The Best Cuban Cookbooks to Add to Your Repertoire

"The Cuban Table" is our winner

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The Spruce Eats Top Picks

"The Cuban Table," a James Beard Award-nominated cookbook, is our No. 1 selection because it features more than 100 recipes accompanied by stunning full-page imagery. Those just diving into the cuisine can cook confidently with "Sabor!: A Passion for Cuban Cuisine."

Cuba is an island rich in culture, art, history, and gastronomy. The migration of hundreds of Cubans to the United States led to a proliferation and popularization of the cuisine, with people from all over experiencing and falling in love with Cuban classics, such as arroz con pollo, ropa vieja, plátanos de tentación, flan, and vaca frita. Nostalgia is an ever-present and requisite ingredient across every Cuban recipe, an edible reminder of those who fled the island and how politics shaped many of the dishes we know today.   

Ahead, cookbooks that present the best of Cuban cuisine, from traditional to modern.

Best Overall: The Cuban Table: A Celebration of Food, Flavors, and History

The Cuban Table: A Celebration of Food, Flavors, and History by Ana Sofia Pelaez

Amazon

What We Like
  • Baked goods included

  • Full-page photos

What We Don't Like
  • May be too basic for experienced home cooks

Nominated for a James Beard Award in the international cookbook category, "The Cuban Table: A Celebration of Food, Flavors, and History" is penned by Cuban-American food blogger Ana Sofia Peláez with accompanying photos by award-winning photographer Ellen Silverman. The duo traveled together to Cuba, Miami, and New York to learn about traditional Cuban cooking from home cooks, chefs, restaurateurs, and food writers. 

"The Cuban Table" highlights Spanish and African influences and provides historical context to its 110 recipes. It features recipes like the iconic Cuban sandwich, mariquitas con vinagreta de cilantro y limón (fried plantains with lime-cilantro vinaigrette), pastelitos de guayaba (guava pastries), and potaje de garbanzos (chickpea stew).

Number of Recipes: 110+ | Pages: 336 | Date Published: 2014

Best for Beginners: Sabor!: A Passion for Cuban Cuisine

Sabor: A Passion for Cuban Cuisine

Amazon

What We Like
  • Humorous anecdotes

  • Family-friendly meals

What We Don't Like
  • Not as useful for two-person households

Author and Cuban-American Ana Quincoces was a cast member on the "Real Housewives of Miami" and founder of the popular Skinny Latina brand. The recipes from her cookbook "Sabor: A Passion for Cuban Cuisine" are easy to follow and approachable, like ropa vieja, plátanos maduros, and arroz con pollo. To make things foolproof for new-to-Cuban-cuisine cooks, Quincoces provides her favorite brand ingredient recommendations, tips, and tricks, plus a glossary of terms for those who may be unfamiliar with certain ingredients. Included are sample menus, conversion tables for measurements, and recommendations for which dishes complement each other well.

Number of Recipes: 130+ | Pages: 240 | Date Published: 2012

Best Value: Memories of a Cuban Kitchen

Memories of a Cuban Kitchen by Joan Schwartz and Mary Urrutia Randelman

Amazon

What We Like
  • Budget-friendly

  • Has alcoholic beverages

What We Don't Like
  • No color photos of food

The recipes from coauthors Joan Schwarz and Mary Urrutia Randelman are lauded time and time again. They unite the Spanish, Indian, African, Chinese, and Portuguese influences that make up Cuban cuisine across more than 200 traditional recipes against the storied backdrop of Randelman's childhood in pre-Castro Cuba. A history of pre-Castro Cuba precedes every section of recipes. As such, the recipes are also economical and utilize ingredients that can be readily found while remaining authentic. 

From “the best arroz blanco” (white rice) recipes to appetizers like green plantain chips, bistec de palomilla (Cuban fried steak), pargo relleno (stuffed red snapper), moros y cristianos (black beans and rice), ensalada de aguacate y mango (avocado and mango salad), ajiaco Criollo (Cuban Creole stew), tropical rum-based drinks, and desserts like flan de coco (coconut flan).

Number of Recipes: 200+ | Pages: 352 | Date Published: 1996

Best Traditional: Cocina al minuto

Cocina Al Minuto / Quick Cooking: Easy, Fast Recipes with a Cuban Flair: Recetas Tradicionales Cubanas

 Courtesy of Amazon

What We Like
  • Written in Spanish

  • Flexible recipes

What We Don't Like
  • Some recipes from the first edition not included

Nitza Villapol is considered the Cuban Julia Child. She was born in New York but grew up in Havana. She was the host of the Cuban television program "Cocina al Minuto" ("Cooking in a Minute") during the late 1940s, which aired for more than 30 years and wrote several cookbooks inspired by the show: "Cocina al Minuto I" and "Cocina al Minuto II." Her cookbooks can be found on the shelves in most Cuban homes.

