Frita Cubana Recipe + History

Morro Castle in Little Havana Frita Cubana

I’m a giant fan of la Frita Cubana (pronounced free-tah), known as the Cuban burger in some circles. So I’ve combined both the Frita Cubana’s history and my recipe in one post.

My dad introduced me to la Frita via Morro Castle in Hialeah. It was a tense situation while he watched me take my first bite. But then, he was relieved to find out that I was in love.

My lifelong passion for the Frita Cubana and its history never subsides. So, I take it very seriously when someone slaps the moniker of Frita Cubana on their burger as a marketing gimmick.

A Frita Cubana is a Frita Cubana, accept no imitations.

What is a Frita Cubana?

La Frita Cubana from El Rey de las Fritas
La Frita Cubana Original con Queso from El Rey de las Fritas

La Frita Cubana is a mix of ground beef (sometimes chorizo or pork is added), spices, julienne cut potatoes or potato sticks, diced raw onions, and ketchup (rumored to be tomato paste, not ketchup in Cuba). Some variations include cooked onions or no tomato-based products at all.

In Cuba, the julienne potatoes could be substituted sometimes by some other root vegetable (cassava or malanga, for example) due to the scarcity of foods. However, after eating Fritas with some alternative veggies, I can confirm that potato is still the way.

The Friteros (fellas who made Fritas) cut up loaves of bread to fit the well-seasoned mini smashed patties. Once in the U.S., they first appeared in a burger bun. Later on, Cuban rolls were introduced in Miami and are now the most common vessel for the Frita.

Adding cheese to your Frita is frowned upon by purists, but it is delicious.

Frita Cubana History

Puesto de Frita aka Frita Cart by PONG
Puesto de Frita aka Frita Cart a illustration by PONG

The Frita Cubana dates back to 1920s Cuba. Back then, it was street food. Propane-fueled stoves in hot dog-type carts lined the street selling Fritas to customers. The Fritas were only about 2 ounces and were the perfect afternoon snack.

Dagoberto Estevil brought the Frita to Miami in 1961 when he opened up in Little Havana (8th street & 12th). He named his restaurant Fritas Domino. Unfortunately, the original location is no longer open.

However, in the late 1980s, Estevil’s children opened a Fritas Domino on 8th Street and 67th Avenue in Miami.

You can primarily find Fritas in Cuban cafeterias in South Florida. Now, the good ones are harder to find.

El Rey De Las Fritas is a mini-chain of Frita restaurants in South Florida. Their best-known location in Little Havana burned down ten years but has been re-opened in a different spot.

The restaurants known to have the “Best” Frita in Miami are Cuban Guys, El Mago De Las Fritas, El Rey De Las Fritas & Morro Castle.

R.I.P. to Frita Man, Frita Queen, Fritas Domino and the original Morro Castle in Little Havana.

Burger Beast’s Frita Cubana Recipe

Here’s the perfect Frita Cubana recipe for you straight from someone in Miami who knows all about the Burger Beast. When I was a little kid at Morro Castle in Hialeah, my father introduced me to the Frita Cubana, Cuba’s favorite street food.

The Hijo de la Gran Frita recipe below has been served at some of my Burger Beast Burger Joint pop-ups. Don’t forget to enjoy a Batido!

Hijo de la Gran Frita Cubana
Burger Beast Double Frita Cubana with American Cheese

Equipment

  • 2 Bowls
  • Cheese Grater
  • Cast Iron Skillet or Frying Pan
  • Knife for Dicing
  • Paper Towels

Ingredients

  • 1 pound ground beef (chuck)
  • 3 tbsp Spanish paprika
  • 2 tsp granulated garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • ¼ tsp cumin
  • 1 tbsp Crystal hot sauce
  • 1 large yellow onion (diced)
  • 2 medium russet potatoes
  • 1 cup cooking oil or as needed
  • 5 rolls, preferably Cuban rolls or hamburger rolls

Instructions

Julienne Potatoes

  1. Shred the two potatoes on a cheese grater, then rinse them thoroughly until the water is clear.
  2. Drain and squeeze dry on paper towels. To get them crispy, you need to remove as much moisture as possible.
  3. Add the cooking oil to a non-stick pan and heat to medium-high. Add the potatoes and let them cook until they are crispy.
  4. Let the potatoes dry on paper towels and season with salt according to your taste.
  5. Getting the julienne potatoes right is the most challenging part of the recipe, but there’s a little cheat. Go to your local grocer and purchase Ore-Ida “Shredded Hash Brown Potatoes” instead. I recently started using Chifles Plantain Sticks too.
Burger Beast Frita Seasoning

Frita Cubana

  1. Mix the smoked Spanish paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, cumin, and Crystal hot sauce into the ground chuck.
  2. Make five equally sized balls of seasoned meat.
  3. Take one of the Frita-seasoned balls of beef, and using a thick spatula, smash it onto a cast-iron skillet on a burner at medium-high heat.
  4. Grab a respectable large pinch of diced onions and place it on the smashed patty.
  5. Add salt as you would to any burger that you’re cooking.
  6. After cooking for approximately forty-five seconds to a minute, flip the Frita onto the onion side to finish.
  7. Place the bottom bun on the Frita while it’s finishing and let it warm a little bit. You can also toast the buns lightly beforehand if you have the time or as a matter of preference.
  8. Slide the spatula under the deliciousness and flip it. The bottom bun will be resting on your hand with the Frita and onions on top.
  9. At this point, you can choose to add some raw diced onions and maybe a little dash of ketchup to bring out the flavor of the patty and the julienne potatoes.
  10. All that’s left is to add the top bun, and you’re good to go!

Notes

This is not a replacement for hitting up your favorite Frita restaurants but trust me, this recipe will eventually come in clutch. Next, you should read about how I cook my burgers on an outdoor griddle.

Download the recipe HERE so you can print it out.

The Frita Showdown

Frita Showdown
Frita Showdown

The Frita Showdown was an annual event I held at Magic City Casino to celebrate the Frita Cubana from 2013 to 2017.

Burger Beast’s inaugural Frita Showdown happened on Wednesday, August 14th, 2013. El Rey de las Fritas was crowned the winner by a panel of judges.

Frita Showdown 2013 Winner El Rey de las Fritas
Frita Showdown 2013 Winner El Rey de las Fritas

Below are the Frita Showdown winners from 2013 to 2017:

Frita Showdown 2013 Judge’s WinnerEl Rey De Las Fritas
Frita Showdown 2014 Judge’s WinnerEl Mago De Las Fritas
Frita Showdown 2014People’s WinnerEl Rey De Las Fritas
Frita Showdown 2015 Judge’s WinnerEl Rey De Las Fritas
Frita Showdown 2016 People’s WinnerEl Rey De Las Fritas
Frita Showdown 2017 People’s WinnerEl Rey De Las Fritas
PIKADIYO Restaurant 468 x 60

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