Eating in Cuba : Cuban Food and Drinks (2020 Update)

In this article, you will learn everything about food and drinks in Cuba. You will discover what are the best dishes, drinks, desserts, as well as tips for eating in restaurants and locallySo if you plan to travel to Cuba, you will love this new guide.Let’s dive in
cuban food

Table of Contents

Eating in Cuba FAQ

What is Cuban Food ? (480/mois)

Is cuban food spicy ?

Cubans like to season their food with “sofrito”, a sauce made with tomatoes, garlic, onion, oregano and pepper, which flavors many of their dishes.

What food do Cuban people eat

Is Cuban Food healthy ?

Inspired by the tropics, Cuban cuisine uses some of the typical ingredients that go into most local dishes: black beans, rice, spices and meat.

Can I drink the tap water ?

The water is theoretically drinkable, but we recommend that you don’t drink the tap water. Try to buy closed bottles, your stomach will thank you and you will avoid possible indigestions.

Cuba is a place with typical dishes and a rich gastronomy. For a relatively small country, Cuba has an abundance of culinary delights, even if the vagaries of rationing and state-run restaurants can overshadow its dynamic potential.

A good example is the cuisine of eastern Cuba, which borrows generously from African and Caribbean culinary traditions for its use of coconut, chocolate, honey, annatto seeds and other spices. Cuban cuisine uses fresh ingredients prepared simply, often in stews, soups and sandwiches. Meats are roasted slowly until they fall tender.

 

History of Cuban Food

It can be said that the basis of Cuban gastronomy is Spanish cuisine, since its food has brought an infinity of ingredients and the way to prepare them, but due to the difficulty of obtaining some of the ingredients of typical Spanish dishes in Cuba, the Creoles have gradually introduced new indigenous elements.

Cuban cuisine has also been influenced by African cuisine and comes from the time of slavery, when the cooks themselves were slaves.

These influences greatly affected the way dishes were prepared and also brought new ingredients, such as yams.

Cuba has received thousands of Chinese immigrants, who have also contributed to Cuban gastronomy.

In this case, the most important element of their contributions was the jinx.

All these influences have provided Cuban cuisine with its own unique identity in the world.

How much does food cost in Cuba

Here is a list to get you an idea :

  • Pizza : 0,2 Cuc
  • Main dish 3-12 cuc.
  • Main dish with seafood 8 -20 cuc.
  • Pasta 3-7 cuc.
  • Drinks 1-3 cuc.
  • Cocktails 1,5-3 cuc.
  • Street soda cans and mineral water cost 1-1.5 cuc.

Tips for Eating like a local in Cuba 

Eating in Cuba is very economical if you go off the tourist circuit.

One way to eat cheaply is to eat in the street cafes, which are more frequented by Cubans.

Try to choose places where prices are in CUP, it’s hard to find them in Old Havana, but if you go out of the area there is a great offer.

If you want to taste traditional Cuban cuisine, there’s nothing better than staying in a Cuban home!

3 main options for eating in Cuba

1. Ventanitas

 The “ventanitas” Are no more and no less than private persons who serve their dishes through the window (hence the name).

This is the best option if you want to eat cheaply although, of course, the food is usually simple and basic.

You’ll find everything from hamburgers to rice dishes with chicken or pizza.

Average budget per person :  1 euro per plate

2. National Restaurants

The national restaurants are those run by the government, more expensive than the small windows, but still have very competitive prices.

Average budget per person: 2-4 $

3. Paladares

The “Paladares” are what we could define as privately managed restaurants, whose price rises quite a bit with respect to the previous options (although the quality of the food and the quantity on offer also rise).

The truth is that this is where you eat best, although of course… quality is paid for, for 7-10 euros you eat perfectly.

 

So where to eat in Cuba ? 

  • Ventanitas are perfect for breakfast and snacks (and some fast food)
  • National restaurants are best to eat well and cheaply (although be prepared to wait since the service is slow),
  • Paladares are perfect to stick a little whim once in a while. 

Breakfast

What does cuban food consist of

Pork is undoubtedly the most popular meat in Cuba and appears in many local dishes. The island’s pork meat is of better quality than beef. There are several types of preparation for pork: cooked, fried or grilled. From the pig meat, one can prepare the lechon asado.

This typical Cuban dish is prepared with black beans cooked with white rice. The black beans are stuffed with meat, usually marinated pork. Garlic, oregano and sour orange are also added to the recipe. It should be noted that rice and black beans are among the basic ingredients of the Cuban population. You will find them all over the island, and at a good price.

Best Dishes in Cuba

One of the things to do in Cuba is certainly to taste some of the island’s traditional dishes!

Ropa vieja

This Creole dish is usually reserved for special occasions and consists of long-cooked filamentous beef in a special broth, accompanied with a sauce of tomato, onion, olives, garlic, salt and pepper and served with rice You can easily find it in restaurants.

The plantain banana

The plantain banana is a fruit that is eaten like a vegetable. It is served fried, very often in slices, and serves as an accompaniment to main dishes. If the slices are thin, they are called mariquitas; when cut into thicker slices, they are called tostones.

