Cuban Sandwich

A Cubano

What is a Cuban Sandwich?

A  Cuban sandwich or “Cubano” is a sandwich that starts with light, airy Cuban bread that shatters with a satisfying crunch, revealing layers of savory roasted pork, salty ham, and melty Swiss cheese. Tangy pickles and mustard add a delightful contrast, making every bite a flavor explosion. THAT’S IT – NOTHING ELSE!

As I was preparing to write this blog post to share my favorite part about making Lechón which is making Cuban sandwiches, the next day, of course. I stumbled upon the great debate of the Cuban sandwich. Salami or no salami? Suppose you ask my Cuban husband or anyone in his family. In that case, it is a firm no salami, followed by, “Conyo, who puts salami on a Cubano?”

Apparently, people from Tampa add genoa salami to their Cuban sandwiches and even claim that that is the original way. In contrast, people in Miami say no salami, and their way is the original way. 

So, I decided to dig deep. It was conceived 500 years ago the Taino tribe in Cuba made the very first version of a Cuban sandwich. It consisted of fish and birds between 2 slices of crunchy casabe. Casabe was more of a cracker-like consistency when compared to bread. Fish and birds were used because pork did not become available until the Europeans (mostly Spaniards) settled. The Europeans brought pork with them. They also brought a doughy substance with them that resembled bread instead of a cracker. 

Fast-forward to the 1800’s when the Cuban tobacco industry started developing in Florida. Cubans were able to sail back and forth from Cuba to Miami frequently, either for employment or to visit. Historian Loy Glen Westfall claims that the sandwich was “born in Cuba and educated in Key West. The cigar industry started in Key West then moved north to Tampa, specifically Ybor city. Cigar manufacturers’ workers were composed of Cuban, Spanish, Italian, and Jewish immigrants. These workers needed a quick and affordable lunch. So, the “mixto” was born then, and today we know it as a Cuban sandwich or “Cubano.”

What is on a Cuban Sandwich?

A Cuban sandwich starts with Cuban bread. It has a light, flaky crust on the outside and an incredibly soft, airy texture inside. It is tough to find “true” Cuban bread unless you live in Florida or Cuba. The bread is cut and then spread with yellow mustard, and 3 pickles are added. Next, layer roasted pork (lechón), ham, and Swiss cheese and cover with the top piece of bread. Spread a little melted butter or olive oil on the top portion of bread and press on a hot grill (plancha) or pan. After it has been pressed, take off the grill, cut diagonally, and serve with a refreshing Cuban soda such as Iron Beer or Materva. 

Now, here’s the part that causes great debate. In Tampa, they add salami and claim that theirs is the original. However, I’m probably going to make people very upset in Tampa and say that I have never had a Cuban sandwich with salami and do not want a Cuban sandwich with salami. There are even versions with mayonnaise, lettuce, and tomato… WHAT??? Now I know recipes have different interpretations and people like to “elevate” food and make it their own. I’m ok with that, and I do that too. But, when you add ingredients or take away ingredients from a Cuban sandwich, you can’t call it a Cuban sandwich anymore. You have to call it an “inspired Cuban” sandwich. 

With all of this said, I hope you enjoy this simple recipe for a Cuban sandwich. It is my favorite part when making Lechón, the leftovers to make a Cubano the next day. I will admit I do not have access to real Cuban bread, so I had to use the best substitute I could find at my local bakery.  

Ingredients for the Perfect Cuban Sandwich

To create the perfect Cuban sandwich, it is essential to use the finest ingredients that capture the essence of Cuban flavors. Let’s take a closer look at the key components that make up this mouthwatering delight.

  1. Cuban Bread: The foundation of the Cuban sandwich is the bread. Authentic Cuban bread is light and airy on the inside with a crisp crust. It has a unique flavor and texture that sets it apart from regular sandwich bread. If you can’t find Cuban bread, you can use French or Italian bread as a substitute.
  2. Roasted Pork: The star of the Cuban sandwich is the succulent roasted pork (lechón). Traditionally, a whole pork leg is marinated in a flavorful mixture of garlic, citrus juices, and spices (Cuban mojo criollo), then slow-cooked until tender and juicy. The result is melt-in-your-mouth pork that adds a rich and savory element to the sandwich.
  3. Ham: Slices of ham are layered on top of the roasted pork, adding a salty and savory note. Look for thinly sliced ham with a good balance of flavors.
  4. Swiss Cheese: The cheese used in a Cuban sandwich is typically Swiss cheese. It melts beautifully and adds a creamy element to the sandwich. Opt for a high-quality Swiss cheese with a mild and nutty flavor.
  5. Pickles: Tangy and crisp pickles are an essential component of the Cuban sandwich. They provide a refreshing contrast to the rich and savory flavors of the meat and cheese. Use dill pickles or pickle slices for the best results.
  6. Mustard: The final touch of flavor comes from a spread of zesty mustard. Yellow mustard is the traditional choice.

