Is the Cuban Sandwich Cuban or Cuban-American? (2023)

History of the Cuban Sandwich:When we traveled to Cuba in 2018, we were surprised to find that you can't buy a Cuban sandwich on every corner. That's why we decided to go and discover the history of the Cuban sandwich: who invented it? and what is it about a cuban sandwich that makes it a true cuban sandwich?

Below is our Cuban Sandwich History Podcast and related article. Let's start with the ingredients first...

What's in a Cuban Sandwich?

Cuban sandwiches, as we know them today, follow a pretty strict (if you're a purist) formula that includes:

A true Cuban sandwich needs Cuban bread. What is Cuban bread?

Cuban bread is a yeast dough enriched with some fat (traditionally lard). It is long, white and fluffy on the inside, with a light, crispy crust.

As a side note, Cuban bread is best eaten the day it is made, as the tasty lard hardens after a day or two and the bread dries out.

Most often, a wet saw palmetto (also known as cabbage) leaf is needed on top of the dough before baking it", apparently "the dough rises and envelops the leaf, which gives the dough its bready flavor" .

Is the Cuban Sandwich Cuban or Cuban-American? (1)

History of the Cuban Sandwich: What's in a Cuban Sandwich?

For the cover you will need:

(Video) Cuban Tries Cuban Sandwich for 1st Time (Shocked by Difference)

  • lightly smoked ham
  • Roast pork marinated in mojo that mixes spices such as bitter orange, oregano, cumin, garlic, onion, vinegar and salt.
  • Swiss cheese
  • Mustard
  • sometimes butter
  • And if you are very special, exactly three cucumbers. Otherwise, just a few pickles.

With everything ready, the sandwich can be served in two ways: fresh, or pressed and toasted “a la plancha” with a metal plate. Plancha (meaning frying pan) is a flat surface grillMexico& Central America. The double-sided frying pan (plate) is a device that heats and compresses the sandwich until the bread is very crispy on the outside and the cheese is melted on the inside.

In places like Tampa that claim to be the inventors of the Cuban sandwich (more on that later), they also add Italian salami to their sandwiches.

Podcast on the History of the Cuban Sandwich


Is the Cuban sandwich really Cuban? Or a Cuban-American fusion dish?
What makes a true Cuban sandwich more than just a pulled pork sandwich?
So salami or no salami? The Tampa-Miami Debate.

Why not listen to some of our other episodes now by subscribing below.

Is the Cuban Sandwich Cuban or Cuban-American? (2)

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THE CONTENT BELOW IS A PODCAST SUPPLEMENT, NOT A TRANSCRIPTION. Listen to the full podcast for a lively discussion on the topic.

History of the Cuban Sandwich

Okay, nobody knows exactly where Cuban sandwiches came from, there are some stories that the first Cuban sandwich was made over 500 years ago in Cuba by the Taino tribe that inhabited the island before the arrival of Europeans. Apparently, the Taíno used cassava bread to prepare the dish. Cassava bread (also known as casabe) is a flatbread, hard and thin like a biscuit, made with cassava flour, a flour that is apparently toxic if not cooked properly... so enjoy! !

(Video) The Cuban Sandwich That Reigns Supreme in Miami | Legendary Eats

Instead of pork, which did not exist at the time, the tribe used fish and poultry in the middle of two slices of cassava.

When the Spaniards finally arrived on the island, meats like pork and ham quickly entered the native diet, turning the sandwich into pork heaven. Casabe was also replaced with a bread-like alternative. Thus, traces of the sandwich go back to the original islanders, but it was just the beginning of a sandwich when the Spaniards arrived with pasta and pork.

Fast forward to the late 1800's and early 1900's when travel between Cuba and Florida was easy, particularly from Key West and Tampa, and Cubans often sailed back and forth to work in cigar factories. Because of this constant and largely undocumented movement of people, cultures and ideas, it is really impossible to say exactly when or where the Cuban sandwich we know today originated. But the sandwich is believed to have been a common lunch for workers in Cuba's cigar factories and sugar mills, and when they moved to a similar job in the United States, Cubans sought out a similar lunch.