Vaca frita

A recipe very similar to the previous one, but with the use of fewer ingredients: the fried cow is shredded beef that is seasoned with salt, lemon is added and it is cooked with a garlic and onion frying. It has no sauce, unlike old clothes, and is eaten with rice and/or patacones (fried plantains).

Moros y Cristianos

Inexpensive, this dish consists of white rice and black beans, whose colours inspired the name of the recipe since it literally means “Moors and Christians”. Its version with red beans and meat is called “congri”, the basic dish of Cuban cuisine. It is especially used to accompany meats.

Arroz con pollo

This chicken rice is a popular and easy to find dish in Cuba. Its speciality lies in the spices that accompany the meat and rice, as it is usually accompanied by cumin, saffron, olive oil and oregano, but also by tomatoes and sometimes even peas, for a complete meal.

Crocodile meat

Not very commercialised, fans will have to go as far as Guamá or Giron to find some. The taste would be quite similar to that of veal, and it can be cooked, for example, with a spicy pineapple sauce.

Papas Rellenas

These appetizers are made from mashed potatoes, rolled into a small ball in egg and breadcrumbs. They are sometimes filled with meat and peppers, as well as garlic and onions. They can be found on most Cuban tables at mealtime.

Lobster

Cuban lobsters are quite famous, you can find them in most restaurants, prepared in various ways. They can be spicy and spicy, or cooked with sofrito, but it is said that the best ones are eaten right after fishing, grilled with a simple lemon fillet. The best would be to try it in a private house

Please note: lobster fishing is highly regulated and is not possible during the breeding season.

Ajiaco

In Cuba we only ate it once, but when we traveled to Colombia we swelled up like chili! And it is delicious! It is a soup prepared with meat (in Cuba they use mainly beef and pork), corn, yucca, potatoes, green bananas, guasca, avocado, lime and spices (cumin, pepper, chili and salt).

Picadillo a la criolla

Another of the typical Cuban dishes you have to try before you go. It is prepared with minced beef and pork minced beef stewed in onions, tomato, pepper, garlic and spices. Usually accompanied by white rice and black beans and fried plantains.And often ingredients such as olives, wine or raisins can be added. It is also known as “picadillo a la cubana” or “picadillo a la habanera” but they are all the same dish.

Cuban-Style Stuffed Pineapple

Pineapples are Cuba’s favourite fruit: they are found in sauces, spiced or stuffed with minced meat. In the latter case, beef and ham are added, as well as butter and sugar during cooking, for exotic sweet/savoury flavours.

Yucca with mojo

Yucca with mojo is a traditional Cuban dish, simple to prepare but with a very tasty result. The yucca is boiled and the mojo is prepared with olive oil, lime juice, salt and garlic. It is usually ordered as an accompaniment to other dishes or to share, almost never as a single dish (although if you are a vegetarian it can save you a nice meal).

Tasajo Cuban style: dry and prepared meat. It is served with an abundant sauce.

Tamal in a seafood casserole: a stew of tamal and seafood with a seasoned sauce.

Lechon asado

This is a very well known dish in Cuba. Lechon asado is a spit-roasted pig, cooked until the skin is crispy. You may even be able to see a pig roasting in one of the food stalls. If you like, you can try fried pork rind alone – it’s called “chicharrones”. Lechon asado is often served with a sauce called mojo, made with garlic, spices, oil, onion and a small amount of bitter orange or lime juice.

In Cuba, lechon asado is a typical dish for celebrations. Several times, a whole pig is cooked in the ground and covered with banana leaves. It is a tradition and a feast. In addition, they often roast the pig in a specially designed box called porcelain.

Street Food

Cuban Sandwich

Sandwiches are never missing from Cuban windows, but if you want to try the unique and authentic Cuban sandwich, watch out for the ingredients: Cuban bread, roast pork, sweet ham, mustard, Swiss cheese and pickles in brine. Die!

Pizzas

Empanadillas

 

Cuban Drinks

Cuba is a paradise for cocktails. Here the famous mojitos, rum collins, daiquirís and filtered pineapple are consumed daily.

and Rum is the basis of most alcoholic beverage, including the famous Mojito, Daiquirís or Cuba Libre (based on rum and coca).

Cuban Rum

World famous the Rum is almost a religion in Cuba.

There are a large number of brands of rum, each of them even has different ranges and qualities.

The best known are :

  • Havana Club
  • Ron Matusalén
  • Bacardi
  • Ron V.C.
  • Ron Bucanero
  • Paticruzado
  • Ron Santiago de Cuba.
  • Ron Legendario.
  • Ron Mulata.
  • Ron Caribbean Club.
  • Ron Varadero.
  • Ron Cubay.

Santiago Rum, 15 years old, has a great reputation and is mainly found in the city of Santiago de Cuba.

The meeting of rum with fruits gives rise to very delicious drinks, and in Cuba these liqueurs are not only for consumption, but can also be used as a seasoning for Macedonian and other fruit salads.

