23 Best Caribbean Foods To Try in 2024

Published on June 20, 2024 | 0 Comments
Caribbean food

Caribbean food is more than just cultural cuisine; it’s a celebration of unique flavors and ingredients from a diverse region that can add excitement to your culinary landscape. While island nations like Jamaica, Trinidad and Haiti are the most familiar locales associated with the Caribbean, the region includes more than 30 territories. That’s a lot of recipes representing a mix of culinary preferences as diverse as they are delicious.

With influences from around the globe, which dishes make the best Caribbean foods to include on your must-try list? We’ve prepared a menu featuring some well-known recipes, as well as several distinctive dishes you may be discovering for the first time. From sweet to savory, with stops at flavors in between, it’s time to embark on a tour of Caribbean food that will enlighten you while broadening your dining horizons.


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Get a Taste of Traditional Caribbean Food

Sail into a new era of your culinary life with expert-led cooking classes specializing in Caribbean food. Enjoy online cooking classes featuring top-tier video instruction from exceptional chefs who will guide you through exciting lessons in authentic island dishes. For an in-person experience, check out cooking classes near you that bring you and your chef instructor together for guided sessions where Caribbean food becomes the life of the party.

Traditional Caribbean Food

1. Jerk Chicken

Jerk chicken may be the best-known Caribbean food, loved for its blend of umami flavors that pack a phenomenal punch. A properly-made jerk blend includes elements of sweet, salty, herbaceous and fiery. It's the perfect rub for elevating the subtle flavor of chicken and a prime example of how complex these regional creations can be.

Having the right jerk chicken marinade will help you capture the enticing spirit of the dish in your home kitchen. You can opt for a dry application, go for a liquid marinade to soak your chicken or give both a try and see which works better for your palate.

The Jerk chicken is the most popular Caribbean food
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2. Callaloo Soup

Callaloo soup brings together a bounty of Caribbean foods in a single dish. The basic formula for this Trinidadian specialty consists of greens that may remind you of spinach or collard greens, plucked from a variety of native plants such as taro and dasheen. Coconut milk creates a creamy broth, pieces of crab meat, okra and peppers create texture and thyme brings in an aromatic layer that makes a feast for the senses. 

3. Conch Fritters

Island life means seafood dining, with specialties like conch fritters — a common table-topper among Caribbean foods — transforming humble ingredients into dining delicacies. This dish is a favorite in the Bahamas, where the indigenous conch (pronounced conk) is found occupying the famed oversized seashells with vivid pearl-pink interiors. The conch is removed, cut into chunks and deep-fried, to be served with vegetables and dipping sauces. It’s a Caribbean finger food akin to fried clams or chicken tenders. 

Conch fritters served with sauce and lime
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4. Mangú

The Dominican Republic adds mangú to the Caribbean food collection. This dish is a much simpler version of mofongo (next on this list), requiring nothing more than mashed green plantains sautéed in butter or oil and dressed with tangy red onions soaked in vinegar. Mangú generally adorns the breakfast table as an accompaniment to fried eggs, like a tropical take on hash browns with a slightly softer texture. 

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5. Mofongo

Plantains form the base of Puerto Rican mofongo, a Caribbean food enjoyed in the region for centuries. Pickled plantains, garlic, bacon and olive oil become a savory mash formed into a sphere that resembles a mound of seasoned rice. Though meat and beef broth are part of the customary recipe, they can be replaced with plant-based ingredients to create a vegan-friendly Caribbean food that maintains its island character.

Mofongo is a traditional Caribbean food
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6. Ackee and Saltfish

As Jamaica’s national dish, ackee and saltfish holds a prestigious spot in the expansive cookbook of Caribbean foods. It’s a combination of ackee, a fruit pod that blossoms like a flower, and saltfish, another name for cod that’s been cured using salt. The two ingredients merge into a finished dish that’s tangy, nutty and the perfect vehicle for bolder flavors from add-ins like peppers and aromatic herbs. Be warned: dining on this dish can be hazardous to your health since improperly prepared ackee can be poisonous.

7. Criollo Shrimp Stew

Common in Puerto Rico, Criollo shrimp stew is a Caribbean food that represents the culinary character of the landscape. "Criollo" is Spanish for Creole, making this mash-up of succulent shrimp, juicy tomatoes and bold onions similar to Louisiana shrimp dishes you may be familiar with. Often served with white rice, Criollo shrimp stew is a fantastic introduction to how island influences have permeated the American culinary landscape through the centuries.

Creole shrimp stew served with rice
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8. Picadillo

With a name that literally means “hash” in Spanish, it’s no surprise to find that Cuban picadillo consists of ground beef flavored with tomatoes, olives, red wine and onions. You’ll also find raisins and cinnamon in the recipe, as well as cayenne and black pepper, bringing just about every flavor in the spice cabinet to the bowl. It can be served as a topper for rice or a filler for tacos, making it a very flexible dish to add to your rotation. 

9. Goat Curry

Goat is often served in Jamaica and Trinidad as a specialty dish during festive occasions. It’s an expensive meat, which makes goat curry a Caribbean food reserved for the more memorable moments in life. The inclusion of curry powder lends a layer of familiar East Indian flavor, while scotch bonnet peppers and allspice bring in the characteristic spicy warmth found in many dishes from the region.

Curry goat is a tasty Caribbean food
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10. Oxtail Stew

It’s no misnomer; oxtail stew uses actual oxtail for meat, richly seasoned with thyme, garlic and green onions. Though oxtail is a common Caribbean food, it may be challenging to find in your local butcher shop. This might mean you’ll need to find a Jamaican restaurant in your area if you’re eager to give it a try. If you need the scenery to match the cuisine, why not book a trip to Jamaica and try it on its home turf?

