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Cubano Sandwich Sliders: Game Day Food

These Cubano Sandwich aka Cuban Sliders are a mini version of the traditional Cubano sandwich. With a twist! What it lacks in stature it makes up for in taste with all the flavor you’d find in a big sandwich. Layers of juicy pork and ham, melted cheese, tangy pickles, and a delicious Carolina sauce, baked until ooey-gooey and slightly crispy!

I love a good sandwich like these elevated ham and pork sliders, which I make often. Sliders like our Hawaiian Ham and Swiss Sliders, Caramelized Onions Roast Beef Sliders, or these Spicy Beef Brisket sliders are great for game day viewing or for an easy weeknight dinner. 

two Cuban sandwich sliders on a plate

What is a Cuban Sandwich?

Layered inside pull-apart soft Hawaiian rolls are layers of delicious sliced ham and pork, melted cheese and topped with tangy dill pickles for added crunch. It is then slathered with Carolina Mustard Sauce for an added sweet and salty, tangy, mustardy finish. Oh, my word! Baked until the bread is still nice and soft but crisp around the edges.

This is a well-loved simple sandwich and you’re about to find out why. Making mini sandwiches is a budget-friendly way to serve a crowd. You’re using small amounts of pork and ham that you can cook in bulk and using a homemade Carolina sauce is a great way to use what you already have at home!

I’ve made these Cubano Sandwiches over the years to serve for game day parties. They are a great way to get to enjoy the game because you can make them ahead and just pop them in the oven to warm when it’s time to eat.

Everyone can pull one off the tray and enjoy just enough to keep them wanting more. And then they can help themselves to another one.

Cutting up the individual sliders

What is the origin of an authentic Cuban sandwich?

Before I share my version of a sandwich Cubano I did a little digging because I love finding out where food comes from and how dishes are created. There is so much information on this sandwich so I started with What’s Cooking America because they always have great info.

Cuba is less than 100 miles from Key West Florida. It’s said that the sandwich was created so Cuban immigrants could have an easy sandwich to eat while working on the Cigar Plantations.  

The one thing the early sandwich had that made it special was authentic Cuban bread. It’s is similar to french bread but it uses lard which gives it a super crispy texture, especially after toasting it between a press.

In Key West, Cuban bakeries would bake the bread every day. The 3-foot loaf would have a deep cut fold down the middle that was made using palmetto fronds on the center. This created a groove in the middle before baking. Similar to the Italian Biove bread.

Because Florida has so many Cuban citizens, the sandwich has moved along the coast and has become very popular everywhere. Miami and Key West restaurants all boast the “best Cubano” available.

I wonder if you ordered a Cubano sandwich in Cuba, would they have any idea what that is?!

There are subtle differences in the Miami version of the pork/ham sandwich and Key West’s version. Miami sandwiches have an added meat to them,  usually an Italian Genovese Salami. There is a big Italian population in Miami which is why the salami was added to appeal to the local community.

Handful of juicy, melted Cubano Slider

The Cubano with a twist

No matter what version you make it will be delicious. The juicy pork, with the salty ham with melty cheese, a creamy acidic yellow mustard, and pickles all on a crispy crunchy bread with the juices that ooze all over when warmed. A true legend of a sandwich that everyone loves!

Typically a Cuban sammy is made like a panini and crisped on the edges in a press, or what the Cubans call a la plancha.

For today’s offering, I’m taking big liberties in making it. I’m using the basic ham and pork with mustard but using King’s Hawaiian rolls to make them in bulk.

I don’t use a press (what Cuban’s call a la plancha) because by cooking them in the oven wrapped in foil with a little butter, the edges crisped nicely and I didn’t have to get a panini maker out or cook the sandwiches individually. (translation- less work on my part!)

ham, pork, rolls, cheese, butter, mustard and onion for making Cuban sandwiches on a tray

Cubano Sandwich Ingredients

  • Bread –  Cuban Bread, French Bread, or in this case Kings Hawaiian Rolls. Cuban bread is different than other bread because it uses lard in the dough, so it must be used right away or it hardens and dries out quickly. If you go the route of the rolls, baking them will give you a toasted edge like a panini and like a traditional Cubano.
  • Ham – Deli ham works fine, or leftover ham from a ham roast. Sliced as thin or as thick as you’d like.
  • Swiss Cheese – Gives a nice pungent sharpness to this sandwich.
  • Mustard – Yellow mustard works great, but the Carolina mustard adds a bit of a zing to it.
  • Sliced pork – I used the leftovers from our Kalua Pork, but have also made it with our sliced Mojo Pork leftovers too. Use a pork shoulder or a slice of Mojo Pork if you can. However, you can also choose to make a small pork tenderloin especially for this recipe. Pork Tenderloin cooks quickly and stays juicy which is perfect for the sandwich.
  • Pickle slices – A tangy, garlic-y, crunchy topping.
  • Melted butter – This is completely optional for those looking for a buttery exterior to the bun.

How do you make a Cuban sandwich?

