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10 Authentic Dishes that Represent the Best of Cuban Cuisine

In the mood for a different type of home-style cooking? Try authentic Cuban recipes. From comfort food to fancy meals, Cuban cuisine tastes like the celebration of life.

From generation to generation, Cuban mamas and abuelas have passed down culinary traditions that were influenced by African, Spanish, Asian and Caribbean cuisine. Anything but bland, you'll find a common use of spices to make simple ingredients sensational and sofritos to add complexity. Meats are typically slow roasted, fish is in abundance, and there's plenty of rum to wash it all down.

We rounded up 10 flavorful Cuban recipes so you can get a taste of the island in your own kitchen. It's time to put on some music from Havana, fix a mojito and get cooking.

1. Picadillo

Picadillo is a rich and flavorful ground beef Cuban dish perfect for when you're in the mood for something hearty. This Cuban recipe starts by browning beef with cumin, onion, garlic, bay leaf and oregano. Bell peppers are added to the mix and it's all simmered with tomato sauce, white wine, olives and raisins. Once all the flavors develop, it's served on a bed of white rice.

Get the recipe here.

2. Ropa Vieja

We can't talk Cuban food without mentioning the national dish, ropa vieja. Spanish for "old clothes", this Cuban recipe tastes like anything but seconds. It's hearty as stew, flavorful as chili, and easy enough for anyone to make.

To prepare, cook skirt steak or flank steak in a pressure cooker or slow cooker with stock and bay leaves. Top that with a red sauce consisting of tomato puree, cooking wine, sauteed onions and bell peppers, garlic cloves, and spices. Then pair the shredded beef with either white rice, fried plantains, black beans or all three.

Get the recipe here.

3. Papas Rellenas

What's tastier to snack on than meat-filled potato balls?! The balls are stuffed with picadillo and are deep-fried to create a crispy and crunchy coating.

Get the recipe here.

4. Cubanos

This isn't just a ham and cheese sandwich, it's a Cuban sandwich. Like all things Cuban, even their sandwiches are bursting with flavor.

To make one right, do what this recipe does and spread butter on a soft baguette then grill it. Next you'll need to slather it in mustard and pile it high with mojo marinated pork, browned ham, Swiss cheese and dill pickles. Hold on, you're not done! Now brush the whole thing with butter and grill each side or toss it in the panini press. Okay, now you can bite in.

Get the recipe here.

5. Arroz Con Pollo

Even a typical Cuban recipe with chicken and rice is bursting with flavor. And, it can all be made in one pot! With a list of ingredients a mile long, it may be intimidating to make this recipe at first. But after the first go around you'll realize there's really nothing to it. A little bit of ground cumin here, some oregano there, perfectly marinated chicken, and a flavorful bed of rice and you'll be whipping up a comforting home cooked meal in no time.

Get the recipe here.

6. Frijoles Negros (Black Beans)

In Cuba, you'll find black beans often accompany every dish and this is the recipe that does it right. To start, black beans are cooked with bay leaves until they reach a tender consistency. They're then mixed with a sofrito of garlic, onions, bell peppers, and spices, and a little bit of apple cider vinegar for acidity. Flavorful and tender to the fork, a bowl of these tasty beans can be eaten as a side dish or added to any meal in need of some heartiness.

Get the recipe here.

7. Cuban Mojo Shrimp

Mojo criollo is a traditional Cuban marinade that can be used on a variety of meats, but tastes especially fresh when paired with succulent shrimp. Made from sour orange, fresh garlic, and oil, give this mojo sauce and shrimp recipe a try. After the shrimp marinates for about 15 minutes, give them a quick sear and top them on a salad or enjoy all by their lonesome.

Get the recipe here.

8. Yuca con Mojo

Another Cuban mojo favorite is smothering it on yuca. Not to be confused with yucca, yuca is the root of the cassava plant. Its flavor is similar to that of a potato and a staple side dish in Cuban cooking. Try it in this tasty Cuban recipe covered in a citrusy mojo sauce

Get the recipe here.

9. Croquetas de jamon (Ham Croquettes) 

Flavorful bite-size bechamel fritters which are loaded with ham are perfect appetizers!

Get the recipe here.

10. Maduros (Fried Sweet Plantains)

Breakfast, lunch, dinner or dessert, fried plantains are a Cuban recipe staple. They make a great side dish alongside black beans and rice and are tasty when sprinkled with some sugar. Just be sure when you make them the plantains are super ripe for the best results.

Get the recipe here.

This post was originally published on July 3, 2018.

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