So what’s the food in Cuba really like?

After an era of extreme poverty, this intriguing Caribbean country is only now starting to explore its culinary culture and experiment with others’. But while we wait for Cuba’s foodie scene to develop, what’s to eat and is it any good? Or more importantly, is it really as bad as everyone says?

Mr & Mrs Romance - food in Cuba - 1 pineapple title

It’s commonly understood that Cuba has the least interesting food of all the Caribbean, Central and South American countries. This isn’t too surprising.

Rationing, the embargo, political turmoil, invasions – exploring food hasn’t been high on Cuban priorities for some time.

However, things aren’t all that bad and they are changing all the time – check out how here.

Like a lot of countries in this part of the world, Cuba has a deep, ingrained love of rice and black beans, and black bean soup. You’ll find this as a side dish in most – if not all places and it’s really quite good.

If you’re vegetarian, rice and beans is about all you’ll have to rely on in Cuba. That and the most delicious yam chips they make here.

Our veggie friend ordered a salad and received a plate of sliced up green tomato. Hilarious… for us. I think it was the most expensive thing on the table too.

Mr & Mrs Romance - food in Cuba - rice and beans

Mr & Mrs Romance - food in Cuba - Cuban salad

Talking of expensive, tinned tuna is a real luxury in Cuba. It’s very hard to find and when it is available, it’s very pricy.

There are lots of pork and chicken dishes. They can really fry chicken in Cuba – I had an enormous schnitzel thing in one restaurant and it was only about $5 – sides included.

Fish is good quality and well-cooked here. When you’re on the coast, you’ll have access to a better choice of seafood.

So as I said, the range of food is really surprising in Cuba, and there are signs some good kitchen skills. That’s not what’s given Cuba a bad reputation among foodies.

I suppose if you could sum up what’s missing from the cuisine comes down to a three things: no salt, no pepper and not many sauces.

Our friend even brought a bottle of Sriracha chilli sauce, having heard of what food was like here. It was a stroke of genius and, after 8 days, we’d used pretty much ¾ of a bottle.

We have speculated that perhaps this is why I’ve got such a positive view of Cuban cooking!

Mr & Mrs Romance - food in Cuba - food market

Mr & Mrs Romance - food in Cuba - greengrocers

But our best experience with food in Cuba was probably the most authentic.

The price you pay to stay in a casa particulares, which is like a kind of Cuban homestay and the best way to see the country, includes breakfast.

By the end of our trip, we’d begun to really look forward to our breakfasts. And most casas will really go all out to feed you well. Fresh fruit, juice, coffee, bread, cheese, jam, cakes, eggs… perfect.

They will also offer dinner in the casa too, but you have to ask for it and it’ll cost you around $10 extra. You pay at the end of your stay.

But the food is always tasty, plentiful and presented in the cutest of ways. You might even get a homemade daiquiri if you’re lucky!

Mr & Mrs Romance - food in Cuba - Cuban coffee

Mr & Mrs Romance - food in Cuba - cake Mr & Mrs Romance - food in Cuba - casa breakfast.

Mr & Mrs Romance - food in Cuba - casa full breakfast spread

Mr & Mrs Romance - food in Cuba - daiquiri

Mr & Mrs Romance - food in Cuba - casa dinner spread

Mr & Mrs Romance - food in Cuba - chicken and crisps

But let’s not play games here. We’re not saying that Cuba is the new centre of the world’s food ideology. It’s not. And as soon as we’d left Cuba for Mexico, and had tucked into a plate of fish tacos, we nodded knowingly.

What we’re saying is don’t believe all the bad hype about the food in Cuba. Most of it is absolutely fine – and some of it is even great.

I suppose the thing to remember is you’re not going to Cuba for a meal. If you are, then yes, best take along your own sauce bottle!

Mr & Mrs Romance - food in Cuba - more chicken and rice

Mr & Mrs Romance - food in Cuba - prawns

Our recommendations:

Restaurants to visit

There really is a lot more choice in Cuba these days. Everything from rustic Cuban fare to quite well executed French style dishes.

And since the Cuban government has allowed individuals to open their own private restaurants known as Paladars (on a very small scale of course) there are lots more options for eating out than there were before.

Havana: Don Lorenzo is good, but very expensive – otherwise there are plenty of little paladars and bars you can pick up a simple yet enjoyable bite to eat much cheaper.

Vinales: Finca la Chiquitica organic permaculture farm is superb with monstrous amounts of food and superb sunset views over the mountains and the valley.

Cienfuegos: El Tranvia is a restaurant dedicated to the old trams that used to run through the town. It’s a bit of fun and the food’s great.

Trinidad: there are plenty of bars, little hole-in-the-wall pizza places and things like that around Trinidad. We were also spoilt to a barbecue out on the beach, which, if you’re part of a tour group and you’re offered it, go for it. It’s really special.

A note on resorts

Most resorts in Cuba are in tourist only areas and offer “all-inclusive” packages. Here you’ll find buffet restaurants and some a la carte options too.

In a country with rations and restrictions, we were shocked at this excess. We didn’t enjoy this experience in Cuba as it felt too far removed from the reality of the Cuban people.

The boomgates keeping locals out should have been the warning to us.

If you do choose to stay at a resort, you’ll find a wider range of food than we found in the rest of Cuba.

