat in Cuba? ›

Traditionally, Cubans are meat lovers and consume some type of meat at almost every meal. The most popular meat is pork, which usually is served as lechon asado (roast pork), masas de puerco (fried pork chunks), or as pan con lechon (in a sandwich) (Boswell and Curtis, 1984).

What do Cubans eat for Christmas Eve? ›

Traditionally, a Cuban Christmas Eve includes a full roast pig. Obviously that is slightly unrealistic for most families, so my Abuela compromises by making pernil, which is a roast pork shoulder. Pernil is the most tender pork you will ever eat. It's seasoned with salt, pepper, garlic and other herbs.

What do Cubans eat on Noche Buena? ›

The main course at any Cuban Noche Buena celebration is lechon (roast pork), black beans (frijoles negros), and rice. Yuca with mojito (yuca covered with mashed garlic, sauteed onions, lemon and oil), was always served. We usually had fried sweet plantains, and salad to finish off the main part of the meal.

What is a Cuban Thanksgiving? ›

Cuban Thanksgiving is an event unlike any other. It incorporates both the classic holiday of turkey and pumpkin pie with Cuban staples like flan and pork. It is an event that all can enjoy and overall is an amazing experience, regardless of one's background.

What is a typical Cuban dinner? ›

A typical meal consists of rice and beans, cooked together or apart. When cooked together the recipe is called "congri" or "Moros" or "Moros y Cristianos" (black beans and rice). If cooked separately it is called "arroz con frijoles" (rice with beans) or "arroz y frijoles" (rice and beans).

What time do they eat dinner in Cuba? ›

Dinner: 6pm to 7 pm

*the host or the server of the meal will always say "buen provecho!" meaning enjoy your food.

What are the 3 main products of Cuba? ›

Cuba's main imports are machinery, food and fuel products, while its major exports are refined fuels, sugar, tobacco, nickel and pharmaceuticals.

What is Cuba's nickname? ›

Cuba's formal name is La República de Cuba. The capital of Cuba is La Habana. Cuba's nickname is "Pearl of the Antilles." People in Cuba are called cubanos.

What items do Cubans need most? ›

Things to Bring to Cuba to Give Away as Gifts
  • Kids tooth brushes (fun stuff like Superman or Dora)
  • Tooth paste, mouthwash, floss.
  • Deodorant, antiperspirants.
  • Hair scrunchies — a lot of them. ...
  • Feminine hygiene products.
  • Vitamins — both adult and for kids.
  • Reading glasses, sunglasses.
14 Nov 2012

What is safe to eat in Cuba? ›

Eating raw or undercooked food is a serious health risk and should be avoided at all costs. Dishes containing beans and roots are typically safe to eat in Cuba since they need to be cooked anyway. Check out for bananas, yucca, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, frijoles negros (black beans), and other potajes.

What is a Cuban sandwich made of? ›

The sandwich is made with ham, (mojo) roasted pork, Swiss cheese, pickles, mustard, and sometimes salami on Cuban bread.

What races make up Cuba? ›

An autosomal study from 2014 found the genetic ancestry in Cuba to be 72% European, 20% African and 8% Amerindian. This study was of Cubans in Cuba, not the Cuban exile community in United States or other parts of the world, who may have different genetic profiles.

Is there a drinking age in Cuba? ›

The "legal" drinking age in Cuba is 16... Not that others don't get served in resorts, but at 16 you are considered an adult, and unless you specify, they will recieve an "old enough to drink" wristband.

What do Cuban men drink? ›

Top 10 traditional Cuban drinks
  • Daiquiri. Drink made with rum, ice (frappeado, or chopped), lemon juice and sugar. ...
  • Mojito. Drink made with rum, sparkling water, sugar, lemon juice, ice and mint. ...
  • Cuba Libre (Cubata) Is a cocktail made from a blend of rum and cola. ...
  • Piña Colada. ...
  • Cubanito. ...
  • President. ...
  • Saoco. ...
  • Cuban Ginger.

How do you say beer in Cuba? ›

When you're at the bar, you just say “Me gustaria un/a … por favor.” So if you want a beer, it would be “Me gustaria una cerveza por favor.” Many alcoholic drinks sound roughly the same in Spanish, so you're quite safe if you just ask for a whiskey or something along those lines (“Me gustaria un whiskey por favor”).

