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Sandwich Cubano {Cuban Sandwich}

These crispy, gooey Cuban sandwiches were made famous by cafes in Key West and Tampa over a century ago and remain just as popular today!

Sandwich Cubano is a combination of perfectly seasoned and roasted pork, deli ham, and Swiss cheese on crusty bread slathered with yellow mustard and dill pickles for a flavor explosion in every bite!

What makes a Cubano unique is the flavor of the pork. Mojo — a garlic lime sauce — is used in many Cuban recipes. The pork for these sandwiches is roasted in a combination of fresh orange and lime juices, cumin, oregano, and red pepper flakes.

This glorified grilled cheese sandwich is usually cooked in a panini press, but it can also be prepared on a grill pan using a cast iron skillet as the press — it’s super easy!

Looking for more delicious sandwich ideas? My mouth-watering grilled steak sandwich is piled high with tender beef and dressed with a zesty horseradish aioli. Or, you may enjoy my unique turkey melt with fresh veggies, smoked turkey, and Monterey Jack cheese.

Sandwich Cubano on a plate with potato chips.
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Freaky Friday blog hop

Today is FREAKY FRIDAY, y’all! That may not mean a thing to you, but it’s pretty exciting for me. Freaky Friday is a fun blog project (the brainchild of Michaela from An Affair From the Heart) where a group of food bloggers secretly cook or bake a recipe from another blog they were assigned, then reveal the recipes at the same time on one Freaky Friday morning — that’s TODAY!

Sandwich Cubano: behind the recipe

I’d like to introduce you to Michelle, creator of A Dish of Daily Life blog and today’s delicious cuban sandwich. Michelle is a food blogger and photographer in Connecticut who specializes in easy-to-make healthy recipes that taste great. 

She’s mom to three teenagers and seven furry friends, which makes for a very busy household! The whole family is active in sports year-round, from running, soccer, skiing and snowboarding.

Being a sports mom, Michelle is a fan of quick and easy meals — like soup and panini — that are perfect for busy nights after a game or practice. Her Ham, Brie, Apple and Spinach Panini with a homemade honey mustard sounds fabulous!

Please do me a favor and give Michelle some love by browsing around her blog. I promise you’ll find lots of delicious recipes like Mexican Casserole, Summer Pasta Salad, Easy Vegetable Risotto, and Sesame Noodles with Chicken and Broccoli to name a few.

My previous Freaky Friday recipes!

ingredients for Sandwich Cubano on a wooden table.

Key ingredients and substitutions

  • Roast pork — Pork tenderloin is the long, narrow, boneless cut of meat alongside the backbone and is the most tender, even with quick cooking. Pork loin is not the same, so you shouldn’t substitute.
  • Ham — Use thinly sliced deli ham (or your leftover spiral-sliced Christmas ham).
  • Mustard — Plain yellow mustard has just the right amount of tang to pull together the flavors of the pickles and roast pork in this sandwich. If you want a spicier sandwich, you could try a stone-ground mustard.
  • Pickles — Traditionally, thinly sliced dill pickles are preferred, but you may use sweet bread and butter pickles instead.
  • Bread — An authentic Cubano is made on Cuban bread, a bullet-shaped slightly sweet roll that you can find at Latino bakeries. In lieu of that, a French loaf, Italian loaf, or ciabatta bread from your local grocery works as well.

Special equipment needed

A panini sandwich cooks on a very hot pan with ridges while being pressed down to create gorgeous grill marks. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Panini press grill — Made famous by George Foreman, this electric sandwich maker has removable grill plates for easy clean up. Place the sandwich in the grill, close the lid, and cook until golden.
  • Grill pan and iron skillet — If you don’t have a panini press grill, you can improvise by cooking the sandwiches on a cast iron grill pan heated on top of the stove. Then, use the weight of an iron skillet as the press. OR….
  • Iron skillet and grill press — Another option for cooking is to grill the sandwich in a cast iron skillet and use a grill press to weight down and press ridges into the sandwich.

How to make a cuban sandwich

sliced pork tenderloin and bread on a table ready to assemble sandwich cubano.

STEP 1 | Roast the pork

  • Brush a pork tenderloin with olive oil, mix up the spices and gently rub into the pork. Sear the meat in a hot skillet on all sides, then add the lime and orange juices to the pan.
  • Finish cooking in a 425-degree oven until the pork’s internal temperature registers 145 degrees.

tips

  • For an even more flavorful pork, add a couple of crushed garlic cloves to the skillet as you sear the meat.
  • If time permits, rub the pork with the spices and let rest at room temperature for 15 to 20 minutes before cooking.

steps for assembling Sandwich Cubano.

STEP 2 | Assemble the sandwiches

  • If using Cubano bread, slice each piece horizontally. If using a French or Italian loaf, cut the bread into 7-inch sections, then carve each horizontally. You may also slice the loaf into 3/4-inch pieces.
  • Once cool, carve the roasted pork into 1/4-inch slices.
  • Spread mustard on the bread, then layer with pork slices, ham, Swiss cheese, and pickles.
cooking a sandwich cubano on a grill pan with an iron skillet as the press.

STEP 3 | Cook and press

  • Heat the panini press or grill pan until very hot, but not smoking.
  • Brush top and bottom of the sandwiches with olive oil, then place on the hot pan and weight down with an iron skillet or press.
  • For the panini press, cook until the cheese is melty, about 3 to 5 minutes. For the grill pan, cook for about 3 minutes on each side, or until the bread is toasted and the cheese is melted.
Sandwich Cubano on a gray plate with potato chips on the table.

