Mayo Is The Secret To Switching Up Your Classic Cuban Sandwich

Balance is important when it comes to cooking. Without it, a dish can feel lopsided and uninteresting. When contrasting elements are paired in the right measure, though, the result is often greater than the sum of its parts. Few foodstuffs showcase the beauty of balance quite as well as a classic Cuban sandwich. From the lightly sweet Cuban bread to the rich ham, unctuous Swiss cheese, tender roasted pork, tart pickles, and zesty yellow mustard, the Cuban sandwich covers the gamut of flavors. However, if one were inclined to enrich the sandwich even further, there is a common ingredient that works beautifully with all of the constituent ingredients: mayonnaise.

Introducing a dollop of mayonnaise to the mustard unlocks an additional layer of indulgence. With its velvety texture and subtle richness, mayo acts as a culinary bridge, connecting the various elements of the Cuban sandwich in a seamless blend. Adding mayo is as simple as slathering it on before the sandwich is heated through, but it can also be used in conjunction with one of the Cuban sandwich's other elements for a subtle change in the overall makeup. When mixed with mustard, it not only adds a luxurious creaminess but also tempers the sharpness of the mustard, creating a nuanced shift in the flavor profile.

Use mayo in myriad ways

Adding mayonnaise to a Cuban sandwich is pretty straightforward, but it is important that not all mayos are the same. Just as changing up the brand of pickles used or the type of ham to different effect, so too can the mayonnaise used add unique notes to a Cuban sandwich.

For those seeking an umami boost, Japanese Kewpie mayo, enriched with MSG, adds savory depth. Kewpie mayo also differs from conventional American mayonnaise in that it is made using only egg yolks rather than whole eggs, giving it a richer, more custardy flavor that pairs well with a Cuban sandwich's sharp flavors. On the other hand, the Southern favorite Duke's mayo, crafted with apple cider vinegar and paprika, dials up the tartness with a subtle acidity that tempers the richness of ham, cheese, and roasted pork.

Taking the mayo infusion to the next level, mayonnaise can also be applied to the exterior of the Cuban sandwich before cooking. This technique is less about the creamy, luxurious flavor of mayo shining through, but how it amplifies the toasting of the bread. When pressed in a panini press or skillet, the mayo works its magic, creating a sumptuous, well-browned crust that encases the flavors within, sealing in the succulence of the ingredients. The result is a textural masterpiece — crisp on the outside, yet yielding to the layers of richness within.