Cuban Sandwich (Cubano)

The ultimate guide to making the BEST Cuban Sandwiches (Cubano) at home!

These Cuban sandwiches are restaurant delicious, easier to make than you think, make fabulous holiday/party food and are seeping with flavor in every mouthwatering bite!  They are layered with mesmerizing garlic-citrus mojo roast pork, smoky Black Forest ham, nutty, melty Gruyere Swiss cheese, tangy pickles and mustard on super crispy, golden, buttery bread. These Cubano sandwiches are a decadent handheld masterpiece that’s a whole meal in itself and the best way to use leftover mojo pork! In this Cuban sandwich recipe, I’ve included tips to tricks, how to make ahead and how to freeze leftovers, should you be so lucky.

I love to recreate my favorite restaurant style sandwich recipes including French Dip Sandwiches, Philly Cheesesteak Sandwiches, Italian Beef Sandwiches, Beef Brisket Sandwiches, BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwiches, Teriyaki Chicken Sandwiches and of course these Cuban Sandwiches!

Cuban sandwiches (Cubanos) stacked on top of each other showing the layers of Swiss cheese, ham, mojo pork

Cuban Sandwich Recipe

Cuban sandwiches are one of my favorite indulgences. They hit all the right spots and then some. I wanted to create a Cuban sandwich recipe that would make any Cubano connoisseur proud – and I think this recipe does just that. At least both my foodie critic husband and I couldn’t stop stuffing our faces as he repeatedly awed “these are so good!”

After experimenting, I stumbled upon a few key elements that make the best Cuban Sandwich recipe. I’ll go into greater detail below, but for starters, you need the best Cuban Mojo Roast Pork for the best Cuban sandwiches!  It is all about the pork. I posted my mojo pork recipe separately because it is stand alone delicious and absolutely hypnotic in these Cubanos.  If you don’t use the mojo pork recipe, I cannot guarantee epic delicious results. Plus, you can prep the pork days ahead for stress free Cubano assembly.

Second, use the right filling ingredients. Aged Gruyere Swiss cheese (not the rubbery Americanized version) and Black Forest ham add dimensions of gourmet flavor and thinly slicing whole dill pickles delivers the perfect thickness so all the ingredients beautifully meld together.

Lastly, you might be wondering if you can achieve the coveted buttery, golden crispy crust characteristic to Cuban sandwiches without a plancha or paninin press – the answer is yes! No press, no problem! The inside of the bread is first toasted (no soggy Cubanos here!) and then slathered in a mustard sauce spiked with some reserved mojo marinade. This amps up the flavor again. Next we create our own panini press by placing the bread in a buttered skillet or grill pan and top it with another heavy skillet to weigh it down. The resulting Cubano sandwiches are buttery, crispy and compressed – just like the restaurants. Or better.

I’m going to go into more details about Cuban sandwiches from their history to specifics on ingredients to step by step instructions. Read on or use the “jump to recipe” button at the top of the post. I hope you love this Cuban sandwich recipe as much as us! Happy eating!

What is a Cuban sandwich?

The Cuban sandwich, better known as a Cubano in the US and simply sandwich in Cuba, is a decadent Cuban grilled ham and cheese sandwich that has reached mainstream popularity all over the US. It is the ultimate sandwich for every pork lover and a must for every non-pork lover alike. 

The Cubano begins with hearty yet soft, slightly sweet Cuban bread slathered with yellow mustard then loaded with layers of Swiss cheese, tangy pickles, sliced mojo pork, smoked ham and more cheese, then buttered, grilled and pressed to create a super crispy exterior and cheesy interior.

There’s nothing fancy or difficult about making the Cuban Sandwich, but the varying layers create a symphony of flavors and textures with each element filling a specific roll.  It’s tangy and tart from the pickles and mustard, smokey and salty from the ham, zesty, citrusy and herbaceous from the mojo pork, buttery and slightly sweet from the bread all sandwiched together to create soft, crunchy, melty cheesy textures.   Are you drooling yet?  With one bite you will be.  If you’re planning to devour just one half of a Cubano, heaven help you, you’ll need will power of steel.

MIAMI VS TAMPA CUBAN SANDWICHES

Both Miami and Tampa claim to have the best version of the Cubano Sandwich. The difference between the two Cubano variations is minimal. Both Miami and Tampa versions share the classic Cubano structure discussed above of Cuban bread, ham, Cuban roast pork, Swiss cheese, and pickles, but the Tampa version features a layer of Genoa salami, the Miami version does not.

