Top 10 foods to try in the Caribbean

Set your tastebuds ablaze with the vibrant cuisine of the Caribbean islands. We talk you through ten must-try dishes.

Caribbean

Visiting the Caribbean is not exactly a hard-sell. With its white sandy beaches, azure sea, lively culture and balmy weather, this cluster of islands is a dream holiday destination. What's more, sampling the food is a journey in itself. 

Don't leave the Caribbean without trying…. 

Seafood

All those islands, all that ocean. Seafood, whether swimming or in a shell, is a Caribbean highlight. Long a staple of sailors crossing the Atlantic, flying fish are a firm and tender whitefish, best served grilled and hugely popular on Barbados and the Windward Islands. Grouper, a large fish, makes excellent steaks and is good in stews while countless varieties of shellfish is served in beachfront bars.

Jerk

Jerk porkThe signature flavour of Jamaica and one of the Caribbean's most famous cuisines, jerk refers to a very spicy dry or wet rub applied to chicken or other meat. After absorbing the flavours, the meat is smoked and/or grilled to fiery perfection. Variations are many, with influences from Africa to Portugal to Latin America.

Try making your own Jerk spice mix 


Roast pork

Ubiquitous across the islands, especially those with a strong Spanish heritage like the Dominican Republic and Cuba, roast pork is often served with other regional staples like rice and beans plus plantains. Succulent and juicy, pork drippings give everything on the plate a rich flavour. Roadside stands across Puerto Rico serve the much-loved lechón asado, which is spit-roasted suckling pig.


Pepperpot

Jerk currySimmered in huge pots across the Caribbean, this thick and rich stew can include aubergine, okra, squash, potatoes and pretty much anything else that grows in the islands' rich earth. Beef is the most common meat, while fungi - tasty cornmeal dumplings - add texture. It's called souse in the Bahamas, which may refer to the condition of the cook given that no two recipes or even batches are alike.


Conch

A sort of sea escargot, conch is any of many different large sea snails that are housed in often beautiful shells (piles of them in Bonaire form pearly pink mountains). Something like a huge clam, the meat makes fabulous fritters - a staple in the Bahamas, the Cayman Islands and cruise-ship ports everywhere. Conch also appears in salads, soups and stews. Farm-raised is the most sustainable.


Chicken with rice

Jerk chicken and riceStill craved by locals even decades after they've emigrated, Arroz Con Pollo is the ultimate island comfort food. Wildly popular where Spanish influences remain strong, this deceptively simple dish is a savoury mix of flavours that include tomatoes, garlic, peppers and more. Baked until the rich scents fill the kitchen, most would say their mother's version is best.

Try making Jerk chicken with rice and peas


Cuban sandwich

One Cuban export that has found favour across the Caribbean and Florida, this hearty sandwich was once the lunchtime meal for labourers in Havana. Soft, crusty white bread is layered with ham, roast pork and some sort of mild white cheese. Dill pickles and vinegary yellow mustard provide accents. A sandwich press makes everything gooey, toasty and scrumptious.


Goat stew

Goat curry"Got some?" is a conversation-starter on tiny Montserrat, where a thin, clove-scented stew called goat water is a national obsession. The broth is heartier on islands like Aruba and Bonaire, where it is called kabritu (or cabrito) and locals solemnly proclaim that their own mother's version is best. Mannish water, a Cayman Islands version, includes a goat head and foot.

Try cooking with goat in a Jamaican-style curry


Callaloo

A vegetable dish with roots in West Africa, callaloo was brought to the Caribbean by slaves and is still a vital part of diets on Jamaica and Dominica plus Trinidad and Tobago. Leafy greens (often from the namesake bush or from taro, water spinach and more) are boiled into a thick stew, which may include peppers, coconut milk, okra and all manner of meats and seafood.


Papaya

Papaya saladThis tasty fruit staple grows wild and on farms almost everywhere. It comes in yellow and orange varieties and when perfectly fresh is served plain with a squeeze of lime for a sweet and luscious breakfast. It also appears in salads and even stews. However many prefer papaya mixed into a cocktail with the Caribbean's great contribution to libations: rum.

Try it in this exotic salad

Are you a fan of Caribbean cuisine? Do you agree with our selection or have we missed your favourite? Share your must-try dishes below…

Comments, questions and tips

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EllaNLibbysMuM
9th Oct, 2016
A Must Try of Caribbean Fare is the Flying Fish Sandwich. One of the tastiest lil' fish you'll ever have. I'm not a huge fish fan, but these were Awesome!
kozlecie
21st Jan, 2016
Number on is definitely ackee and saltfish!
Becky_B
5th Feb, 2014
Also make sure you try street foods like patties and doubles, and fried plantains
hollye27
5th Feb, 2014
Roti!! There's a delicious veggie roti from a shack in the middle of St George's, Grenada
rmdavies
16th Sep, 2014
the goats stew looks lovely. i had black grouper on the gulf coast of florida recently and it was absolutely fabulous. The grouper was almost as nice as Baramundi from the northern territory of Australia, great fish! http://www.elizascottclothing.co.uk/ http://www.cottontailkidsclothing.co.uk/
rmdavies
16th Sep, 2014
I was on the gulf coast of Florida recently and really enjoyed the black grouper. One of the nicest fish that I have tasted (up there with Baramundi from the northern territory of Australia). http://www.cottontailkidsclothing.co.uk/ http://www.elizascottclothing.co.uk/
kozlecie
20th Jan, 2016
I think ackee and saltfish is an absolute number one in Jamaican kitchen!
Chubby25
23rd Aug, 2015
may I do that?
Chubby25
23rd Aug, 2015
I am a Jamaican teacher and I would like to use the information and pictures on this page for a class.
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