Pressed Cubano Sandwiches (Cuban Sandwich)

My recipe was inspired by the movie Chef!These pressed Cubano sandwiches are a great blend of tangy, savory, cheesy, and crispy! You have to make one yourself, you will be surprised by how good they are!

Photo by Brigitte Tohm on

Cubano sandwiches also known as Cuban sandwiches or Cafe Cubanos are a popular sandwich in South Florida, especially in Miami and Tampa. It is a pressed sandwich that is a blend of pork, ham, cheese, mustard, pickles, and occasionally salami. Legend says that the first Cubano sandwich was made by the Taino tribe of Cuba. The Taino culture was one of the three cultures that lived in Cuba before European settlers arrived.

A food chemist from Tampa, Jorge Astorquiza, said that the sandwich was originally made with a bread made from yucca called casabe bread. The meat of the bread was typically bird or fish meat because pork was unavailable at the time. When the European settlers came to Cuba, meat like ham and pork were introduced to the native people. Then casabe bread was substituted with more doughy bread. With these European influences the ancient sandwich was transformed into its more modern form.

During the mid-1800s, the Cuban tobacco industry was blooming in Florida’s Key West area. When the tobacco companies moved to Tampa thousands of people relocated to Ybor City, a neighborhood founded by cigar manufacturers of Cuban, Italian, and Spanish descent. With the workers pouring into the factories there was a need for an affordable lunch that could be made quickly. This was when the Cubano sandwich came into grand popularity. The sandwich still kept a lot of its Cuban roots, but there were influences from Spanish and Italian culture like the ham, roasted, pork, and salami.

My first introduction to Cubano sandwiches was when watching the movie Chef. It is an adorable and flavorful movie where a head chef Jeff (Jon Faveau) quits his stressful job at a swanky high-end restaurant to buy a food truck in Miami and drives the truck all the way back to his home in Los Angeles. Through his journey with his estranged young son (Emjay Anthony) and his former line cook Martin (John Leguizamo), Chef Jeff falls in love with food again and can put his own ideas and creativity back into the cuisine he serves.

When the trio are at the food truck in Miami the thing that they want to sell is Cubano sandwiches! Martin dances in the food truck as he expertly marinates and roasts the pork. Then Chef Jeff teaches his son how to prepare and press the sandwich. This marks the start of Chef Jeff finding his passion for food again. It is beautiful.

My first attempt at making a Cubano sandwich was pretty tasty. I baked my beautiful Cuban roll bread, roasted my pork, assembled then pressed the sandwiches. My husband and I devoured our sandwiches. The pork was delectable and the mixture of meat, cheese, and condiments danced together in our mouths. I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as we did!

Cubano Sandwiches Recipe

Yields 4 sandwiches

Prep Time 20 minutes

Inactive Time 6 to 24 hours

Cook Time 30 to 40 minutes

Specialty Tool: Sandwich Press or Panini Press

Beer Pairing Suggestion: Pale Ale or Brown Ale


Four Cuban Sandwich Rolls

Roast Pork and Marinade:

1 pound boneless pork (roast, chops, or pork tenderloin)

2 tablespoons garlic, minced

1/2 tablespoon ground paprika

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon black pepper

Juice of one orange

1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Sandwich Filling:

1 pound sliced roasted pork

1/4 pound smoked ham

1/2 pound Swiss Cheese

4 pickle slices

4 tablespoons spicy mustard

4 tablespoons butter


Mix all the marinade ingredients together in a 2 quart baking dish.

Place the boneless pork to the marinade and rub the marinade juices over the surface of the pork.

Marinate pork in the refrigerator for 6 to 24 hours.

Preheat oven to 425 F.

Place baking dish in the oven for 30 to 40 minutes. Occasionally baste the meat with the pan juices.

Use meat thermometer to see if the pork is cooked through. The internal temperature should be at least 160 F.

Remove pork from oven.

Cool the pork for at least 15 minutes before thinly slicing.

To Assemble the Sandwiches:

Slice the Cuban rolls in half.

Layer the sandwiches starting with relish, smoked ham, sliced roast pork, Swiss cheese, and spicy mustard.

Close the sandwiches.

Butter both sides of the bread.

How to Press the Sandwiches:

The best way to cook the sandwich is to use a sandwich press or a panini press.

Place the buttered sandwiches on the grill of the press, and press down with the top of the sandwich press.

Do not squish down too much, you do not want a completely flat sandwich.

Press until the cheese is melted and the bread is golden brown and toasty.

If you do not have a sandwich press you will need two pans of equal size.

Heat a pan to medium heat.

Place buttered sandwiches on the pan.

Weigh down sandwiches with a heavy pan.

Grill for 3 to 4 minutes.

Flip the sandwiches and grill for 3-4 more minutes until both sides of the bread are golden brown and the cheese is melted.

Serve warm.

Substitution: If you are pressed for time and cannot make Cuban rolls or Cuban rolls are not available to you, Italian sandwich rolls are great substitutes for this recipe!

Substitution: Use pickles if you do not prefer relish.


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