Cuban Lunch: A Winnipeg Classic?

December 1st, 2015 by Emma Durand-Wood

After seven years here in the ‘Peg, I sometimes think I’ve heard about all the “Winnipeg things” there are to hear about. But every now and then a new one pops up.

Cuban Lunch ad. Image Source: CBC

My massage therapist and I often talk about food during treatments and about this time last year, as we were discussing Christmas treats, she mentioned that one item she always makes for the holidays is a chocolate treat called Cuban Lunch – something I’d never heard of, despite being quite enthusiastic about holiday sweets. She said Cuban Lunch was a chocolate bar she loved as a kid, and that this was a homemade version. I was sold and wanted to make them right away, but alas, everywhere I went was sold out of butterscotch chips, so my hopes were dashed.

This year, I was still thinking about them, so I made sure I secured the chips in November so I’d be ready for holiday baking. A few nights ago I prepared the recipe — a bag of peanut butter chips, a bag of milk chocolate chips, a bag of butterscotch chips, and a cup and a half each of crushed salted peanuts and crushed ripple chips — and filled up dozens of little foil candy cups with the sweet concoction. After they’d set, I tried one – and they were pretty good, though my husband and I thought we’d use more peanuts and chips the next time, along with a nice dark chocolate chip instead of milk chocolate chips – they are awfully sweet.

Old (?) Cuban Lunch wrapper. Image source:

Anyway, the next day a friend was over and I told her I’d made this recipe and she said she’d made them before too. I thought it was a bit odd that I’d never heard of them, but two Winnipeggers had. When my husband asked about the origins of the chocolate bar’s potentially culturally-insensitive name, we undertook some research. Here is what we discovered:

  • Cuban Lunch was a chocolate bar manufactured made by Paulin Chambers and possibly later McCormick (see the ad at right describing “new Millenium packaging”, which leads me to believe they were available until at least close to the year 2000.)
  • They were made right here in Winnipeg!
  • I saw some references to Wikipedia saying Cuban Lunch was primarily distributed in Western Canada, but I can’t find that on Wikipeda at present.
  • According to a Regina candy retailer, “The Cuban Lunch is discontinued – Probably one of our most requested items.”
  • No one knows what the deal is with the name, though one commenter wondered, “Because they used Spanish peanuts?”
  • Apparently the chocolate bar was just peanuts and dark chocolate. Not sure how the ripple chips came to be in the homemade version.
  • Trademark registration record – I can’t make much sense of this, but it seems that the name Cuban Lunch may have been used in Canada as early as 1948, and the trademark was automatically expunged this year after the current owner failed to renew it.

Sources: 7 Horribly Named Candy Bars | Balonie goes to the big city (a first-person account of working at the Paulins factory) | 8 retro candies you wish you had right now

So – dear readers, you have always been a fountain of knowledge and I’m sure someone around here can give us the inside scoop — I know there are some Paulin’s Puffs lovers out there; maybe somebody knows more about the company? What’s the story behind the name? When did they stop being made? Were there chips in the original?

Until then, I’ll be trying not to eat all the 80 knock-off Cuban Lunches currently in my freezer, awaiting their dispatch to dainty platters and care packages. Wish me luck!

46 Responses to “Cuban Lunch: A Winnipeg Classic?”

  1. KM says:

    Cuban Lunch. Yes, I remember that, particularly the red wrapper, but haven’t seen or had one in many years — ’80s or ’90s I reckon. It was basically chocolate mixed with ground-up nuts, definitely not chips.

  2. Jason says:

    Paulins also made a confection called Pep Chew, a minty nougat with chocolate coating – I miss them more than I miss Cuban Lunch bars.

  3. Erin says:

    Yes! The commercial ones and the Christmas homemade ones aren’t the same; original didn’t have potato chips in them, just peanuts, but I think they were more than just chocolate. So I’m not sure why they have the same name, but they’re both delicious!
    This came up in conversation with my family last Christmas, an while the ‘tobans all remembered them, my SIL from Alberta didn’t know them at all. I asked Christian Cassidy, aka West End Dumplings, if he had any more info and he said:

    Yes, they were made in Winnipeg. They were a Paulin’s product. They had a plant in the Exchange District and made lunch, popcorn, crackers, cookies – including Paulin’s Puff’s (the chocolate covered marshmallows with a raspberry jam centre). The company was Toronto-based and had plants there and in Winnipeg.

