The History of the Cuban Sandwich

The Cuban is kind of a big dill

The Cuban sandwich. The Cubano. A Cuban Mix. One sandwich, by many names.

Cuban sandwiches were made popular in Florida, but taste just as delicious anywhere you can get your hands on one. Loaded with smoked ham, mojo-marinated roast pork, Swiss cheese, dill pickles and yellow mustard, if you’ve never tried a melty Cuban, order one ASAP.

Binding all that meaty goodness together is a loaf of Cuban bread, boasting a hard, thin crust with a soft, airy center. There can be no substitutes for this bread on your Cuban sandwich!

Cuban roots…

Historians believe that the very first Cuban sandwich was developed more than 500 years ago by a native Cuban tribe, before Europeans even arrived to the island. Although back then it had drastically different ingredients (yucca and fish), and wouldn’t even be recognizable by today’s standards.

In 1831, the Cuban cigar industry emerged in Key West, and slowly made its way up to Tampa.

Legend has it that the Cuban factory workers in Tampa were in need of cheap and quick lunch options, so they started building their tried and true sandwiches.

But wait – not so fast!

In the late 1800s and early 1900s, people were freely sailing between Cuba and Florida as they pleased, causing an exchange of cuisine and culture. So it’s impossible to know exactly when the Cuban sandwich made its way to Florida.

And whether Tampa or Miami can claim the sandwich as their own is also up for debate.

Tampanians maintain that Cubans came to Tampa 100 years ago to make cigars and brought with them the now-infamous sandwich. In fact, in 2012, the Tampa City Council officially renamed the Cuban sandwich the “Historic Tampa Cuban Sandwich” – a claim that had Miami all up in arms.

Miamians, on the other hand, argue that the Cuban sandwich couldn’t have originated in Tampa because their version has salami, which certainly isn’t traditional to Cuba. Plus, Miami has the largest population of Cubans in the state, so clearly the sandwich was popularized in Miami.

Or was it? The world will never know.

If  you ask us, everyone can stop arguing. Because if anyone can claim the sandwich as their own, it’s Cuba (even if the ingredients evolved over time)!

Fun “facts”

  • Italian bricklayers in Tampa added salami to the sandwich and also discovered that placing a hot brick on top made it crisp and melty.
  • Germans added mustard to the sandwich, instead of mayo, because it didn’t spoil in the Florida heat.
  • Spaniards added ham and cheese, which they brought with them from Spain.
  • In the late 1800s, a Cuban sandwich sold in Florida for 15 cents.

Craving a Cuban?


One Comment

  1. istanbites says:

    This is so great!

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