Best Caribbean Food Dishes You Can Eat
Sun, beaches and rum define the Caribbean. While they constitute some of the best things this tropical paradise has to offer, it's time for food to get its props.
Caribbean cuisine is a delicious mix of indigenous, African and European flavors. And all of the countries in the region produce mouthwatering culinary wonders.
These are the best Caribbean food dishes.
30. Jamaican Patty
These half-moon-shaped pastries are the golden child of Jamaican street food. Short on time? Stop at one of the many food stalls and take a bit into these savory meat pies, which are usually coated with turmeric.
If you're sure you can handle the spice, ask for ones with pepper.
29. Green Figs and Salt Fish
Country: Saint Lucia
The national dish of Saint Lucia stews salted cod and serves it next to sauteed green bananas. Though seemingly simple, green figs and salt fish is very flavorful and combines contrasting flavors and textures.
Besides the key ingredients, sauteed vegetables and fresh avocado normally make it onto the plate.
Although you'll find callaloo in many countries of the Caribbean, it is the official national dish of the tiny island of Dominica (different from the Dominican Republic).
This stew has West African roots and is made with spinach, yams, peppers, coconut milk, green bananas and dumplings. You can have it on its own or — as is often done — serve it as a side dish as part of a larger meal.
27. Goat Water
Countries: Saint Kitts and Nevis
Made with stewed goat, vegetables, herbs and spices, goat water is fragrant, flavorful and filling. According to Devon Liburd, the CEO of Nevis Tourism Authority, this is the single best dish to try while visiting Nevis.
The best versions of goat water are made with dumplings or breadfruit, a unique fruit is said to taste somewhat like chestnuts.
Country: Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago
Very popular throughout the entire Caribbean, souse normally uses cuts of meat that are often discarded, like feet, head and tail. The most typical version is made with pork, though beef or chicken can sometimes be substituted.
The meat is cooked until tender, then marinated in a special concoction of vinegar, lime juice, spices, herbs and vegetables.
25. Fungee and Pepperpot
Country: Antigua and Barbuda
Both fungee and pepperpot can be found on different islands of the Caribbean, but the combination of the two foods is the national dish of Antigua and Barbuda.
Fungee is okra-based cornmeal, and pepperpot is a thick stew made with meats, vegetables and spices. The African influence on Caribbean cuisine is visible in this filling and hearty meal.
Country: Puerto Rico*
Puerto Rico should win an award for coming up with this amazing sandwich, which has the triple whammy of chicken, ham and beef. Add cheese, tomatoes, and fried potato sticks, and you got yourself the perfect food to survive a wild night out in San Juan.
*Editorial note: Though Puerto Rico is a territory of the United States, we are treating it as independent from the mainland given its autonomous culture and gastronomy. The same will apply to other oversea territories.
Country: Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
We don't normally love salads as a meal, but Caribbean people know how to pack anything with flavor and make it filling. Buljol has cod, peppers, onions, tomatoes, onions and is topped with olive oil.
The fish brings protein and crispiness to the meal, which is normally eaten cold.
Countries: Grenada, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad
Many of the Caribbean islands that were once British colonies also have heavy Indian influences in their cuisine, since Indian slaves were also brought to the region to work in plantations.
Roti, a flatbread staple in the Central Asian country has been adapted on the islands and made into a stuffed wrap. Fillings usually include curried meat and/or vegetables with potatoes.
The Caribbean version of roti is filling and, oh, so, so delicious.
21. Carne Guisada
Countries: Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico
Carne guisada means stewed meat. Though it sounds simple, the delicious combination of spices used to flavor it and the tender texture of the meat renders it a perfect lunch meal.
The meat is left to stew for hours until it's so tender that it is ready to fall apart as soon as you dig your fork into it. This delicious dish proves why the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico are two of the best islands in the Caribbean.
20. Peppered Shrimps
Another amazing Jamaican street food, peppered shrimps are not for the faint of heart. With tons of hot peppers, garlic and thyme, the shrimps are usually sold in small stalls.
They will definitely fulfill your craving for casual food that is just the right amount of greasy and a dangerous amount of spicy.
19. Cassava Pone
Cassava has been a staple dish in Barbados since long before colonization. The indigenous Tainos brought it when they first settled on the island. So it's no surprise to see the root vegetable appear in everything, even desserts.
A spongy bread containing cassava, pumpkin, sugar, coconut, nutmeg and sweet potatoes, cassava pone is one of Barbados' most popular sweet foods.
18. Stewed Salt Fish With Dumplings
Country: Saint Kitts and Nevis
Salted fish is amazing on its own, as are dumplings. Combining the two works like magic. Besides the fish and dumplings, this dish contains spicy plantains and breadfruit.
As the national dish of Saint Kitts and Nevis, it's the most important meal you should try while visiting the islands.
17. Poulet Aux Noix
Poulet aux noix means chicken with nuts, and this spicy dish doesn't disappoint with raw cashews and marinated chicken. Tomato paste is brushed on the chicken along with tomatoes and onions, giving the meat both flavor and color.
When served, the dish is usually accompanied by rice.
16. Crab and Rice
Country: Bahamas, Turks and Caicos
Made with blue crab, a special species found in the northern Caribbean, this dish is a local favorite. The crab meat and rice are usually cooked together and heavily spiced.
