If you are considering visiting Cuba, you may have discovered that it doesn’t take much research to learn the food does not have the best reputation. Why? Well, they can’t import the ingredients you want to make your meal great thanks to the big, bad USA (not getting into politics here, but COME ON!!!!) But I am here solely to discuss the food. You’ve read it’s bad, but is it? Now maybe you are wondering about my credentials and capability to judge whether the food is good or not. Well, aside from 29 years of eating experience, I tend to watch a lot of Food Network shows, and if you’ve ever seen me at a buffet, you may realize food is a passion of mine.

How to do this? I guess will break this down into categories:

Utterly Revolting

Guys, I am only putting two items in this category. And they are both fruits in their original form. You can’t even blame Cuban cooking for this! Just throwin’ these two out there (like I literally did back in Cuba, yuck):

  • Sapote: Imagine being hungover, eyeing a dark wedge of papaya (which is not even the best fruit in the first place) on your breakfast plate, tasting the strange denseness and grainy, sweet exterior. Let’s just say it was enough to get the ol’ gag reflex in motion. My issue here may have been more with bad timing, but I was not willing to give it another go
  • Cashew Fruit: Where do cashews come from? I’m glad you asked. A tree! On an apple-like fruit! However, only one cashew is grown per fruit. No wonder they are so damn expensive. Well, you can eat this fruit (hopefully?) And in all fairness, the fruit tastes fine, but the texture of the interior of my mouth underwent a physiological change after eating it. I had a fuzzy, cotton mouth and I am not into fruits that cause a physical alteration to my person. Hmmph.

Omnipresent, but Weird and Not That Delicious

  • Ham: Not a fancy Christmas ham…those deli slices that have been processed to smithereens. You will see this on every breakfast table and as the staple filling in 90% of sandwiches. The ham doesn’t taste bad, but it is quite fatty, and it grows a bit tired after consuming it multiple times per day for weeks.
  • Pizza: Let me rephrase… “pizza.” You can purchase this item everywhere, from street stalls to restaurants and it can cost less than $1. The thing is, this pizza-like item doesn’t taste bad. The disappointment lies in calling it pizza. Savory donut would even be more fitting based on the sheer fluffiness of the dough. It’s fine, in fact I’d even recommend you try it, but rename it in your head before you do!
  • Salad: If you’ve been in Cuba for any length of time, you are probably dying for a vegetable. Don’t get your hopes up when you see salad on the menu. Salads come with just about every meal and will typically consist of shredded cabbage, a slice of cucumber, and a slice of tomato. You can dress your salad yourself with canola oil and white vinegar. While it is no Strawberry Poppyseed and Chicken Salad from Panera, I do believe, by definition, it is still a salad. Again, simply shift your salad expectations and it is totally fine.

One Hit Wonders (pause, NOT)

  • Pork Product Sandwich: Ok, I just don’t know what to call this…I had many a sandwich in Cuba, most of them from vendors on the street, most of them ham. This one had ham, but it also had half a hot dog wedged in there. Was it delicious? No. Was it terrible? On the contrary. Definitely tasted better than it looked.
  • Pineapple chicken: I couldn’t resist when I saw this on the menu! Sounds delicious! Now all the chicken wasn’t like this, but it appears that someone pounded the shit out of the dark, gristly bits that people don’t really want to eat, in effort to create a large, thin fillet. They topped the chicken with a single ring of pineapple and paired it with some warm pineapple juice in a ramekin. It was served with rice and salad (very typical). Not delicious by any stretch of the imagination, but still completely edible.

Things I LOVED ?

This list is way longer than the previous ones and I am even keeping this list modest. While I recommend you continue reading, I have already answered the initial question. No! The food in Cuba doesn’t suck! I definitely had more meals that qualified as delicious than ones that didn’t. You may also notice there are many a fried food in Cuba…A culinary secret, but frying makes things taste better.