Genoa salami is a kind of salami believed to have originated in Genoa, Italy.  It is seasoned with garlic, salt, black and white pepper, and red or white wine.  The Tampa contingent believes salami adds yet another layer of salty flavor to the already decadent sandwich, which makes their version superior.  To  prove their point, the Historic Tampa Cuban Sandwich was designated the “signature sandwich of the city of Tampa” by the Tampa City Council in 2012. Miami, on the other hand, stands by their Cuban Sandwich motto that simple is superior.

So how did salami become a staple in Cuban Sandwiches in Tampa?  In the early 1900s, Tampa was the home to both many Cuban and Italian immigrants.  As the people and cultures mingled, so did their foods and eventually, salami, a staple on Italian sandwiches, became a staple on Cubano Sandwiches in Tampa.

As far as which is better?  We know what Tampa and Miami will say, but in the end, it comes down to personal preference.  I personally think salami makes everything better, even Cubano Sandwiches.  So, if you like salami, chances are you will love it on Cubanos; if the jury is still out, it’s better to omit the salami because it’s not a subtle addition.

a hand picking up Cubano sandwiches (Cubanos) showing how crispy the bread is

WHERE DID THE CUBAN SANDWICH ORIGINATE?

The exact origin of the Cuban sandwich continues to be disputed, but most historians agree the Cubano was “born in Cuba and educated in the US” (Historian Loy Glenn Westfall). Or in other words, a basic version existed in Cuba as a ham and cheese sandwich, but the ultimate Cubano we all know and love today was created in Key West and Tampa Florida by Cuban immigrants who needed a transportable yet filling lunch to take to work.

In 1880, Ybor City was founded by Cuban immigrant and cigar manufacturer Vicente Martinez-Ybor as well as other cigar manufacturers.  This brought tens of thousands of Cuban immigrants to the area who would roll out millions of cigars over the next 50 year and turn Ybor City into present day bustling Tampa, earning the nickname “Cigar City.”  

The hard-working Cuban immigrant workers needed a midday lunch that was a hearty, meal-in-one that was easy to carry and easy to eat, so the classic Cuban sandwich was amped up with various fillings.  In fact, the original Key West version called a “mixto” was a mix of ham, cheese, lettuce, tomato, onions and pickles. 

The Cubano sandwich continued to evolve and spread across Florida, becoming a staple in homes and cafes and not just factories.  In fact, the first recorded mentions of a Cubano come from a café in Ybor city around 1900.  Later, a 1934 travel article described Cuban sandwiches (along with Cuban bread) among the city’s “signature foods,” reinforcing the belief that Cubanos were “born in Cuba and educated in the US.”

Cuban sandwich ingredients

There are several variations on the Cubano sandwich, but it typically is made with:

  • Cuban bread
  • Sliced ham
  • Cuban roast pork
  • Pickles
  • Swiss cheese
  • Mustard
  • Butter

The ingredients are simple yet they appeal to all of the taste centers to create the ultimate culinary experience.  Due to the simplicity of the Cubano, it’s important to make every ingredient count. I’ve gone into greater detail below so you know exactly what to look for to create your own ultimate culinary experience.   

WHAT IS CUBAN BREAD?

Cuban bread is unique in both taste and texture, providing the ideal foundation for Cuban sandwiches.  Cuban bread is typically a white, wide baguette-like loaf made with white flour, lard and sugar. The lard creates a rich flavor, the sugar adds a subtle sweetness and they all work together to create a delicate eggshell crust and airy interior, ideal for creating a crusty exterior with a distinct softness when buttered and pressed.

Where Can I find Cuban bread?

Your local grocery store will most likely not carry Cuban bread, so your best bet is to look for a local Cuban or Latin bakery. Many Latin bakeries will carry something similar, even if it’s not specifically “Cuban bread.”  

What can I use instead of Cuban bread?

If you don’t have a Latin bakery nearby, you can still make tasty Cubano sandwiches. You will want to head to the bakery section of your grocery store and select a long, wide “French” or “Italian” bread that’s easy to squish down.  To that end, make sure it is freshly made and try and use it immediately.

You may also substitute with individual sandwich rolls but it is a little bit more labor intensive to layer each one.  Look for long rolls that are crispy on the outside and soft on the inside.

showing how to make Cuban sandwiches (Cubanos) by lining Cuban mojo pork on a plate

WHAT’S THE BEST ROAST PORK FOR CUBAN SANDWICHES?

The pork used in Cuban sandwiches is non-negotiable because it makes the sandwich.  Please use only mojo marinated pork (Cuban roast pork) or Pernil (roasted pork leg or shoulder).  