The result is fluffy rice complemented by soft meat and the strong fragrance of spices.
15. Bake and Shark
Country: Trinidad and Tobago
You can't go to Port of Spain's beautiful Maracas Beach and not get bake and shark. This simple street food is exactly what it sounds like: shark meat inside a bake (a Caribbean flatbread).
The dish usually comes with sauces and vegetables for added flavor and is the perfect end to a beach day.
14. Crack Conch With Peas and Rice
Country: The Bahamas
Conch has been consumed in the Bahamas for hundreds of years. It was one of the most common foods for the Tainos, indigenous people of the Caribbean. This meal is made with a deep-fried conch (a large sea snail) and served with rice and peas.
It is the national dish of the Bahamas and will not be the only conch dish from the country to make it to this list.
The word "griot" originally refers to an important person in several countries in West Africa. In Haiti, it is a dish of simmered pork cubes that are marinated in a marinade that manages to be spicy, tangy and sweet at the same time.
Hot peppers, lime, orange and onions are usually used for it. It is normally served with rice or another carb on the side.
Country: Trinidad and Tobago
We really don't understand how the word hasn't spread on how amazing Trini food is. Most street food is delicious, but doubles are some of the absolute best snacks we have ever eaten anywhere in the world.
They consist of fried flatbread stuffed with chickpeas in curry. And while that doesn't sound like anything special, trust us, once you've tried them, you will never stop craving them.
Countries: Grenada, Trinidad and Tobago
To make pelau, mix meat, vegetables, herbs, rice and coconut milk in one pot and cook until tender and juicy. This delicious dish is popular in family gatherings since it is generous and easy to serve.
The secret to its superior taste is that the meat — usually beef or chicken — is coated in brown sugar, creating a wonderful contrast of flavors. For an even starker contrast, try this Trinidadian pelau recipe that uses 7-pot Jonah, one of the hottest peppers in the world.
10. Oil Down
Grenada's national dish may have an unusual name, but it is a typical one-pot stew of fragrant goodness. The stew has dumplings, vegetables, breadfruit, meat, coconut milk and spices like turmeric.
Having the coconut milk as the base gives it a creamy texture and a sweetness that perfectly complements the saltiness of the other ingredients.
Joumou is served on New Year's Day and is the traditional food used to celebrate Haiti's independence. The Haitian revolution was the first in the Americas and one of the only slave-led movements against European colonization.
Slaves were forbidden from eating this soup, made with pumpkin, beef, peppers and vegetables. So what better way to celebrate freedom than to eat this soup knowing no one can forbid it anymore?
8. Keshi Yena
Country: Aruba, Curaçao
A favored dish on Dutch Caribbean islands, keshi yena is a stuffed cheese casserole. It can be filled with a number of ingredients like seafood and peppers, vegetables, raisins or spiced meats.
While enjoying the colorful houses these islands are known for, don't forget to go out and look for this delicious dish.
7. Dominican Flag
Country: Dominican Republic
The national dish of the Dominican Republic, bandera dominicada literally means the "Dominican flag." It's made with the three things Dominicans love more than anything: rice, beans and meat.
The dish is flavorful and rich, making it a perfect choice for festivals and family gatherings.
6. Ropa Vieja
The name of this dish translates to "old clothes," which is not the most enticing mental image to have about food. But you'll forget all about that once you bite down into the marinated beef and tender roasted pork.
Usually accompanied by rice, beans and plantains, this is undoubtedly one of Cuba's best meals.
5. Shrimp and Hominy Grits
Country: Turks and Caicos
The African influence on Caribbean food can be seen directly in this dish, which is very similar to the shrimp and grits you will find in the Southern United States.
The difference is that instead of pure grits, which are made with ground corn, the Caribbean version uses hominy, corn treated in an alkaline solution.
You'll find the flavor to be just as good, but if you know your shrimp and grits, you should be able to tell the difference.
4. Bahamian Conch Fritters
Conch fritters are one of the most beloved Bahamian foods. The deep-fried paddies are made with shredded conch, onion, bell peppers and chili.
They are usually served with sauces and lime to balance the fried goodness, so you can get a feast of flavors.
3. Curried Goat
Countries: Grenada, Jamaica, Trinidad & Tobago
Curry is another Indian contribution to Caribbean food. To get the island twist on it, try curried goat, which includes herbs and spices, garlic and, yes, pepper.
Needless to say, the dish is hot, though touristy areas usually offer milder versions.
Country: Puerto Rico
Mofongo is one of our absolute favorite Puerto Rican dishes and one that you will find at any Puerto Rican restaurant on the island.
Deep-fried green plantains are the base of this dish, which can come flat and topped with juicy shredded pork, or stuffed with meats and vegetables.
There are a million and one ways to make mofongo, but we have yet to find one that doesn't hit the spot.
1. Jerk Chicken
Jamaican jerk chicken is a global superstar. Sure, every country has a delicious way to make chicken, but no one else jerks it. This style of cooking was born on the island and is when meat is rubbed or marinated with a specific spice mix.
You'll find jerk meat everywhere on the island (and in Jamaican restaurants outside of it), as it is beloved by locals and tourists.