This Cuban sandwich recipe is so satisfying to make and to eat! It’s all about the order of operations. It’s easy, and here’s how!
Ingredients for Cuban Sandwiches
This is basically a seriously hearty riff on a ham and cheese sandwich. Here’s how this all comes together. It needs two kinds of pork, and yellow mustard. You need Swiss cheese, and Cuban bread, which is similar to a long white sandwich roll.
Typically this uses a slow roasted pork that gets marinated and seasoned with lots of garlic and lime, here I use carnitas. Yes, it’s Mexican slow roasted pork, and yes, just as good. I’ll do a traditional Cubano soon.
This is not to be confused with a medianoche, which is consists of roast pork, ham, mustard, Swiss cheese, and sweet pickles. A close cousin to the Cuban sandwich, the main difference being that a medianoche is made on soft, sweet egg dough bread.
Here is my recipe for Homemade Carnitas to make the best Cubanos ever. In fact, if you want to really do it up, make the carnitas, save some for leftovers—cause it’ll make a ton—and then plan to use the pork the next day for these sandwiches. Trust me!
How to Make this Recipe
You make the pork carnitas ahead of time, which is easy enough. It’s basically shredded pulled pork seasoned with cumin, oregano, cinnamon, orange, and a number of other things. My recipe shows you how to do it on the stovetop, the Instant Pot or in a slow cooker. Score!
Then you slice the bread and slather both insides with yellow mustard.
Assemble the sandwich in this order, starting from the bottom up:
- Swiss cheese
- A generous 1/2 cup of roasted pork (like my pork carnitas)
- 2 slices of ham
- A pickle slices
- Another slice of Swiss Cheese
The sandwich then gets grilled/pressed, which toasts it—and melts the cheese—evenly on both sides, making the whole thing both crunchy and soft.
If you don’t have a panini press, never fear. A couple of heavy skillets will do trick.
Where Did the Cuban Sandwich Come From?
It’s believed this sandwich, also referred to as a Cubano or Sándwich cubano, originated in workers lunches in Tampa and Key West, Florida, around the turn of the century, before refrigeration. The combination of two kinds of ham, with the tang of the mustard, the crunch of the pickle and the melty cheese, is hard to resist.
Look at those layers. Right?
This is one of those times I’m going to tell you if you substitute anything here other than maybe the roll, it’s not really a Cuban sandwich recipe, with one caveat: in Tampa, there’s a variation with salami, thanks to the historic melding of Italian, Spanish and Cuban influence.
But otherwise, Dijon and spicy mustard have no place here. Nor does sliced deli turkey. You’d be taking this sandwich down a whole different path.
However, if you can’t find the right bread, I won’t hold it against you. Cuban loaves typically have a little bit of fat in them and are made in long, baguette-like shapes.
Basically, any soft but sturdy roll will do—something like a French or Italian loaf, which are similar but not the same. You want one that will easily compress, but stay together, when you grill this situation.
I also have an Authentic Carnitas recipe where the pork is deep fried and it is AMAZING. Perfect to use in this sandwich as well. Enjoy!
Watch how to make this Cuban sandwich recipe below!
- 4 Cuban bread rolls (white sandwich roll)
- 1/4 cup yellow mustard
- 8 ham slices
- 2 cups roasted pork (carnitas meat) (See Note 1)
- 8 long dill pickle slices
- 8 Swiss cheese slices
- Slice bread in half then layer the sandwich with yellow mustard, one slice of Swiss cheese, 2 slices ham, 1/2 cup carnitas meat, 2 pickle slices then another slice of Swiss cheese. Place other roll piece slathered with yellow mustard on top.
- Place sandwich in a Panini sandwich press and cook on 350°F for 5 to 7 minutes per side until the sandwich has compressed to about a third of its original size and the bread is crispy.
- If you don't have a Panini sandwich press available heat a large cast iron skillet or any grill pan over medium heat. Place the sandwich on the skillet and top with another heavy skillet and a couple of heavy weights (cans of soup, tomatoes work well). Carefully press down firmly and cook for 5 to 7 minutes per side until the sandwich has compressed to about a third of its original size and the bread is crispy. Serve warm and sliced.
- 6 lbs boneless pork shoulder (pork butt) cut into 3-inch cubes
- 2 oranges cut in halves
- 2 carrots break in halves
- 1 onion cut in half
- 3 bay leaves
- 6 garlic cloves minced
- 2 tsp kosher salt
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 2 tbsp Mexican oregano (See Note 1)
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- Combine the rub ingredients and rub all over pork.
- Place the pork shoulder in a slow cooker fat side up. Cover with the oranges, carrots, onion and bay leaves.
- Cook on low for 10 hours or 6 on high if using a slow cooker. If using an Instant Pot, High Pressure for 90 minutes. Allow for natural release.
- Carefully transfer carnitas from cooker using a slotted spoon or spider to a serving platter, save pan juices. Allow meat to cool slightly and shred by hand or using forks. Pan fry with cooking juices to crisp up if desired.