Sofrito & Cuban Spices

Written by sarah thomsen
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Sofrito & Cuban Spices
Cuba's native cuisine is tastefully accented by spices. (Spice image by NeZla from

Different Cuban spice blends have many similarities, with tastes that complement Cuba's wide selection of fresh meats and vegetables. Sofrito, a foundational blend in Latin American cuisine, is only one of the fresh, savoury blends that are integrated over and over again into classic Cuban recipes. With a multicultural history and distinct location in the Caribbean, Cuba has used these spice blends to create many fresh and tantalising dishes.

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With nuances of Spain, Haiti, France, and Italy, sofrito provides an accent to a wide variety of dishes. Sofrito, a sautéed blend of onion, tomato, and cilantro, supplies characteristic taste notes to Latin Caribbean cuisine. The base recipe for sofrito is used widely for zesty flavour. The availability and popularity of its ingredients gives Cuban sofrito a unique identity. One recipe, representing the taste of Cuba, calls for tomatoes, pepper, onions, garlic, bay leaves, cumin, oregano, sherry and salt to be mixed in large quantities, suggesting that it can be stored in bulk jars for use often. Soups, chicken, beef, pork, rice, and beans all take on new life when seasoned with this aromatic blend.

Mojo and Adobo

Cubans add spices conservatively, and their food is known for the fullness of flavour profiles rather than the heat or intensity of certain flavours. Mojo, a signature Cuban marinade, uses either vinegar or citrus juice and garlic, and may include onions and cumin. Traditionally crushed with a mortar and pestle but today mixed finely in a blender, mojo can be used to tenderise and flavour classic Cuban dishes. The spicy mix of mojo and of adobo, a creamy blend of garlic, salt, cumin, oregano, and citrus juice, provides flavour while their acidic juices tenderise meat and starchy root vegetables such as yuca, malanga, and boniato.

Sofrito & Cuban Spices
Cuban dishes are known for the fullness of flavour profiles rather than their heat or intensity. (garlic image by Maria Brzostowska from

Multicultural Blends

Cuba, in the midst of the Caribbean, has over time hosted Spanish colonists, African slaves and refugees, and their respective cuisines. From Havana and Santa Clara to Baracoa and to each coast, Cubans have enjoyed using the garlic, onion, cumin, oregano, and lime found in Pescado De Habana. A dish from the Cuban city Baracoa showcases a strong Caribbean use of coconut milk, the tropical fruit annatto, lime, and garlic. Cuba's classic rice and beans dish often integrates garlic, cumin, and tomato for a simple but full-flavoured dish.

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