    The local plant shut down in 1991, but they kept going in Mississauga. In 2013 a group called Hillman took it over and the name disappeared.

    As for lunch itself, not sure when they started and stopped manufacturing them. I know someone who studies snack food history, if she can enlighten me I will pass the information on !

  4. RM Ginter says:

    Hello fine people at: Winnipeg O’ My Heart:
    I must of been about 2 or 3 when my Dad bought me my first “Cuban Lunch” bar. It came in a clear wrapper with red lettering on a white background of about 1/8th of an inch around the edges. The bar was in a pleated brown wax paper and as in some of the photos,was a square with rounded corners. I’ve posted some of my other memories to my facebook page
    Thanks for the memories

  5. Don says:

    Two other candy bars of my youth in Winnipeg were Pie Face and Fat Emma though I don’t know if they were locally produced. They disappeared long before Cuban Lunch. I don’t know if I have seen them since the 1960s.

  6. Emma Durand-Wood says:

    Don — Nice! My dad used to talk about Fat Emma, which he also ate as a kid growing up in Winnipeg.

  7. […] I Googled them and couldn’t find much information. I did discover that they were made in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Apparently they were discontinued because there was a preservative used in the them that was no […]

  8. Catherine says:

    Yes! I remember them. Childhood fave! Peanuts (chopped, but not too fine) & milk chocolate. I kind of aged out of them in the mid 1980’s…don’t remember when they disappeared.

    I do remember hearing the story as a kid that somebody brought some Cuban treat back from honeymoon after the war & it took the creator years to copy the recipe as it was too simple, LOL…I think the original was supposed to have rum in it…but they couldn’t get it right.

  9. Valli says:

    I loved Cuban Lunch as a child 50 years ago. The chocolate was not milk chocolate, but didn’t have a particularly high cocoa mass either. Only peanuts –no potato chips. I did all my eating in Edmonton, Alberta, where the bars were plentiful when I was little, and less so as time went on. I think I could get a pretty good approximation with chocolate chips thinned with a little coconut fat, and as many chopped peanuts as the chocolate will hold.

  10. Glen Sutherland says:

    i too, remember these bars, as that is why i was looking up.. so many things from our youth are no longer available and we don’t realize until we start talking about with our grown children. cereal, drinks, chips all we have forgotten about until someone posts about it or you suddenly remember as a kid. an other one was old dutch onion and garlic chips.. they did come back and then in box but don’t see them any more either.:(

  11. Susan says:

    Old Dutch Cheese and Onion chips……..MMMMMMMMMMM

  12. Karen says:

    I think that they were made with Carob, not chocolate.

  13. Ronda says:

    Was searching for A place to purchase Cuban lunch for a bit of nostalgia for my dad’s birthday. They remind me of him, it was our favorite treat from him as a kid. My dad used to work at Nutty Club in Winnipeg and also loved the puffs, they were probably all made at that factory. Sad they have been discontinued. Another flash back is the WigWam, another great lost bar.

  14. Wes says:

    The Cuban Lunch chocolate bar that I remember as a kid had a red rectangular 1/2 inch deep cupcake style parchment resembling cup with the corners pinked. It was wrapped with a clear but printed on cellophane wrapper that was assembled and glued together underneath. It was chocolate and Spanish Peanut chips or chunks. Any other style to me ( respectfully however) is adulterated as my opinion of what my memory is of Cuban Lunch chocolate Bar.
    Respectfully Wes

  15. Betty says:

    I so forgot about the fabulous Cuban Lunch Bar! Came across this website tonight while on the hunt to find out what happened to the rich awesome Raspberry sandwich cookies that may have been made by Paulins or one of the older brand-name cookie companies that are no longer on the shelf. The package held about 5-6 cookies wide and probably 4 rows long. The cookies were made of a rich smooth, I think brown sugar, shortbread texture and were filled with raspberry jam. The top cookie had a small hole in the center. The cookie was patterned with a lattice pattern on top and had a little scalloped edge. They were so rich and smooth, you just wanted more!

