Now that the US government has made travel to Cuba easier, it's finally time to get on that plane and experience traditional Cuban food made by Cubans for Cubans. Here are 12 must-try Cuban food items for when you go.

1) Cubano

Ashton Davis

The Cubano is one of the most iconic sandwiches in Cuban food, yet it actually isn't entirely Cuban.

The Cubano was invented by Cuban immigrants in Florida as a variation of a traditional Cuban pulled pork style sandwich. Instead of a pressed panini sandwich filled with thinly sliced roast pork, Swiss cheese, pickles, and mustard, what you're way more likely to find while wandering the streets of Havana is a sandwich made of freshly pulled pork meat doused with vinegar and salt, served on a crusty roll.  

2) Pan Cubano

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Caroline Ingalls

Cuban bread is a very straightforward, no-nonsense loaf. Every morning, vendors push carts of this white, butter-enriched bread down the streets to sell to locals. Make sure you grab a loaf to snack on throughout the day.

3) Ropa Vieja

Literally translating to "old clothes," Ropa Vieja is widely considered to be the national dish of Cuba. Made primarily from beef, Ropa Vieja is slow cooked with bell peppers, onions, garlic, and tomatoes giving it a trademark flavor of Cuban food.

4) Ajiaco

In terms of authentic Cuban food, Ajiaco is a close second to Ropa Vieja. Stewing together a mixture of chicken, pork, and beef with a medley of root vegetables produces a hearty soup. It's a great dish for warming you up after a day of bracing the Caribbean wind!

5) Croquettes

Ashton Davis

Essentially just gravy mixed with chopped up ham and then deep-fried, every restaurant in Cuba will have croquettes on their menu. Order them before you try anything else because if they don't come out soft, then you know the restaurant isn't worth sticking around for.

6) Fried Plantains

Ashton Davis

Like chips, fried plantains are the perfect bar snack. Crunchy, salty, and satisfying, you'll find them on just about every appetizer menu you come across.

7) Flan

Ashton Davis

Although it may seem ordinary, flan is beloved by basically all Cubans. They've even invented an unconventional way to cook it: cutting the top off of soda cans and using the bottom as their cooking vessel. In the evenings, Cubans pour molten sugar into the bottom of the can. Afterward, they blend milk and cream with eggs, sugar, vanilla, and a slice of bread, pour the mixture into the cans and bake the cans in a bain-marie (a water bath) just in time for breakfast the next morning. 

8) Churros

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Arden Sarner

After a long day of site-seeing, there's no better way to get your Cuban food fix than by grabbing a churro on the way back to your hotel. Cubans fry up their churros in a big, circular deep friers and serve them up to long lines of hungry people.

9) Pastelitos De Coco

Ashton Davis

Pastelitos de coco are small cookie-like pastries sold from street vendors. Delectably soft, they make for a great mid-afternoon snack.

10) Cuban Coffee

Ashton Davis

Cuban coffee is extremely underrated, especially prepared the traditional way. Pressed coffee grounds in a burlap sack are covered with hot water producing an espresso-like drink.

11) Guarapo

Ashton Davis

Cuba first made its mark on the world with its sugarcane plantations, and that history can still be seen in one of Cuba's favorite drinks. Guarapo is made from pressed sugar cane juice (ask for some rum to top it off). Although it can be found in Cuba's major cities, the best way to drink Guarapo is on a tobacco plantation. Most farmers still keep a few sugarcane plants on hand to hydrate thirsty tourists. Make sure you skip the ice if you don't opt for the added rum.

12) Cuba Libre

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Alex Frank

Cuba Libre is made of Coke and Havana Club rum,  garnished with a lime. (The lime is the only ingredient that distinguishes a Cuba Libre from a rum and coke, so if you want to feel more classy when ordering drinks, order a Cuba Libre instead). Since the US trade embargo, Coca-Cola products in Cuba are significantly more expensive than the local cola, Tukola. For people who drink a lot of Coca-Cola, Tukola doesn't taste the same, but if you can get over that, Tukola in your Cuba Libres will do just fine.

13) Mojito

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Alex Frank

When ordering a mojito in Cuba, you'll get it prepared in one of two ways. The traditional way is cane sugar muddled with mint and limes, filled with Ron de Cuba: Añejo Blanco, and toped with club soda. Alternatively, some restaurants prepare it in a more "upscale" manner substituting honey for the cane sugar and Ron de Cuba: Añejo 7 Años for the cheaper Añejo Blanco. Either way, whatever bar you wander into, mojitos are the go-to Cuban beverage.