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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!
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- 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.
The information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!
So many times I have had to have conversations with people even restaurant personnel. They always want to put mayo on it or mayo with lettuce and tomatoe and even a special sauce. Then they advertise it as an authentic Cuban sandwich! Drives me insane!
So glad you set the record straight. Due to this i will forgive the carnitas. Lol Honestly I can agree that that would taste good. Plus it is such a small modification that it would be fine.
As far as pressing a friend of mine bought a brick, washed it really well and wrapped in aluminum foil. Placed the sandwich in a pan on the stove. Then just placed the brick on the sandwich. About 5 minutes later she flips it and puts the brick on it again. Works great!
Thank you! I am glad you enjoyed it!
Wow this looks delicious!! I can’t wait to try this at home! Looks like the perfect comfort food!
Thank you Kayla! You will love them!
Recipe was amazing!! One of my family’s favorite.. we will definitely be making this one a regular in our home! Keep them coming !!
Thank you Rachel! It is always a great sandwich! I am glad your family will enjoy it!
This sandwich recipe is AMAZING! We’re BIG fans in my house! Well done!
Thank you Jaclyn! We love it at our house!
This is one sandwich that I CANNOT wait to get my hands on! I absolutely LOVE your interpretation and spin on such a delicious sandwich! Being as I have tried and absolutely loved many of your other recipes, I am sure this one will not disappoint!
Thank you so much! I hope you enjoy this! Thank you for trying recipes out!
I love this so much! We make a lot of pork shoulder and I never have enough ways to eat it all! I cannot wait to make this and eat it! I love how simple you made a great sandwich! Making your carnita meat this weekend so we can enjoy some Cubans as well! Thank you for always having great recipes to try!
Thank you so much Kelsey! I am glad you enjoy this! Let me know how it all turns out after you make it! Looking forward to hearing!
Kevin, this is by far my favorite sandwich of all sandwiches. This one did not disappoint!! The only thing that I changed was that I used the grill grates on my press and called it a cubano panini. Maybe I should check with Sel below and see if I need to put myself in timeout?? I love the idea of taking leftovers from another recipe and using them to create something completely new. Thank you for bringing a your twist to timeless classics. Roasted Pork is roasted pork…..geez Sel!!
So glad you enjoyed this as much as we did Les! Appreciate the feedback, too.
So lets understand, I am speaking of the original…and of course one can experiment with whatever so chosen.
This sandwich was amazing, I really like your carnitas and this was a great way to to use the leftovers. This person Sel that commented on your post needs to get a life. Who does this ass think they are, I would sure like to see their cooking blog and all of the authentic recipes they have come up with. I love the way you take your recipes to another level, by combining different cultures to make incredible tasting food and isn’t that the point.
Thanks Dave, everyone has an opinion, right?! Just wish Sel’s was helpful, not condescending.
This Cubano is correct up to the addition of the Mexican styled carnitas. Not the typical Cubano recipe. Never is carnitas mixed into this heavenly sandwich. The original Cubano served in Cuba is strictly without the addition of carnitas. Bear in mind, you have adulterated the whole idea. When Cuba was open to any and all, going way back in time before Castro, this Sammy had its origins quite differently then you brought out.
Sel it seems you visit the site, leave a comment and never reply when I answer or defend my reasons for doing something to a recipe, like with the Mexican Rice recipe recently. This is my experience from having many a Cuban Sandwich and a way to use carnitas. I believe traditionally one would use shredded, slow roasted pork (seasoned slightly differently), here I used my carnitas meat.
Kevin, do understand my time is limited. Though when I read or see a interpretation
of what I know to be misunderstood, my worldwide travels compel me to correct.
Now, you may have eaten many of what you call the ‘Cubano’, it still does not merit the comments.
As for the Mexican rice: May I assume you either have eaten this way, or else someone close.
This is really not the issue. Basically, experience and travels are a strong indication.
As for the answers you seek, sorry, I do not ‘share. Let me encourage you to continue your research, and you will find the answers you want. Learning is such a grand experience, and acceptance is most important.
As for your comment about the carnitas. Never, has this been used in the last hundred years
of it’s creation.
This media noche, was not created as you think. There I gave you a clue. Good luck Kevin, I will look for your corrections. Know that my comments are not meant to discourage, only to encourage you for the correct comments. 🙂
Hey Sel, I had no idea you were the authority on cuban sandwiches. I just want to formally apologize for not consulting with you, before allowing any of my chefs to place them on the menu. Yes, I now know that even if the restaurants were mentioned by the Michelin Guide, which they were, I ultimately failed by not getting your approval. Moving forward, I will make procedural adjustments that required all cuban sandwiches to be approved by you before placing them on any menus.
Oh please, Fidel…err…Sel…nobody cares about your travels and the secrets you keep because you know what…WHO CARES! You’re not the one who’s worked day and night for years on end to build this site, are you? You think you’re the only person who’s traveled anywhere apparently, and think that somehow makes you special or something, but really it doesn’t. If you don’t like the recipe, move on like everybody else does. I have cookbooks I bought when I was a teenager I keep because I like one recipe. Do you think I wrote snide remarks to the publisher or author just because there’s only one recipe I like? Nope, because they don’t care either. Nobody’s going to rewrite a recipe, under your supreme but mysterious guidance, so that you can correct your comments, so put up or shut up. What I like about this site is that the recipes are approachable, they take me closer to achieving some culinary delights I might otherwise never try, and I can usually make them in a day. Please, seriously, for the sake of humanity…get over yourself.
Kevin, I was once a cook at a great local Mexican restaurant — everything was made there except sandwich bread. We made our Cubans with carnitas because the meat was close enough the original Cuban meat…and because we had it for other recipes like tacos, nachos, and more. In contrast to your recipe, our carnitas used a sweet-mustard sauce that we created (think, butter, yellow mustard, brown sugar, and spices) and our own house-made dill pickles. That said, your recipe is perfect for a home cook looking for something new and/or someone who doesn’t have a ton of time and ingredients to make everything from scratch. I appreciate you putting it out. Keep up the great work!
Thank you so much for your kind words! They mean a lot! I hope you enjoy lots of my recipes!