Cuban Sandwiches – my take on the classic Cuban, made with ham, Mojo pork, Swiss cheese, and a homemade garlic aioli.
Cuban sandwiches have been one of my favorite sandwiches for as long as I can remember. We would have them pretty often because my mom would order them in platters for various parties. Every event she hosted – from baby showers to Christmas Eve parties – she would make sure to have a platter of little Cuban sandwiches (called Cubanitos) for guests to munch on.
Though I’ve been enjoying these sandwiches my entire adult life, I was shocked to realize that I’ve never actually made them at home for myself. I think the biggest reason for this was the roast pork in the sandwich. I never really had any on hand and it seemed silly to buy sliced roast pork just for the sake of putting on a sandwich, assuming I could even find sliced roast pork at the store.
But now that I’ve got this incredible Mojo Pork Tenderloin recipe on deck and part of my normal dinner rotation, making homemade Cuban Sandwiches is easier than ever. So naturally, I have developed my take on the best Cuban Sandwich using leftovers from that recipe and have it here for you today.
What’s in a Cuban Sandwich?
A Cuban sandwich is a version of a ham & cheese sandwich that is served pressed. It’s made with slices of ham, roast pork, Swiss cheese, pickles and mustard and served on Cuban bread. Its origin is actually in Florida – not Cuba. But the creators of the sandwich were Cuban immigrants who would make these sandwiches to take to work. They eventually made their way to Miami, where they are still insanely popular today.
There are obviously variations to the classic. I’ve seen people use honey mustard instead of mustard, add mayo, and even leave off pickles and/or mustard entirely. But, in my opinion, to really be a Cuban sandwich, the three ingredients that must be present are:
- Roast pork
- Swiss cheese
How I make my version of a Cuban Sandwich
My version of a Cuban sandwich is very similar to the classic, aside from one thing: I always add mayo. I’m not against mustard but sometimes it can take away from the other ingredients so I prefer mayo on my Cuban (and on all my sandwiches, actually).
Roasted Garlic Aioli
Lately, I’ve taken to making a garlic aioli instead of just using classic mayo and it’s become a GAME. CHANGER. The garlic and lemon juice in the aioli takes the Cuban to a whole other level. The amount of flavor in every bite will blow you away!
To make the aioli, you simply roast the garlic and then smash together with mayo, fresh lemon juice, salt, pepper, and a little cayenne. Roasting the garlic mellows out its flavor so it’s not so pungent. Instead, it becomes rich and almost sweet.
Roasting garlic is super simple. You just wrap a bulb of garlic in foil with a little olive oil and salt and bake until the cloves turn super soft.
Assembling the sandwich
After the aioli is made, it’s time to assemble the sandwich and press it. First, we start with the bread. Traditionally, Cuban bread is used for this sandwich. I’m not sure how easy it is to find Cuban bread outside of the South so using French bread or hoagie rolls will work fine.
Next, the bread is sliced in half and spread with the aioli you made. Pickles are layered on one half, then the cheese, ham, and pork. The sandwich is closed ready for pressing.
To press the sandwich, I use the flat plates on my panini press and press the sandwich on medium heat. You can easily do this in a skillet but you’ll need to put a heavy skillet on top of the sandwich to help flatten it out. I’ve also seen people use a brick wrapped in foil to achieve similar results.
Once the sandwich is pressed, it’s sliced in half and served immediately.
Tips & Tricks
- You do not want to use a high heat when heating this sandwich. If the heat is too high, the outside will brown before the cheese has time to melt. I find medium to work great for me, but if you’re worried, go a tad under medium.
- To make the roasted garlic easier to smash, make sure you roast it long enough. 30 minutes should be enough time, but you can verify by pushing on one of the cloves with a fork and see if it smashes easily. If not, roast for 5 more minutes.
For the roasted garlic aioli:
- 1 large head of garlic
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- ⅓ cup mayonnaise
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
- ⅛ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
For the Cuban sandwiches:
- 4 hoagie rolls (or one loaf of Cuban bread cut into 4 portions)
- 16 slices dill pickle chips
- 4 slices Swiss cheese
- 16 slices thinly sliced ham
- 4 slices thinly sliced Mojo pork tenderloin sliced lengthwise
- 2 tablespoons butter
To make the roasted garlic aioli:
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Take the head of garlic and chop off the top 1/2 inch. Drizzle with olive oil and a pinch of salt. Wrap in aluminum foil and place onto a baking sheet or in a baking pan. Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes or until cloves have softened completely.
- Remove garlic from oven and let it cool for 5 minutes. Squeeze cloves into a small bowl. Using a fork, smash garlic until it becomes a paste. Add mayonnaise, lemon juice, cayenne, and a pinch of salt. Set aside.
To make the Cuban sandwiches:
- Preheat a panini press over medium head. Alternatively, you and use a skillet on the stove over medium heat.
- Cut hoagie in half. Spread both cut halves with roasted garlic aioli (about 1-2 tablespoons). On the bottom half, add 4 pickle slices. Cut Swiss cheese in half and place over the top of the pickles in a long strip. Top with sliced ham and sliced pork. Top with other half of the hoagie. Repeat with other 3 hoagies.
- Add 1 tablespoon of butter to hot press or hot skillet. Add two sandwiches and close panini press and press down. Cook until cheese has melted, about 7-10 minutes. Remove and repeat with other 2 sandwiches. If using a skillet, add two sandwiches and press down with a heavy skillet. Cook for 5 minutes and then flip. Remove once the cheese has melted. Repeat with 2 other sandwiches.
- Slice cooked sandwiches in half and serve immediately.