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How to Read a Cuban Menu, Spanish Cuban Food List

Updated on January 8, 2017
 ANNATO PODS Att By Rigues (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
ANNATO PODS Att By Rigues (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons | Source
Bread man Havana 1904 Att By Detroit Publishing Co. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Bread man Havana 1904 Att By Detroit Publishing Co. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons | Source
GUAVA  Att Rajesh_dangi at the English language Wikipedia [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-2.5-2.0-1.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
GUAVA Att Rajesh_dangi at the English language Wikipedia [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-2.5-2.0-1.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons | Source

Boniatillo. How to make this dish

Cuban Food Intro A thru B

Cuban food, history and restaurant dishes. For centuries Cuba has been at a crossroads in the Caribbean. Amerindians were indigenous to Cuba when Spanish Conquistadors arrived. Next settlers came from Spain and France with African slaves to work the sugar plantations and finally in the 1850s immigrants from China showed up.

Havana was a major port with Caribbean travelers from many parts of the world and all of these people played a part in developing Cuban culture and cuisine.

Even though Cuba was the first Spanish colony in the new world and the last one to achieve independence from Spain in 1898 the cuisine is much more of a fusion cuisine than that of Mexico which derives heavily from Spanish cooking.

What follows is a list of terms and dishes that you may come across in Cuban restaurants and homes and it points out some of the differences between Mexican and Cuban dishes.

This is far from complete and I welcome suggestions and corrections

See Bijol


A la Parrilla
Food that is grilled or barbequed.


See Bijol

Aporreado de Tasajo
Jerked beef that is shredded and stewed in tomato sauce.

From Columbia 2 slightly sweet corn pancakes, fried on a griddle with a thin layer of Swiss cheese between the two cakes.


Arroz con pollo
Chicken and Rice, One of the best known dishes from this part of the world this is browned chicken cooked in rice that is seasoned with saffron or Bijol, the rice is a bright yellow with tender pieces of bone in chicken.

Arroz con Leche
Sweet and creamy rice pudding flavored with cinnamon.


Batidos are Cuban shakes, sometimes made with ice cream, sometimes whole milk and crushed ice. Tropical fruit flavors sets them apart from ours:

batido de mango,
batido de fresa (strawberry),
batido de piña (pineapple),
batido de mamey (a unique fruit with a pale pink flesh see below)
batido de fruita bomba (papaya)
batido de trigo or wheat shake

Is a commercial name for "Annatto seed paste" or "Achiote" powder and it is used for coloring rice. It is used to replace the very expensive saffron in many recipes. Bijol does not taste like saffron, but it does have a flavor of its own that is recognizable in Cuban dishes. The flavor is described as "slightly sweet and peppery" Also used to color Cheddar cheese and some margarine. Bijol the company was founded in 1922 in Cuba and is still a leading provider of spices

Beef steak

Bistec Empanizado
Cuban-style "breaded" steak. Bread or cracker crumbs are used to coat the steak


Fried bread nuggets made with ground black-eyed peas.

Sweet potato.

Sweet potato pudding

Fried sweet puffs of dough with a sugary glaze (usually)

Cuban Food Demo

          Pastelles de Boniato  By Tamorlan (Own work) [CC-BY-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
Pastelles de Boniato By Tamorlan (Own work) [CC-BY-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons | Source
         Cassava Soaking Yuca Yucca by J. Stolfi, 2005.Andre Eiji Stolfi at en.wikipedia (Transferred from en.wikipedia) [GFDL (], from Wikimedia Commons
Cassava Soaking Yuca Yucca by J. Stolfi, 2005.Andre Eiji Stolfi at en.wikipedia (Transferred from en.wikipedia) [GFDL (], from Wikimedia Commons | Source
               PLANTAINS  By Daegis (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (], via Wikimedia Co
PLANTAINS By Daegis (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (], via Wikimedia Co | Source
                    Plantains frying in oil  by dozenist on October 28, 2006.
Plantains frying in oil by dozenist on October 28, 2006. | Source
              SOFRITO By Javier Lastras ( [CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
SOFRITO By Javier Lastras ( [CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons | Source
            POTATOES        By Avodrocc ( [CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
POTATOES By Avodrocc ( [CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons | Source
                      TAMALES By Luisfi (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
TAMALES By Luisfi (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons | Source

Cuban Food C thru G

Café Cubano
Espresso coffee Cuban style. Very strong, served in a tiny cup.