Layering the Ingredients Properly

The art of layering the ingredients in a Cuban sandwich is what sets it apart from other sandwiches. Each layer contributes to the overall flavor profile and texture. Follow these steps to achieve the perfect layering:

  1. Start with Mustard: Spread the mustard on one side of the bread that will be the bottom. The mustard adds a tangy and zesty kick to the sandwich.
  2. Add Pickles: Place pickle slices on top of the mustard, evenly distributing them across the bread. The pickles provide a refreshing and crunchy element. Not too many however, 3 should do it.
  3. Layer the Meats: Place a generous amount of roasted pork on top of the pickles. Ensure that the pork covers the entire surface of the bread. Layer the ham slices on top of the roasted pork, creating a flavorful meat combination.
  4. Top with Cheese: Finish the sandwich by placing slices of Swiss cheese on top of the ham. The cheese will melt and bind the fillings together, creating a cohesive and delicious sandwich.

Pressing and Cooking the Cuban Sandwich

The final step in creating the perfect Cuban sandwich is pressing and cooking it to meld the flavors together and achieve a crispy exterior. Follow these steps to press and cook your Cuban sandwich:

  1. Preheat the Press: Preheat a sandwich press or a panini press to medium-high heat. If you don’t have a press, you can use a heavy skillet and a foil-wrapped brick as a makeshift press.
  2. Press the Sandwich: Place the assembled Cuban sandwich onto the preheated press. Close the press and apply gentle pressure to press the sandwich together. If using a skillet and brick, place the sandwich in the skillet and place the brick on top to press it down.
  3. Cook until Golden and Crispy: Cook the sandwich for 3-4 minutes on each side, or until the bread turns golden brown and develops a crunchy texture. The cheese should be melted and the fillings should be heated through.
  4. Remove from Heat: Once the sandwich is cooked to perfection, remove it from the press or skillet. Let it cool for a few minutes before slicing and serving.

Tips for Making the Perfect Cuban Sandwich at Home

Creating the perfect Cuban sandwich at home requires attention to detail and a few helpful tips. Here are some tips to ensure your Cuban sandwich turns out flavorful and delicious:

  1. Use High-Quality Ingredients: Opt for the best quality ingredients you can find, especially when it comes to the meat, cheese, and bread. This will elevate the overall taste and texture of the sandwich.
  2. Marinate the Pork: Marinate the pork overnight in a flavorful mixture of garlic, citrus juices, and spices (mojo criollo). This will infuse the meat with extra flavor and tenderness.
  3. Properly Layer the Ingredients: Ensure that each layer of ingredients is evenly distributed and covers the entire surface of the bread. This ensures that every bite is packed with flavor.
  4. Don’t Overstuff the Sandwich: While it may be tempting to add extra fillings, be mindful not to overstuff the sandwich. This can make it difficult to press and cook evenly.
  5. Use a Sandwich Press or Panini Press: Invest in a good-quality sandwich press or panini press to achieve the ideal crispy exterior and melted cheese. If you don’t have one, a heavy skillet and a foil-wrapped brick can be used as a makeshift press.
  6. Let the Sandwich Rest Before Cutting: Allow the sandwich to rest for a few minutes after cooking to let the fillings settle. This will make it easier to cut and prevent the fillings from falling out.

While preparing for this blog post, I found out that National Cuban Sandwich Day is August 23. Like, I need another reason to eat a Cuban sandwich…

Sharing is Caring, below is a Pinterest friendly photo…

Cuban Sandwich

Difficulty: Beginner Prep Time 10 mins Cook Time 5 mins Rest Time 3 mins Total Time 18 mins
Servings: 4


A perfectly toasted Cuban sandwich is a symphony of textures and flavors. The light, airy Cuban bread shatters with a satisfying crunch, revealing layers of savory roasted pork, salty ham, and melty Swiss cheese. Tangy pickles and mustard add a delightful contrast, making every bite a flavor explosion.



  1. Preheat a griddle or a sandwich press to 325 degrees. Cut bread lenghthwise in half. Spread mustard on each piece of bread. Put 3 pickles on bottom layer of sliced bread.
  2. Next, add a layer of pork, then ham and last the swiss cheese. Cover with top piece of bread.
  3. Brush the bread with butter or olive oil and put on the grill and press. If you don't have a press then another heavy pan or a brick covered in aluminum foil could be used too. After about 5 minutes and the sandwich is pressed remove and cut diagonally.

Keywords: Cuban sandwich, Cuban, sandwich
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