Let’s begin with the most important meal of the day:

  • Breakfast: If you stay in a Casa Particular, breakfast will likely be included or can be added for about $5 (worth it!) I stayed in at least 10 different Casa Particulares while in Cuba and the breakfasts were always worth waking up for. There were slight variations from house to house, but there were some tried and true elements that appeared each morning like fresh eggs, fresh fruit, fresh (and occasionally not-so-fresh) bread, coffee, and juice (often fresh). The guava juice is my kryptonite. Fresh guava is blended with water and ice to make a slushy-like consistency. Mm mm good. Very occasionally we’d receive extra goodies like cheese or pastries or cookies or tomatoes. And like I previously mentioned, there was always ham.
    Fruit plate in Cuba
    My favorite fruit plate of all of my 20+ breakfasts in Cuba. Six different fruits! A record

    Breakfast food in Cuba
    A special morning. Note cheese AND tomatoes
  • Fish Croquettes: Even though I had been served these at breakfast at one of my Casas, they deserved their own blurb. Fish at breakfast you may be thinking. Honestly, these things were so good that it didn’t matter the time of day.
  • Fried Plantain Chips: You can find these anywhere. And you can’t mess them up. Fried plantain-y goodness.
  • Corn Fritters: I was lucky enough to be in Baracoa (eastern most part of the island) during their Carnival celebration, which meant endless availability of street food! These smashed, fried corn bits did not disappoint!
  • Chicken Plate: This was the biggest bargain of my entire trip. While you can order a chicken plate at any restaurant across Cuba, the value I felt I received at Carnival in Baracoa was incomparable. For just 25 CUP or 1 CUC (like ONE DOLLAR) I got a quarter of a chicken off the grill, rice, salad, fried plantain chips, and some cooked cabbage, all drizzled in chicken drippings (ok, this part was unnecessary, but it does taste good). With value like that, I had to go back and have the same thing the following night.
  • Baracoan Coconut Tomato Sauce: This is a preparation/sauce local to Baracoa. I loved Baracoa so much and the delicious food is just the sauce on top of the fish. I highly recommend El Buen Sabor restaurant to try this sauce. You can order it on the fish of the day (dorado when I was there), shrimp, lobster, or some seafood combos. It is a complete meal with, you’ve guessed it, salad, rice and beans, soup, etc, served family style.

    Baracoan tomato coconut sauce in Cuba
    That pretty butterfly garnish is NOT cheese. I promise
  • Enchilado anything: No, this does not mean rolled in tortillas and smothered with cheese. This is a typical Cuban preparation of things like shrimp and lobster in a tomato based sauce with spices, peppers, and onions. One night I had probably three lobster tails worth of lobster enchilado. So good!
  • Cake: I celebrated my birthday in Cuba. I am also extremely particular when it comes to birthday cake (cough Funfetti with buttercream frosting cough). Believe it or not, you can not find such a cake in many countries. My friends win a gold star for finding the MOST delicious non-funfetti cake in existence. The cake was frosted in meringue and then covered in chocolate and I could not stop eating it.

    Birthday cake in Cuba
    What I would do for a slice of this right now
  • Ropa Vieja: I have saved the best for last. This was my favorite thing to eat in Cuba. I was in Cuba for over three weeks and probably consumed Ropa Vieja over a dozen times and it was always tasty. You can find it in any restaurant. It is essentially pulled beef (or occasionally you will find it prepared with lamb. Also delicious!) I actually miss it now that I am home. And just a note for you Spanish whizzes out there…yes, ropa vieja does translate to “old clothes.” But I am here to tell you that it doesn’t taste like clothes at all, old or new, yay!

    Ropa Vieja: the best food in Cuba
    There she is! Ropa Vieja ?

So there you have it! I had some incredible meals in Cuba. Surely you will have some flops along the way, but my biggest advice is to manage your expectations and don’t let one bad “pizza like object” ruin your trip.

And if all else fails, the rum is excellent!

Havana Club Mojito
Mojito, mojito (not actual words in Despacito)

Is the food in Cuba bad? Is the food in Cuba good? What is the food in Cuba like?

38 thoughts on “Does the Food in Cuba Actually Suck?”

  1. Wow… that fruity breakfast looks so delicious. Looks like you had a great time in Cuba and enjoyed your food.
    I hope I can get there sometime soon because I always wanted to visit this country with its colorful buildings and vividly colored Epoque cars <3.
    I'll have to check the rest of your blog for more info about it.