Is the Cuban Sandwich Cuban or Cuban-American? (3)

We visited Centro Habana in search of the history of the Cuban sandwich

As they began to add other ingredients popular with other migrant workers in the factories, mostly Italians, Germans and Spaniards, you begin to see how today's Cuban sandwich came to be. In Tampa, the addition of salami comes from Italian influences, and mustard may have been introduced by the Germans as the ideal condiment that won't spoil in the Florida heat.

The earliest recorded mentions of a distinctive Cuban sandwich come from descriptions of working-class cafes in Ybor City and West Tampa from the early 1900s, but Miami fiercely claims it became popular in Miami rather than Tampa. makes it interesting it is NOT a Cuban sandwich.

Is the Cuban Sandwich Cuban or Cuban-American? (4)

History of the Cuban Sandwich - Tampa vs Miami

(Video) Discovering the World's Best Cuban Sandwich in Tampa | On the Road with Bryan Roof

So let's talk about the rivalry between Tampa and Miami

So, here are the facts: There are records of the Cuban sandwich's existence in Tampa in the 20th century. Of course, that doesn't mean it didn't happen in Miami, but there's simply no written evidence. Furthermore, it wasn't until Fidel Castro's rise to power in 1959, when a veritable wave of Cuban immigrants settled in Miami, bringing their culture and cuisine with them, that we see the beginnings of the Cuban sandwich in Miami. What we can really give Miami and its huge Cuban population is that they certainly put Cuban sandwiches on the world map.

I think the real question is whether adding the Italian salami doesn't make it more of a true Cuban sandwich...

This is certainly a hotly debated topic.

But there's another solid origin claim Tampa has up its sleeve: Cuban bread. This is actually something that was invented in TampaThe Young Francesca Bakery. Founded in 1896 by Sicilian Francisco Ferlita, a Cuban-Spanish-Italian immigrant who is said to have invented this particular type of bread. It was sold for 3-5 cents a loaf and in Ybor City, Tampa. Bread (like milk) used to be delivered every morning. In fact, the houses had a sturdy nail driven into the door frame next to the door, into which the delivery man would stick the fresh bread.

So it has long been a traditional form of bread in Tampa and at the time of the first documented sightings of the Cuban sandwich...


History of the Cuban Sandwich: What's in a Cuban Sandwich? University Degree

Sure, you can put heaps of meat, Swiss cheese, and mustard on any stale baguette, but does that make it a Cuban sandwich? Or is it the specific Cuban bread invented by La Joven Francesca bakery that makes it a true Cuban sandwich? Or should you stick with the supposedly original Cuban sandwiches? It's entirely up to you to decide... all I know is I'm hungry!

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Is a Cuban sandwich actually Cuban? ›

Tradition says it's believed to have been introduced by the Taino tribe in Cuba. With the blending of cultures throughout the country, each group added their own flair to the makings of this delectable creation. Europeans, mainly Spaniards, are known to have introduced the pork and ham to the whole thing.

Why is a Cuban sandwich called a Cuban? ›

It served as lunch for thousands of immigrant Cuban cigar workers and other Spanish, Italian and Jewish immigrants drawn to the city. Spanish speakers called it a mixto, because of the mixed meats. English speakers called it a Cuban, because that's who they saw eating it.

What country is Sandwich Cubano from? ›

"It was born in Cuba, from the mixto – literally mixed sandwich – meaning, you know, mixed different kinds of meats, for example, and cheese," she said. "And by way of cigar workers going to Key West, then coming to Ybor City and Tampa."

Where did the Cuban sandwich originate in Florida? ›

The first recorded mentions of a distinct Cuban sandwich come from descriptions of workers' cafés in Ybor City and West Tampa from around 1900 but Miami fiercely lay claim that it was popularised in Miami and not in Tampa, they also say that the addition of salami makes int NOT a Cuban sandwich.