    The price was more expensive than other cookies on the shelf and were available until about 10-15 years ago. I know the Co-op and IGA both carried them. If anyone knows if they are still out there and if so who sells them, I would love to know. Thanks.

  16. Deneen Cook says:

    Wes, I am in 100% agreement! Wonder if we’re the same age, or very close to it! (52) 😉

  17. Diana Cooper says:

    I just found this discussion after Googling Cuban Lunch. I too loved them as a kid – it was a treat I shared with my dad (funny that seems to be a familiar thread in this discussion!) I was born in Ottawa (1968) mand moved to Victoria when I was 10 and I remember them being available both in Ontario and B.C. Sadly I think I stopped seeing them in the mid-80s. Too bad – they were simple – Spanish peanuts and chocolate (no potato chips) but tasty. And not horrendously sweet. Never knew they were a Winnipeg speciality but definitely a Canadian-only product. I miss them. And the Puffs! You can get other versions but none of them are exactly right.

  18. Crystal says:

    there is a facebook group dedicated to the tradition and love of these bars on facebook. We are crowd sourcing recipies and resources to get these chocolate treats back to the Canadian People 🙂

  19. JAS says:

    …CUBAN LUNCH is my fav…miss it … 🙂

  20. Noel Cutler says:

    Yes, Growing up in Winnipeg in the thirties and forties, I remember ‘Cuban Lunch’ and ‘Pie Face’ and ‘Fat Emma’!And ‘Sweet Marie’ by Paulin’s — and the latter’s cousin — ‘Denver Sandwich’ by Weston’s! I also remember ‘Lowneys Bundles’ which were separate sticks of milk chocolate wrapped in a bundle of four or five –like a pack of gum; I can almost remember the maroon package and the tinfoil! Can anyone else? Also, there were two other local chocolate manufactures in Winnipeg — Galpern’s and Shore Candy Company, but I can’t remember the names of their chocolate bars! Anyone?
    (And I think chocolate bars were a nickel way back then!)

  21. Ken says:

    Can you buy pie face or fat Emma bars anymore. Let me know if you can THANKS. KEN

  22. Maureen Jones says:

    I remember just about all of these chocolate bars from the 1960s on Vancouver Island. My best friend’s family ran a corner store, so we had our fill of candy. Does anyone in western Canada remember the Mrs. Williams company? They made things you bought ready made at the grocery store..pound cakes, Swiss roles, little donuts, butter tarts, etc. Really yummy stuff. I miss them.

  23. Russ says:

    Cuban Lunch was my Dad’s favourite as well. In New Zealand, there is a chocolate brand that makes a bar called ” Peanut Slab” It’s the same as a cuban lunch, and they have many varaties. Whittakers is imported into Canada, and I discovered some of their bigger bars, but not Peanut slabs; yet!

    I also remember Mrs. Willmans ( not Williams ) Chocolate Swiss Rolls ; sadly I think they went out of business in the 90’s

  24. Lori says:

    My boys have been asking if Nana is bringing the Cuban Lunch treats this Christmas and are curious why they are named so. Thanks for the blog. I will share what I’ve learned.

    We have been in the West for years but Nana (who grew up in Winnipeg) has been making the recipe every year for Christmas and they travel many miles. Thanks for the information about the possible Canadian origins of the treat. We are of English / Irish / Scottish / Icelandic decent – so we are sure to have Shortbread and Vinarterta on the table too.

    We will make sure we use Spanish peanuts… and we too have put away butterscotch chipits in the event they sell out.

  25. Lisa says:

    I grew up in Surrey. BC. Cuban Lunch was my mom’s and my favourite chocolate bar. They were around for a long time. My mom remembered them from her post war childhood.

    Cuban lunch was a rectangle about 4 inches long and 3 inches wide. It consisted of lots of toasted, skinned Spanish peanuts in a chocolate that I would describe as in between milk and dark. It was poured into a paper lining about 1/2 deep – red with crinkle corners. The version I remember was wrapped in clear cellophane with the name printed in red.

