14 Tasty Cuban Recipes

by Marla Walters on 24 November 2013 10 comments
Photo: Thinkstock

Cuban food is absolutely delicious and extremely affordable to make at home. Many people have the misconception that Cuban food requires a ton of ingredients because it is so flavorful, but many of the dishes are slow-cooked, allowing the flavors to meld and really pop. (See also: 5 Best Slow Cookers)

Below is a list of items that crop up frequently in Cuban cooking. If you like to cook, I'll bet you have a lot of this around, already:

  • Spices/Seasonings: Garlic, salt, pepper, cumin, cilantro.
     
  • Fruits/Vegetables: Oranges, limes, red, green, and yellow bell peppers, tomatoes, lettuce, avocados, onions, cilantro, black and green olives.
     
  • Meats/Fish: Shrimp, chicken, pork chops, hamburger or ground turkey.
     
  • The Rest: Black beans (I substituted canned, rather than soaking them), white beans, rice.

Here are some of my favorite Cuban recipes.

1. Garlicky Chicken

I love this Garlicky Chicken because it is something I could make without going to the store, and wait until you smell it cooking. Not only that, but I could use chicken drumsticks (very cheap) and it was easy. I like bread with it to mop up every drop. (See also: Chicken Leg and Thigh Recipes From Around the World)

2. Ropa Vieja

Ropa Vieja is traditionally made with shredded beef but I wanted to try a twist on that, since chicken breast was on sale at my grocery store. This Chicken Ropa Vieja was just great. I served it with black beans and rice. The recipe served four.

3. Roasted Pork Sandwiches

The marinade for these Roasted Pork Sandwiches is really easy and gives the pork a wonderful flavor. I serve them with a simple lettuce, avocado, and Roma tomato salad, which is traditional.

4. Picadillo

A post about Cuban food is not complete without Picadillo. This inexpensive, filling, and delicious meal should be a staple in every home. I tried it with ground turkey, and it was wonderful. Serve over rice and toss a salad. (See also: Money-Saving Homemade Salad Dressings)

5. Shrimp in Cilantro Cream Sauce

Use of frozen shrimp (cook and peel yourself) keeps down the cost of this delicious Shrimp in Cilantro Cream Sauce. This was my first experience making shrimp stock, and it was very easy. I cut the recipe in half for the two of us and we still had leftovers. (See also: 8 Fancy Ways to Use Leftovers)

6. Pork Chops with Mojo

When pork chops are on sale, I buy the big packs, break them apart, and freeze in smaller ziplocks. Then I can make these Cuban Pork Chops With Mojo , which has such great flavor. The marinade contains orange and lime juices. We eat them with rice and a salad.

7. Empanadas

Sure, you can make your own empanada dough. On a weeknight, however, don't we prefer speedy things? These were so incredibly easy, and if you are looking for kid-friendly recipes, bookmark this one for Cuban Empanadas.

8. Pizza

This Cuban Pizza is my husband's favorite. It begins with a sofrito sauce. I could not find the suggested crust, but instead used the Doughboy's "Artisan" whole-wheat crust and that worked out great. I made the traditional Cuban salad of lettuce, tomatoes, and avocados to go with and this recipe fed us for two meals.

9. Ham Croquettes

These Cuban Croqueta de Jamon require a little planning, because the ham mixture needs to cool. However, as instructor Nydia says, "A party just isn't a party without them."

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10. Fried Sweet Plantains

Fried Sweet Plantains are really easy and inexpensive. You can use a variety of shortenings. I used butter and they were delicious.

11. White Bean Stew

This White Bean Stew is not only economical, but it is also a timely Fall dish. Talk about stick-to-your-ribs! Add a little water or broth when you go to reheat leftovers, because it thickens up after being refrigerated.

12. Pumpkin Soup

In the fall when pumpkins are inexpensive and plentiful, chow down on this Cuban Pumpkin Soup.

13. Black Bean Soup

Cuban Black Bean Soup is another fantastic, inexpensive soup. If you don't see ham hocks in your meat department, just ring that bell and ask the butcher. Mine usually keeps them frozen, in the back, and they're really cheap. (See also: 20 Cheap and Delicious Black Bean Recipes)

14. Split Pea Soup

Try this distinctive Cuban version of Split Pea Soup. If you can't find calabaza in your area, butternut squash is a good substitute.

If you have not tried Cuban cuisine, I recommend you do. Readers, do you have any to share?

Additional photo credit: Marla Walters
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Linsey Knerl's picture

Ok.. I think you took me over the edge of vowing never to try Cuban food. I don't know why I assumed that it would be too spicy for my tastes, but with these recipes, I could definitely tweak them a bit to fit my needs and the needs of my kids. (Hubby, of course, would LOVE them a bit more en fuego.) Thanks!

Guest's picture
Victor

I love foods that have Spanish roots, in part because they are often less expensive to make, but also because they taste so good! I have fond memories of Cuban cuisine, as I have relatives in Florida and anytime we would visit, we would make a point of trying some authentic Cuban Food. I have yet to make any yet and you provide some really good starting places.

Guest's picture
Alex

For Picadillo, my family usually adds olives, which I personally don't like in anything but Picadillo. Also another bargain dish is Moros y Christianos, the Cuban version of black beans and rice, although this is more of a side dish.

Andrea Karim's picture

My slow cooker has turned many a tough cut of meat into something awesome; I love using skirt steak with tomatoes and lots of spices.

These names are also awesome - does "ropas viejas" mean "old clothes"? Moros y Christianos that Alex mentioned is also a great name!

Guest's picture
Guest

You forgot black beans and white rice!!

Guest's picture
Elka Minor

I love piccadillo~~ a favorite from when I was growing up. My mom had a company worthy version and a kid friendly version {sans wine olives chopped eggs etc but with diced potatoes and peas added in} Of course I clicked on your link. Instructions begin with saute onion and peppers in EVOO but there are no peppers in ingredient list. I would suggest an equal amount of green peppers even tho it was never an ingredient in any version of piccadillo I grew up eating.

Guest's picture
Guest

LOL for me Cuban food sometimes can be expensive (grandma is a Spanish-CUban) we use "Pimenton de la Vera" (sweet smoked spanish paprika from Spain) alot for certain stuff, and cook with Morcilla, Butifarras, cured hams, smoked Spanish sausage those are very good for alot of Cuban bean stews (the Potajes). The Tasajo (salted dry beef or horse meat), Bacalao (salted cod), Pargo (red snapper) and Cherna (seabass) can get expensive. Outside of Florida Yuca, Malanga, Boniato n stuff can get pricey or getting ahold of Cachucha peppers too.

But yes over all very affordable besides the above.

Guest's picture
Carolina

Just came across this post and had to compliment you on your Cuban meal selections and accurate recipes (though, yes as one comment stated, Picadillo usually takes chopped olives more often than not). As a Cuban-American, I get a little miffed when people post "Cuban" dishes, but modify or add ingredients that make the dishes either more American or even Mexican. I'm not knocking either cuisine, but in doing so, it's not authentic Cuban! Anyway, since I no longer live in Miami, but in the midwest, I find myself cooking cuban food more and more and have foun it's SO economical and easy to make ahead and eat through the week. Have you ever tried Pulpeta? It's our version of meatloaf and it is outrageously good, economical and can be easily frozen to serve at a later date.

Guest's picture

This article is making me very hungry!! They all sounds so delicious and pretty easy to make, especially Papas Rellenas. And I love the "food doesn’t get much cheaper than stuffed spuds" Yummy and affordable!

Guest's picture

I like about some of these particular Cuban food recipes is that they know how to use bargain beef to pull off an affordable family meal with style.