By Carl Hanson

Just 100 miles off the Florida coast yet a world away, Cuba is a land of history and mystery, all of which is revealed in its incomparable cuisine. More mild than wild, Cuban cuisine relies on somewhat muted spices and lengthy simmering to build flavor. Let's take a look at some top Cuban recipes.

Cuban Fusion

Spanish colonialism, the slave trade and Cuba's Caribbean neighbors influenced the development of Cuban cuisine. Here, hot chilies are eschewed in favor of milder spices like cumin, oregano and bay leaves. Meats (pork and beef) slow-simmer in Spanish sofrito sauces.

"There are many variations of picadillo," says lutzflcat. "This is a savory and traditional Cuban home-cooked meal with ingredients that are readily available in any supermarket. Do not omit wine, as it's really important to the flavor of this dish. Serve with garlic and onion white rice, black beans, and fried ripe plantains. Garnish with strips of ham and roasted red pepper."

Seasoned ground beef with pimento-stuffed green olives and red bell peppers in a yellow bowl
Photo by lutzflcat

"This is great shredded beef served on tortillas or over rice," says Kate Phillips Masterson. "Add sour cream, cheese, and fresh cilantro on the side."

Cuban Ropa Vieja
Photo by Kathryn Burns

"An old fashioned Cuban dish, with tender succulent meat and potatoes bursting with flavors," says HEATHERMUNOZ. "It is definitely a pleaser for any meat and potatoes fan."

Carne Con Papas
Photo by Erika Isabel

Moros y Cristianos

Black beans and rice is a Cuban staple. The dish is called moros y cristianos (Moors and Christians). This is most likely a cheeky reference to how Moors and Christians came to live together after the Moors conquered the Iberian Peninsula in the 8th century.

"This recipe makes a delicious side dish when paired with yellow rice," says Catherine McCann Shelton.

Cuban-Style Black Beans
Photo by France C.

"Originally this came from a Cuban friend, but I've since doctored it quite a bit," says William C. Smith. "This dish is hearty and a meal in itself. By adding more meat, beans, and rice, you can feed a large group of people. You might want to add more spice as well."

Cubanos Frijoles
Photo by cookinmana

"Yellow rice is a staple in the Caribbean because of its beautiful color and flavor," says Mombabe. "Being Cuban, our household often served yellow rice. It's traditional to garnish yellow rice with pimentos, but I don't like them so I don't. Serve yellow rice with Cuban-style roast pork, or add cooked chicken pieces while cooking the rice to make Arroz con Pollo."

Cuban-Style Yellow Rice
Photo by lutzflcat

Popular Puerco

The popularity of pork in Cuban cuisine has long historical roots. Forward-thinking Spanish explorers purposefully let pigs loose upon islands of the Caribbean to ensure that a ready, plentiful food supply would greet future expeditions. The pig population quickly exploded.

This Cuban sandwich is piled high with ham, roast pork loin, Swiss cheese, and dill pickles, then toasted to warm and crunchy perfection.

Cuban Sandwich
Cuban Sandwich | Photo by Meredith

"Black beans and rice are the logical accompaniment to this hearty pork roast," says Christine L. "A salad of orange slices, red onion and arugula dressed with a tangy cilantro vinaigrette would be refreshing. If there are any leftovers, make media noches, the Cuban sandwiches that are made with Swiss cheese, ham and toasted egg bread in addition to roast pork."

"This is a popular Cuban pork dish known as Lechon Asado," says ZIBBLER. "My version is a shortcut. The pork is simmered in a broth until tender, then shredded. It's traditionally served with black beans and rice."

Explore our complete collection of Cuban Recipes.