When it comes to international cuisine, Cuban is high on most people’s list of favorites, and Cuban appetizers are especially well-liked.
Cuban cuisine incorporates all the best flavors from the variety of people who settled there. It uses lots of tropical fruits, root veggies, and seafood.
Rice, plantains, and black beans are also staples of the fare. Some Cuban recipes are spicy, while others are more tangy or tart.
For this list, I’ve pulled together 20 recipes that I feel best represent the spice and tang of traditional Cuban fare.
Whether you’re looking for new snacks for Superbowl Sunday or something fun and flavorful to bring to the neighborhood cookout, these Cuban appetizers have you covered.
This is the perfect easy appetizer for anyone who prefers assembling food to cooking it.
All you’ll have to do is gather your ingredients and stick them on skewers layer by layer.
Start with a baby dill pickle, then add a small square of Swiss cheese, a cube of cooked ham, and a cube of cooked pork tenderloin.
Serve them with honey mustard sauce for dipping.
This is another excellent option for those who don’t love to cook.
Most of your work goes into mixing all the ingredients. The oven does all the actual cooking for you.
To make the sandwich dip, or ‘spread’ if you prefer, you’ll need cream cheese, mayo, yellow mustard, cooked and diced ham and pork, dill pickles, and shredded Swiss cheese.
Once mixed, it has a consistency similar to many potato salads. After it’s baked, it’ll be warm and creamy. Add it to your favorite toasted bread.
If you’re looking for a dish that’s high in fiber, antioxidants, potassium, and iron, consider Cuban lentil soup. Start with a base of vegetable or low-sodium chicken broth.
Then add in your lentils, sauteed veggies, spices and herbs, tomato paste, and ham hock.
It tastes great and is filling and nutritious.
I love it because, despite all the ingredients, you cook everything in only one pot, which saves a lot of time during clean-up.
Part of the reason I’m such a fan of Cuban appetizers is because they’re so quick and easy to make.
Many of them require little actual cooking, and cleaning up is usually easy, too.
This recipe is another one that you’ll only have to assemble rather than cook.
Add yellow mustard to your smoked ham slices, then layer the cheese, lettuce, and pickle on top.
Roll everything up, and stick a toothpick through the center to keep them from unrolling.
Wrap any extras in plastic, and store them in the fridge for up to 4 days.
These puffed pastries are the perfect combination of sweet and savory.
The pastry and homemade “simple syrup” add just the right amount of sweetness, while the picadillo in the center is warm, hearty, and beefy.
I like to add a dash of garlic for flavor, but that’s entirely off-recipe and not for everyone.
This recipe sometimes scares people away when they first see it because of the long ingredients list, but if you look more closely, you’ll see that most of them are seasonings and common veggies.
The dish takes a little over an hour to make, but the tender, perfectly seasoned crab meat and the crispy, crunchy, deep-fried croquette shells taste so incredible.
It’s certainly time well spent.
You can serve them with tartar or cocktail sauce if you like, but they’re just as good without dipping sauce.
Yuca, also called cassava, is another common ingredient found in Cuban dishes, and these fried yuca balls are super yummy and can be ready in about 20 minutes.
They’re similar to hush puppies that have been stuffed with cheddar cheese, and yes, they’re just as good as they sound.
You can serve them with marinara or another favorite dipping sauce, but I recommend making the homemade cilantro dressing in the recipe.
It’s smooth, herby, and zesty, thanks to the cilantro, lime, and vinegar. It complements the cheesy, slightly nutty flavor of the yuca balls fabulously.
If you’re looking for something a little sweeter, try these fantastic cream cheese and guava-filled pastries.
They work well as desserts or breakfast pastries, and they’re simple to make.
Aside from water, you’ll only need five ingredients: coarse sugar, an egg, puff pastry dough, cream cheese, and guava paste.
You can usually find this at Latin markets or on Amazon.
The recipe calls for dusting the finished pastries with powdered sugar or with an egg wash and coarse sugar. Either of those options is great and tastes so good.
However, I’m a sweet and salty person, so instead, I coat mine in an egg wash and add sea salt on top.