Mojo Cuban pork is marinated 12-24 hours in a bath of garlic, citrus, cilantro, mint, jalapeño, oregano, cumin that is quick and easy to whip up in your food processor.  Marinate the pork overnight then the next day just pop the pork in the oven to roast low and slow for a few hours.  The emerging Cuban pork is crazy juicy, seeping with subtle notes of bright, zesty, tangy, herby, garlicky, peppery, and citrus all at the same time. 

The boldly seasoned, rich umami of mojo roasted pork shines through the brininess of the pickles, the tanginess of the mustard and the nuttiness of the Swiss cheese.

Where do I get cuban mojo pork?

For this Cubano sandwich recipe, I highly recommend my Mojo Cuban Roast Pork recipe.  It’s dripping with fantastically fresh Caribbean flavors and a beautiful caramelized crust and 100% phenomenal in Cuban sandwiches. Plus, you can make it the day before and use leftovers for these Cubanos!

Mojo Cuban roast pork can be made with either a 4-6-pound pork shoulder or Boston butt.  Both come from the shoulder of the pig and not the rear. Pork shoulder comes from the shoulder area just above the forelegs and Boston butt comes from the area stacked vertically above that.

If you have a choice between Boston pork butt and pork shoulder, choose pork butt. It is named after the barrels (butts) pork used to be stored in around the time of the Revolutionary War. Pork butt has more fat marbling throughout the meat so it emerges more tender.   I recommend marinating the pork for 12-24 hours for maximum juiciness, tenderness and flavor.

WHAT IF YOU DON’T EAT PORK?

Technically, you can’t make an authentic Cuban sandwiches without roasted pork but you can make a sandwich inspired by the Cubano with chicken.  Simply marinate chicken breasts or thighs for up to 12 hours (no more or they will become mushy), cook on the grill or skillet then thinly slice or shred.

WHAT’S THE BEST HAM FOR CUBANO SANDWICHES?

You can use any thinly sliced deli ham for Cubano sandwiches, just make sure it has some flavor!  Instead of plain sliced ham, I suggest using Black Forest ham (applewood Black Forrest ham is my first choice) or smoked ham – both should be easy to find at your deli counter.

What is black forest ham?

Black Forest ham is named after the Black Forest area of Germany in which it originated. It is a type of dry-cured smoked ham that typically takes up to three months to produce from start to finish!  The raw ham is first seasoned with pepper, garlic, juniper berries, coriander and other spices, cured for four weeks then cold-smoked over pine or fir.

At this point it can be sold as-is or smoked to about 130 degrees in a smoker.  This second smoke adds additional flavor to the ham depending on what type of wood is used.  Maple, hickory-smoked and applewood-smoked are all popular varieties.

For Cuban sandwiches, all varieties will work but I am partial to applewood smoked Black Forest ham. It’s slightly sweeter and richer than the other smoked varieties and the smokey sweetness beautifully contrasts with the savory roasted pork, tangy pickles and mustard.

Can I add salami?

Yes! As previously discussed, Tampa-style Cubano sandwiches include salami – so feel free to add it if you wish.  You can purchase Genoa salami either at the deli counter or they often have it pre-packaged with the specialty deli meats. If you can’t find Genoa salami, you can use your favorite salami. Layer it on top of the mojo pork before the ham.

four Cubano sandwiches (Cubanos) on a a wood platter surrounded by  potato chips

WHAT’S THE BEST PICKLES FOR CUBANO SANDWICHES?

You may think any pickles will do for for Cubanos, but using dill pickles, vs sweet pickles, vs bread and butter pickles will each dramatically affect the taste of your overall sandwich.  Classic Cuban sandwiches should be made with thinly sliced dill pickles.

Dill pickles are pickled with dill weed and dill seed.  They are characterized by their sour taste which compliments the sweet Cubano bread, and of course, always pairs handsomely with mustard.   

As far as the cuts of pickles, you’ll want to avoid chips, which are too thick for Cubanos to allow the sandwich to really meld together.  They also create too dominant of a pickle flavor.  For best results, purchase whole dill pickles and thinly slice 4 or so of them yourself.   

What cheese for Cuban Sandwiches?

Quality Swiss cheese is non-negotiable for Cuban sandwiches.  At first glance, Swiss cheese seems straight forward, but the term “Swiss cheese” in America is actually a broad term that includes hundreds of Swiss cheeses, many of which are sorry imitations of emmental Swiss cheese actually from Switzerland.  Americanized Swiss cheese is made from pasteurized milk and is significantly less flavorful than real Swiss cheese. 

