Cubans are loyal lovers of sweet flavors. Perhaps it is due to the agricultural tradition of mass production of cane sugar. Possibly. The truth is that there are very few culinary preparations without a small spoonful of cane sugar.
Desserts are an essential part of traditional Cuban food. They are always served at the end of any lunch or dinner, even late afternoon snacks. This article shares a special list of the 20 favorite traditional desserts of Cuban cuisine.
1. Caramel Flan (Caramel Flan)
Flan de Caramelo is possibly one of the most recognized Cuban desserts in the world, an exquisite recipe that you should definitely try. It is prepared to taste natural or with additions of other flavors such as coconut, pineapple, etc.
This flan is generally composed of different types of milk, such as evaporated, condensed and regular milk. The recipe also includes egg and sugar. The boiled sugar syrup is one of the special secrets of this dessert, which is used to seal the edges of the flan.
2. Tocinillo del Cielo
This Andalusian dish is the star of the kitchen, never to be forgotten. Cubans love this tasty delicacy made with eggs, water, sugar, cinnamon and lemon. The recipe is very similar to caramel flan.
Like flan, Tocinillo del Cielo involves the preparation of a caramel base. You need to include a mixture of egg, sugar and lemon juice on top of this base. Then it boils for 60 or 90 minutes.
3. Rice Pudding (Rice Pudding)
Rice pudding is one of Cuba’s most coveted sweet rice recipes. You don’t need many ingredients to make this delicious dessert; it is made with rice, milk, sugar and cinnamon.
This dessert is often homemade. It can be found in Cuban homes as well as in restaurants. It is generally served in round bowls and sprinkled with a little ground cinnamon.
4. Dulce de Leche Cut (dessert with sour milk)
The sour milk dessert is a delicious and simple Cuban dish not to be missed. All you need is a little plain milk (especially one that contains some natural animal fat, such as cow’s or goat’s milk) and sugar.
The sour milk is boiled and little by little sugar is added to taste until it has the desired texture. You can also make the sour milk yourself with a tablespoon of vinegar or a piece of lemon zest. You can also add a small cinnamon stick at the end or during cooking.
5. Pieces of Papaya on Syrup
Pieces of bomba fruit in syrup are a typical homemade candy that you can find in every Cuban home. The recipe is simple. You cook the pieces of fruit (preferably green) with a little water and a lot of sugar. The cooking time depends on the ripeness of the fruit. The syrup should have a medium consistency, not too runny and not too thick.
It is recommended not to go overboard with the sugar, as the candy can turn into a sticky, unbreakable dough. You can add a small cinnamon stick to enhance the flavor. This type of cooking is essential to Cuban cuisine. Because of its sweetness, this papaya in syrup is usually combined with a slice of regular cheese.
6. Guava hulls (guava hulls)
Guava is one of the most internationally known Cuban fruits, along with mango and mamey. It has multiple culinary uses, especially in desserts. Guava shells are a decadent traditional dessert, accompanied by plain cheese or cream.
The name is due to the hull shape of the guava. The outside of the guava is used to make the candy, giving it a helmet-like shape. Boil it briefly so it doesn’t get too soft, then add the syrup made with the boiled sugar.
7. Mango slices in syrup
Like other fruit candies cooked in syrup, mango slices are one of the specialties of Cuban homes. The mango slices are cooked in a pre-cooked syrup, preferably with a very liquid consistency.
You can serve it with regular or cream cheese.
8. Grated coconut in syrup
Shredded coconut in syrup has several variations depending on the final texture. Like many fruits in Cuba, the shredded coconut is first cooked in syrup. After that, it gets different finishes ranging from texture and opacity.
You can find it in the form of a cookie, filling for a caramel ball, or just in the medium liquid version. You can also serve the grated coconut sweet with white or regular cheese.
9. Grapefruit Peels
Grapefruit peels are made with the finest rind from the rind of this citrus fruit. The crust is cut into four parts and soaked for at least 24 hours. Then they are boiled at least four times, changing the water each time.