What ethnicity is Cuban? ›

64% of the population identifies as white, 27% identify as mixed, and 9% identify as Afro-Cuban. Among the mixed population are those who identify as Mulatto, or mixed between European and African, and Mestizo, or mixed between European and Native American. There are also a large number of Asian Cubans.

Are Cuban sandwiches a Florida thing? ›

One of the most famous examples is the Cuban sandwich (also known as the "Cubano"), a Floridian lunchtime staple that gives a distinctly Cuban twist to the standard American ham & cheese by adding juicy roast pork marinated in mojo (a citrus-garlic mixture) and piling the sandwich ingredients on pillowy-on-the-inside, ...

What's the difference between a Cubano and a Cuban sandwich? ›

The Cuban sandwich, better known as a Cubano, begins with soft, slightly sweet Cuban bread. Heaps of heavily seasoned pork roast and sliced ham alternating between layers of Swiss cheese and sour pickles. The sandwich is cemented together with yellow mustard and a garlic butter schmear.

Is a Cuban sandwich Puerto Rican food? ›

What is Cuban sandwich? This sandwich is said to be a common lunch food for workers in the cigar factories and sugar mills in Cuba. Since then, it was brought to Florida in the late 1800s, especially in Key West and Tampa, by Cubans who frequently sailed back and forth for employment, vacation or family visits.

What is the most famous Cuban sandwich? ›

Pan con bistec is a traditional sandwich originating from Cuba. Although there are many versions, and the preparation varies from one restaurant to another, it's usually prepared with toasted Cuban or French bread, sliced beef steak, grilled onions, tomatoes, potato sticks, and lettuce.

Who invented the Cuban? ›

It's believed that the first Cuban sandwich was made more than a quincentenary ago the by Taíno tribe in Cuba. They were one of three different cultures that inhabited the island before Europeans arrived. Jorge Astorquiza, a food chemist in Tampa, says the Taínos used casabe bread, made from yucca, to make the dish.

What is the difference between Tampa Cuban and Miami Cuban sandwich? ›

The Miami version of the Cuban Sandwich is smoked ham, roasted pork, swiss cheese, pickles, mustard on Cuban bread. The Tampa version of the Cuban Sandwich is similar but adds salami. The sandwich can be served cold or more commonly hot-pressed.

What sandwich is Miami known for? ›

We can't talk about Miami sandwiches and not mention the Cuban sandwich. Famed by the large Cuban population in South Florida, the Cuban Sandwich is a delectable mélange of meats, mustard, cheese, and toasted bread (more like flattened but toasted nonetheless.)

What is Cuban area of Miami called? ›

Little Havana – the heart of Miami's Cuban diaspora – is part of what makes Miami such a dynamic cultural destination.

Are all Cubans African? ›

Cubans themselves are, as recent DNA studies prove, partially Africans. But Cuba's expression of African culture evolved primarily as a mechanism of existential survival and adaptation for the African men and women that experienced slavery, dehumanization, and racism on the island for 350 years.

What percentage of Cuba is black? ›

A study from 2014 estimated the genetic admixture of the population of Cuba to be 72% European, 20% African and 8% Native American.

What language do Cubans speak? ›

The Spanish spoken by Cubans is a variation of Castilian Spanish, brought over by immigrants from the Canary Islands in the 19th and 20th centuries. Today, Cuban Spanish and Haitian Creole are the two most widely spoken languages of this vibrant island nation.

What sandwich is Florida known for? ›

Florida's most famous sandwich is the Cubano from Versailles, according to the website. Writers explain: "A popular destination for Cuban exiles since 1971, Miami's Little Havana is home to Versailles, the place to go for an incredible Cubano.

