The Ultimate Guide to Caribbean Cuisine | Celebrity Cruises (2024)

Self-proclaimed foodie or not, it’s hard not to fall in love with Caribbean cuisine and its melting pot of flavors.

Traditional Caribbean food that endures today emerged several hundred years ago and from all corners of the globe. You’ll find influences from African, Indian, Asian, Cajun, and European cultures in the Caribbean.

Even if you’ve consumed many of the ingredients that make up the most popular local dishes, you’ve never had them in quite the same combinations or consistencies. Suffice to say, Caribbean cuisine is creative and packed with personality.

Here are some of the foods to try during your next trip to the Caribbean.

Jerk Chicken

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Jerk chicken

You’ll know if you’ve had jerk chicken before; it’s just that good. As one of the archetypal Caribbean foods, jerk chicken has earned its great-tasting reputation.

It’s a fairly simple dish—chicken doused in spices and hot peppers and slow-cooked over pimento wood branches—but it’s truly an art form and requires a lot of patience. Every spot serving this classic dish will have their own unique recipe for the exact spice blend that goes into the mix.

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Jerk chicken

Today, jerk chicken is served almost everywhere, from restaurants to backyard grilles, and tasting it is one of the best things to do in the Caribbean. Jerk chicken is usually complemented with “festivals”, which is basically fried cornmeal, hot Scotch bonnet pepper sauce, and a cold brew like Red Stripe.

This is one dish you eat with your hands, so prepare for things to get a little messy.

While jerk chicken remains a part of daily life, its history goes way back. Several hundred years ago the Maroons, a tribe of enslaved Africans fleeing for their freedom, began barbecuing wild hogs.

They’d bury the meat into the ground as a way to smother the smoke, so as to not reveal their location to the Spanish and British forces.

Read: Caribbean Culture: What to Know Before You Go

Conch Fritters

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Conch fritters

Conch fritters is a typical seafood dish you’ll find on many Caribbean islands, and especially in the Bahamas.

If you’ve ever seen a conch shell, you might be so focused on its beauty that you’ll forget that there’s an actual critter inside. A conch is actually a sea snail that is difficult to find, and tough to remove from its shell.

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Conch fritters

To make conch fritters, the chef usually finely chops the conch meat and mixes the meat in a batter made from flour and egg. After that, they are deep-fried in oil. The meat of a sea conch is sweet and delicious, which is why this dish is a staple on almost every Caribbean-style restaurant menu.

There’s not a ton of conch meat to work with, so many recipes for conch fritters dice conch along with vegetables like onion, celery, and sweet bell pepper. They might also add garlic, hot pepper or cayenne pepper for added flavor.

Ackee and Saltfish

Don’t leave Jamaica without trying ackee and saltfish. As the country’s national dish, it’s eaten morning, noon, and night. Ackee is a fruit with thick, red skin and savory, almost nutty flavor. Native to West Africa, ackee was brought over to Jamaica with enslaved Africans.

An unripe ackee has a skin that forms a closed pod. When the fruit is ripe, the skin opens and a petal-like shape emerges. When prepared incorrectly, fresh ackee has the potential to be poisonous, so it’s best to not try to make this one on your own.

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Ackee and saltfish

Those who cook this classic dish know not to pick the fruit before the skin has opened naturally. Then, the fleshy parts inside the pod—called arils—are extracted, cleaned and the ackee is boiled in salted water.

Saltfish is essentially salt cod, and it’s a staple of Caribbean cuisine. Combining the salty flavor of the fish with cooked ackee and spices, including Scotch Bonnet peppers, makes for a tasty meal.

The flavors are bold and subtle at the same time, and the soft texture of ackee contrasts well with the rougher texture of the cod.

Rice and Pigeon Peas

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Rice and pigeon peas

Pigeon, you ask? Well, pigeon peas are beans native to Africa and they have nothing to do with pigeons. While these dried beans are typically served alongside rice and seasonings, you can also find them canned in specialty stores.