Her “sacred texts” may be likened to the fundamental cookbooks for home chefs like "Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook" or the "Betty Crocker Cookbook," but with basic, traditional Cuban recipes like picadillo, vaca frita, and arroz con pollo—with twists on how to make up for ingredient deficiencies from food rations. Her early recipes called for a variety of both Cuban and American ingredients, as her cookbooks also included American exports like spaghetti and lobster Newburg, which were considered trendy at the time of publication given the U.S.-Cuban trading relationship in the 1950s.

Number of Recipes: 200+ | Pages: 288 | Date Published: 2019

Best New Cuban Cuisine: Paladares: Recipes Inspired by the Private Restaurants of Cuba

Paladares: Recipes from the Private Restaurants, Home Kitchens, and Streets of Cuba

 Amazon

What We Like
  • Photos with most recipes

  • Real-life stories

What We Don't Like
  • Small type font

While many Cuban cookbooks focus on traditional dishes, "Paladares: Recipes Inspired by the Private Restaurants of Cuba" by James Beard Award-winning writer Anya von Bremzen and photographer Megan Fawn Schlow. This cookbook shares the tightly knit secrets of paladares. It’s within these private restaurants that Cuban cuisine is experiencing a culinary modernization and progression. Von Bremzen gives readers a behind-the-scenes look at a “new Cuba” and the cultural secrets gleaned through Cuba’s chefs, restaurateurs, farmers, and food historians through 100-plus recipes and stories.

Recipes range from the traditional like picadillo, fritters, tamales, roast chicken stuffed with black beans and rice to pumpkin soup with blue cheese, ceviche with mango and black-eye peas, and coffee-rubbed pork.

Number of Recipes: 100+ | Pages: 352 | Date Published: 2017

Best Restaurant-Based: The Versailles Restaurant Cookbook

The Versailles Restaurant Cookbook by Ana Quincoces, Nicole Valls

Amazon

What We Like
  • Familiar ingredients

  • Appetizer recipes

What We Don't Like
  • Prep instructions not always clear

Cuban-American author Ana Quincoces of "Sabor!: A Passion for Cuban Cuisine" makes another appearance; this time as the coauthor of the cookbook from the popular Versailles restaurant located in Miami. Versailles is an institution in Miami and an integral part of the fabric of the city’s vibrant Cuban restaurant scene since 1971.

Can’t make it to Miami to taste Versailles firsthand? Quincoces and coauthor Nicole Valls, operations manager and public relations director for Valls Group, Inc. (the parent company for the Versailles restaurant) teach home cooks how to recreate their favorite Versailles meals and dishes at home, such as frituras de malanga, churrasco con salsa chimichurri, and arroz imperial.

Number of Recipes: 60+ | Pages: 192 | Date Published: 2014

Best for Cocktails: Cuban Cocktails: 100 Classic and Modern Drinks

Cuban Cocktails: 100 Classic and Modern Drinks

Amazon

What We Like
  • Illustrations of bar tools

  • Glassware graphics

What We Don't Like
  • Some harder to source ingredients

Ravi DeRossi is the co-owner of one of New York City’s best cocktail spots, Cuban rum bar Cienfuegos, which marries the art of mixology and tropical drinks.

His cocktail book is a collection of 100 recipes that celebrate Cuba's colorful spirits history, culture, and famed cantineros. It features popular Cuban classics like the Cuba libre, el Floridita daiquiri, and mojito, updated versions of a rum old-fashioned, and new recipes, such as the imperial fizz and cienfuegos (one hundred fires).

Number of Recipes: 100 | Pages: 256 | Date Published: 2015

Best History: A Taste of Old Cuba: More Than 150 Recipes for Delicious, Authentic, and Traditional Dishes

A Taste of Old Cuba: More Than 150 Recipes for Delicious, Authentic, and Traditional Dishes

Amazon

What We Like
  • Simple cooking cues

  • Includes historical info

What We Don't Like
  • No color images

This is as much of a memoir as it is a cookbook. Cuban expatriate and author Maria Josefa Lluria de O'Higgins grew up in Cuba during the 1920s and 1930s. A Taste of Old Cuba is a journal of her favorite childhood dishes on the island before the Castro revolution over 150 recipes. The recipes range from simple to complex, a reflection of Lluria De O’Higgins family’s experience of living with both wealth and poverty. Many of the recipes give alternate ways of preparing the food, such as how to prepare recipes using a pressure cooker and a stovetop.

Number of Recipes: 150+ | Pages: 304 | Date Published: 1994

Best Chef’s Compilation: A Taste of Cuba: A Journey Through Cuba and Its Savory Cuisine, Includes 75 Authentic Recipes from the Country’s Top Chefs

A Taste of Cuba: A Journey Through Cuba and Its Savory Cuisine, Includes 75 Authentic Recipes from the Country’s Top Chefs

Amazon

What We Like
  • Has bread

  • Includes regional info

What We Don't Like
  • Some recipes not traditional cuisine

"A Taste of Cuba" brings you inside the kitchens of paladares and introduces you to their chefs. The 75 recipes in authors Cynthia Carris Alonso, Valerie Feigen, and José Luis Alonso’s cookbook are sourced from Cuban chefs across the island. The recipes are translated from the Cuban chefs who cook intuitively by feeling rather than from precise written instructions, presented to American audiences using familiar ingredients and measurements. 