    1. Fruit EVERYDAY at breakfast! Cuba is such a beautiful country and you will love it! This is my first Cuba post, but there is more where that came from!

  2. One you missed is the lobster – so good and so cheap! (For a Brit anyway!) I loved the breakfasts in the casas too, and you have to try all the rum!!

    1. I casually mentioned the lobster when discussing the Enchilado dishes, but it totally does deserve it’s own line! And it was cheap for the amount that they serve you! Oh yes, ALL THE RUM, I maintained a steady level of intake during my time in Cuba :)

  3. It all looked gorgeous! You hear so much negative press about Cuba and assume the food will be terrible, along with everything else about the country (unfortunately) but this looks yum!

  4. We have Cashews in Goa too. They slice them up and serve them with salt. To be truthful it isn’t my favorite fruit because of the after effects but there are people who seem to enjoy it. :)

    1. They must have them in a lot of places to be able to produce so many nuts! But the first time I ever tasted the fruit was in Cuba. Isn’t in funny how people have such different tastes?

  5. As an American citizen, thanks for not getting political hahaha. But really, I loved how you organized this post, though out of pure curiosity I wish there was a picture of your “pizza”! That fruit plate does look truly beautiful, and everything in your “things I loved” section sound absolutely delicious!

  6. Some of these dishes look divine. That’s what I love about traveling, no matter where I am in the world, I always want to check out the local food. Don’t care if its fancy or plain and simple, its food :)

  7. The food sounds great. I really love trying the local food….and I already LOVE Cuban food. I’d love to visit!

  8. Haha, I love your humour! A relief to see that pizza like objects aren’t all that’s available. The salad sounded pretty depressing but everything else made up for it.

  9. While I’ve never visited Cuba myself, I found an authentic Cuban cafe on South Beach in Miami and it was one of my favourite places to eat. Everything I had there was absolutely delicious. When I eventually do visit Cuba, I’m DEFINITELY trying a lobster enchilado. My mouth is watering just thinking about it!!

  10. What an interesting list. I am trying to get to Cuba. I am glad to hear you found some foods you loved. I was actually really turned off by some of the fruit in Asia too. Fruit can really be awful haha

  11. I really love all forms of Cuban food, especially the pork products (and rum). But there’s definitely facets of every country’s cuisine that doesnt appeal to everyone. It’s great that you were willing to try it though!

  12. Good to know. My friend is travelling to Cuba next year so I will pre-warn her. I think the food I had trouble eating was in Japan. There is a lot of raw meat and fish and pickled vegetables which I do not like.

    1. It is definitely hard when cuisines differ so much from what we are used to! In the past few years, I have started trying and actually liking (almost) everything which has made travel much easier!

  13. I had absolutely no idea that Cuban food had any sort of bad reputation. I’ve always heard good thing! I guess there are good and bad dishes in every country. I really enjoyed your photos.

    1. Thanks! Before traveling to Cuba, I read so much about how Cuban food IN Cuba is, well, not good. Apparently Cuban food in Miami is to die for!

  14. Very interesting! I am hoping to visit Cuba soon and it always nice to read posts from there. We have couple awesome Cuban restaurants here in California that I used to go to, so I never thought that the food in Cuba wouldn’t be good. Well, at least I hope that the drinks are great.. ha ha!

  15. All I see is FOOD. The best parts of traveling for me is the food adventure. I’d definitely be on the look out for the cake you have in this post when I visit Cuba.

  16. Haha, I’ve had a few of those experiences on my travels, but luckily there is ALWAYS great food…you just need to find it! I’d love to try the Ropa Vieja; I’ve had pulled pork in Taiwan (which is pretty awesome), but I’m literally drooling to try the beef version!

  17. really fun look at the food in Cuba. As with anything, adjusting your expectations before you start is definitely for the best so I’m so glad you pointed that out! If you know what to expect, you’re less likely to give it the blanket “the food sucks” comment we hear so often

  18. While people really talk about the food they loved from a certain place. This is indeed one interesting writeup where you talk about food that you didn’t like as well. And I guess that will be a lot of help for fellow travelers headed to Cuba!

    1. yes! I’ve heard such negative things about Cuban food, so while there were a few flops (worth noting), there are definitely some delicious things to look forward to!

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