 

As far as non-alcoholic drinks are concerned, the best is Tropi-Cola, a variant of Coca-Cola and much sweeter. Other common refreshments on the island are lemon or orange soda “Cachito” and Caracas malt, originally from Venezuela.

Cocktails

Cuba is a paradise for cocktails. Here the famous mojitos, rum collins, daiquirís are consumed daily.

Beers

 Try the local beers: the Cristal is very good, as well as the Bucanero

Cuban Coffee

Cuban coffee is really thick and concentrated. It is served in small quantities and without sugar.

Juices

Cuba is also known for its excellent juices and exotic fruit juices. Beer juice, based on vesou and coconut water are the most popular on the island.

Soda

the best is Tropi-Cola, a variant of Coca-Cola and much sweeter. Other common refreshments on the island are lemon or orange soda “Cachito” and Caracas malt, originally from Venezuela. 

Desserts

Cuban Flan

It is a popular Cuban dessert, generally made from eggs and condensed milk, creamy and tender, served with vanilla, lemon or cinnamon aromas.

Although there may be slight variations from one place to another.

What is clear is that it is one of the most loved desserts, by locals and tourists alike.

Coppelia’s ice cream

Ice creams in Cuba are delicious and you can’t leave the island without tasting Coppelia’s ice cream.

Very popular, you will often see long queues, but it’s worth it. They are also incredibly cheap.  

 

Fruits

Specialties by region

A tour in Cuba will allow you to taste the local specialties of each of these regions.

Trinidad

Canchánchara 

Creole drink, which is not served in jícara, as in other centuries, but in an earthenware vessel, which harmonizes with the drink, prepared from sugar cane brandy, honey and lemon juice. The canchánchara was drunk by the mambises of the Cuban Liberation Army during their fight against the Spanish metropolis in the 19th century, to minimize the effects of the cold or to protect themselves from the various respiratory diseases in times of war, a tradition that still survives in the village.

Baracoa : 

Where to Eat in Cuba ? 4 top recommendations

To eat in Cuba as a local, you have to go to paladares, restaurants set up and run by a family in their own home.

Quite common in Cuba’s big cities and typical villages, paladares are the ideal place to discover the culinary traditions of this Caribbean country.

#1 – Taberna La Botija

In a quiet corner of Trinidad, a town in the province of Sancti Spíritus in Cuba, is La Taberna La Botija, a small picturesque tavern with a colonial accent.

A la carte, meat, fish, but also a variety of tapas based on local recipes are offered for those with a small appetite and those who wish to discover a variety of dishes.

What do we order? The lobster grilled on the embers, the signature dish of La Taberna.

You also come here for its good cocktails, such as the Mojito or the Piña Colada, Cuban classics, but also for its local wines that you must absolutely taste.

In the evenings, you can attend a concert by a group of young Cubans or salsa singers, just to let off steam on the dance floor.

Address: Amargura 71-B | esq. Boca, Trinidad 62600, Cuba

#2 – La Guarida
To eat in Cuba as a local, you have to go to paladares, family houses turned into restaurants.

The Guarida is a perfect example. In this paladar in Havana, there are rows of restaurant tables in a large living room. On the menu? Cuban gastronomic dishes: red beans, white rice, marinated chicken fillets… all finely presented and revisited.

For the little anecdote, the restaurant La Guarida was used as the setting for the Cuban film Fresa y Chocolate, nominated for an Oscar in 1995.

And for the perfect Cuban experience, you go up to the beautifully appointed terrace to enjoy a good cigar accompanied by a mojito.

The perfect Cuban rooftop to enjoy your stay.

Address : 418 Concordia, La Habana, Cuba

#3 – Atelier

Atelier is another paladar to eat in Cuba as a local.

Just a few steps from the Malecón promenade, Atelier is an intimate and discreet place where you can eat traditional Cuban dishes such as picadillos, grilled lobsters or a succulent Ropa Vieja, made from long-cooked filamentous beef in a special broth, accompanied by Cuban sauces and flavours.

In the kitchen, chef Michael Calvo draws inspiration from the family recipes of his childhood and regularly changes his menu according to seasonal products and available ingredients.

Address: Paseo Y 2, Vedado, 5ta, La Habana, Cuba

#4 – Otra Manera

Otra Manera is another paladar that pushes the limits of gastronomy in Cuba.

This typical family home is distinguished by its modern and vintage decoration.

The menu changes according to the seasons and the mood of the lady of the house, who knows perfectly her local clientele, its demands and tastes.

In a cocoon of intimacy and an exceptional setting, you can have lunch or dinner at ease while savouring a modern cuisine strongly inspired by Cuban tradition.

To take full advantage of the sun and summer temperatures, we sit on the green terrace, like a small private garden, far from the noise and crowds.

Address: Restaurante Otramanera, 1810 Avenida 35, La Habana, Cuba

Section 11

Your Turn

Now I’d like to hear from you :

What is your favourite dish in this list ?

Or maybe I didn’t mention one of your favorite dishes ?

Either way let me know by leaving a comment below

now its your turn

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