For the best Cubano sandwiches, go with real Swiss cheese, specifically Gruyere cheese. According to culinary director Tom Berry, only one type of cheese will do: “Cave-aged Gruyere maketh a Cubano.”

Gruyere is a semi-hard, pale yellow Swiss cheese made of whole milk. It’s the consummate melting cheese that’s slightly sweet, slightly salty, creamy, nutty and boasts enough flavor to cut through the richness of the Cubano. You can purchase an 8 oz. block with the specialty cheeses at your grocery store or I suggest purchasing it at the deli counter and asking them to thinly slice it for you.

What mustard for Cuban Sandwiches?

A traditional Cubano is made with yellow mustard (American deli mustard), but there are no hard and fast rules here.  You can use Dijon mustard, whole-grain mustard, spicy brown mustard or mix a couple varieties together. 

In this Cubano sandwich recipe, I found that the amount of mustard required to cover the bread so the Cubanos weren’t dry resulted in too strong of a mustard taste.  With less mustard, however, the Cubano sandwiches were left dry and wanting.

To solve this dilemma, I mixed half yellow mustard with half mayonnaise. Many purists call this blasphemy, but I just call it delicious.  I am not a purist, I’m just out to make the best Cubano humanely possible.   To that end, I mixed 1 ½ tablespoons of unused, reserved mojo pork marinade in with the mustard and mayo and now we have the best mustard sauce. The mustard adds the tang, the mayonnaise adds the rich spreadability and the reserved marinade amps up the flavor of the entire Cuban sandwich. 

Do I have to use butter for Cubanos?

Yes!  If you’re trying to save calories, the Cubano is not for you.  Cubano sandwiches boast a buttery, golden crispy crust that can only be achieved by grilling the sandwiches in a healthy amount of butter. 

How to make a Cuban sandwich

There are four steps to making a Cuban sandwich: 

  • Marinate the pork
  • Roast the pork
  • Toast the cut side of the bread
  • Layer the sandwich
  • Grill the sandwich

It might sound like a lot of steps, but typically Cuban sandwiches are made with leftover Cuban roast pork, so once you have the pork, making the sandwiches literally takes minutes.  You can even use frozen pork and quickly thaw it whenever your Cubano sandwich cravings strike.

Step 1:  Marinate the pork

  • Make the best mojo marinade.  First, you’ll make a simple mojo marinade by finely chopping onion, jalapenos, cilantro, mint and garlic in your food processor.  Then combining it with orange juice, orange zest, lime juice, lemon juice, ground cumin, dried oregano and olive oil in a bowl. 
showing how to make mojo marinade for Cuban sandwiches (Cubanos) by adding orange juice, oregano, ground cumin, orange zest, finely chopping onion, garlic, cilantro and jalapeno to a large glass bowl
  • Marinate the pork to infuse it with intoxicating flavor.  Next, transfer the marinade to a freezer bag and add the pork; turn to coat, squeeze out excess air and seal. Marinate the pork in the refrigerator for 12-24 hours (no longer!), turning the bag occasionally
showing how to make Cuban roast pork for Cuban sandwich recipe (Cubanos) by marinating pork in mojo marinade

Step 2:  Roast the pork

  • Sear the pork to create caramelization and browning flavors from the the Maillard reaction.  After marinating, sear the pork on all sides in a piping hot cast iron skillet then transfer to a roasting rack in a roasting dish.  If you don’t have a rack, place it on two halved onions with 1 cup of water. 
  • Roast the pork until juicy tender. Tightly cover with foil, and roast for 4 hours.  At this point the pork should be 180-190 degrees F which is carvable tender, typical for Cuban sandwiches.  If you want shredded pork for your Cubanos, then roast to 205 degrees F. The high internal temperature allows collagen to break down, resulting in succulent, juicy, melt in your mouth pork.
showing how to make mojo Cuban roast pork for Cuban sandwich recipe (Cubanos)

Step 3:  Toast the cut inside of the bread

  • Prevent soggy bread! Toasting the inside of the bread is a crucial step to prevent soggy Cubanos.  The toasted inside creates a protective barrier so the mustard doesn’t immediately seep into the bread and make it soggy.
  • To toast the bread, cut the loaf in half horizontal then vertically to create four sandwich sections (this way they easily fit in your skillet).  You’ll want to toast each cut sides of the bread – 4 pieces total. You can butter the cut sides of the bread for added yum, or place them directly, cut side down, in in your skillet until lightly golden-brown, about 2 minutes.
showing how to make Cubano sandwiches (Cubanos) by toasting bread on a griddle pan