We have heard that staff are able to take home some food, which made us feel a little better about the excess and wastage.

Mr & Mrs Romance - food in Cuba - street egg

Mr & Mrs Romance - food in Cuba - tea and fairy bread

What would you expect as far as food options go in Cuba? Do our findings surprise you? Have you been to Cuba? What was your opinion of the food? Tell us in the comments!

Images by Mrs Romance using her Olympus OM-D EM1.


  • Reply February 11, 2015

    The Life of Clare

    The food looks fabulous! What stunning photos! I’m seriously blown away! Cuba was never really on my ‘to-travel-to’ list, but I think it is now.

    • Reply February 11, 2015

      Mr Romance

      Thanks, Clare. Well, that’s what surprised us actually. The food – for the most part – really wasn’t too bad. Bit plain at times, but perhaps that’s because we’re used to more refined and processed food flavours. Definitely worth going to Cuba. Such a beautiful country with fascinating history and the friendliest people.

    • Reply February 9, 2016

      marilynn arnold

      Going to Cuba in April. How to take sauce without taking a checked bag as suggested. Can’t put tuna, peanut butter or ketchup or hot sauce in a carryon. So I guess I have to pay a bag fee to check a small bag that I won’t have to struggle with? I’m vegetarian so now I’m thinking about taking a little blender like a magic bullet and protein powder. Is it possible to get ice in Cuba. (typical American question, but I like to make smoothies with ice). Looks like I’ll be fine for breakfast, but I don’t really want bean soup and bread for dinner for 7 days. Your post has been most educational. Thanks.

      • Reply February 18, 2016

        Mr Romance

        It’s a tricky one, Marilynn, that’s for sure. Yes, checking a small bag would work well. Or maybe get a few sachets of sauce and put them in your hand luggage? Yes, you can get ice but not as easily as more modern countries. Our veggie friend found the food experience a bit underwhelming unfortunately. But the yam chips you can get there are amazing, and they sell them in most restaurants!
        Good luck with your trip to our favourite country. You’ll have the best time. Just go with an open mind, a heart full of adventure and intentions of going with the flow. It’s the best!

      • Reply March 30, 2017


        What a toss stay at home

  • Reply February 11, 2015


    Yep this all looks freaking amazing. I’m so hungry now…

    • Reply February 12, 2015

      Mr Romance

      Ha ha! I think our pictures probably do a lot of that food more justice than it deserves… but it was still pretty good. Sorry about your state of hunger though, Smags. Hope you find sweet (or savoury) relief soon!

  • Reply February 12, 2015


    Food looks fine to me! Only I might need to take Vegemite (and salt & pepper)!

    • Reply February 12, 2015

      Mr Romance

      Ha ha! Yes, don’t think there’ll be much Vegemite on Cuban shelves for a while yet, Corinne regardless of how friendly they get with American trade! I think a little shaker with salt and pepper in would make a big difference, but that spicy sauce our Canadian friend brought along with him was a game-changer. Even a drop of barbecue would do the trick!

  • Reply February 13, 2015


    This was so much fun to read guys, it really brings back so many fantastic Cuban memories- that ‘salad’ of green tomato was hilarious! And I agree that the homestay food was definitely the best!

    • Reply February 14, 2015

      Mr Romance

      Hi Lucy! Thank you! So glad you enjoyed reading it. And glad our experience wasn’t isolated – sometimes people have just such a different time in the same place. Seriously – some of that fried chicken was amazing from the casas! But how good’s Cuba? It really has made such an impression on us.

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  • Reply February 16, 2015

    Grace | The Beauty of Everywhere

    Great post! I’m vegetarian and I think I would have been mightily disappointed by the green tomato salad! When I eventually make it to Cuba, I’ll go prepared for many rice and bean dinners. Your breakfasts sound good though 🙂

    • Reply February 16, 2015

      Mr Romance

      I don’t think our friend was too upset by the rice and bean diet he maintained while we were in Cuba. I have to say they really do make this dish pretty well! But yes, the breakfasts were great! You’ll have a great time in Cuba when you get there. We can’t wait to get back there for more beans, more rice, more everything! 🙂

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  • Reply May 7, 2015

    JB & Renee

    This is interesting, and surprising. I had no idea that Cuba is known to have less interesting food. We’ve never been but my wife loves Cuban cuisine. Maybe the Cuban restuarants in America are more westernized and not really authentic? In any case, it’s still in the top 5 of our bucket list. You’re so lucky to have been! 🙂

    Love your blog by the way. Food plays a significant role in our travel choices and I can see that it does with you as well. Our blogs are actually quite similar. Best of luck and more happy “traveleating” to you both! 🙂

    • Reply May 8, 2015

      Mr Romance

      Hey JB (great initials btw!), so glad you enjoyed our post. Yes, the Cuban food here in Australia is also really good, but very little of it reminds us of Cuba. The elements that are authentic are usually combined with popular Mexican dishes to make the food more appealing, which is fine by me! I have to say though, the food in Cuba wasn’t ever terrible, it just wasn’t amazing.
      Definitely still keep Cuba high on your list; it’s a fantastic place to visit.
      And I see what you mean about our blogs being similar! Love that about this industry!
      Cheers mate. Stay in touch
      Jim (also JB!)

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