The Cuban Sandwich, aka Cubano, is the ultimate sandwich for a pork lover! You’ve got a real explosion of flavor from the combination of tender slow-roasted pork, slightly sweet ham, tangy pickles and mustard, and Swiss cheese.
If you live in or have ever traveled to south Florida, you probably already know and love the beauty of a Cuban Sandwich. You will find this sandwich in many restaurants and bars across the state, and for good reason. This sandwich is supremely satisfying and has so much flavor to offer!
Let’s go through the checklist, shall we? Tender roast pork – check! Sweet sliced ham – check! Salty pickles – check! Swiss cheese and mustard – check and check! Oh, and let’s not forget about the buttered and toasted Cuban bread that hosts this medley of bold ingredients. It’s soft on the inside, but perfectly crispy on the outside to really give you that satisfying crunch with every bite.
Cooking a Cuban Sandwich is delightfully very easy to do. It’s as simple as buttering the bread, assembling the ingredients, and pressing it with some heat to get everything nice and melted. This is an ideal lunch recipe because it won’t take much time out of your day to whip up, and it’ll definitely keep you full until dinnertime!
What is a Cuban Sandwich?
It’s a flavorful combination of savory, slightly sweet, and quite tangy ingredients all layered in a hot sandwich. You start with crunchy on the outside and soft in the inside Cuban bread. Add some butter on the outside to cook it and to add even more flavor.
Then, you have some yellow mustard spread on each half, followed by roasted or smoked pork, slightly sweet ham, and tangy pickles. It’s all topped with Swiss cheese and cooked until completely heated through in a panini press. (No panini press? Don’t worry! I will give you a hack in the recipe to get results just as good).
Origins of the Cuban Sandwich:
Just like with so many popular classic recipes, there is a debate around the origins of the Cubano sandwich. Some insist that it originated in Cuba and then was brought to South Florida by migrant workers.
Others report that records going back to Key West, Miami, and Tampa areas show that this sandwich was actually invented by the immigrants here in Florida. Whichever side of the debate you stand on, don’t let it overshadow the fact that it is a classic Cuban Sandwich.
How to Make a Cuban Sandwich
Ingredients You’ll Need:
- Cuban Bread – For this classic sandwich, this really shouldn’t be substituted with any other kind of bread.
- Butter – Use unsalted butter. There’s a lot of salty flavor from the meats and the pickles, so you don’t want to overdo it with salted butter.
- Yellow Mustard – Some people like Dijon mustard in their Cubano, but plain yellow mustard is the traditional condiment.
- Swiss Cheese – Have any leftover? Now you can also make yourself a Reuben with your Swiss cheese!
- Dill Pickles – I like to use sandwich sliced dill pickles in my Cubanos for the best bite.
- Ham – You can use maple or black forest ham. Both yield delicious results.
- Roast Pork – It’s so easy to make your own roast pork. If you have any roast pork or pork loin leftover from dinner, this is the best way to use it up!
Prepare the sandwich.
Cut the bread in half width-wise. Butter the outer part of each slice.
Spread mustard on the inside of each half of bread. Layer the ham, then the pork, then pickles, then cheese on the bottom half of the bread. Close the sandwich with the top half.
Cook the sandwich.
Cook the Cuban sandwich in a panini press if you have one and if not, follow the simple instructions below!
No panini press? No problem!
Preheat a skillet over medium heat.
Place the sandwich in the skillet, then use another smaller skillet to press it down. Cook the sandwich for a few minutes, then flip it. You’ll know the sandwich is done when the cheese is melted and the bread is toasted.
Cut the sandwich in half and enjoy with your favorite sides!
Frequently Asked Questions
What kind of pork should I use?
There are two types of pork in a Cuban sandwich: roasted pork and ham. When it comes to roasted pork, you can use Mojo marinated roasted pork, simple roasted pulled pork, or even smoked pulled pork. If you have any roasted pork loin left, you can use that as well, just thinly sliced.
Choose your favorite ham for the ham layer. I like to add a little sweetness with maple honey ham to balance out the tangy mustard and pickles.
Salami or no salami?
That is a source of yet another debate surrounding this sandwich. People in Miami will claim that the classic Cuban sandwich does not have salami, but the residents of Tampa would strongly disagree. So it comes down to which version of this sandwich you’d like to make, it’s going to be the Miami or Tampa version. The Tampa version calls for an addition of genoa salami for an extra layer of salty flavor.
No panini press?
Personally, I don’t bother buying a panini press because I believe you can achieve close to the same results without having yet another appliance in the kitchen cabinet. I use my ridged cast iron skillet and another small skillet on top.
Once you place the sandwiches onto the cast iron skillet, place another smaller skillet on top of it to weigh them down. If you don’t have another skillet, use another cooking pan. If you need to weigh down the other cooking pan, you can use pie weights.
The Cuban Sandwich aka Cubano
Cuban Sandwich (Cubano)
- 2 8-10-inch Cuban bread loaves
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter softened or melted
- 2 tbsp yellow mustard
- 8 oz sliced Swiss cheese
- 8-10 sandwich sliced dill pickles more if suing round slices
- 8-10 slices maple or black forest ham about 1/2 lb.
- 1 lb roast pork shredded
Prepare the sandwich:
- Cut each Cuban bread in half, width-wise. Brush or rub the outer part of each bead half with melted butter.
- On the inside, spread mustard of each bead half.
- Layer ham, then shredded pork, then pickles, and then Swiss cheese on two of the bottom bread halves. Close the sandwiches with the top half.
Cooking Cuban Sandwich:
- You can use a panini press to cook the sandwich until completely heated through and cheese is melted or use the below method.
Cooking Without a Panini Press:
- Preheat a ridged (or a regular) skillet over medium heat.
- Place the sandwiches onto it and place another smaller skillet (or a heavier cooking pan) on top of the sandwiches to press them down. Let them cook a few minutes and then flip them. Place the skillet on top again and let them cook until completely heated through and cheese is melted.
- Cut each sandwich in half and serve with some pickles, chips, side salad, or any other side you wish.