Step 4:  Layer the Cubano sandwich

  • The order layering a Cuban sandwich is important.  First, slather both cut sides of bread with mustard sauce.  Next, build the sandwich by layering with cheese, pickles, pork, ham and another layer of cheese. It’s important to start and end with cheese—it’s the melty glue that holds all the sandwich components together.
a collage showing how to make Cuban sandwich recipe (Cubanos) by  smearing cut side of bread with mustard then layering with Swiss cheese, pickles, mojo Cuban pork, smoked ham and Swiss cheese

Step 5: Grill the Cuban sandwich

  • What pan should I use? Authentic Cubano sandwiches are grilled on a plancha, which is Spanish flat-top griddle that combines very high concentrated heat with a small amount of smoking. Fortunately, similar results can be achieved using a sandwich press, panini press, grill pan, griddle pan or cast-iron skillet.  I chose to use a grill pan because I don’t have a panini press and the ridges of a grill pan make the Cubanos extra crispy and fabulous, but the same method can also be used with a cast iron skillet.
  • The press is key in achieving the iconic Cuban sandwich. Ideally, the bread should compress down to about a third of its original volume, compacting all the ingredients so they meld together and create an accessible, tasty mouthful.   The toasty exterior is also a key signature element achieved in this process. 
  • Easy Cubanos with a panini press. Simply brush the panini press with butter, add the sandwiches and press for approximately 6 minutes or until golden and the cheese is melted.  
  • If you don’t have a panini or sandwich press, you can still make buttery, toasty, crispy Cubanos!  If you don’t have a panini press, you can effectively makeshift your own by brushing a grill pan with butter or melting some butter in a cast iron skillet over medium heat.  You don’t want the skillet too hot or the bread will burn before the cheese is melted.  Once hot, add the sandwiches and set another cast iron skillet on top of the sandwiches to press them down to create “the press.”  If you don’t have a cast iron skillet, top the Cuban sandwich with a lighter skillet and fill it with cans to press the sandwich down.  Cook for approximately 3-4 minutes or until toasted.
  • Butter, flip, repeat.  Remove the top skillet and brush softened butter all over the top side of the sandwich. This ensures the top is equally buttery delicious and gets just as crispy as the bottom.  Flip the sandwich over and toast an additional 3-4 minutes or until the bottom is toasted and the cheese is melted. Repeat with remaining sandwich.
showing how to make Cuban sandwich recipe by toasting the Cubanos on a griddle pan and pressing down with a heavy skillet

TIPS FOR THE BEST CUBAN SANDWICH recipe

Cubanos sandwiches are pretty straightforward but there are a few decisions and techniques that can make or break the experience. Here is a summary of tips and tricks for a smashing success every time: 

  • Use the best Cuban Mojo Roast Pork for the best Cuban sandwiches!  If you don’t use the mojo pork recipe, I cannot guarantee epic delicious results.
  • You can roast the pork a few days in advance and just pull it out when you’re ready to make Cuban sandwiches.
  • Cook the Cuban roast pork to 180 to 190 degrees F for carvable tender. If you want shredded pork for your Cubanos, then roast to 205 degrees F. The high internal temperature allows collagen to break down, resulting extra juicy pork.
  • If you can’t find Cuban bread, select a long, wide “French” or “Italian” bread from the bakery section of your grocery store that’s easy to squish down.  Pick the freshest loaf possible and try and use it immediately.
  • When toasting the bread,  you can butter the cut sides of the bread for added yum, or place the bread directly in your skillet (note this is for toasting, butter is non-negotiable for pressing).
  • Don’t skip the mayo! Only using mustard will result in dry bread or overpowering mustard. The mayo adds a rich spreadability while toning down the mustard. I know this is blasphemy to some, but it simply produces the best Cuban sandwiches.
  • Choose quality ingredients for quality Cubanos. I recommend Black Forest applewood smoked ham and Gruyere Swiss cheese.  Purchase them at the deli counter of your grocery store and ask them to thinly slice both of them for you (makes your life easier and it’s free!).
  • Feel free to add salami for Tampa style Cuban sandwiches.
  • When layering the Cubano, it’s important to start and end with cheese—it’s the melty glue that holds all the sandwich components together.
  • Make your own panini press by topping your Cubano with a second heavy skillet.
  • Don’t toast your Cubanos at too high of heat or the bread will toast before the cheese melts. Once the cheese melts and you still want a more golden exterior, then you can crank up the heat.
  • Customize your Cubano sandwiches!  You can add more or less cheese, ham, pork or pickles.  