Recipes from paladar chefs, such as cuatro leches (four-milk cake), boniato and plantain chips, and la guarida coffee (espresso with whole and sweetened condensed milk, rum, lemon peel, and cinnamon) as well as ceviche, salmon roll with eggplant, almond pesto sauce, and arroz con pollo are paired with stunning visuals.

Number of Recipes: 75 | Pages: 304 | Date Published: 2018

Best Photography: Cuban Flavor: Exploring the Island's Unique Places, People, and Cuisine

Cuban Flavor: Exploring the Island's Unique Places, People, and Cuisine

Amazon

What We Like
  • Big pantry list

  • Interesting cultural sidebars

What We Don't Like
  • Not many photos of finished dishes

This dreamy, visually stunning ode to Cuba is a cookbook, art gallery, travel guide, and history book housed in 240 pages. Author and photographer Liza Gershman shares the story of Cuban cuisine in the post-revolutionary era. Recipes are accompanied by gorgeous photography. Think flan (served in a soda can), plátanos en tentación, chicken and rice, and bruschetta Cubano (a Cuban take on the Italian appetizer spiced with cumin). The shopping list at the beginning of the book makes it easy to gather and organize your Cuban culinary adventure.

Gershman shares a seven-day itinerary for visiting Cuba, which includes art and shopping destinations, restaurant and bar recommendations, and packing tips.

Number of Recipes: 50+ | Pages: 240 | Date Published: 2018

Best New Release: The Essential Cuban Cookbook: 50 Classic Recipes

The Essential Cuban Cookbook: 50 Classic Recipes

Patty Morrell-Ruiz

What We Like
  • One-pot options

  • Cultural information included throughout

What We Don't Like
  • Fewer recipes than other books

The Mad Table founder and food stylist Patty Morrell-Ruiz showcases her skills in this debut cookbook filled with classic Cuban recipes. Readers rave about how easy the instructions are to follow—so much so that even kids can join in to help prepare many of the included dishes. The book also has content relevant to each meal of the day and a whole chapter dedicated to beverages and desserts. However, the biggest plus is the authenticity of the entrees. Make-at-home versions of albondigas, ropa vieja, ham croquettes, and tostones appeal to natives of the Caribbean island nation as well as those who became enamored with its cuisine via travel, family, or friends.

Number of Recipes: 50 | Pages: 134 | Date Published: 2022

What to Look for in a Cuban Cookbook

Expertise

Are you just starting out cooking, or are you an expert? Your experience level plays a part in selecting the right cookbook for you. Simple, easy-to-follow recipes with beautifully detailed photos and recommended side dishes are ideal for beginning cooks. An experienced cook might prefer complex dishes with more ingredients and processes.

Visuals and Text

Step-by-step photos and a visual of the finished dish to show how the recipe is supposed to look are great for both beginner and visual cooks. A clear, legible text face that is easy to read is equally important when it comes to the ease of preparing recipes. You want that cookbook to be one you'll reach for again and again. 

Ingredients

Cookbooks from other countries and cuisines sometimes use ingredients that are not readily available where you live. Make sure you have access to all of the recipe's ingredients or that there are substitutes included that you can use in their place.

FAQs

What should be included in a cookbook?

A good cookbook will not only offer recipes but include storage tips, nutrition information, ingredient substitutions, serving suggestions, an index of recipes, measurement conversions, and a glossary of cooking terms.

What are the typical spices used in Cuban food?

Cuban cooking is influenced by a few cultures, including Spanish, French, Caribbean, and African, among others. It has a few commonly used spices, including garlic, cumin, salt, pepper, oregano, cilantro, and bay leaf. 

What basic cooking tools should be in a kitchen?

Must-haves in every kitchen include measuring cups and spoons, mixing bowls, cutting boards, spatulas, wooden spoons, knives, whisks, tongs, and a cookware set.  

Why Trust The Spruce Eats?

Cuban-Panamanian food writer and recipe developer Marisel Salazar grew up eating Cuban food at home with her family and has dined at the best Cuban restaurants in the United States. She has cooked from the worn pages of the most traditional cookbooks, traveled firsthand to Cuba, and experienced home cooking on the island as well as at many paladares.

Rachel Werner, who updated this roundup, is a culinary writer who has been reviewing food-focused books and businesses for almost a decade. Her food photography and recipes are also featured in content she creates for a variety of regional and national publications, such as TOPS News, The Gourmet Insider, and Fabulous Wisconsin. See examples of Rachel’s work behind the camera capturing shots of plant-based eats on Instagram @trulyplanted.

Updated by
Sharon Lockley
Sharon Lockley
Sharon Lockley has over 20 years of experience as an editor and writer and has been contributing to The Spruce Eats since 2019.
Learn about The Spruce Eats' Editorial Process
Additional reporting by
Rachel Werner
rachel werner

Rachel Werner is a writer and author whose work has appeared in Fabulous Wisconsin, Entrepreneurial Chef, and the book "Wisconsin Cocktails."

Learn about The Spruce Eats' Editorial Process
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