Crispy and buttery, a Cuban sandwich is so, so good, with succulent homemade pulled pork, deli ham, dill pickles, mustard and Swiss cheese.
With tender pulled pork, smoked ham, lots of oozing cheese, sharp mustard, and tangy pickles, a Cuban sandwich (aka Cubano) is not lacking in flavor! Sandwiched between two buttery slices of crisp grilled bread, there’s so much going on: tender slivers of meat, crisp pickles, and melty cheese. This is definitely a two napkin sandwich.
Maybe the first introduction you’ve had to this lip-smacking, messy fingers sandwich is the popular Cuban sandwich at Panera’s. It’s so good but I’ve heard that it’s been discontinued. What?!! Why do they do that? But no fear, you can make your own deli sandwich right at home.
About this Cuban Panini
Okay, I won’t lie to you. This isn’t a super fast sandwich option. The base of a Cuban panini is slow cooked Cuban style pork. Yep, it has to marinate all night. Yep, it has to cook all day. But you know what? You can make the pork way ahead. You could also use our Instant Pot carnitas recipe (minus the crisping portion), for shorter marinating and cook times. It keeps well in the fridge or in the freezer. Once you make a batch of Cuban (Mojo) pork, you literally can have it on hand for whenever you crave a Cuban panini.
Marinated overnight in a citrus garlic marinade, then slow cooked to tender perfection, Cuban pork is absolutely delicious. It’s wonderful in a bowl with rice and beans, wrapped in a tortilla, or on a bun. But the real reason to make Cuban pork? Yes, the answer is …. for Cuban paninis.
Get your panini maker heating up. If you don’t have one, a George Foreman grill works fine or a heavy skillet.
What you need
- Shredded Cuban (Mojo) Pork and Sliced Deli Ham – Sometimes salami is also included in a Cuban sandwich, so feel free to add that if you’d like!
- Swiss Cheese – As much or as little as you’d like!
- Dill Pickle Slices – Sandwich stackers work really well, or round slices.
- Mustard – Pick any kind you like! We like a good Dijon, but you could use traditional yellow mustard, or a spicy mustard.
- Mayonnaise – We love this addition, but you can definitely leave it out if you don’t like mayo or want a more classic version of this sandwich.
- Sandwich Bread – Pick your fave! Choose Cuban bread if you want an authentic sandwich.
- Butter for Grilling – For a lower calorie option, you can spray the outside of your bread with oil or nonstick cooking spray. We always opt for butter, though!
Of course there are variations, but the classic Cuban sandwich uses pork, ham, Swiss cheese, pickles, mustard on Cuban bread. We like using a little mayo as well, and any kind of sturdy bread we can get our hands on. Cuban sandwiches are often pressed like a panini (like this recipe), but can also be served cold.
Really, anything you’d like! We love a pile of potato chips or sweet potato chips with a good sandwich, but other options are fries, fresh vegetables, a salad, or fruit. Potato salad would be delicious, too!
How to assemble this sandwich:
Spread mustard on a hearty variety of sandwich bread. This isn’t the time for wimpy spongey bread. Use a nice firm bread, like French, Italian, or Cuban, with good sized slices.
Here’s how to layer the sandwich
Bread, a slice of cheese, a slice of ham, pork, pickles, a slice of ham, and then a final slice of cheese before topping with another slice of bread. Whew! You can already tell that this is going to be quite the Dagwood sandwich.
Stick to this order because, trust me, it works best. The cheese is kind of like the glue, the ham slices give structure, and the gooey drippy stuff is right in the middle where it will behave itself. Well, not really, you’ll need at least a couple of napkins with this sandwich. But isn’t that the hallmark of a truly delicious sandwich?
Butter the outsides of the sandwich and grill until the bread is golden brown and toasty good, and the cheese is melting out the sides, and your mouth is watering, and … what? Don’t bother with talking, just enjoy!
Make this panini your own:
Like any sandwich, you can pretty much build a Cuban panini the way you want. It may not be an “authentic” version, but it’s your version and that’s just as good. Here’s some suggestions:
- There are so many varieties of mustard and each one has unique characteristics. Use your favorite one, or just skip the mustard if you want. Try a different spread. Thousand Island would be good or flavored cream cheese spread.
- Pickles. Again, a lot of different kinds out there, all of which would be worth a try. Choose your favorite or what you happen to have in the fridge. Try pickled red onions for a different twist.
- Skip the pork and try sliced turkey, instead.
- What kind of cheese do you like on a sandwich? Swiss works great with the pork and ham but other varieties of cheese would be great, too.
Make Ahead Ideas
While this sandwich really can’t be made ahead, the pork certainly can. Freeze individual portions of pork and thaw it in the microwave any time you crave a Cuban panini.
While I haven’t tried it yet (and I don’t know why not!) you could easily translate this recipe into a pan of sliders, like these ham and cheese sliders or turkey sliders. Just layer all the ingredients in Hawaiian slider rolls and bake. Perfect for a crowd!
More yummy sandwiches, please!
- Air Fryer Grilled Cheese Sandwich with variations!
- Chicken Sandwich with Bacon, Leeks and Gouda
- Pizza Turkey Burgers
- Mozzarella Stuffed Turkey Burger with Tomato and Basil
- Slow Cooker Pulled Pork with Plum Bourbon Barbecue Sauce
- Instant Pot Carnitas
- Pizza Panini Sandwiches
- Crockpot Buffalo Chicken Sandwiches
- Honey-Chipotle Turkey Meatball Pita Sandwiches
- Elvis Grilled Cheese Sandwich by Tasting Table
- [Cuban pulled pork]
- 4 slices deli ham
- 4 sandwich stackers dill pickles
- 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 2 tablespoons mayonnaise (if desired)
- 4 slices Swiss cheese
- 4 slices bread (your choice of sandwich bread)
- 2 tablespoons softened butter, or non-stick spray, for grilling
- Spread mustard and mayonnaise (if using) on all four slices of bread. On two slices of bread layer: 1 slice cheese, 1 slice ham, pork, pickles, 1 slice ham, and one slice cheese, in that order. Top with remaining bread.
- Butter outside of sandwiches or spray with non-stick spray.
- Grill in panini grill, pressing down firmly, until golden brown and cheese is melted. If you use a skillet, press down on the sandwich with a large spatula or another heavy skillet while grilling.
- Recipe can be increased or decreased as needed.
This website provides approximate nutrition information for convenience and as a courtesy only. Nutrition data is gathered primarily from the USDA Food Composition Database, whenever available, or otherwise other online calculators.