MAKE AHEAD TIPS FOR CUBANOS

Cubanos can be assembled 100% ahead of time or prepared in stages.  Here’s how:

  • Make pork:  the mojo Cuban pork can be marinated and roasted three days ahead of time or frozen for up to three months.  When ready to make your Cuban sandwiches, simply assemble and grill in minutes.
  • Toast bread:  slice the bread, toast it and store in an airtight container for up to 24 hours.  I wouldn’t store the bread for too much longer or you’ll lose the soft interior.
  • Make mustard sauce:  combine the mustard, mayo and reserved mojo and store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
  • Partially assemble Cubanos:  layer the sandwich ingredients and place on the toasted bread but don’t add the mustard sauce yet. Wrap assembled Cuban sandwiches in foil and refrigerate for up to 24 hours.  When ready to grill, let the sandwiches sit at room temperature for 30 minutes so they grill evenly.  Open the sandwich, spread the mustard sauce on half of the bread, flip the sandwich over and slather the other half of the bread.  Proceed to grill per recipe instructions.
  • Fully assemble Cubanos: The key to assembling Cubano sandwiches 100% in advance is to make sure the bread is super toasted so it doesn’t become soggy from the mustard sauce.  Assemble the sandwiches completely, wrap in foil and refrigerate for up to 3 hours.  When ready to grill, let the sandwiches sit at room temperature for 30 minutes so they grill evenly. 
  • Fully make/grill Cubanos:  this comes in handy if making this Cuban sandwich recipe for a crowd, party or for a speedy dinner. Simply grill the Cubanos 30 minutes ahead of time and leave at room temperature until your guests arrive.  I can personally attest to room-temperature Cubano deliciousness as both my husband and I devoured the pictured Cubanos after they had cooled – and they were incredible.

How long are Cuban sandwiches good for?

Cuban sandwiches are good for 3-5 days depending on how fresh your ingredients are.  If your deli meat and pork have been sitting in your fridge for a couple days, then they’ll be good closer to 3 days.  If your ingredients are fresh, the Cubanos are good closer to 5 days.  If you aren’t going to devour them by this date, freeze them for later.

Cubano sandwich (Cubano) on a wood tray surrounded by potato chips showing how crispy  the bread is

Can I freeze Cubano Sandwiches?

Yes!  Cubano sandwiches freeze very well: 

  • Prepare the recipe according to recipe instructions, including grilling. 
  • Let each sandwich cool completely then place in individual freezer bags and squeeze out excess air.
  • Freeze for up to three months. 
  • When ready to use, thaw in the refrigerator, then let the sandwich(es) sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. 
  • Re-toast in a skillet to crisp up the exterior again by melting some butter in a skillet over medium heat and cooking for a couple minutes.  No need to press again because the sandwich is already compressed. 
  • Re-warm in oven: alternatively, you can warm the Cubanos in the oven by wrapping in foil and baking at 350 degrees F for 5 to 7 minutes. The exterior won’t be quite as crispy but still tasty.

How to reheat Cubano sandwiches

  • Microwave: Cubano sandwiches reheat surprising well in the microwave because the bread is so crispy to begin with.  To reheat, transfer to a microwave safe plate and microwave for 20-30 seconds.  The longer you heat the Cubanos, the softer the bread will become, so don’t overdo it.
  • Stove: melt some butter in a skillet over medium heat and cook for a couple minutes or until warmed to your liking, flipping the sandwich halfway.  No need to press again because the sandwich is already compressed. 
  • Oven:  wrap the Cubanos in foil and bake at 350 degrees F for 5 to 7 minutes.

Can I serve Cubanos cold?

I would not serve Cubanos cold because the flavors are chilled/muted and the cheese isn’t as soft. Cuban sandwiches are delicious, however, at room temperature.  When Cubanos were taken to work in the 1800s, they were eaten as is, at room temperature, no rewarming in the office kitchen.

WHAT TO SERVE WITH CUBAN sandwiches?

Cubanos are a hearty meal in and of themselves so they are most commonly served with simple sides of potato chips and pickles.  You can also serve them with a fresh green salad and fruit. Some of my favorite sides to pair with Cuban sandwiches include:

a hand picking up a Cubano sandwich (Cubano) with Swiss cheese, mojo pork, ham, pickles and mustard

Find me on Pinterest for more great recipes!  I am always pinning :)!