Who invented Cuban bread? ›

How exactly Juan Moré came up with his Cuban bread recipe is a little murky. According to one family legend, Juan Moré was born somewhere in northern Spain and got shipped off to Cuba to fight in the Spanish-American war.

What is an original Cuban sandwich made of? ›

No lettuce or tomato. No turkey. A true Tampa Cuban is layered from bottom to top: ham, roast pork, salami, Swiss cheese, pickles and mustard. The better the quality of the ingredients, the better the sandwich.

What is a real Cuban sandwich made of? ›

The ingredients inside a Cuban sandwich are simple: ham, roasted pork, Swiss cheese, pickles, mustard, and if you're in Tampa, salami.

What is a Miami Cuban sandwich? ›

This pressed sandwich is a South Florida staple, and features sliced Cuban roast pork, sliced sweet ham, Swiss cheese, dill pickle chips, and yellow mustard, served on buttered and pressed Cuban bread.

What is the Puerto Rican sandwich called? ›

White bread filled with a creamy spam and cheese mixture creates a classic Puerto Rican party sandwich known as sandwich de mezcla. Sandwich de mezcla is a classic Puerto Rican sandwich that is served at birthday parties.

What is traditional Puerto Rican food called? ›

Locals call their cuisine "cocina criolla". Cocina criolla (Créole cooking) can be traced back to the Arawaks and Tainos, the original inhabitants of the island, who thrived on a diet of corn, tropical fruit, and seafood.

What is Puerto Rican staple food? ›

Arroz con habichuelas is Puerto Rico's staple food. It's eaten almost daily in local households, and it's simply white rice with a side of red or pink beans. The dish is made complete with meat, often chicken.

What is the greatest sandwich in America? ›

These are our picks for the best sandwiches in America:
  1. Fried Chicken Sandwich. We rarely say no to fried chicken sandwiches. ...
  2. Po Boy. We felt rich when we ate this fried oyster Po Boy at Parkway Bakery and Tavern in New Orleans. ...
  3. Cheesesteak. ...
  4. Italian Beef. ...
  5. Cubano. ...
  6. Grilled Cheese. ...
  7. Bagel + Lox. ...
  8. Reuben.
Feb 11, 2023

Who makes the best Cuban sandwich? ›

Where to eat The best Cuban Sandwich in the world (According to food experts)
  • Enriqueta's Sandwich Shop. Miami, United States of America. ...
  • Puerto Sagua. Miami Beach, United States of America. ...
  • Café Habana. New York City, United States of America. ...
  • Las Olas Cafe. ...
  • Versailles. ...
  • Paseo Caribbean Restaurant. ...
  • Jimmy's Food Store. ...
  • Margon.

What is the most famous food in Cuba? ›

Ropa vieja is the national dish of Cuba, a hearty stew made with shredded beef, tomato sauce, onions, and peppers. The stew is traditionally served with yellow rice and a glass of cold beer on the side.

Who owned Cuba before us? ›

Yet Cuba remained one of Spain's two colonies in the New World. (The other was Puerto Rico.) It was governed from Madrid much as it had been governed since it was first occupied and settled by the Spaniards in 1511.

What was Cuba called before Cuba? ›

Christopher Columbus landed at Cuba in 1492 and claimed the land for Spain. Columbus named the land Isla Juana, but later it would be called Cuba, which comes from the local Native American name of coabana. The first Spanish settlement on Cuba was Baracoa which was founded by Diego Velazquez de Cuellar in 1511.

What was Cuba before Cuba? ›

The Republic of Cuba, covering the historical period in Cuban history between 1902 and 1959, was an island country comprised the island of Cuba, as well as Isla de la Juventud (since 1925) and several minor archipelagos.

What are the different types of Cuban sandwiches? ›

The difference between the two Cubano variations is minimal. Both Miami and Tampa versions share the classic Cubano structure discussed above of Cuban bread, ham, Cuban roast pork, Swiss cheese, and pickles, but the Tampa version features a layer of Genoa salami, the Miami version does not.