  • Preheat the oven and cut the Hawaiian rolls in half lengthwise. These buns come in a connected sheet, which can be separated into individual buns once they are fully baked. After cutting in half, you should have 2 halves, each a sheet of connected rolls.
  • Place the bottom half of the rolls, cut side up, on an oven-safe baking dish. Spread the slices of cheese covering the bottom entirely. Then, layer the ham, then the pork on top of the cheese, followed by the pickle slices.
  • On the top half of the rolls, spread an even generous layer of mustard. Add the remaining cheese slices on the top of the mustard, pressing gently as to make sure they stick. Carefully flip the entire top sheet of rolls and place it on the layers already on the baking sheet.
  • If you’re making these ahead of time, you can stop here and keep them in the fridge, covered in foil, until you’re ready to bake them.
  • At this juncture, you’ll be brushing the exterior of the rolls with melted butter if you choose, but only just before baking. Otherwise, everything will get soggy.
  • Cover with foil and bake until the cheese is melted and the sandwich is warmed through. Remove the foil and cook for an additional few minutes to toast the edges of the bread.
  • Remove from the oven, cut into 24 sliders and serve immediately with additional Carolina mustard.

Find our easy to follow webstory for Cuban Sammies right here!

Adaptations for this Ham & Pork Sandwich

If you prefer the more traditional pressed sandwich you can definitely use this recipe. Cut them into individual sandwiches after assembly, then place them in a panini press. You can also place them in a cast iron pan and press them with your spatula while grilling to get the sandwich flattened and crispy. 

Using a french loaf instead? Build individual sandwiches and grill them like a grilled cheese. You’ll need to butter the edges of the bread before toasting.

Want truly authentic Cuban bread? You can make your own using this traditional Cuban Bread recipe from my friend Julie of Hostess at Heart.  

Making Pork Tenderloin for a Cuban Sandwich.

Brush the tenderloin with citrus, olive oil, and garlic marinade and bake at 375° for 30-40 minutes until the pork reaches an internal temperature of 145° Slice thin after allowing it to rest for 5 minutes.

Brush the tenderloin with citrus, olive oil, and garlic marinade and bake at 375° for 30-40 minutes until the pork reaches an internal temperature of 145° Slice thin after allowing it to rest for 5 minutes.

serving on ham and pork slider on a plate

More Game Day Foods you will enjoy

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pinterest image of a cubano sandwich
Yield: 24

Cuban Ham and Pork Sliders Recipe

two Cuban sandwich sliders on a plate

This Cubano Sandwich Recipe: Cuban Sliders are a mini version of the traditional Cubano sandwich. Perfect for game day eating or a weeknight dinner Layers of juicy pork, ham, melted cheese, tangy pickles, and a delicious Carolina sauce, baked until ooey-gooey and slightly crispy!

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes

Ingredients

  • 24 Kings Hawaiian Rolls
  • 1 pound Sliced Ham
  • 12 Slices Swiss cheese (1 ounce each)
  • 1/3 Cup Caroline Mustard (or yellow Mustard)
  • 1 pound Pound Sliced Mojo Pork (any pork will work)
  • 4 Large Dill Pickles, cut into 4 slices each lengthwise(long slices)
  • 1/4 cup Butter, Melted (optional) 

Instructions

  1. Preheat Oven to 325°
  2. Cut the Hawaiian rolls in half lengthwise making sure not split the rolls apart. Your loaf should be in 2 pieces only after cutting.
  3. Place the bottom half of the rolls, cut side up inside an oven-safe baking dish.
  4. On the bottom half of the rolls you will spread out the slices of cheese to cover the bottom entirely.
  5. Then lay out the ham, then the pork all over the top of the ham.
  6. Place the pickle slices on top of the pork.
  7. Now on the top half of the rolls spread out the mustard evenly covering the whole layer of the rolls. Then place the cheese on top of the mustard pressing gently, but firmly to have it "stick."
  8. Carefully flip the top layer of the rolls/cheese onto the bottom layer of Rolls/meats. Cover with foil.
  9. If you are making ahead and plan to bake later, you can do so until this step.
  10. If you wish a buttery exterior, brush the melted butter on before covering with foil. Do not brush butter on until just before it's time to bake, otherwise the bread will just get soggy.
  11. Bake for 25 minutes covered, --until the cheese is melted and all is warmed inside. Remove the foil and cook for an additional 5 or so minutes to finish toasting the edges of the bread.
  12. Remove from the oven, cut into 24 sliders, following the cuts of the rolls. Serve immediately with additional carolina mustard.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

24

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 253Total Fat: 14gSaturated Fat: 6gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 6gCholesterol: 62mgSodium: 549mgCarbohydrates: 17gFiber: 1gSugar: 5gProtein: 15g

This recipe was calculated using the exact brands and measurements I used to make this recipe. If you are following a strict diet please note changing anything will cause the nutritional info to change. Please calculate your own nutritional information if you want it exact to what you make and use my calculations as a guide only.

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