©Carlsbad Cravings by CarlsbadCravings.com

Cuban sandwiches (Cubanos) stacked on top of each other showing the layers of Swiss cheese, ham, mojo pork

Cuban Sandwich Cubano

These Cuban sandwiches are restaurant delicious, easier to make than you think, make fabulous holiday/party food and are seeping with flavor in every mouthwatering bite! They are layered with mesmerizing garlic-citrus mojo roast pork, smoky Black Forest ham, nutty, melty Gruyere Swiss cheese, tangy pickles and mustard on super crispy, golden, buttery bread. These Cubano sandwiches are a decadent handheld masterpiece that’s a whole meal in itself and the best way to use leftover mojo pork! In this Cuban sandwich recipe, I’ve included tips to tricks, how to make ahead and how to freeze leftovers, should you be so lucky.
Servings: 4 -8
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 Cuban loaf or wide Italian or French bread (1 pound)
  • 2 tablespoons butter if using a cast iron skillet
  • 2-4 tablespoons softened butter (2 TBS for skillet, 4 TBS for panini press or grill pan)
  • 3 tablespoons yellow deli mustard
  • 3 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons reserved unused mojo pork marinade (in directions)
  • 8 ounces Swiss Gruyere cheese thinly sliced
  • 4 large dill pickles, thinly sliced crosswise more or less as needed
  • 1 pound mojo Cuban roast pork sliced
  • 6 ounces Black Forest or smoked ham thinly sliced

Instructions

  • Slice bread in halve lengthwise then in half vertically. Heat a panini press, grill pan or cast iron skillet over medium heat. Working in batches if needed, toast all halves of the bread, cut side down until golden, about 2 minutes (prevents soggy bread). Remove to a flat worksurface; set aside.
  • Whisk the mustard, mayonnaise and 1 ½ tablespoon mojo marinade together in a small bowl. (Use the marinade from the 1 ½ cups unused, reserved marinade in the Cuban mojo pork recipe). Spread over all 4 cut sides of the bread.
  • Layer the bottom of one baguette with a quarter of the cheese, half the pickles, half the pork, half the ham, then top with a quarter of cheese (the cheese glues everything together). Repeat with second baguette, using the rest of the ingredients.
  • For a panini press: heat over medium heat. Brush the bottom and top of the grill with butter. Grill for approximately 6 minutes or until golden and the cheese is melted.
  • For a grill pan or skillet: Brush a grill pan with softened butter or melt 1 tablespoon butter in a cast iron skillet over medium heat. Add one sandwich and set another cast iron skillet on top of the sandwich to press it down (you can also top with a lighter skillet and fill with cans).
  • Cook for approximately 3-4 minutes or until toasted. Remove the top skillet and brush some softened butter all over the top side of the sandwich. Flip the sandwich over, top with a skillet, and toast an additional 3-4 minutes or until the bottom is toasted and the cheese is melted. Repeat with remaining sandwich. Cut each sandwiches in half or into quarters.

Notes

TIPS FOR THE BEST CUBAN SANDWICH recipe

  • Use the best Cuban Mojo Roast Pork for the best Cuban sandwiches!  If you don’t use the mojo pork recipe, I cannot guarantee epic delicious results.
  • You can roast the pork a few days in advance and just pull it out when you’re ready to make Cuban sandwiches.
  • Cook the Cuban roast pork to 180 to 190 degrees F for carvable tender. If you want shredded pork for your Cubanos, then roast to 205 degrees F. The high internal temperature allows collagen to break down, resulting extra juicy pork.
  • If you can’t find Cuban bread, select a long, wide “French” or “Italian” bread from the bakery section of your grocery store that’s easy to squish down.  Pick the freshest loaf possible and try and use it immediately.
  • When toasting the bread,  you can butter the cut sides of the bread for added yum, or place the bread directly in your skillet (note this is for toasting, butter is non-negotiable for pressing).
  • Don’t skip the mayo! Only using mustard will result in dry bread or overpowering mustard. The mayo adds a rich spreadability while toning down the mustard. I know this is blasphemy to some, but it simply produces the best Cuban sandwiches.
  • Choose quality ingredients for quality Cubanos. I recommend Black Forest applewood smoked ham and Gruyere Swiss cheese.  Purchase them at the deli counter of your grocery store and ask them to thinly slice both of them for you (makes your life easier and it’s free!).
  • Feel free to add salami for Tampa style Cuban sandwiches.
  • When layering the Cubano, it’s important to start and end with cheese—it’s the melty glue that holds all the sandwich components together.
  • Don’t toast your Cubanos at too high of heat or the bread will toast before the cheese melts. Once the cheese melts and you still want a more golden exterior, then you can crank up the heat.
  • Customize your Cubano sandwiches!  You can add more or less cheese, ham, pork or pickles.  

