Food in Cuba
Updated March 14, 2022
Food in Cuba is delicious, but tends to be very simple. Many travelers to Cuba are pleasantly surprised at the quality of the food. There typically isn’t as much variety as most you might be used to, but it is generally fresh, in season and organic as Cuba doesn’t rely as heavily on pesticides and GMOs as other countries. When it comes to food in Cuba, it’s best to have the correct expectations as food may not be as plentiful or great in variety as where you’re from.
Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner in Cuba
A standard Cuban meal is basic and is composed of what is in season. Seasonings and condiments are also basic and dishes are typically not heavy on the sauce. It’s important to keep in mind that there are food shortages on the island so the quantity and what’s available will vary depending on this as well as what’s in season. Please be mindful of the amount of food you waste.
Breakfast in Cuba is plentiful and fresh! It is included every morning at the casa particular on our trips and usually is made up of eggs and bread, seasonal fruit, fresh fruit juice (i.e. guava, papaya, mango, etc.), coffee and tea. (What is a casa particular? Read our blog about accommodation in Cuba!)
A typical lunch and dinner in Cuba consist of white rice or beans and rice, a salad made up of vegetables that are in season (i.e. cucumber, tomato, cabbage, avocados, etc.), some type of grilled, fried or stewed meat and sometimes fish and a root vegetable or banana in some form (i.e. cassava, taro, potatoes, plantains, etc.) You may also see the occasional seafood dish (i.e. shrimp or lobster).
PRO TIP: If you like your meals to be seasoned or with lots of spice, then we recommend that you bring your own spices and condiments such as hot sauce or whatever you prefer.
Traditional Cuban dishes
Below are a few of our favorite typical Cuban dishes to try while you’re traveling in Cuba:
- Ropa vieja: This is one of Cuba’s most famous dishes and literally translated, means “old clothes”. It’s shredded beef slow-cooked in its own juices and stock along with tomato sauce, onions and bell peppers.
- Pollo fricasse: Chicken simmered in a tomato-based sauce with onions and sometimes other in-season vegetables.
- Moros y cristianos: Most will know it as “rice and beans” and you’ll find it at almost every Cuban restaurant. Literally translated, it means “Moors and Christians”. Black beans and rice are boiled in the same water and other ingredients are sometimes added for more flavor (i.e. garlic, pepper, oregano, etc.).
- Platanos: They’re known around the world as plantains or cooking bananas and are less sweet than bananas. In their unripened state, you’ll see them sliced thin and fried (chicharritas/mariquitas), flattened and double fried (tostones/chatinos). Or when they’re ripe, they’re sliced up and fried as a sweet, gooey treat.
Vegetarian & Vegan Food in Cuba
Vegetarian and vegan food in Cuba is available and Cubans are gradually becoming more aware of vegetarianism and veganism though neither are all that common there. More and more, you’ll find vegetarian and vegan options on menus and restaurants specializing in cuisines catering to the needs of these diets, especially in Havana.
Understand that while it may not be difficult to get a vegetarian or vegan meal in Cuba, you generally won’t find much variety and you may very well get tired of being offered the same thing at every meal (i.e. rice, beans, salad, fruit, etc.) If you’re a strict vegetarian or vegan, we suggest bringing some of your own snacks on the trip to supplement your diet.
Those who travel with us to Cuba will be able to provide us with your dietary restrictions when you sign up for the trip. Our guide will make sure all the restaurants during your stay in Cuba have adequate offerings to match your dietary needs.
Drinks in Cuba
Drinks in Cuba are iconic worldwide. The mojito and daiquiri immediately come to mind, but Cuba is full of wonderfully refreshing drinks.
Traditional Cuban drinks
Below is a list of a few of our favorite non-alcoholic drinks and cocktails that you may not have heard of:
- Canchanchara: Some consider it a forerunner of the mojito and daiquiri. This drink is made up of a mix aguardiente (very strong liquor distilled from sugar cane), honey and lime juice.
- Habana especial: A lovely, fruity cocktail with 3-year-old Havana Club rum, fresh orange or pineapple juice and a splash of grenadine.
- Limonada frapeada/frappée: It’s a frozen daiquiri minus the rum and is equally refreshing under the scorching Cuban sun!
- Guarapo: The juice of sugarcane poured over a cup of ice to satisfy your thirst and your sweet tooth.
Food in Cuba still manages to be delicious despite the lack of access to food and appliances to cook it with. Dishes are always made by hand and with lots of love. Although it might not be as great in variety as you are used to, there’s something for everyone! Happy travels!