The food of the Caribbean is one of the most distinctive cuisines in the world. The unique combination of flavors, textures, and smells make Caribbean food instantly recognizable and it is recreated and enjoyed by people across the globe. The Caribbean islands have an excellent range of products to use to create a diverse range of dishes, including livestock for meat dishes, the ocean for seafood, and fish, and the islands that produce mouth-watering fruit, vegetables, herbs, and spices. Each of the islands has its own specialties and traditional dishes, although many of the islands share the same recipes. The food of the Caribbean is highly influenced by cuisine from other countries around the world, especially Europe and Africa.
This is because dishes have been passed on to this country when people have traveled through the area or have immigrated to the Caribbean. However, many dishes are completely native to the Caribbean and they have a long history as recipes have been passed down through the generations. There are almost endless combinations of these ingredients that you could try, but there are some dishes that stand out from the rest. Here are 20 Caribbean foods that you should try at least once in your life.
1. Ackee and Saltfish
Ackee and saltfish is the national dish of Jamaica. Luxury Columnist explains that ackee is a fruit that grows in abundance in Jamaica. Unripe, the fruit is toxic, so it is only picked from the trees when it is ripe. When cooked, ackee has a strange resemblance to scrambled egg. To make ackee and saltfish, the saltfish is fried along with boiled ackee, scallions, garlic, onion, tomatoes, and scotch bonnet pepper. Although you can eat this dish at any time of the day, it is traditionally eaten as a breakfast.
If you visit Nicaragua, Costa Rica, or Jamaica, you will no doubt see patties on the menus. These are pastries with various fillings that are usually highly seasoned and spiced. Ground beef is the most common filling found in patties, says Escape Here. However, you will also find lamb, pork, chicken, and vegetarian options. The origins are the Cornish pasty, which was introduced to the Caribbean. The Jamaicans made the dish their own by adding scotch bonnet, cumin, and other curry spices. While patties are usually eaten as a snack or a lunch meal, they are also eaten as a full meal when served with coco bread.
3. Fried Plantains
Plantains are a native fruit of Jamaica and other Caribbean islands that is similar in appearance to a banana but with a less sweet flavor. Fried plantains are served as appetizers, snacks, or accompaniments to Caribbean dishes. Bacon is Magic notes that there are both sweet and savory versions of fried plantains. You can also eat them lightly fried so that they are soft inside or deep fry thin slices or smaller pieces to create tasty plantain chips.
4. Jerk Chicken
When you think of Caribbean food, jerk chicken is probably one of the first dishes that pop into your mind. Jerk is simply a traditional Caribbean spice blend that is used to marinade proteins to give them flavor. The town of Boston, Jamaica was the birthplace of jerk cooking. An authentic jerk chicken is cooked over an open pit, and this method is still used in many parts of Jamaica. However, it is possible to cook variations of jerk chicken on the hob or in the oven.
5. Jamaican Goat Curry
According to Cook Like a Jamaican, the curry dishes of Jamaica are inherited from the Indian population of the island. Hundreds of thousands of Indians worked on the plantations in Jamaica when slavery was abolished and brought with them their family recipes. Jamaican goat curry is an adaptation of these using ingredients that are available and widely used for Caribbean dishes. Recipes for goat curries can vary significantly as various recipes have been passed down through the generations and people have adapted them to suit their own tastes. The goat is slow-cooked so that it is tender and falling off the bone. Some of the other typical ingredients included in a Caribbean goat curry included onions, garlic, scotch bonnet pepper, and thyme. Goat curry is usually served with rice and peas.
6. Rice and Peas
While in some countries every meal is served with pasta and other countries nearly always include a potato element, rice and peas are the staple accompaniment in Caribbean countries. If you eat out at a restaurant in the Caribbean, rice and peas are offered as an accompaniment to almost every meal and are often also available to order separately. It consists of rice and either peas or beans cooked in coconut milk. Usually, if you have ordered rice and beans, you will get rice with red kidney beans.
7. Saltfish Fritter
Highly popular in West Indian cuisine are saltfish fritters. Usually, these are served as a pre-dinner snack or an appetizer says The Culture Trip. Saltfish is mixed with flour, peppers, and herbs, and then rounded into bite-sized circles before frying in hot oil. The fishcakes are soft and flay on the inside, but crispy on the outside.
Callaloo is a word used to describe both an ingredient and a dish, according to Classic Collection. Callaloo is a green leafy vegetable that is often served as an accompaniment to meals and it can be cooked in many ways. It is also used as an ingredient of many traditional Caribbean dishes. However, callaloo is a term used to refer to a dish that is a leafy stew. The stew is made by boiling callaloo with okra, peppers, and onions. This is eaten alone, with rice and peas, or as an accompaniment to meat or fish.
