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The Cuban Sandwich

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One of the iconic and favorite local sandwiches in Florida is the Cuban sandwich, (also known as the Cubano). The Cubano originated in Cuba (obviously), where it was the staple lunch sandwich for those working in the cigar and sugar cane industries. 

  • In the 1860s as more immigrants came to the United States to work in the cigar factories of Key West, the sandwich came along with them. 
  • Then in the 1880s Vincente Martinez-Ybor created an immigrant community of Cuban, Spanish, and Italian workers, called (cleverly), Ybor City, in a neighborhood in Tampa, Florida. 

By the 1900s both Key West and Tampa were centers of the popular Cubano sandwich, although there were a few differences in how the sandwich was made. In Key West, it consisted of roast pork, ham, Swiss cheese, sliced dill pickles, and mustard. With Tampa having a significantly larger Italian population, salami was added to the Key West recipe.

The Cuban bread used is between 8 to 12 inches long, and should be either buttered or brushed with olive oil. (Note: if no Cuban bread can be found, try substituting a French Baguette, or Italian bread.) Once put together the sandwich can be toasted, (like a panini), until the cheese is melted. 

Many places add their own ‘mojo sauce’ for additional flair or spiciness. The ‘mojo sauce’ varies greatly and is probably worth a blog to itself. Go “hot” or “sweet” to satisfy your discerning taste buds.

cuban sandwich

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The 1960s saw a huge influx of Cuban residents to Miami resulting in the rise of the Cubano in Miami and the surrounding areas. Similar to Tampa, the Miami recipe includes salami.  

No surprise that the Tampa and Miami areas each claimed their sandwich was the best. 

Today, the Cuban sandwich is the basis of a tense rivalry (as tense as you can get over a sandwich), between Tampa and Miami. 

To spice up the rivalry, the folks in Tampa threw out another salvo, when in 2012 the Tampa City Council voted the “Historic Tampa Cuban Sandwich” as the official signature sandwich of the city. Both Tampa and Miami Cubano sandwich traditionalists agree on one thing, they scoff at some of the Key West versions which includes adding lettuce and tomato. No one in Key West cares much about mainlander traditions, however, we do prefer our Cubano with a cold cerveza.

No matter which method you prefer, the Cubano’s popularity has expanded out of the Florida area into other places like New York/New Jersey, Los Angles, Chicago, and other areas.  Toasted, with or without salami, and the secret mojo sauces, make the Cubano, a tasty treat no matter how you slice it.

As a public service, we would be remiss if we didn’t mention this year’s Cuban Sandwich Festival in Tampa, Florida, on September 5th, at Centro Asturiano in Ybor City. For more information, check the website at

We included ONE recipe for the Cubano taken from  Sorry Tampa and Miami this recipe has no salami.



Serves 8


  • 1 loaf Cuban bread, sliced lengthwise
  • 1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 tablespoons yellow mustard, or to taste
  • 1 1/2 pounds boiled ham, sliced
  • 1 1/2 pounds roasted pork, sliced
  • 1 pound Swiss cheese, sliced
  • 1 cup dill pickle chips, or to taste


  1. Assemble the sandwich
  • Spread 2 tablespoons of the butter on one half of the bread loaf and a thin layer of mustard on the other. Place 1 to 2 layers of ham, pork, cheese, and, finally, pickles on the buttered bread and top with the mustard-spread bread.
  • Wrap the sandwich in foil
  • Smear the remaining butter all over the outside of the sandwich and wrap it completely in aluminum foil.
  • Press and grill the sandwich
  • Heat your grill to high (550°F) and close the lid. Wait at least 15 minutes before lowering the heat to medium-high (450°F) and continuing.
  • Before grilling the sandwich, press down on it with your hands to flatten it. Place the wrapped, flattened sandwich on the grill and top with a brick, grill press, or any other heavy, heat-resistant object. Close the lid and grill for 5 to 6 minutes per side.
  • Remove the wrapped sandwich from the grill and take off the foil. Return the sandwich to the grill and grill for about 2 to 3 minutes per side, or until both pieces of bread are crispy and golden brown.
  • Slice and serve
  • Remove the sandwich from the grill and cut it at an angle into small sandwich wedges (triangles). Place on a large platter and serve while still hot.


From the internet,;

Reprinted from Latin Grilling by Lourdes Castro, © 2011 Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House, Inc.



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