Cafe con leche

Cuban coffee with milk. Most places will serve a cup of steamed milk and a Cuban coffee.






Cassava bread

Heavy Spanish clay cooking pot like our casserole, this has a dense structure due to a unique firing method and it will hold heat at the table still simmering when you bring it into the dining room.


Chatinos See Tostones

Fried pork skins. Another type of chicharones isa thick slice of pork with skin, a layer of fat and meat.

This variety of green sauce is used as a marinade for grilled meats and as a dip for bread. It's made from finely chopped parsley, minced garlic, olive oil, vinegar, red pepper flakes and other seasonings according to the chef. There is also a red variety made with tomatoes. Not to be confused with Chimichurris (usually called "chimi") which are a sandwich made from a pork sausage and served in the Dominican Republic.

Sausage. The Cuban variety is a hard dry sausage flavored with garlic and a Paprika. There are many other varieties of Chorizo in Spain and Latin America including those that are fresh and cooked outside of the casing.

Thin cut steak, similar to the palomilla.

Tubes of fried dough like long donuts, the Cuban variety is frequently made with yuca.Served with sugar and cinnamon or with hot chocolate for breakfast.



Black beans and rice famous Cuban dish

Coconut cookies. like a Macaroon. You'll see them in most Cuban bakeries and markets.

Half Cuban coffee and half hot milk.

Croquettes: a filling of ground ham pork or other meat fried in a light batter.

Cuban Sandwich
Ham, Cuban roast pork, Swiss cheese and dill pickles served on Cuban bread. The sandwich is heated and
pressed flat in a sandwich press (plancha). In Tampa they would add salami to the sandwich, likely from the influence of the Italian neighborhood near Ibor City


Dulce de leche
Thick, caramel-like milk-based dessert sauce made by cooking condensed milk until it
caramelizes. (Or just cook milk with sugar).

Turnover filled with ham, beef, Picadillo, cheese, or other ingredients. May be made with
read or pastry, the name derives from the verb empanar: to coat or wrap with bread.

A stew made with fish or other seafood. In Spanish enchilada is the past participle of enchilar , to add chilies to something. Do not confuse with Enchilada: in Mexico a tortilla, that is filled and baked in a sauce.


Ensalada de Aguacate
Avocado salad.

Sugar is caramelized and poured into a ramekin then topped with a rich mixture of eggs milk and sugar and baked. Once baked, the caramel liquefies to create delicious syrup. Usually turned out on a plate so the syrup drips over the custard.

Frijoles Blancos
White beans, Navy Beans

Frijoles Negro
Black Beans
Cuban Black Bean Soup



Con coco rallado
with sweetened shredded coconut.

Typical of Spanish and Mediterranean cuisines fish is cooked then pickled


Frijoles Negro
Black beans are usually cooked into into a thick gravy with garlic and spices and served over rice with raw onions as a side dish.

Cuban ground meat sandwich (like our hamburger) which includes ground chorizo, ground pork and several spices, that vary depending on the cook. Served on Cuban bread and topped with shoestring potatoes

Fufú or Fufú de Platanos Verdes
Mashed plantains with garlic and a little lemon or lime. Usually with pieces of roast pork mashed together with it. Similar to "Mofongo" (a plantain mash from Puerto Rico and Dominican Republic

Fresh sugar cane juice. It has a very light flavor and is consumed chilled by many in the Cuban and Latin American communities.

Guava, used as a filling in cakes and pastries. and in Batidos. Guyaba (is the Dutch word for "white guava") is a small tree native to Central America. It's one of around 60 species of guava and is also known as "apple guava" and "yellow guava".

Cuban Food H thru R

Ice creams. Often made with tropical flavors such as Mamey, Mango, guava and coconut and used to make batidos


Leaves such as banana leaves for stuffing





Lechón Asado
Cuban pork roast, whether it's a whole pig or a fresh ham. The pork is marinated overnight in mojo sauce.


Lechuga y Tomate
Lettuce and tomato

Sweet plantain, sliced diagonally and sautéed. To be sweet the plantain needs to be very ripe.

Malanga - Yautia
Starchy root vegetable, actually a corm with many varieties.

Large brown fruit with sweet, pink colored body. Has a sweet flavor described as a combination of pumpkin, sweet potato, and maraschino cherries with the texture of an avocado.

Plantain Chips. These are plantains that are sliced extremely thin and deep fried like potato chips.

Masas de Puerco Fritas
Fied pork chunks. Seasoned with mojo sauce and usually served with onions.