    I loved Cuban Lunch (I’m actually salivating right now!). I can remember them easily available into the late eighties. There was a resurgence at some point in early 2000’s because I was a clerk at London Drugs and we’d get the occasional shipment. Then they disappeared from the face of the earth, along with Pep Chews (my dad’s fave) and a very chewy white nougat candy stick which was covered in very chewy caramel. They were about six inches long and wrapped in white waxed paper printed with the Paulin’s name. Anyone remember those?

  26. David says:

    I live in grande prairie (northern Alberta). And there common here at Christmas too. My grandma was making this in at least the 80’s. Not sure the chocolate mixture. But.. with the peanuts and the ripple chips. She been sick for the 5 years that my and my wife been together and never did her baking at Xmas. And she died this spring. This year my wife in charge of the Xmas baking and claimed. She never had these before ( she from van. Island).
    I stumbled on this cause I was google’ing how to make them. And thought I would give it a try

    My grandma was born and raised in northern Alberta. No ties to Winnipeg. So I don’t think it’s just a local thing.

  27. Gil knutson says:

    Yes, I too remember the Cuban Lunches. They were available almost everywhere here in the Fraser Valley, specifically Agassiz and Chilliwack, and surrounding towns. That was from 1954-55 (when I started Grade 1, so I was becoming cognizant about things) till the Seventies at least. The descriptions given here are pretty well right on. Spanish peanuts and a great, easily melted chocolate, and nothing else. I think I kinda read on the wrapper (clear cellophane as described), that they were made or distributed by Ganongs (sp?) or something like that… but I wouldn’t bet on it, though. Swiss cheese for brains now-a-days….

    All those candy bars that no longer are available… sigh!!!

  28. Alex McGowan says:

    Very definitely manufactured by Paulin’s in Winnipeg (as I recall, the apostrophe in Paulin’s was a maple leaf). I also remember the clear packaging and the red paper, which sat on a rectangle of dark brown cardboard. As a kid I would keep the cardboard for a while because it still smelled like a Cuban Lunch after the chocolate was gone! I found these on the Web (copy/paste the links below into your browser’s address bar):–chocolate-bars-lunches.jpg

    Also, definitely no chips or corn flakes, just peanuts and chocolate (closer to milk chocolate than dark chocolate). And maybe a hint of coffee?

    Surely some candy mogul has the recipe sitting in a desk drawer somewhere. Let’s bring it back, please!

  29. Elane Spencer says:

    I married a NHL hockey player from the “Peg”, in 1974. I’m from NY. I fell in love with the Cuban Lunch. We would buy boxes back to the states with us. When he would play in Canada he’d try his best to bring them back but, most time zero luck. I know know the story however, how I miss them. I don’t understand why they were discontinued. Does anyone know the reason?

  30. Tricia Hiley says:

    I’m returning from Australia to Saskatchewan in a couple of months and was reminiscing last night about my summertime favourite sweets at the tuck shop at ‘the lake’. Cuban Lunch popped back into my mind as if it was yesterday. Would be late 50’s and through the 60’s in Saskatchewan. Apart from the great taste of loads of Spanish peanuts held together by chocolate, the packaging was interesting because it was so very different from anything else. The Cuban Lunch was a perfect shape, perfect thickness. Just yummy. Yes, I’d love the original recipe.

  31. Bob Rink says:

    Cuban Lunch was a bery popular bar in the little town in Sask. where I hrew up. My parents owned a grocery srore with a big glass camdy case and I stocked ot with Cuban Lumch, Far Emma (pink centre) amd Pie Face (chocolate cemtre) and all the penny candy. Jaw. realers 3 for a cent.
    The potatoe chips I remember were the first Onion and Garlic by Hunters in the green foil package. They were the best, better than Old Dutch and a ton better than Hostess.

  32. Ed Collins says:

    I remember the Cuban Lunch jingle. Can not remember if I heard it somewhere or if I made it up!

  33. victor keith says:

    A lady in Camrose Alberta bought the Cuban Lunch Trademark most recently.
    She is preparing to launch the CUBAN LUNCH bar.
    I remember eating them back in the 70’s, my favourite bar. Since I am now married to a Cuban I have often thought about this bar, and was happy that it’s coming back.

