Since the Castro government of 1959, food in Cuba has taken a downturn due to food shortages. The best food tends to be found at tourist hotels, followed by the paladares (privately owned restaurants) and then the Cuban restaurants which are government owned.


Spain and Africa have provided the most influence on Cuban food but there is also a notable influence from French, Portuguese Arabic and Chinese palates. The main flavours used for spicing food up are garlic, onion, cumin, lemon and oregano. Sauces are not typical in cuban cuisine, but the mojo accompaniment to many meats and root vegetables adds a good zing to your meal. See Mojo recipe

Typical ingredients used are rice, beans, yucca, plantain, citrus fruits, pork (more so than other meats and fish), tomatoes, avocadoes, potatoes and tubers.

Some visitors will be surprised to see how un-American the food in Cuba is and how many renowned fast food outlets do not have branches in Cuba. There are however a number of bakeries which offer French style bread, turnovers and pastries which are enjoyed as snacks and Havana has a small chinatown area for when your taste buds fancy a change.


Cubans start their day in the same way as many around the world, with a café con leche (white coffee) and a tostada (toasted bread).

Lunch is usually an empanada or other type of sandwich and dinner is usually meat with rice, beans and fried plantain. Sometimes fish is eaten instead of meat, although meat and poultry tends to be the popular preference and a salad is not uncommon.

When cooking Cuban dishes, flavours will always differ slightly as for main dishes Cubans do not use exact measurements for ingredients.

Some of the typical food in Cuba includes:-

  • Arroz con Quimbombo Rice with meat and okra
  • Boliche Beef steak with chorizo in a red wine, garlic, tomato and pepper sauce
  • Cuban Sandwich A beef sandwich with a number of other fillings, served hot (the sandwich varies depending on location and food availability)
  • Croquetas Chicken, ham or fish mixed in a thick flour bechamel and coated in breadcrumbs. Deep fried and served hot
  • Moros y Cristianos 'Moors and Christians' or beans and rice as it is also known is literally beans and rice and one of the most typical Cuban dishes. See Moros y Cristianos recipe
  • Picadillo Shredded meat cooked in onion and garlic with a hint of tomato and white wine
  • Ropa Vieja Not 'old clothes', but slow cooked shredded beef stew, with onions, peppers and plenty of seasoning
  • Sofrito A thick tomato based sauce with onions, garlic, oregano and peppers. Usually served as an accompaniment or used as a marinade
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