South Florida Grilled Cuban Burger

Pairs well with:


Bright and full-bodied, this Zinfandel wine is a curious contradiction in tastes.

My inspiration for the Cuban Frita burger comes from the popular and delicious Cuban version of the American hamburger, although with significant changes that sets it aside. It became very popular in 1930 Cuban and now it is extremely popular in South Florida, especially Miami Little Havana district. Versions may differ from vendor to vendor, but it is usually prepared with ground beef spiced with paprika and onion. The patties are made small and fried on a griddle. The patty is placed in a Cuban bread hamburger bun, topped with a mojito or a red sauce and piled high with freshly prepared shoestring fries or canned potato sticks.
My version for these delicious burgers is to make them bigger, juicier, fatter, then grill them up. Then, I do what we American cooks and chefs do best, infuse the food with flavors from other countries. In this case, I have infused the accompaniments to the burger with the chilies of other Latin American countries, to kick it up a notch.


Chipotle Sofrito with Onion Fritas

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium Spanish onion, cut in half lengthwise and thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1- 8 ounce can tomato sauce
8 ounces sofrito seasoning from 12 ounces jar
2 chipotle chilies form a can of chipotles in adobo sauce, seeded and finely chopped
2 tablespoons adobo sauce

Spicy Crispy Potato Fritas

Vegetable or canola oil for frying
1- 1 pound, 4 ounces package, fresh (not frozen) shredded potatoes for hash browns
1/2 teaspoon ancho chili powder or to taste


1 1/2 pounds ground chuck
4 ounces Spanish Chorizo,(cured, hard sausage) casing removed, finely minced
1/2 cup grated onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons sweet paprika
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
Oil for brushing on the grill rack
6 Cuban buns or soft hamburger buns


Prepare a medium-hot fire in a charcoal grill with a cover, or preheat a gas grill to medium high.

To make the spicy chipotle sofrito, add the oil to a medium-sized, fire-proof, non-stick skillet or saucepan on grill rack. Add the onions and sauté until starting to turn color, add garlic and sauté until onions are light golden brown. Add tomato sauce, sofrito, chipotles, adobo sauce and season with salt and pepper to taste. Simmer for 5 minutes, move to a cooler part of grill to keep warm until serving.

To make the potato fritas, place a 12 inch fire-proof skillet on the grill rack and cover the bottom of the skillet with canola oil 1/4 inch deep. When oil is sizzling hot, add the bag of the shredded potatoes spreading out potatoes as much as possible to prevent clumping. Fry until deep golden and crispy, turning potatoes over as needed. Remove potatoes as they brown with a slotted spoon or tongs, as some will brown faster then others. Drain on paper towels sprinkle with salt and ancho powder to season. Wrap in foil and place on outer edge of grill to keep warm. If using a smaller skillet, repeat in as many batches as needed.

To make the patties, combine the beef, chorizo, onion, garlic, tomato paste, paprika, salt, black pepper, cumin and oregano in a large bowl. Handling the meat mixture as little as possible to avoid compacting it, mix well. Divide the mixture into 6 equal portions and form the portions into patties to fit the rolls.

When the grill is ready, brush the grill rack with vegetable oil. Place the patties on the rack, cover, and cook, turning once, until done to preference, 5 to 7 minutes on each side for medium. During the last few minutes of cooking, place the buns, cut side down, on the outer edges of the rack to toast lightly.

To assemble burgers, place patties on bun bottoms; top each patty with an equal portion of spicy sofrito with onions and pile high with equal portions of the spicy potato fritas. Add the roll tops and serve.

Makes 6 burgers