Chef John's Cuban Bread


This Cuban bread recipe uses lard and a double hit of yeast plus a fermented starter. All of this adds extra flavor and lift. I didn't think I liked Cuban sandwiches until I had one on real Cuban bread (pan Cubano) — what a difference! If you want to keep your starter going, reserve 1/4 cup of it before adding the rest to the dough.

Prep Time:
25 mins
Cook Time:
20 mins
Additional Time:
11 hrs 30 mins
Total Time:
12 hrs 15 mins
2 loaves



  • ½ cup warm water

  • ½ cup flour

  • ½ teaspoon active dry yeast


  • 1 package active dry yeast

  • 2 teaspoons white sugar

  • ¾ cup warm water

  • 3 tablespoons lard

  • 2 teaspoons fine salt

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour, or as needed - divided

  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil, or as needed

  • 1 tablespoon cornmeal


  1. Combine 1/2 cup warm water, 1/2 cup flour, and 1/2 teaspoon yeast, in a bowl or measuring cup. Whisk the starter until well blended. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 8 hours to overnight.

  2. Place 1 package yeast and 2 teaspoons sugar in a mixing bowl. Pour in 3/4 cup warm water. Let rest 15 minutes to ensure yeast is alive and bubbling on the surface. Add lard and salt to bowl, then add 1 cup of the flour. Mix until incorporated and dough forms a sticky ball. Add the starter. Add all but 1/2 cup of the remaining flour and mix to incorporate.

  3. Knead dough on a lightly floured work surface until it comes together in a firm ball, adding up to 1/2 cup of the remaining flour as needed. Dough should be soft and supple with just a bit of tackiness on the surface.

  4. Place dough in a bowl and coat the surface with vegetable oil. Cover the bowl with a damp kitchen towel and place in a warm spot to rise. Let rise until at least doubled in size, about 2 hours.

  5. Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper and sprinkle with cornmeal.

  6. Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface. Lightly press dough into a rectangle with lightly floured hands. Divide dough in half and shape each half into a rectangle about 12 inches long and 1/2 inch thick. Starting at the long ends, tightly roll dough to form two skinny loaves. Slightly flatten the tops. Transfer loaves to a prepared baking sheet and dust with flour. Cover with a light, dry towel and let rise until doubled in size, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

  7. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Cut a 1/4-inch deep slit down the top of loaves with a sharp knife or razor. Lightly mist loaves with water.

  8. Bake in the preheated oven, one pan on the lower rack and one on the higher rack, for 10 minutes. Switch pan positions and continue to bake until loaves are golden brown, 10 to 15 minutes longer.

  9. Transfer loaves to cooling rack and let cool to room temperature before slicing.

Chef's Notes:

I used 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour and 1 1/2 cups bread flour.

Each loaf yields about 10 slices of bread, or 2 Cuban sandwiches. Check out Chef John's Cuban Sandwich recipe.

Nutrition Facts (per serving)

172 Calories
4g Fat
29g Carbs
4g Protein
Nutrition Facts
Servings Per Recipe 12
Calories 172
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 4g 5%
Saturated Fat 1g 7%
Cholesterol 3mg 1%
Sodium 326mg 14%
Total Carbohydrate 29g 11%
Dietary Fiber 1g 4%
Protein 4g
Calcium 7mg 1%
Iron 2mg 10%
Potassium 52mg 1%

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

** Nutrient information is not available for all ingredients. Amount is based on available nutrient data.

(-) Information is not currently available for this nutrient. If you are following a medically restrictive diet, please consult your doctor or registered dietitian before preparing this recipe for personal consumption.

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