Caribbean Cuisine Facts and History

The Caribbean cuisine is composed of a multitude of elements, each brought in by the people that came to settle in the area over time. So, we can say that the present cuisine in this part of the world is actually made of many influenced that merged together to create the exotic and authentic Caribbean cuisine.
The Arawaks, the first people to live in the area, brought the habit of barbecuing meat. Due to the Caribs, another early population, chili ended up being used as well, together with other spices brought in by this population. The Europeans, who made colonies in the area, introduced the chicken, pig, onion, garlic, rice, and oranges, in the local recipes.

The Africans, who came in as slaves to work on sugar cane fields, brought with them the pigeon peas, taro root, plantains, and okra. The Chinese and Asian Indians introduced the cooking style with the wok and the preparation of curies. Other influences come from Mexico and Central America, due to their proximity, which can also be found in the local cuisine.


 Caribbean Cuisine Menu


• Breakfast

Breakfast in the Caribbean is as exotic as the place itself. You will find bananas and pineapple cooked and added to the recipe. Fish can also be a part of the breakfast, as it makes it more filling for your stomach. Salted or fresh fish is used, according to the recipe. Eggs are also highly appreciated in the morning, fried or as omelets. Pancakes, various types of bread, sweet, with nuts, or just plain, turkey burgers, or even fruits salads are appreciated here in the morning. Refreshing fruits juices or coffee may also accompany the breakfast.

• Lunch

In the Caribbean, the lunch can be served starting with 11 a.m. to 2.30 p.m., according to the schedule of each. Soups can be served, although they are not a constant presence in the lunch menu, and they are rather thick. The dishes for lunch are more often served with sauces, like cranberry or red pepper sauce. Rice is often served, with fried chicken, peas, peppers, onions, and spiced with saffron, or other preferred spices. Besides chicken, fish and seafood can also be a part of the lunch meal, which can also be served with rice, pasta, or with vegetable curry.


• Snacks

You will have plenty of options when you wish to have a bite on the go in the Caribbean. Popular snacks include the cassava cakes. They are used using cassava flour to make the dough, which is filled with various ingredients, from sweet bananas or chocolate chips, to savory types, like salty fish, and backed. Ice cream is another preferred snack, due to the high temperatures in the area. You can find exotic assortments like chocolate and orange, sugar cane flavor, and rum and banana. And you can also try the patties, the Caribbean version of burger, being a fried dough pocket, filled with meat, fish, seafood, or even veggies, and packed in a brown paper so that it can be enjoyed on the go.

• Dinner

Dinner is pretty much the same with lunch, although some beverages may accompany this last meal of the day. Pork, beef, fish, or chicken can also be present on the dish, accompanied by rice, bean curry, sweet potatoes, and even fruits like mango or pineapple, which give the dish a sweet-sour exotic taste. The goat stew or curry is quite popular in the Caribbean, being one famous dish in this area. Slow cooked with a wide array of spices, for tenderness and an incredible taste, containing onions, garlic, chili, curry leaves, curry powder, thyme, tomatoes, beans, lemon, and coriander, will produce an explosion of taste in your mouth.

• Desserts

You will love the desserts in the Caribbean. Make sure you try the prune flan, a soft, full of sweet syrup and fruits dessert. The rice pudding, made with milk and a sprinkle of cinnamon will also make your day. Bread pudding, coconut pulp soaked in syrup, mango marmalade, coconut macaroon, and sweet beans, a soft paste made from boiled beans, with sugar and various flavors, are also a part of the desserts prepared in this area.

• Drinks

When it comes to the Caribbean, the drinks are exotic as well. A wide range of fruity cocktails, with alcohol or without it, are served. Smoothies that contain exotic fruits are also appreciated, especially in the morning or at noon, as a refreshing drink. Rum punches and rum cocktails are very popular, to which various other ingredients are added, according to the recipe. You may also want to try the traditional Caribbean sorrel drink, which is a sweet-sour non-alcoholic drink. It is made with sorrel flowers, ginger, cloves, cinnamon, water and sugar.


  Holiday Menu

• Christmas

The Christmas menu in the Caribbean contains a lot of food, like appetizers, the main dishes and dessert. As appetizers, beef patties, salt cod fritters, fried plantains with garlic or cilantro sauce, and ginger cocktails are served. As main dishes, you will find grilled lamb, fish, coconut and lime rice, sweet plantains, and pigeon peas. And, for dessert, rum cake and coconut cookies will end the Christmas evening.