What are 3 cultural facts about Cuba? ›

8 Interesting and Little-Known Facts about Cuba
  • Christmas was banned for 30 years. ...
  • Cuba has one of the highest literacy rates in the world. ...
  • Dominoes is a national Cuban past-time. ...
  • Burning Rag Dolls is a New Year's Eve tradition. ...
  • Cuba is home to the smallest bird in the world. ...
  • Hitch-hiking is a common way of travelling.
7 Jun 2019

When was Christmas banned in Cuba? ›

Christmas was banned in Cuba from 1969 until 1998. The then Cuban leader, Fidel Castro, didn't want any religious celebrations. Christmas was made a public holiday again in 1998 in honor of the Pope visiting the country.

What is the average Cuban salary? ›

Wages in Cuba is expected to reach 1050.00 CUP/Month by the end of 2022, according to Trading Economics global macro models and analysts expectations. In the long-term, the Cuba Average Monthy Salary is projected to trend around 1050.00 CUP/Month in 2023, according to our econometric models.

What is Cuba best known for? ›

Cuba is famous for its cigars, its rum made from sugar cane, its ladies, Salsa and other Cuban dance styles, Fidel Castro and Che Guevara, 1950s-era cars, Spanish-colonial architecture, Cuban National Ballet, Buena Vista Social Club and Guantanamo Bay.

How is Cuban food different than Mexican? ›

Cuban food, while flavorful, is less spicy than Mexican food and is rarely fried. The focus is on seafood, with mahi-mahi ceviche being a common dish. Plantains and tropical fruits are often served with meals.

What food is Havana known for? ›

  • Chiviricos (Fried Dough) Who doesn't like fried dough? ...
  • Goat Platter. Goat Platter or Fricasse de Carnero is popular in Havana. ...
  • Pan Con Bistec. This dish is torn between a satisfying snack and a great choice of dinner or lunch. ...
  • Empanada. ...
  • Ropa Vieja. ...
  • Tamal En Casuela. ...
  • Arroz con Pollo. ...
  • El Fufu de Platano Cubano.
23 Apr 2018

What are the 3 main products of Cuba? ›

Cuba's main imports are machinery, food and fuel products, while its major exports are refined fuels, sugar, tobacco, nickel and pharmaceuticals.

What is Cuba's nickname? ›

Cuba's formal name is La República de Cuba. The capital of Cuba is La Habana. Cuba's nickname is "Pearl of the Antilles." People in Cuba are called cubanos.

What items do Cubans need most? ›

Things to Bring to Cuba to Give Away as Gifts
  • Kids tooth brushes (fun stuff like Superman or Dora)
  • Tooth paste, mouthwash, floss.
  • Deodorant, antiperspirants.
  • Hair scrunchies — a lot of them. ...
  • Feminine hygiene products.
  • Vitamins — both adult and for kids.
  • Reading glasses, sunglasses.
14 Nov 2012

How do you say hello in Cuba? ›

1. Greetings. You probably already know that “Hola” is the Spanish word for hello. This is quite sufficient for greeting someone in Cuba, since it's a fairly informal society.

What is Christmas called in Cuba? ›

Christmas in Cuba is celebrated on Noche Buena, or Christmas Eve. The traditional meal is a whole suckling pig prepared in a backyard oven, and the party is huge.

Do they eat spicy food in Cuba? ›

While you'll often be able to eat simply prepared, good food in Cuba, Cuban cuisine is generally not a gastronomic delight. Spices are not really used in cooking, and most Cubans have a distaste for hot, spicy food altogether.

Is Cuban food spicy? ›

Why is Cuban food not spicy? Unlike Mexican cuisine, Cuban food is not spicy because it's a mix of Spanish, African, and other Caribbean cuisines. Chilies are not even grown in Cuba which is why 'heat' has never really been a key ingredient in Cuban cuisine. Cuban food is not bland though.

Do Cubans have tacos? ›

Last I checked, tacos aren't part of traditional Cuban faire – although my family does love them – I have a slew of recipes that use leftover taco meat. Cubans have their own dishes, like picadillo, ropa vieja, and pan con bistec.

What is a typical Cuban dinner? ›

A typical meal consists of rice and beans, cooked together or apart. When cooked together the recipe is called "congri" or "Moros" or "Moros y Cristianos" (black beans and rice). If cooked separately it is called "arroz con frijoles" (rice with beans) or "arroz y frijoles" (rice and beans).

What time is dinner in Cuba? ›

Dinner: 6pm to 7 pm

*the host or the server of the meal will always say "buen provecho!" meaning enjoy your food.

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