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14 Traditional Caribbean Foods Everyone Should Try

Anything Caribbean isn’t a hard sell. From their foods to their music, the thought of the Caribbeans leaves you with warm, exotic and vibrant vibes.

Caribbean food takes on a life on its own. The rich blend of homegrown herbs, unique spices, and fresh seafood is tantalising.

Caribbeans dishes come from different countries, but they all share the same thing — appeal. Here are some of the most common foods from different cultures in the Caribbean islands.

Crab & Callaloo

Trinidad and Tobago’s callaloo is a vegetable dish that originated from West Africa. It was brought to the Caribbean by slaves and has become a vital part of the culture there.

Several leafy greens including callaloo —a locally sourced leaf, water spinach, taro, and namesake bush are boiled together to make a thick stew. Peppers, okra, coconut milk are added to this rich stew.

It also contains lots of meats and seafood. These are selected out of preference and are not usually according to a recipe. However, regardless of whatever meat is added, the famous dish is always topped with crab.

Conch Fritters

The Bahamas’ conch fritters are a local delicacy, particularly prized in this island. The conch is a large-shelled sea mollusc that resembles the snail. 

It is prepared all over the Caribbeans, but the Bahamian dish is the preferred way to have it. The critters are made from shredded conch meat and a special batter.

Conch fritters’ batter contains bell pepper, celery, onion, spices and chilli. The batter is deep-fried to make a special flavorful dish similar to crab-cake, but with a Caribbean flair.

Mofongo

Puerto Rico’s mofongo is flavorful and earthy. It is a mash-up of different textures, making it a unique dish. It is unlike anything you will taste in the islands.

A combination of mashed green plantains that are fried and flavoured with garlic and pork rinds is mushed together. To make mofongo, locals use a wooden mortar and pestle to pound and blend all flavours to create this local delicacy.

Mofongo is eaten either as the main dish with sides or a side dish with another main dish. As the main dish, it is served with chicken broth, meat and vegetables.

La Bandera

Dominican Republic’s la bandera is a more fiercely defended version of the mofongo named “the flag” by locals. It’s hard to miss; the dish is on pretty much every menu in the country.

La Bandera is a colourful lunch just as hearty as the original mofongo. It contains salad, rice, red beans and meat and is very filling.

Locals refer to it as a working-class lunch because it is very energising.

Creole Bread

St Lucia’s creole bread is a local speciality you will find almost everywhere in the country. Family-owned bakeries serve this treat as a delicacy for both tourists and locals looking for something special.

Creole bread has short-crust loaves shaped like baguettes but skinny and short. They are cooked in a wood-fired oven.

These local favourites are well-renowned for their subtle smoky flavour. They taste delicious, whether they are eaten when they are steaming hot or cooler.

Jerk Chicken

Jamaica’s jerk chicken is as famous as its reggae. It is also a well-loved export that makes its way around the world to connoisseurs who are fond of its unique flavour.

Jerk chicken is either dry-rubbed or wet-marinated with a spice mixture that’s unique to Jamaicans. This particular mixture contains the perfect balance of sweet, hot and spicy.

Jerk chicken is truly famous on the island, ubiquitously so. It features on every menu, from street food to the fanciest restaurants.

Just like curry powder blends vary in India, the jerk marinades have varying profiles from sweet to spicy. Some are sweeter than others, and some are spicier or hotter than others.

Locals adapt the jerk dish to taste precisely how they prefer it, but the root ingredients remain the same.

Goat Water

Montserrat’s goat water is a national obsession, but it doesn’t sound like that at first. The thin clove-scented stew’s name does nothing to deceive its uncharacteristic blends of spices and herbs.

Goat water is called kabritu on islands like Bonaire and Aruba, and mannish water in the Cayman Islands. Every family has a special recipe of the stew handed down for generations.

This stew is a mélange of goat meat prepared with vegetables, spices, tomato, green papaya, breadfruit and onions. It is typically served with rice or bread.

Escovitch Fish

Jamaica’s escovitch fish is made by marinating and frying seasoned fish. The fish is typically seasoned with carrots, onions and bell peppers made into a peppery vinegar-based dressing.

Traditionally, Jamaicans prepare escovitch fish during Easter, and love to eat it the next day. It is said to taste better then.

Natives use different types of firm-bodied fish to prepare the escovitch dish including kingfish, red snapper and mullet. 

Chivo Guisado

Dominican’s chivo guisado is a delicious local dish prepared with local secret spices. These secret spices include Scotch bonnet peppers and wild oregano.

Chivo guisado is made from tomatoes, garlic, onions, bitter oranges, and pieces of goat meat. Wild oregano is good for the local goats herd in Dominica, and this adds to their flavour.

Chenchén is a local favourite made of cracked corn pilaf. Chivo guisado is best served with chenchénso as you reveal how tender the flavorful stew is. 

Arroz Con Huevo

Throughout Latin America, arroz con huevo is a known meal. It consists of rice topped with a fried egg.

It’s a humble dish that was first called poor people food, or comida de pobre. However, the food has grown in popularity and is enjoyed by every class today.

The food has different variations since it’s eaten in several countries with different spices. In the Caribbeans, people usually add plantain to the rice and egg.

In Spain, arroz con huevo is downed with savoury sofrito. Generally, though, food lovers recommend eating the dish with finely chopped parsley and freshly grated cheese.

Ropa Vieja

Cuba’s ropa vieja is its national dish and is extremely famous. Made from shredded beef, peppers and onions, the hearty stew is loved by all locals.

Ropa vieja goes perfectly with yellow rice and cold beer. Nevertheless, the dish is modified depending on taste and preference all over the country, and the Caribbeans by extension.

Picadillo

The Philippines, Spain and Latin America are familiar with picadillo, a spicy dish filled with basic ingredients. In the Philippines, it is known as giniling.

Picadillo is made with tomatoes, onions and ground meat, and served with a side of rice. People also eat it with tortillas. Some spots use it as a filling for tacos and other warps.

Depending on the country, the spices in the dish change. In Mexico, cooks add lime juice, chilli peppers and honey.

In Cuba, cooks add olives for salt and raisins for sweetness. In the Philippines, cooks add potatoes.

Fish Tea

Jamaica’s fish tea is a simple, light broth made with fish as the key ingredient. It is usually seasoned with peppers, thyme and salt alone.

Fish tea is unlike other Jamaican stews, which are typically thick and rich. Instead, it is light and needs only inexpensive fish and common vegetables.

Chop-Up

Another famous Caribbean dish featuring leafy vegetable known as callaloo or dasheen is Chop-up, a vegetable mash enjoyed at breakfast and as a side dish. It originates from Antigua and Barbuda.

It’s a vegetable mash or stew that can be described as somewhat similar to a French ratatouille recipe.