Midnight.Is the Cuban sandwich made smaller with a sweeter bread similar to Challah.Named because it was often served in Havana's night clubs right around midnight.

Mojo (or mojito)
Marinade and sauce. It's made with olive oil, sour orange, garlic, onions and spices.

Moros y cristianos
"Moors and Christians," similar to frijoles negros, but the beans are cooked together with the rice. Also, Moors and Christians, is a set of festivals celebrated in many towns and cities of Spain, mainly in the southern Valencian Community


Pudding made of eggs milk and vanilla like a flan without the caramel syrup. Served elsewhere in Latin America in different recipes and maybe thickened with corn starch.

Is a yellow rice dish that originated in the Valencia region of Spain. Rice is cooked with wine, olive oil, onions, saffron (or Bijol) and spices then some combination of seafood, meat, poultry and chorizo (sausage) The Cubans added tomato and garlic to the recipe.

Thinly sliced steak often filet mignon. cooked with lime juice, garlic and onions.


Pan con Bistec
Cuban steak sandwich. The steak is very thin and prepared like a palomilla steak with lime juice, garlic and onions and served on Cuban bread.


Papas Fritas
French fries.

Snapper (fish)

Pasta de Guayaba
Guava paste.

Pastelles (Pastelitos)
Turnover pastries, flaky pastry with Cuban fillings: guava (guayaba), guava and cream cheese (guayaba y queso), cream cheese (queso), coconut (coco), ham (jamon) and meat (carne).

Cuban-style sautéed ground meat dish, it's beef, ground (or sometimes shredded), with tomato, green pepper, green olives or capers and of course, plenty of garlic sometimes raisins and almonds.



Pudin de Pan
Cuban bread pudding, very sweet


Obelisks of natural raw sugar, golden brown in color. This is used in cooking, originating as a way to transport sugar. Look for them at Cuban groceries, snack shops and walk up windows.

Cuban varieties of soda include: Jupina (pineapple), Sandia (watermelon) other tropical fruit flavors and Iron Beer.

Stuffed, such as Chilies rellenos

Ropa vieja
Means "old clothes”, shredded beef cooked with tomatoes, onions, garlic and green pepper.

Cuban Food S thru Z

Sofrito Is a combination of small cut ingredients that have been cooked in oil or fat to flavor a large group of foods. Use is much like the French use mirepoix. There may be as many versions of sofrito as there are cooks and it is used in Cuban, Cajun, Caribbean, Spanish and Mediterranean cuisines, to name just a few. Cuban sofrito is prepared by cooking onions, garlic, and green bell peppers and maybe tomatoes in lard with cumin, bay leaf and cilantro (coriander). This is by no means a complete list of ingredients or recipe and you will find many that disagree but you will find lots of ideas and recipes on the web.


Sopa de Platanos
Plantain soup with a chicken base.

Tamales is the plural form of tamal. Banana leaves stuffed with a cornmeal dough with meat and spices. Cuban tamales are not spicy hot and the meat is mixed in with the dough.

Dried beef like beef jerky here that's been rehydrated. It's usually put into a stew with tomatoes and spices.

Green plantains, sliced thick, flattened and fried, patted dry and flattened again, then fried again and served hot and salted.

In Cuba and other Caribbean countries tocino is made from pork fatback that has not been cured but is fried crunchy and added to other dishes.

Tocino Del Cielo
Means something like Heaven’s bacon or Heaven’s little pig but it has nothing to do with meat. It's a custard that is lighter than but very similar to flan.


Cuban French toast.

In Spain, South America, Cuba, and Puerto Rico, "tortilla" refers to an omelet, with variations that can include vegetables such as onions and potatoes.


Vaca Frita
Literally fried cow! Flank steak is simmered until tender then shredded like ropa vieja, seasoned and fried crispy served with caramelized onions.

See Malanga

Yuca Yucca
Cassava, Tapioca or Manioc
A staple root vegetable in Cuba and much of the world yucca is the third largest source of carbohydrates for people. Yucca is classed as sweet or bitter depending on the quantity of cyanide present (cyanogenic glucosides) and has to be processed by soaking, cooking or fermenting to become safe to eat. The most common preparation is with lemon and garlic.


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    • parduc profile image


      8 years ago from Kos island, Greece

      Great, very informative hub! Cubans give fantastic names to their food - I was not aware. Thanks for posting this, I voted up, useful, awesome!



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