You’ll see rice ‘n’ pigeon peas on the menus across the Caribbean but especially in Barbados, the Bahamas, and Jamaica.

This classic Caribbean dish is made by simmering the peas and rice in a coconut broth and seasoning the broth with spice, garlic, onion, and sweet peppers.

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Rice and pigeon peas

It’s sometimes eaten as a meal itself, but more often than not, you’ll see this dish served alongside jerk chicken, baked pork chops, or a fish stew.

Pepperpot Stew

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Pepperpot stew

Jamaican-style pepperpot stew is a popular sharing dish as locals in the Caribbean tend to cook large portions of it at one time and serve it to large gatherings of friends and family.

At the center of this dish is beef, which should be cooked enough to be tender. Other ingredients include onions, ginger, garlic, Scotch bonnet chili, dried thyme, berries, cinnamon, beef stock, and coconut milk. After the beef is fried, onion and other ingredients are added to the pot.

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Pepperpot stew

Once it’s at a gentle simmer, it’s left there to cook uncovered for about one and a half hours. Sweet potatoes are added near the end and should cook for about 20 minutes. The last ingredient is spinach, which can be added just before serving time.

Read: Best Caribbean Islands for Food


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As the national dish of Antigua and Barbuda, fungee has naturally made its way to most, if not all, of the Caribbean islands. Granted, different Caribbean nations have their own version.

Think of fungee as a bread ball or a patty-like polenta. It’s made by slow-cooking seasoned cornmeal, and the only other ingredients you need are water, salt, finely chopped okra and butter or olive oil. Other seasonings can be added in, such as garlic.

Similar to other traditional dishes in the Caribbean, the fungee recipe originates from the slave population of the time. The ingredients were inexpensive and the carbohydrates provided a healthy diet for a long day of hard labor.

Today, fungee is often served alongside pepperpot stew, giving the whole dish a combination of rich flavors and textures.

Read: The Ultimate Antigua Food Guide

Flying Fish and Cou Cou

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Flying fish and cou cou

Flying Fish and Cou Cou is the national dish of Barbados and fairly similar to polenta as well. In this recipe, cornmeal and okra are mixed with water and spices to form a savory porridge. The other component of Barbados’ national dish is flying fish.

The fish is steamed, seasoned and served alongside the cou cou. This Bajan dish is one of the spicier dishes on this list, but well worth the challenge to your palate.

Cracked Conch

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Cracked conch

If you’re craving some flavorful Caribbean seafood, cracked conch hits the spot. This popular Bahamian dish is usually paired with French fries or rice and pigeon peas. After the conch meat is breaded in a flour-based batter, it’s deep fried until crispy and golden-colored.

Since conch meat is tougher than many other types of meat, this is a good way to tenderize it and make it less chewy. You’ll spot this on a lot of restaurant menus, either as an appetizer or main.

Read: Best Food in Aruba


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Mofongo is a Puerto Rican dish with African influences. It’s made from unripened plantains that are mashed, flavored with ingredients like bacon or chicharrón, and bathed in a broth.

Depending on where in Puerto Rico you are traveling, you’ll notice that every region puts its own spin on making mofongo.

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Mofongo relleno

For example, some restaurants will mix plantains with other starchy vegetables or they might mix it with fillings like seafood (this is called mofongo relleno). Best of all, it’s easy to make at home and takes less than 15 minutes, depending on how fancy you want to get.


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As satisfying as fried food is, always remember to get in your greens. Jamaican Callaloo is a healthy side dish for any meal, including breakfast.

Callaloo itself is a type of leafy green that can be substituted for spinach, and it’s traditionally cooked alongside onion (including green onion), tomatoes, Scotch bonnet pepper, and thyme.

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Alternatively, you can cook callaloo with saltfish and serve it with rice or veggies. As a nutrient-dense leafy green, you can also add callaloo to soups, use it as a filling for savory pastries, or as part of your morning green juice.