What is the most famous Cuban restaurant? ›

Versailles Restaurant, The World's Most Famous Cuban Restaurant, has been serving tasty Cuban cuisine and culture to the South Florida community and tourists from around the world for five decades.

Which city in Florida is known for its Cuban influence? ›

The area west of the downtown area of Miami is known as Little Havana/La pequeña Habana or Calle Ocho. It was established with over 500,000 Cuban-Americans during the 1960s and is named after the capital and largest city of Cuba.

What is New York's famous sandwich? ›

Pastrami on rye is New York's signature sandwich and a staple of many Jewish delis. This simple sandwich traditionally consists of delicate pastrami slices that are placed on rye bread, then topped with spicy mustard, and the whole thing is typically accompanied by kosher dill pickles on the side.

What sandwich is America known for? ›

The people have spoken. America's top sandwich is the grilled cheese, according to the results of a YouGov survey that asked a representative sample of 1,223 people to weigh in on their top sandwich choice.

What sandwich is New Orleans known for? ›

The Muffaletta

A muffaletta is a famous italian sandwich invented in New Orleans with cured meats (ham and salami), provolone cheese, olive dressing and great bread.

What part of Miami has the most Cubans? ›

Little Havana (Spanish: Pequeña Habana) is a neighborhood of Miami, Florida, United States. Home to many Cuban exiles, as well as many immigrants from Central and South America, Little Havana is named after Havana, the capital and largest city in Cuba.

What are Miami locals called? ›

• Metro6,091,747 (US: 9th)
Time zoneUTC– 05:00 (EST)
• Summer (DST)UTC– 04:00
39 more rows

What percentage of Miami are Cuban? ›

Miami is a majority Latino city -- 70 percent of its population is Hispanic. And while Cuban-Americans still comprise over half of the city's population -- 54 percent -- the city's Hispanic composition is changing.

What is a true Cuban? ›

No mayo. No lettuce or tomato. No turkey. A true Tampa Cuban is layered from bottom to top: ham, roast pork, salami, Swiss cheese, pickles and mustard. The better the quality of the ingredients, the better the sandwich.

What's Cuban toast called? ›

In Cuban cuisine, tostada refers to a slice of handmade Cuban bread, cut lengthwise, buttered, and pressed. The bread is similar to French bread or Italian bread and is usually made in long, baguette-like loaves. It is the Cuban equivalent of toast.

What is a Cuban American called? ›

Cuban Americans (Spanish: cubanoestadounidenses or cubanoamericanos) are Americans who trace their cultural heritage to Cuba regardless of phenotype or ethnic origin. The word may refer to someone born in the United States of Cuban descent or to someone who has emigrated to the United States from Cuba.

Can a Cuban leave Cuba? ›

Since that date, any Cuban citizen, with a valid passport, can leave the country at will, without let or hindrance from the Cuban authorities. Visa requirements for Cuban citizens are administrative entry restrictions by the authorities of other states placed on citizens of Cuba.

Is Cuban an American country? ›

Cuba gained formal independence from the U.S. on 20 May 1902, as the Republic of Cuba. Under Cuba's new constitution, the U.S. retained the right to intervene in Cuban affairs and to supervise its finances and foreign relations. Under the Platt Amendment, the U.S. leased the Guantánamo Bay Naval Base from Cuba.

What is a typical lunch in Cuba? ›

Lunch often consists of empanadas - a half-moon shaped pastry, typically baked or fried, containing various fillings, depending on sweet or savory preferences. Also popular and common is Pan con bistec, a thin slice of steak served on Cuban bread with lettuce, tomatoes and fried potato sticks.

What is a typical breakfast in Cuba? ›

Breakfast in Cuba tends to consist of toast or, more commonly, bread eaten with fried, boiled or scrambled eggs. Fresh fruit is often served alongside. The better hotels do buffet breakfasts that cover cooked eggs and meats, cold meat and cheeses, fruits and cereals.


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