  34. Gloria Kowbel says:

    It was a rare treat when dad brought home a Cuban Lunch for us. I also had another favourite, the Cherry Blossom, a large domed chocolate bar that was almost too big to get your mouth around. It was enrobed with chocolate peanut coating and in the center, a maraschino cherry!

  35. Jackie Hartley says:

    I hope you out a store or supply Eastern Canada will the Cuban Lunch. Would love to try you Mother favourite chocolate bar.

  36. betty boop says:

    I remember this candy bar from way back. When I saw that a woman from Winnipeg has brought it back to life, I was so excited to hear that, so now I need to know where I can purchase it. It was my absolute favorite. If anyone knows how to contact her or if they are going to sell here in Thunder Bay please let me know.

  37. halfstack says:

    For those interested, it’s been resurrected by a woman in Camrose and is currently in limited production. Nanton Candy in Alberta will ship Cuban Lunches across the country. Contact them at

  38. Gail says:

    Paulin’s Chambers Co. Ltd. became Interbake Foods(1988) Ltd. before it closed January of 1991 and that is when most of the product were no longer produce in Winnipeg. The building still stand at 311 Ross Ave with the name still on the building.

    – and yes there was a raspberry jam cookie
    – the Cuban Lunch was made with the chocolate produce at the plant and Spanish nuts – no chips or butterscotch chops and I found the new Cuban Lunch not as sweet as the manufacturer bars
    – the plant made crackers, cookies and candy

    Plus there were three plants in Canada – one in Quebec, Ontario and Manitoba.

    The three companies were sold by Weston (a Toronto based company) to a Quebec Manufacturer (Culinar? I can’t remember the spelling nor could I find it on the web)about three years before the closure. Plus there was some news about the closure at the time but the distribution stayed open for a few years after the food manufacturing plants closed.

  39. Jas says:

    Well I finally found the New Cuban Lunch at Sobeys here in Edmonton …definitely NoT like the original…think the new bar needs to be perfected more .
    The dark chocolate did not exist with the original …plus the nuts were chopped instead of whole …the taste is bland ( not sweet) and very dry !!
    To the New rights holder of the bar Please go back to the drawing board and try again …
    Thank you

  40. Laurie Goodison says:

    No there were no chips , only peanuts halves also they were not made with dark chocolate it was milk chocolate and had a very unique taste.

  41. Marla Green says:

    I bought a Cuban Lunch today at Safeway in New Westminster. They’re in tubs by the checkouts. $1.99. Delicious! Manufactured by Cuban Lunch Corp. Camrose Ab.

  42. Jake Wipf says:

    Looking where to purchase find Cuban lunch chocolate bars

  43. cathy says:

    Cuban Lunch was my favorite chocolate Bar.I was heart broken when they discontinued it.I so miss the smooth flavor of the Chocolate with Peanut bits.Best Flavor ever.
    Looking to find Original Recipe.

  44. Darlene says:

    The name “Cuban” Lunch isn’t culturally insensitive. Cuba produces the best chocolate in the world. Paulin’s may have been using Cuban chocolate or trying to capitalize on the similarity of their chocolate to Cuban chocolate.

  45. Jerry says:

    I remember eating a few when I was a boy in Vancouver. Not a favourite as they seemed very plain — chocolate & lots of peanut pieces. I liked a chocolate bar (as we then called such treats; today they are candy bars because so little actual chocolate is used) that couldn’t be made at home, Crispy Crunch or Malted Milk for example.

    A commenter above mentioned the Cuban Lunch bars being 3×4 inches. I recall them being smaller, maybe 2×3 inches & a half-inch or so thick. Wrapped in crisp cellophane, red & white name on the flat top. I don’t recall there being anything in the recipe other than milk chocolate & Spanish peanuts.

    There are very good small, thick chocolate bars called Original Peanut Slab made by Whittaker’s. (Also Coconut Slab, made with lovely toasted coconut. Don’t know how, but the coconut remains crisp even in the chocolate.) Very similar to Cuban Lunch, though the peanuts are whole. Definitely Spanish peanuts as I saw just the papery skin of one nut still stuck in the chocolate as I devoured one just now. It was this that inspired me to search for CL, long gone as far as I recall. Anyway, the slab is close to the taste of the Cuban Lunch bar for fans who are jonesing. Fun thread. Cheers!

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