To me, it takes them to a whole new level of yumminess, but again, that’s a personal preference.
Peel and slice a few plantains, fry them in oil, and sprinkle them with sea salt. It doesn’t get much simpler than that.
Plus, they taste fantastic. Serve them with or without a dipping sauce, as you prefer.
10. Cuban Sliders
This is another recipe that requires minimal cooking, which means it’s one of my favorites.
Load up some Hawaiian rolls with ham, Swiss cheese, and dill pickles.
Cover them in a homemade Dijon mustard/minced onion mixture, and bake them for about 25 minutes.
They’re fast and easy, and they taste amazing. Be sure to make plenty, though, because once you try them, one won’t be enough.
I love the way these look. They’re delightful, golden-brown balls of deliciousness.
They’re so pretty, and until you bite into them, you’ll almost think they were little cinnamon/sugar balls.
Instead, they’re savory, featuring a filling of peppers, onions, Worcestershire sauce, ground sirloin, garlic, and more. The recipe makes about 25 of these adorable balls.
You can also leave out the sirloin and add more veggies if you’re looking for a vegetarian-friendly appetizer.
For these sandwiches, you’ll need a food processor and Hawaiian rolls or slider buns.
For the sandwich filling, mix cooked ham, cream cheese, green olives with pimento, roasted red peppers, mayo, and sweet pickles in the food processor until you have a smooth, creamy consistency.
Then spread the filling between the cut rolls or buns, and you’re all set.
These simple kabobs combine grilled sirloin with zucchini. Season them with salt and pepper, and they’re good to go.
The homemade sauce takes a little more time, but it, too, is easy to make. It adds a zesty, tangy, garlicky finish to the already delicious kabobs.
Most of the work for this recipe goes into making the marinade.
You’ll need orange and lime juices, olive oil, garlic, cumin, oregano, cilantro, and just a hint of salt and pepper.
Once the marinade is mixed, let your shrimp chill in it for half an hour or so.
Then grill the shrimp on skewers for a couple of minutes on each side, and that’s all it takes!
This colorful salad combines lettuce, avocados, red onions, tomatoes, and feta cheese.
Top it off with the homemade garlic lime vinaigrette for an herby, zesty finish.
The whole thing is cool, crisp, and refreshing.
16. Cuban Style Yuca
This is a simple, healthy dish made of boiled yuca that’s been seasoned and garnished with onions, garlic, lemon juice, and salt.
Although the consistency isn’t exactly the same and this dish has a little more kick to it, it’s similar to a side dish of boiled potatoes.
If you’re looking for a way to impress your friends and family at your next get-together, break out this recipe for Cuban beef empanadas with homemade dough!
Homemade dough sounds impressive and difficult to make. In reality, it’s impressive, but not at all difficult. All you’ll need is flour, shortening, salt, and water.
Mix it all up, adding the water until it makes a non-sticky ball. Then wrap it in plastic and let it chill for half an hour.
During that time, you can work on the filling, which is rich, hearty, and savory, with just a tiny hint of sweetness thanks to the sherry and raisins.
Once completely done, they’re warm, crispy, and delightful.
If you’ve never had Cuban black bean soup, you’re missing out. It’s a thick, hearty soup that’s more like a stew.
It has tons of great spices for flavor, is full of protein and veggies, and is vegan-friendly.
I go a little heavy on the green and white onions as a garnish and leave out the sour cream.
Other topping ideas include sour cream and chives, fresh corn salsa, or pico de gallo.
These fried plantain chips are very similar to the tostones mentioned above, only these are incredibly crispy and loaded with garlic salt before they’re fried.
The included recipe for mojo sauce is also different. Mojo sauce is very tangy and tart, and you can make it more so by doubling down on the lime juice.
For a sweeter taste, go heavy on the orange juice instead.
20. Malanga Fritters
These fritters are some of the milder Cuban appetizers I’ve ever tried, but they’re just as tasty as all the rest.
The outside shell is crispy and bursting with herby, garlicky flavor.
The inside is soft and tender. The malanga may be a little hard to find, but if you can’t find it locally, you can always order it from Amazon.
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