A traditional Caribbean dish recommended by BBC Good Food is pepperpot. This is a family-style meal that is enjoyed throughout the Caribbean. It is a thick and rich stew that includes okra, squash, potatoes, squash, and anything else you want to add. Some people add meat to the stew, which is cooked for hours in large cooking pots. Many people also add a type of cornmeal dumpling called fungi. It is the type of informal meal that the whole family enjoys together.
10. Spit-Roasted Suckling Pig
On almost all the Caribbean islands, roast pork is a family favorite. It is sometimes served with local vegetables and at other times with traditional rice and peas with plantain. Street vendors and some restaurants serve spit-roasted suckling pig. This succulent meat is something you should definitely try if you are visiting the Caribbean.
This native Caribbean fruit is usually served as a savory accompaniment or an ingredient in savory dishes. This fruit has a soft texture and it is peeled and either boiled or roasted when being served as an accompaniment. It is often added to stews or curries along with other ingredients. Sliced and fried breadfruit chips are eaten as an indulgent snack.
Roti can refer to two things. First, it describes a type of traditional flatbread. Second, it is a term used to refer to a filled wrap. Cruiseline says that in Trinidad and Tobago, roti is a wrap sandwich that is one of the most popular fast foods in the Caribbean. They are available with various fillings, but one of the most popular is a potato stew. To the stew, people can add either shrimp, goat, beef, lamb, chicken, or conch.
13. Cou-cou and Flying Fish
You are most likely to see this dish on menus in Barbados, although it is made on other Caribbean islands. Flying fish is one of the specialties of the island and it is often served either steamed or in stews. Cou-cou is a mix of okra, cornmeal, and local spices that are combined to create a thick paste, says Classic-Collection. You will often find flying fish and cou-cou served together on a menu.
14. Conch Fritters
Conch is a large sea snail that is eaten in the Caribbean. A popular dish in the Bahamas is conch fritters, although this dish is eaten on many Caribbean islands. According to Coastal Living, the conch meat is shredded and mixed with a batter before frying. Often, other ingredients are added to the batter. Typical examples of ingredients used in conch fritters include celery, chili, bell pepper, onion, or spices.
15. Trinidadian Crab
Crab is a popular seafood in both Trinidad and Tobago. This is prepared in many ways and each has the delicious flavors of the Caribbean. In Trinidad, one of the most traditional ways of serving crab is with callaloo. The callaloo is mixed with coconut milk, chilies, and spices and then topped with the crab meat. This dish is influenced by the cuisine of West Africa.
A traditional dish of Trinidad and Tobago, this is a Caribbean version of a sandwich, says Cruiseline. The sandwich consists of two pieces of flatbread filled with curried chickpeas. There are many variations of this sandwich as sometimes, people add coconut or mango. This tasty vegetarian option is usually accompanied by hot sauce. You will find this on the menu of many Caribbean cafes or from street food stalls.
17. Aloo Pie
Aloo pie is the Caribbean version of an Indian samosa, says Escape Here. This snack is most commonly associated with Trinidad and Tobago. The pastry is made from flour and water and then filled with spiced potatoes and either peas or split chickpeas. Once the filling is encased in the pastry, the aloo pie is usually baked but sometimes fried. They are often served with inli ki chutney, which is a type of sweet and sour dipping sauce.
18. Pineapple Chow
Pineapple is one of the tropical flavors that is most associated with the Caribbean and pineapple chow is a Trinidadian dish. It is a spiced fruit dish that is served as a fruity accompaniment. There are several variations of this dish, but Caroline’s Cooking says it is chunks of fresh pineapple mixed with cilantro, garlic, and chili. It is a refreshing accompaniment that combines sweet, salty, and spicy flavors. It is a tasty accompaniment for roast pork, grilled meats, curries, and salads.
19. Goat Water
This dish is the national dish of Montserrat, which is also known as the Emerald Isle of the Caribbean, says Saveur. Montserrat has a strong Irish heritage, and goat water is their take on a traditional Irish stew. Goat is the main ingredient of the dish, but it is highly flavored with pepper, garlic, and thyme. In some parts of the Caribbean, goat water is simply called goat stew.
20. Oil Down
Saveur says that oil down gets its name from the coconut oil that is released from the coconut milk cooking liquid that is used to cook this tasty stew. The national dish of Grenada, this hearty stew is made from chicken and any vegetables you have in or that need using up. Each family has their own version of this dish and the recipes are passed down from one generation to the next.
Written by Liz Flynn
Read more posts by Liz Flynn