• Easter

During Good Friday, no one in the Caribbean will serve red meat, just fish and vegetables. Once the Easter arrive, the Easter bun and cheese is one of the main served dishes. It is a specially made bun, spiced with cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg, to which dried fruits are added, and served with cheese. Fish is also common during Easter, being served with sweet bananas, or marinated in peppers and other veggies.

 Most Popular Dishes


• Roast pork – server with rice, beans, and plantains, this type of roast is very much appreciated;
• Conch – a large sea snail, just like a large clam, which is served as delicious fritters, but also served in soups, salads, and stews;
• Pepperpot – a thick stew made with okra, aubergine, potatoes, squash, and every other veggie that comes in hand, together with beef and cornmeal dumplings, which complete this dish;
• Chicken with rice – other ingredients include tomato, pepper, garlic, and other, according to recipe. The rice is backed until the flavor of the chicken can be felt right.
• Goat stew – as mentioned before, this is an excellent dish here, made from goat or mutton, with an array of veggies and spices.

  Most Used Ingredients:


Meat / Fish: chicken, beef, pork, fish, seafood;
Veggies: peppers, tomatoes, potatoes, onion, garlic, squash, cassava;
Fruits: mango, pineapple, coconut, lime, oranges.
Others: chili, beans, rice, maize, cloves, cinnamon.


 Caribbean Street Food – What to eat when visiting the Caribbean

One thing is for sure, and that is that you won’t feel hungry while walking on the streets of the Caribbean. If you want something light, make sure to try the delicious conch salad, which is a tangy salad made with raw conch, onions, and green peppers. Doubles are another type of snack, very popular in the Caribbean, which consists in rounds of fried dough, filled with spicy curried chickpeas or channa, to which cucumber slaw, mango chutney or a cilantro-based sauce can be added. Be careful because you will serve this by hand, so it can get pretty messy, but also it is very delicious.


Are you from Caribbean? Maybe you visited there? Please feel free to comment and add your own thoughts on Caribbean ethnic food.

Carlene Evett

Jamaican Cuisine Facts and History

 A Blend of Cultures for a Unique Flavour

Jamaica – land of wood and water. Also known for our sun, sand, sea and of course our cuisine. Jamaican food is second to none in variety, flavour and uniqueness. We love and celebrate our food throughout the year with a variety of food festivals for e.g. Boston Jerk Festival, Little Ochi Sea Food Festival, Trelawny Yam Festival, just to name a few. Today’s flavourful meals have their origins in the country’s long and storied history.


About Jamaican Cuisine 

The Jamaican motto is “Out of Many, One People” and this is epitomized throughout our cuisine. We are the flavours of the former indigenous population, our enslaved forefathers, our European colonizers, and our Indian and Chinese indentured workers and immigrants. These influences have led to a unique blend of cultures which is prevalent in our food choices. We therefore have a lot of stewed, jerked, fried meats. We also have a preference for well-seasoned and spicy foods.

Most Popular Dishes

Ackee and saltfish (codfish) is the Jamaican national dish and one of our most popular dishes which is eaten for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Dubbed one of the most dangerous foods in the world, Jamaica is the only Caribbean country in which ackee is eaten on a regular basis. After all, ackee could kill you. Other popular dishes include jerk chicken or pork served with festival; stew peas made with pig’s tail and kidney beans served with white rice; rice and peas and chicken.

 Jamaican Cuisine – Menu

Jamaicans have varied and delicious options for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

A traditional breakfast

• porridge of which there are quite a few varieties, the more popular ones being cornmeal, hominy corn, peanut, plantain or oats.
• a choice of boiled ground provisions (green banana, yam, potato, dasheen etc.), fried or boiled dumplings, fried plantain or fritters with an option of either ackee and salt fish, salt mackerel, callaloo and salt fish, liver or kidney. This is typically served with tea (chocolate, peppermint etc.).


Dinner and Lunch

Dinner and lunch are similar, unless you are going for a quick lunch such as a patty and a coco bread and soup.

