Traditional Cubano Sandwich

Traditional Cuban Panini
The Spruce
Prep: 15 mins
Cook: 16 mins
Total: 31 mins
Servings: 4 servings
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
586 Calories
40g Fat
10g Carbs
47g Protein
See Full Nutritional Guidelines Hide Full Nutritional Guidelines
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4
Amount per serving
Calories 586
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 40g 51%
Saturated Fat 15g 75%
Cholesterol 154mg 51%
Sodium 1957mg 85%
Total Carbohydrate 10g 4%
Dietary Fiber 1g 5%
Total Sugars 2g
Protein 47g
Vitamin C 1mg 7%
Calcium 562mg 43%
Iron 2mg 11%
Potassium 606mg 13%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

A Cuban sandwich, known as a Cubano, is a grilled ham-and-cheese sandwich variation that was created in Florida—Key West and Tampa—by Cuban immigrants who needed a filling and easy-to-carry lunch. Two versions of the sandwich exist: Salami is added in Tampa, whereas the Key West version keeps it to just pork and ham only. Miami features Cubanos of both styles and the three cities dispute who has the best renditions of the sandwich. The combination of flavorful, juicy pork, Swiss cheese, pickles, mustard, and Cuban bread makes this dish an undeniable hit.

Although versions vary, the essential ingredient is the roasted pork, traditionally marinated in a mojo sauce redolent with orange juice, lime juice, garlic, oregano, and cumin. As pork is the star of the show, pay attention to the pork you're using, and take the time to make the Cuban version if you can. If not, use high-quality sliced pork, leftover grilled pork, or roasted pork.

Our recipe will bring to your table a crunchy, tangy, salty, creamy, and decadent sandwich that's a whole meal in itself. Serve it hot or cold and treat your guests to accompanying yuca chips or fufu plantains, although the sandwich alone will be enough to get you a round of applause.

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Ingredients

  • 1 loaf Cuban bread, French bread, Italian bread, or individual 7-inch loaves

  • Garnish: 1/4 cup yellow mustard

  • Garnish: 1/4 cup mayonnaise

  • 1 pound sliced cooked ham

  • 1 pound sliced roasted pork

  • 1/2 pound sliced Swiss cheese

  • 6 dill pickles, sliced, or 16 sandwich sliced pickles

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Cubano: A Traditional Cuban Sandwich recipe ingredients
    The Spruce
  2. Heat a griddle or large cast-iron or other heavy-duty pan to medium heat.

  3. Cut the loaf of bread into quarters and slice each quarter in half horizontally. If using individual loaves, slice in half lengthwise.

    Cubano: A Traditional Cuban Sandwich recipe
    The Spruce
  4. Spread the mustard and mayonnaise on the bread. Use one condiment per slice of bread, but be sure each sandwich has both.

    Cubano: A Traditional Cuban Sandwich recipe
    The Spruce
  5. Assemble each sandwich by layering the ham, sliced pork, cheese, and dill pickles.

    Cubano: A Traditional Cuban Sandwich recipe
    The Spruce
  6. Lightly coat the cooking surface of a griddle or skillet with cooking spray. Heat the pan about 1 minute. Place the sandwiches on the hot surface.

    Cubano: A Traditional Cuban Sandwich recipe
    The Spruce
  7. Put a clean, heavy skillet on top of the sandwich to flatten it. The goal is to press the bread down to about 1/3 of its original size. Leave the skillet on top of the sandwich and grill for 1 to 2 minutes. If you don't have a heavy skillet, use a brick wrapped in foil.

    Cubano: A Traditional Cuban Sandwich recipe
    The Spruce
  8. Lift the heavy skillet, turn the sandwich over and grill on the other side. Place the skillet back on top. For the sandwich to be ready, the cheese should be melted and the bread golden brown.

    Cubano: A Traditional Cuban Sandwich recipe
    The Spruce
  9. Slice each sandwich in half diagonally.

  10. Serve and enjoy.

What Is Cuban Bread, and What to Use Instead?

Cuban bread is a white bread similar to Italian or French bread in texture and shape. Besides flour, water, yeast, and salt, Cuban bread has lard or vegetable shortening in its ingredients. Some Hispanic or Latin markets might have true Cuban bread, but if finding it is difficult, the Cubano will come out equally tasty if you use a fresh baguette or a loaf of Italian bread.

Substitutions and Add-Ons

With Miami, Tampa, and Key West debating over who has the tastiest, truest Cubano sandwich, many versions have popped up claiming to be the best. Here are some tasty variations on the classic:

  • Simply butter: Some purists use butter instead of mayo and mustard.
  • Veggies: Others add lettuce and tomatoes after the sandwich has been grilled.
  • Salami: Italian immigrants might have added salami into the Cubano, a welcomed and salty addition.
  • Over-the-top: Although not traditional, some like to add slices of crunchy bacon when assembling.