Veggie Travel in Cuba
Cuban cuisine conjures up ideas of fresh caught fish, meat-stuffed cubano sandwiches, and, of course, mojitos. But veggie travel in Cuba is surprisingly easy, with fresh fruit for breakfast, a variety of tasty dishes for dinner, and, of course, mojitos.
Breakfasts are usually included in the cost of a night’s stay in a casa particular or even a hostel. These usually consist of platters of cheese, bread, and meat, with an abundance of fresh fruit and strong coffee. Simply ask for yours to be sin carne (without meat).
Although a lot of the quick eats in Cuba are meat based, such as tamales or chicharrones, there are plenty of snacks for vegetarians too.
Some personal favourites are yuca fries (a fried vegetable similar to parsnip), plantain chips (yes, a lot of these snacks are fried), or sweet shortbread-like biscuits from a bakery (ok, so in hindsight Cuba wasn’t the healthiest country I’ve been to).
Though sandwiches are widely available, the iconic Cubano sandwich is more of a Cuban-American creation. The sandwiches in Cuba tend to be simple bread rolls filled with cheese and meat. While you can of course order one just with cheese (and maybe add some salad), they’re not really anything special.
My first introduction to Cuban meals was a bit of a let down. Menus in many Havana restaurants only contained one or two vegetarian options, and these were often simple pasta with tomato sauce and cheese. Thankfully the food situation improved more and more each day, and I ended up having some absolutely incredible meals.
As with many central american countries, rice and beans are staples. But there are also a variety of tasty vegetables, often prepared fried or in soups. I was relieved to find cheese included in many meals, as this tends to be the food I miss most when travelling. (I mean, the cheese was pretty plain, but, hey, it was cheese).
My favourite meals by far were in the casa particulares (home stays). The best meal I had in Cuba (come to think of it, one of the best meals in all of Central America) was at a casa in Viñales. Our host was an ex-chef and prepared a dozen dishes for us, including cheese and relish, a thick pancake, fried yuca, and bean soup (with a plate of chicken as an afterthought for Adam). Absolutely delicious!
Veggie Travel in Cuba- Some Tips
Learn some basic Spanish- at least enough to understand menus and order food
Keep some snacks in your bag if you’re unsure what food will be available (my favourite were bags of plantain chips).
Stay at casa particulares. Not only do you get wonderful hosts and a bargain price, but you’ll likely get the best food here, too!