It may seem like a curious combination but the Elena Ruz sandwich is delicious. It’s the perfect turkey leftovers sandwich as you probably have everything in your fridge.
I have had some weird combinations of food in Cuba. The first time I ordered ensalada fria (translated to cold salad) I was shocked to find out it was a mayonnaise spaghetti pasta salad with pineapple and ham.
I also initially shuddered at how Cubans put mayonnaise on basically everything, including the pasta with tomato sauce I made from scratch that simmered for hours until perfection.
Yet, two years later I’ve relented, adapted to local flavours and stopped judging. I always loved ketchup and mayo on fries – and no one judges me here!
But I didn’t need to be convinced to like the Elena Ruz sandwich. It’s ingredients aren’t typical but they are delicious.
History of the Elena Ruz Sandwich
While there are a few stories of how this Cuban turkey sandwich was invented, there is only one true story.
It’s named after Elena Ruz.
A wealthy socialite in the 1930s, she often visited El Carmelo Restaurant at 23 and G in the Vedado neighbourhood of Havana.
Some day she’d stop at this 24 hour restaurant after dancing at parties, others say it was during the day – which is much more respectable.
But she went to El Carmelo often, and was very specific about how she wanted her sandwich prepared. They always obliged and took it one step farther.
Not only did the restaurant put the sandwich on the menu, calling it THE Elena Ruz. But they also eventually posted a neon sign outside the window advertising it for 25 cents.
This sandwich was expensive, over twice the price of other sandwiches.
This is not surprising as it uses strawberry jam, which is not a common Cuban fruit.
A young debutante, Elena loved the gesture. But obviously her mother thought it was gauche as it implied Elena herself was for sale.
Elena Ruz went off to live in Miami, then Spain and finally Costa Rica to be with her daughter, where she died. But the sandwich lives on as a tribute and is most commonly found in Vedado.
I ate this at La Rampa restaurant at 23 y M in Vedado, which is attached to the Habana Libre hotel.
And really this sandwich isn’t SO peculiar.
If you think about it, people LOVE Thanksgiving leftover turkey sandwiches (also Thanksgiving leftover pizza), which are turkey and cranberry sauce.
The mix of sweet and savoury are similar in the Elena Ruz sandwich.
Elena Ruz Ingredients
Just five easy ingredients in the Elena Ruz Sandwich.
Bread – traditionally it is a sweet bread roll, also known as Cuban bread or medianoche bread. But I’ve also just seen it on white bread toast.
Strawberry jam – if you don’t have strawberry feel free to substitute a different jam. Some people use cheap strawberry preserve. Guava cheese, which is a guava jam preserve is common in Cuba.
Cream cheese – slather one side of the bread with cream cheese, and it adds a nice tangy flavour.
Turkey – it calls for roasted turkey breast. However, this is VERY expensive in Cuba so I’ve also seen deli turkey meat. And I’m pretty sure I’ve been served chicken many times as it’s easier and cheaper in Cuba.
Mayonnaise– the traditional recipe uses butter to slather on the outside of the bun before grilling. However, I prefer to use mayonnaise at home for both the Elena Ruz sandwich and a grilled cheese sandwich.
Mayo doesn’t burn like butter and it toasts the bread better.
Elena Ruz Sandwich in Miami
Here’s how one restaurant in Miami makes this Cuban turkey sandwich. I wanted to share just how versatile it could be. Here they use a sandwich press and medianoche bread.
I prefer a smaller bite size snack that isn’t completely flattened. But most Cuban turkey sandwiches are flattened like these.
Elena Ruz Sandwich Recipe
This Cuban turkey sandwich is so easy to make, if you’re like me you probably already have a jar of strawberry jam and cream cheese in your fridge.
- 2 Cuban bread rolls, or any sweet bread
- 1/2 turkey breast
- 4 Tbsp cream cheese, at room temperature
- 4 Tbsp strawberry jam
- 1 tbsp mayonnaise
- Slice each roll in half.
- Slather the top with cream cheese and the bottom with strawberry jam. Add turkey and close.
- Spread mayonnaise on outside of bread.
- If you don't have a sandwich press warm a skillet, place a sandwich on it to toast, flattening it with spatula. Heat 1 minute a side.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 2 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 570Total Fat: 22gSaturated Fat: 8gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 11gCholesterol: 71mgSodium: 483mgCarbohydrates: 76gFiber: 3gSugar: 25gProtein: 16g
Nutritional information is provided as a courtesy and is an estimate only. This information comes from online calculators. Although BaconisMagic.ca attempts to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures are only estimates.