Finally, the grapefruit peel is cooked in syrup. You can serve it with white or cream cheese.
10. Guava or coconut cakes
Guava or coconut pastries are one of the few Cuban sweet specialties made on a puff pastry basis. Usually the dough is prepared in a rectangular or triangular shape.
While a sweet filling is preferred, they can also be filled with something savory such as cheese or ham.
11. Bread pudding
Bread pudding is a well-known dessert in Caribbean countries such as the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and Cuba. The candy is based on a mixture of breadcrumbs, eggs, sugar, regular milk and raisins. It can also be flavored with vanilla and cinnamon.
Like caramel flan or Tocinillo del Cielo, bread pudding is cooked on a previously cooked syrup base. The texture is generally fluffy and firm. It is customary to use a round shape in cooking.
12. Masa Real or Panatela de Guayaba (Real Dough or Guava Panatela)
This unique candy is a symbol of times of crisis in Cuba, especially the 1990s. The dough or guava panetela is also known as a hunger killer.
This peculiar sweet that is easy to prepare has been criticized for its cheap commercialization in Cuba. However, there is no denying that it is a tasty Cuban dessert.
Señorita is one of the few Cuban desserts made with puff pastry. The puff pastry is divided into several layers, which are filled with custards with different flavors or simple pastry cream.
The preparation of this candy also contains other ingredients such as milk, butter, egg, lemon, sugar and cornstarch. The small sheets of puff pastry are baked separately for a few minutes. Then they come together with the filling. Finally, they are sprinkled with a little powdered sugar and they are ready.
14. Yucca Fritters in Syrup
Yucca fritters in syrup are a Christmas delight from Spanish culinary traditions. The preparation is much more complex than most traditional Cuban desserts. Formed in the number 8 or infinity symbol, they signify good luck for the coming year.
The recipe contains egg, anise, taro, cassava, flour, oil and salt. The most complex part of the process is the preparation of the dough. Once the desired mixture is reached, it is baked, cooled and served with syrup on top.
15. Atoll de Maiz (corn dessert)
The atoll is nothing more than cornmeal cooked with sugar and other natural flavors like cinnamon and vanilla. This Central American dessert is also called majarete or sweet flour in Cuba.
The cornstarch is boiled along with the boiled milk and the rest of the ingredients are added gradually. It is served hot or cold.
16. Caramel custard
Custard is a typical dessert in Cuban homes, especially those with small children or babies. However, this is a family dessert that is refreshing and light, perfect for an afternoon snack.
The custard recipe contains milk, eggs, cornstarch, sugar, vanilla, and cinnamon. It can be made with different flavorings such as chocolate, vanilla, ice cream, etc. A caramel base is prepared for the bottom of the mold, which gives this dessert a special juicy touch.
Cuban torrejas are like a Creole version of French toast. This dish is very popular in Cuba because it is simple and cheap to prepare.
The slices of bread are dipped in milk and egg and then fried in hot oil. When ready, let them cool and serve with syrup on top.
18. Pancakes, Mantecado or Polvorón
This dessert, so prized in Cuban bakeries and candy stores, goes by several names all over the island of Cuba. In some cities it is known as torticas, mantecado or polvorón. Torticas de Morón is undoubtedly one of the best-known variants.
It is a thick and sweet cookie made with flour, sugar, butter and lemon zest. It should quickly bake for 18 or 20 minutes without browning the outside of the dough.
19. Fruit Jam
Traditional sweets made with fruits and sugar are ubiquitous in Cuba. Like fruit candies served with syrup or caramel, jam is a standard part of Cuban homes.
One of the most famous natural fruit jams are mango and guava. It is also usually served with a slice of white or regular cheese.
20. Ice Bite
The ice bite is a typical street sale candy. In every corner of Cuban neighborhoods, you can find a vendor asking about selling ice bites.
It usually consists of two rectangular cupcakes, between which a cube of homemade ice cream is placed. It’s a refreshing snack, especially notable for the unusual way it’s sold.
Related: 25 Traditional Cuban Dishes