Cuba’s Unforgettable Food Culture: How to Eat Healthy and Tasty While Enjoying the Island

Can you believe it? You are heading to Cuba! Your mouth starts watering at the thought of traditional Cuban dishes like ropa vieja, lechon asado and arroz con pollo. If you’re thinking about losing weight before your trip, don’t worry; this guide on how to eat healthy in Cuba will help you enjoy the island and its food without going overboard on the calories!

The Habanero Pepper

Habanero peppers are relished for their intense heat and flavor, but they are also considered to be nutritious. The peppers are a good source of vitamins A and C, as well as potassium and fiber. Fresh habaneros are also low in calories and fat.

Cuban pork dishes are a popular staple. The island is famous for its delicious slow-roasted, marinated lechon asado served with black beans, rice and salad. Fresh fruits like mangoes, papayas, bananas and oranges are among some of Cuba’s favorite fresh produce staples. Tropical drinks such as fresh passion fruit juices or mamey (mah-may) milkshakes made from blended cashew nuts are also well loved by Cubans when it comes to snacking on snacks or light meals between meals.

Grilled or stewed chicken is enjoyed at home or at restaurants throughout Cuba. Chicken dishes are often made with coconut milk, garlic, onions, peppers and spices. They are often served on a bed of white rice along with fried plantains or yellow yuca. Often eaten for breakfast in Cuba is congri – white rice cooked with black beans and accompanied by fried eggs and ham slices. Cuban coffee (Cuban espresso) is also enjoyed widely throughout Cuba. It is considered as part of Cuban culture; The word coffee has its origins in Cuba, originating from café which was Spanish soldier who took coffee while watching over a camp’s cattle late 16th century.


Cuban arepas are one of the most relishing, nutritious, and cheap foods on the island. They are made of cornmeal or flour and can be grilled, baked, or fried. Arepas are typically served with beans, cheese, avocado, or plantain.

One of my favorite ways to eat arepas is on a sandwich. Make sure you’re getting an arepa de trigo or flour arepa, not an arepa de maiz or cornmeal one. To make it a sandwich, fry an egg over-easy and place it on top of an avocado spread that you made with some mayonnaise, lime juice, salt and pepper. Then take a scoop of beans—preferably black beans—and put them on top as well. And if you really want to add some flavor, sprinkle some parsley flakes over everything before you close up your sandwich. Wrap it all up in foil (it will get messy) or just bite into it however you like!

However you decide to eat it, an arepa is a super cheap and delicious meal that you should definitely try when visiting Cuba. I hope these tips help your trip go a little smoother!

Corn-based Dishes

When it comes to Cuban food, corn is definitely a staple. Whether it be in the form of arepas, polenta, or simply on the cob, this grain is used in a variety of dishes. And while it may not be the healthiest option, it is definitely delicious. So if you’re looking to enjoy some Cuban cuisine, be sure to try some of these corn-based dishes!

One popular dish that uses corn is Arroz Con Pollo, or rice with chicken. In a traditional recipe, it starts by cooking tomatoes for about five minutes with olive oil. Then, you add onions and garlic. Finally, mix in rice until it’s well blended with everything else. After that, you’ll want to add fresh cilantro and oregano along with chicken stock cubes. Simmer all of these ingredients together while stirring occasionally until they reach your desired consistency!

Another dish that uses corn is Bacalao Con Papas, or salted codfish with potatoes. To prepare it, you’ll need roughly two pounds of salted codfish (you can find some at a Latin American grocery store), one head of garlic, two onions, olive oil, two parsnips, one pound of sliced potatoes and three peeled tomatoes. First off, make sure to soak your codfish in cold water for around eight hours. Then peel off all but one clove of garlic while also cutting up your onion into large pieces.

Fish and Seafood

When it comes to seafood, Cuba is known for its lobster, shrimp, and fish. These items are usually grilled, but can also be fried or sautéed. If you’re looking for a healthy option, try the grilled fish. It’s typically served with rice, beans, and salad. For a heartier meal, try the shrimp or lobster. They’re usually served with rice and beans as well.

The Cuban sandwich is another iconic dish that you must try while in Cuba. Its popularity has grown internationally as well, so you’ll find them on menus all over the world. You’ll typically find it served on an oval roll with a mixture of meats such as roasted pork, ham, swiss cheese, pickles and mustard. It’s served hot off a press or just removed from an oven. Another popular dish is ropa vieja which translates to old clothes because its shredded beef resembles rags. The beef has marinated in a citrus sauce for several hours then cooked with onion and bell peppers until falling apart tender. It’s then piled onto bread or rice for serving.

The key lime pie, a fluffy dessert that features two layers of whipped cream. Each layer is then topped with chocolate sauce, graham cracker crumbs, and a wedge of lime. It’s especially popular in Key West, Florida because it was created by Harry Watson who owned a bakery at Sloppy Joe’s Bar in Key West. Other sweet treats you should try are flan de coco (coconut custard) or guava pastelitos (little pies). If you’re looking for non-sweet options, give mango fritters or papaya mousse a try.

Meat Dishes

Cuba is famous for its flavorful, mouth-watering meat dishes. One of the most popular is ropa vieja, a dish made with shredded beef that is simmered in a tomato-based sauce. Another favorite is lechón asado, a whole roasted pig that is often served at special occasions. If you’re looking for something lighter, try pollo a la plancha, grilled chicken served with a lemon-garlic mojo sauce. No matter what you order, you’re sure to enjoy Cuba’s delicious food culture!

Besides being delicious, Cuban food is also very healthy. With most dishes, including ropa vieja and lechón asado, you’ll get a dose of proteins that will keep you feeling full longer. In fact, Cuban cuisine doesn’t use as much meat as other Latin American food cultures. Instead of cutting calories with high-fat meat in their recipes, Cubans opt for fresh produce and low-fat chicken or fish instead. Another advantage of eating more fresh foods is that they are higher in essential vitamins and minerals such as Vitamin C, which your body needs to stay healthy. Another health perk? Cuba doesn’t have a highly developed fast food culture so it’s easier to avoid unhealthy options like processed meats or fried foods!

Watermelon Ice Cream (Ice Cream de Sandía)

If you want a Cuban ice cream that’s both healthy and delicious, look no further than watermelon ice cream! Made with fresh watermelon, this refreshing treat is perfect for hot summer days. Plus, it’s super easy to make at home – no ice cream maker required! Here’s how to do it:
All you need is watermelon, ice, sugar and lime juice. You can keep it simple or add other ingredients like mint for an extra-refreshing taste. The first step is to prepare your watermelon. Pick a medium-sized seedless watermelon and cut it into large chunks. Remove all of the flesh except for that attached at one end of each chunk; slice off a thin layer from both ends of each chunk so they sit flat on your cutting board.

Now, blend half of the watermelon chunks in a blender or food processor. You want it to be very smooth. Transfer that blended watermelon into a large bowl. Repeat with remaining chunks and combine them with blended ones. Add sugar (1/2 cup) and mix well. Add ice cubes (3 cups) and continue mixing until thoroughly combined. Let chill in refrigerator for 15 minutes before serving as a slushy drink or freeze it until solid if you prefer ice cream texture. To serve as an ice cream, scoop desired amount onto cone and drizzle with syrup made by mixing together lime juice (1 tablespoon) and honey (1 tablespoon).


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