MAKE AHEAD TIPS

Cubanos can be assembled 100% ahead of time or prepared in stages.  Here’s how:
  • Make pork:  the mojo Cuban pork can be marinated and roasted three days ahead of time or frozen for up to three months.  When ready to make your Cuban sandwiches, simply assemble and grill in minutes.
  • Partially assemble Cubanos:  layer the sandwich ingredients and place on the toasted bread but don’t add the mustard sauce yet. Wrap assembled Cuban sandwiches in foil and refrigerate for up to 24 hours.  When ready to grill, let the sandwiches sit at room temperature for 30 minutes so they grill evenly.  Open the sandwich, spread the mustard sauce on half of the bread, flip the sandwich over and slather the other half of the bread.  Proceed to grill per recipe instructions.
  • Fully assemble Cubanos: The key to assembling Cubano sandwiches 100% in advance is to make sure the bread is super toasted so it doesn’t become soggy from the mustard sauce.  Assemble the sandwiches completely, wrap in foil and refrigerate for up to 3 hours.  When ready to grill, let the sandwiches sit at room temperature for 30 minutes so they grill evenly. 
  • Fully make/grill Cubanos:  this comes in handy if making this Cuban sandwich recipe for a crowd, party or for a speedy dinner. Simply grill the Cubanos 30 minutes ahead of time and leave at room temperature until your guests arrive.  I can personally attest to room-temperature Cubano deliciousness as both my husband and I devoured the pictured Cubanos after they had cooled – and they were incredible.

How to store and reheat

  • Storage:  Wrap Cubanos in foil and store in the refrigerator for up o 5 days.
  • Microwave: Cubano sandwiches reheat surprising well in the microwave because the bread is so crispy to begin with.  To reheat, transfer to a microwave safe plate and microwave for 20-30 seconds.  The longer you heat the Cubanos, the softer the bread will become, so don’t overdo it.
  • Stove: melt some butter in a skillet over medium heat and cook for a couple minutes or until warmed to your liking, flipping the sandwich halfway.  No need to press again because the sandwich is already compressed. 
  • Oven:  wrap the Cubanos in foil and bake at 350 degrees F for 5 to 7 minutes.

How to freeze 

  • Prepare the recipe according to recipe instructions, including grilling. 
  • Let each sandwich cool completely then place in individual freezer bags and squeeze out excess air.
  • Freeze for up to three months. 
  • When ready to use, thaw in the refrigerator, then let the sandwich(es) sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. 
  • Re-toast in a skillet to crisp up the exterior again by melting some butter in a skillet over medium heat and cooking for a couple minutes.  No need to press again because the sandwich is already compressed. 
  • Re-warm in oven: alternatively, you can warm the Cubanos in the oven by wrapping in foil and baking at 350 degrees F for 5 to 7 minutes. The exterior won’t be quite as crispy but still tasty.
 

Did You Make This Recipe?

Tag @CarlsbadCravings and Use #CarlsbadCravngs

Leave a Review, I Always Love Hearing From You!

Carlsbad Cravings© Original

Reader Interactions

leave a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

6 Comments

  1. Lorena says

    Wow!!! You have outdone yourself. This lechón and Cuban sandwich recipe was out of this world. As a native Miamian, I approve!! So worth the effort!!

    • Jen says

      Thank you so much Lorena for being the first to review this recipe! I am honored you loved both the lechón and Cuban sandwiches so much!

  2. Olivia says

    Hi there!

    Just wondering if I could cook the pork in a slow cooker? Could you recommend a slow cooker temp and cook time? Do you think it would be much better cooked in the oven?

    Thanks!

    • Jen says

      Hi Olivia, you can absolutely cook the pork in the slow cooker and it will still be great:
      Marinate and sear the pork per recipe directions.
      Place in a 6 quart (or larger) slow cooker along with the marinade.
      Cover and cook on HIGH for 5-6 hours or on LOW for 8-10 hours or until carvable tender.
      Optional for caramelized crust: Transfer cooked pork to a baking sheet and bake in a 400-degree F oven for 15-20 minutes until the exterior is browned.

  3. Alice Carroll says

    It’s interesting to know that Cuban bread has quite a distinct texture to it. I’m thinking about going to a Cuban restaurant soon because I’m quite curious about the taste of such cuisine after seeing a documentary on TV. Maybe trying out sandwiches would be a good sampling of their bread, pork, and some vegetables.

    • Jen says

      Absolutely, these Cuban Sandwiches are a great place to start!