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The best way to think of roti is to visualize a sandwich wrap. Not so different from Indian naan, roti has a soft texture and is thin and flaky.

Roti is made from wholewheat flour, salt, and butter and is cooked on a cast-iron pot. You’ll usually find rotis with curried or stewed meat, or with vegetables.

In Trinidad and Tobago, the locals refer to the ingredients inside the roti as a “tarkari”. Like a panini or sandwich, a roti is a smart and savory meal on the go if you’re in a rush, or just if you need a mid-afternoon protein snack.


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Fried plantains are a staple in many Caribbean dishes and it’s easy to see why. They are sweet, like bananas, but without that unique banana flavor. They also caramelize as they turn brown, are easy to cook, and easy to eat thanks to their soft texture.

Plantains should be semi-ripe in order to get the taste and consistency just right, and the only other ingredients you need is vegetable oil and maybe a dash of salt.

Depending on how hot your stove is, you can usually fry the plantains for about 15 minutes. Turn them as needed until they are golden brown and try not to overcook them; this way the texture remains perfect.

Read: Best Food in Dominica

Coco Bread

Coco bread is probably the closest thing Jamaica has to a burger bun, with one major difference. This bread contains a bit of coconut milk, which gives it a starchy texture and slightly sweet taste. Without the key ingredient of coconut milk, this bread would taste quite similar to American dinner rolls.

Many Jamaicans split coco bread in half and stuff a patty inside. In addition to coconut milk, a typical recipe includes flour, salt, unsalted butter, brown sugar and rapid rise yeast. Look for street food stalls selling coco bread filled with meat, or served alongside callaloo, ackee, or cheese.

Tamarind Balls

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Tamarind balls

Most often seen in Jamaica and Trinidad, tamarind balls are made with the sticky flesh of the tamarind fruit and rolled with brown sugar to form balls. The savory taste of tamarind paired with the sweet flavor of brown sugar makes for a delicious, natural and preservative-free dessert.

There are some variations to this simple recipe to look for. For example, sometimes people create spicy versions by adding hot pepper into the mix. Another option is to boost the flavor with some Jamaican rum. The alcohol does dissolve after some time, but the flavor remains.


Chimichurri Burger

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Chimichurri burger

When traveling through the Dominican Republic, make sure to get your hands on a chimichurri burger.

As you might guess, the main difference between a burger in the Dominican Republic and a burger you’d find in the U.S. is the addition of chimichurri and other spices like oregano, parsley, garlic, and red pepper flakes.

Read: The Ultimate Dominican Food Guide

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Chimichurri burger

It’s common to see this dish both in restaurants and served by food vendors, as it’s easy to eat on the go. Like most burgers, it’s delicious with added mayonnaise, greens like cabbage or lettuce, tomatoes, and onions. Wash down your spicy chimichurri burger with an ice-cold beer for a true Caribbean flavor.

Read: Delicious Caribbean co*cktails to Taste

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What is the Caribbean diet? ›

The Caribbean six food groups are staples, legumes, animal foods, fruits, vegetables, and fats and oils (5). The staples group — which includes rice, ground provisions (tubers), wheat, oats, corn, and starchy fruits — is always represented at each meal and forms the foundation of the Caribbean diet.

What are the 6 Caribbean food groups? ›

It is divided into the six Caribbean food groups: staples, vegetables, fruits, legumes, foods from animals and fats and oils; and surrounded by images of people doing physical activity.

What foods do they eat in the Caribbean? ›

Ingredients that are common in most islands' dishes are rice, plantains, beans, cassava, cilantro, bell peppers, chickpeas, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, coconut, and any of various meats that are locally available like beef, poultry, pork, goat or fish.