Dinner menu depends on the day of the week. Weekends are special. Saturdays are soup days with either chicken foot soup or red peas soup with pig tail and/or beef. In Jamaica, we have a saying that ‘we don’t drink soup, we eat soup’. This is because our soups are generally filled with a variety of ground provisions and meat. Sundays are rice and peas days with either one or a variety of meats, usually chicken, pork and/or fish served with tossed salad. Mondays are normally leftovers from Sunday called ‘Sunday-Monday’.

Dinner and or lunch for the rest of the week is generally ‘food’ – boiled ground provisions – or rice. Chicken is a favourite accompanying meat. And some days when you don’t feel like cooking you prepare a little ‘dutty gyal’ and white rice, that is, tin mackerel and steamed rice.

Snacks and Desserts

On the go food options are plentiful and varied. Snack options include bun (small, round, spiced) sliced down the middle with cheddar cheese; banana chips; crackers and cheddar cheese. These are often paired with a box juice.

Dessert options range from sweet potato pudding, coconut drops, grater cake, gizzada to toto and more.


Most fruits or vegetables are used to make juice, and a lot of them are spiced with ginger. Jamaicans love ginger. Popular juices include carrot, sorrel, soursop and ginger beer.

 Holiday Menus


There are two holidays for which food plays a big part in Jamaican cuisine – Easter and Christmas. Easter is all about bun and cheese, and fry fish. The bun is generally baked as a loaf, sweet and made with a variety of spices, raisins and dried fruits.

Christmas is nothing without gungo peas and rice; multiple meat dishes prepared in a variety of ways (chicken, curry goat, roast pork and the list goes on); ‘mannish water’ (goat soup made from the less popular parts of the goat, but delicious nonetheless) or ‘fish tea’ (fish soup); fruit cake and sorrel juice.

 Most Used Ingredients


Jamaicans prefer their meats well-seasoned. As such meats are normally seasoned with a variety of spices such as onion, scallion, thyme, sweet pepper, and for heat there is our famous scotch bonnet pepper. Meat seasoning and all-purpose – blended powdered seasonings – are also highly popular. Ginger is well used in drinks and meat dishes.

For the Travelling Foodie


Travelling to Jamaica you should experience the varied options for street and restaurant food.

a. Street Food

Travelling the streets of Jamaica, especially in the cities, it is not uncommon to see persons with a cart selling steaming hot porridge or soup, and patties, the latter sourced from the local patty places. Hot dog carts selling locally made and heavily spiced ‘bad dawg’ sausages and ‘reggae jammin’ sausages and burgers are quickly spreading. However, the most prevalent and traditional street food is jerk chicken from a pan-chicken man. While these can be found everywhere, Yallahs is famous for its pan-chicken. There are other ‘street foods’ specific to an area. So you will find jerk pork and jerk chicken in Boston; saltfish and roast yam in Porus; fish and roast breadfruit in Border.

b. Restaurant Food

Taking in the restaurant scene, there are so many selections for traditional Jamaican fare. Steamed, fried, stewed or escovitched fish with bammy (a cassava flatbread) and or festival. This is especially delicious from Port Royal or Helshire Beach. Oxtail and rice and peas is a must have.

There are a variety of restaurants, local fast food outlets, cook shops, and street food vendors across the island. In the city it is not uncommon to see a variety of Chinese ‘restaurants’ and their cuisine is influenced by the Jamaican palate. You will not find a Chinese restaurant anywhere else in the world that taste like a Jamaican Chinese restaurant.

Traditional-Jamaican-Food-Recipes Cuisine

Another unique feature of our cuisine is based on Rastafarianism. In some parts of the world it might be interpreted as vegetarian or vegan (depending on the Rasta – some eat fish, some do not) but here in Jamaica it is ‘ital’ food of which it may be cooked with heat or not, and avoids processed ingredients.

Jamaicans continue to expand the variety of our offerings through a fusion of cultural practices. Case in point, today, we are consuming in spades the invasive fish species – lionfish. It is delicious and we recommend that you eat it fried – you are less likely to be poisoned that way.

Jamaican cuisine, as you have seen, is diverse and flavourful. We guarantee you will be sure to enjoy it.



Are you from Jamaica? Maybe you visited there? Please feel free to comment and add your own thoughts on Jamaican ethnic food.

Carlene Evett