Frequently asked questions

Should a Cuban sandwich be served hot or cold?

Purely personal preference here, but I always serve the Cubano while it’s still warm from the griddle. That being said, the sandwich was created as an easy to carry lunch for Cuban workers, so they probably ate it cold, or at room temperature.

Do you put mayonnaise on a Cubano?

From my research, the original Cuban sandwich recipe did not include mayonnaise or other condiments, like lettuce and tomatoes. However, there are several restaurants in the Florida Keys and Miami that have variations with mayo, lettuce, tomato, and even salami included.

Take a look at all of our 2021 Freaky Friday Spring Edition Recipes:

  1. A Dish of Daily Life – Smoky Chicken Street Tacos
  2. An Affair from the Heart – Sheet Pan Shrimp Fajitas with Cilantro Lime Butter
  3. An Affair from the Heart – Blueberry Mojitos
  4. Aunt Bee’s Recipes – Easy Chile Relleno Casserole
  5. The Carefree Kitchen – Glazed Lemon Cookies
  6. The Culinary Compass – Easy Candied Pecan Recipe
  7. Devour Dinner – Cheese Stuffed Meatloaf
  8. The Foodie Affair – Keto Broccoli Salad
  9. The Fresh Cooky – Bowtie Pasta Recipe
  10. Hostess at Heart – No Bake Chocolate Cheesecake 
  11. House of Nash Eats – Roast Beef Sliders
  12. Lemon Blossoms – Lemon Blueberry Crumb Bars
  13. Lemoine Family Kitchen – Lemon Blueberry Bread
  14. Life, Love & Good Food – Sandwich Cubano
  15. Off the Eaten Path – Grilled Vegan Guacamole
  16. Or Whatever You Do – Blackstone Mexican Style Street Corn
  17. The Speckled Palate – Lemon Bars
  18. Take Two Tapas – Pepperoni Pizza Pinwheels

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Yield: 4 servings

Sandwich Cubano {Cuban Sandwich}

Sandwich Cubano on a gray plate with potato chips on the table.

These crispy, gooey Cuban sandwiches were made famous by cafes in Key West and Tampa over a century ago and remain just as popular today!

Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Additional Time 10 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes

Ingredients

Cuban Pork

  • 1 1/3 lb. pork tenderloin
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 3 tablespoons fresh orange juice

Sandwich Cubano

  • 16-oz. French or Italian loaf 
  • 1/2 cup yellow mustard
  • Sliced Cuban pork
  • 1/2 lb. thinly sliced deli ham
  • 1/2 lb. sliced Swiss cheese
  • 1/3 cup dill pickle slices

Instructions

Cuban Pork

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Brush the pork tenderloin on all sides with the olive oil
  3. In a small bowl, combine the salt, pepper, cumin, oregano, and red pepper flakes. Sprinkle evenly over the pork and rub in gently.
  4. In a large oven-safe skillet over medium high heat, sear the pork for 2 to 3 minutes on all sides, until lightly browned.
  5. Pour the lime and orange juices into the pan and rightly cover with a lid or aluminum foil. Transfer the skillet to the oven and continue cooking for 15 to 20 minutes, until the internal temperature registers between 145 - 160 degrees.
  6. Remove the roasted pork to a cutting board and let rest for 10 minutes before carving into 1/4-inch pieces.

Sandwich Cubano

  1. If using Cubano bread, slice each piece horizontally. If using a French or Italian loaf, cut the bread into 7-inch sections, then carve each horizontally. You may also slice the loaf crosswise into 3/4-inch pieces for smaller sandwiches.
  2. Spread the cut side of the bread with mustard. For each sandwich, pile on the pork, deli ham, and Swiss cheese. Top with pickles and another slice of bread.
  3. Brush the outsides of the sandwiches with olive oil.
  4. Cook the sandwiches in a preheated panini press for until each side is golden and the cheese is melted, about 3 to 5 minutes. If using a grill pan, cook for about 3 minutes using an iron skillet or grill press to weight down the sandwiches. Flip and cook another 3 minutes, or until the bread is toasted and the cheese is melted. Serve warm.

Notes

Original recipe by A Dish of Daily Life

  • For an even more flavorful pork, add a couple of crushed garlic cloves to the skillet as you sear the meat.
  • If time permits, rub the pork with the spices and let rest at room temperature for 15 to 20 minutes before cooking.

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Nutrition Information:

Yield:

4

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 904Total Fat: 38gSaturated Fat: 14gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 18gCholesterol: 186mgSodium: 2301mgCarbohydrates: 64gFiber: 6gSugar: 5gProtein: 76g

Did you make this recipe?

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sheila thigpen in her kitchen

Sheila @ Life, Love & Good Food

Recipe Developer, Food Photographer, Home Cook, Wife, Mom, Nana

Sheila Thigpen is the publisher of Life, Love, and Good Food — a Southern food blog — and the author of Easy Chicken Cookbook and The 5-Ingredient Fresh and Easy Cookbook. After 20+ years in the publishing industry, she retired in 2018 to focus on her own creative endeavors full time. She and her husband live near the beautiful Smoky Mountains and have a precious little granddaughter who has stolen their hearts. As an influencer, Sheila has collaborated with brands like Kroger, HERSHEY’S, Hamilton Beach, Garafalo Pasta, OXO, Smithfield, Valley Fig Growers, and more.

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