What are four common ingredients in Caribbean cuisine? ›

Coconut is one of the most versatile ingredients in Caribbean cooking, and a favorite of Levi's.
  • Allspice. ...
  • Callaloo. ...
  • Coconut (Oil, Water, Milk, Grated) ...
  • Molasses. ...
  • Pigeon Peas (And Other Beans) ...
  • Pepper Sauces. ...
  • Plantains. ...
  • Rum.

What are the four main influences on Caribbean cuisine? ›

The first influence on Caribbean cuisine were the primitive Amerindians, the second were from Europe, the third influence came from Africa during the slave trade of the early 17th century, the last influence came when the slave trade was abolished and workers from India and China came to work in the farms.

What is the Caribbean food pattern? ›

Traditional Caribbean diets are based on the Caribbean six food groups: staples, vegetables, fruits, animal foods, legumes and nuts, and fats and oils, Foster-Nicholas says. “Staples form the main portion of the meal and consist of rice dishes or root vegetables, also referred to as ground provision,” she adds.

Who is the food basket of the Caribbean? ›

Guyana is reclaiming the title “Bread basket of the Caribbean”, as the agricultural sector is rapidly approaching food security through the implementation of key initiatives such as the Farmers' Market Day.

What is a balance meal? ›

It is generally agreed that a balanced plate consists of one quarter proteins, one quarter carbohydrates and one half vegetables. ©Shutterstock/ifong. A very common piece of nutrition advice around the world is to 'eat a balanced diet.

What country has the best food in the Caribbean? ›

Barbados is often titled as the culinary capital of the Caribbean, and with good reason. The island's Bajan cuisine is a mix of African, British, and Indian influences and offers an array of eating experiences, from street food to fine dining.

What is the number 1 dish in the world? ›

Pizza has rightfully earned its place as the world's most beloved food. This Italian creation has become a staple in numerous countries, with endless variations to suit every taste bud.

What seasoning is used in Caribbean cuisine? ›

Caribbean cuisine features allspice in many dishes, including meat and sweet potato stews. Sweet and spicy, this Caribbean native is a key player in Jamaican jerk seasoning. It combines the warm flavors of cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg.

What is the food capital of the Caribbean? ›

The Cayman Islands, has earned the title of 'the culinary capital of the Caribbean', and offers you a plentiful selection of more than 150 restaurants; including internationally commended signature restaurants, independent boutiques and small, local diners which serve everything from traditional Cayman dishes to wide ...

Why do Jamaicans not eat pork? ›

Seventh Day Adventists and some other Sabbath keepers don't eat it. They say it is forbidden by God, which they say is in the Bible. Rastafarians also have this belief. Some ministers of religion interpret it that because the law is in the Old Testament it is meant only for Jews so therefore Christians can eat it.

What is hard food in Caribbean cuisine? ›

Hard Food! This is one the of the most authentic dishes in Jamaica, mostly eaten for breakfast. Hard food is a combination of Boiled dumpling, banana and yam and can be eaten with many dishes such as Ackee and saltfish, callaloo, and more. Try this filling dish you'll be wanted more and more!

What are the dietary guidelines for the Caribbean? ›

  • Eat a variety of foods from all the food groups daily.
  • Eat a variety of fruits daily.
  • Eat a variety of vegetables daily.
  • Include peas, beans and nuts in your daily meals.
  • Reduce intake of salty and processed foods.
  • Reduce intake of fats and oils.
  • Reduce intake of sugary foods and drinks.

What does a typical Jamaican diet consist of? ›

Soups play an important role in the Jamaican diet, not only as appetizers, but also as main lunch and dinner dishes because they are filling on their own with tubers/staples (such as yam, sweet potato, white potato, breadfruit, Jamaican boiled dumplings, dasheen and coco), vegetables (such as carrot, okra and cho-cho/ ...

What is Caribbean national food? ›

Here are a selection of must-try national dishes of the Caribbean. Barbados – Flying Fish and Cou Cou. Jamaica – Jerk Anything. Antigua – Fungee and Pepperpot. Dominican Republic – Mangu.

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