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11. Fried Plantains

A plantain is like a dense banana that cooks up like a potato. This crispy nibble is a Caribbean food found throughout the region and can be made at home easily, thanks to the presence of plantains in major grocery chain produce sections. All it takes is ripe plantains, oil for frying and salt to taste and you can create a batch of crunchy side-dish snacks that give potato chips a run for their money. 

Fried plantains served on a bowl
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12. Metemgee

This humble dish from Guyana offers a bounty of corn, plantains and potatoes stewed in coconut milk and seasoned with adobo and chili powder for soothing heat. Think of this concoction as a vegetable chowder, only this version includes hard-boiled eggs and okra. A bit of chicken or vegetable broth thins out the stock and adds earthiness to round out the mélange of flavors.

Caribbean Desserts

13. Rum Cake

With rum being a key element of quintessentially Caribbean food and drink recipes, rum cake is a spirited representative of the festive dessert selections enjoyed in many areas around the Caribbean. Also known as Jamaican rum cake, this dense, flavorful confection adds a generous serving of authentic rum to a butter cake base drenched in a second round, courtesy of a rum-based syrup. The result is an indulgence from the temperate region you’re not likely to forget. 

Rum cake is a popular dessert among Caribbean foods
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14. Coco Bread

The "coco" refers to coconut milk — a tropical staple that gives Caribbean foods a creamy, vanilla-like essence. It’s a slightly sweet bread brushed with butter, like an oblong Southern dinner roll with a sugary kick that’s often broken open and filled with other food like seasoned beef patties. The gentle sweetness makes coco bread a perfect dish for the breakfast table. It's also deserving of a spot on any lunch or dinner spread that calls for Caribbean food.   

15. Tamarind Balls

Tamarind pods hold sweet-sour fruit that's frequently used in Caribbean foods like tamarind balls. These Jamaican treats can be created with a simple combination of tamarind and sugar for a snack you can enjoy on the go. The tamarind’s tartness is a jolt to the tastebuds, however, tempered with sugar, this flavor profile is easily and deliciously balanced.

Small tamarind balls served on a plate
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16. Quesitos

Puerto Rico is home to a distinctive pastry called quesitos. If we described them as "flaky dough twisted around cream cheese filling", we're confident you'll want to add this Caribbean food to your culinary hit list. Rolled into tubes that resemble cannoli, quesitos are glazed with honey or sugar syrup and sometimes drizzled with chocolate or liquefied fruit like guava. You’ll find quesitos in most bakeries around the island, though you can make your own to enjoy with tea or coffee at home.

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17. Banana Fritters

Think of these prime Jamaican pastries as simplified donuts with a cheery island twist. Banana fritters are an easy-to-make Caribbean food consisting of mashed bananas blended with spices, vanilla and flour to create a pancake-like batter that’s deep-fried until crisp and brown. You may be reminded of banana bread or banana muffins when you taste them; the mix of cinnamon, brown sugar and nutmeg is a familiar combination that gives many mainland bakes a similar island flavor.

Banana fritters are a sweet Caribbean food
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18. Sweet Potato Pudding

The Caribbean food tradition of sweet potato-based desserts has carried deep into the culture of the American South, making sweet potato pudding a familiar treat for fans of both Low Country and Caribbean food. The finished pudding looks more like a crustless sweet potato pie than the creamy pudding you may be familiar with. As dessert-style Caribbean food goes, this classic dish is an island experience worth slicing into.

19. Tembleque de Coco

The name tembleque de coco is a decorative way to say “coconut pudding,” which is exactly what this Caribbean food is. It’s a holiday favorite in Puerto Rico reminiscent of flan, made using a recipe that calls for several types of milk and coconut cream to achieve the ultimate in smooth tropical flavor. If your Christmas table could use a bit of sunshine from the temperate zone, this silky dessert is just the dish to add to your menu. 

Coconut pudding topped with pistachios
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20. Cassava Pone

Also known as yuca (pronounced yoo-ka) cake, this treat from Guyana is a Caribbean food that incorporates one of the most plentiful crops from the region, the cassava root. Grated cassava takes on a flour-like consistency that can be used to create a bakeable batter. With cloves, ginger and cinnamon, plus coconut milk and shaved coconut all adding undeniable island flavor, the result is a pudding-like slice that helps give Caribbean food its sweet reputation around the world. 

21. Mango Cake

Take your baking cue from Cuba for a sample of sweet Caribbean foods like mango cake, where fresh fruit flavor incorporated into a classic batter becomes the star of the show. A sour cream-infused pound cake base holds chopped mango to give the buttery crumb a fruit-flavored zing no one can resist. Topped with fresh mango slices and a sprinkle of coconut, a mango cake is a plateful of happiness that sings with the flavors of the region. 

Caribbean food features delicious desserts like the mango cake
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22. Doukounou

Doukounous are Haitian tamales steamed in banana leaves and served in either sweet or savory versions, thanks to the versatility of this prized Caribbean food. Adding sugar, raisins, vanilla and cinnamon transforms the cornmeal base into a warmly flavored bread pudding that can be topped with a vanilla glaze and served at the end of an island feast. 

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23. Coconut Tarts 

Coconut tarts are a way folks in the Virgin Islands celebrate Christmas. A traditional pie crust filled with a coconut custard and topped with a pastry lattice makes a pretty, flavorful addition to a holiday table, even if the climate is balmy and beautiful. Having a taste of the islands at the end of your fork can make your festivities feel like an island getaway, no matter where you celebrate.

Coconut tarts served on a wooden board
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With so many authentic Caribbean foods, the tantalizing options range widely from utterly simple to sinfully sumptuous. It’s easy to see why the region is so highly valued for its contributions to the world of incredible dining. From entrées and sides utilizing traditional island ingredients to tempting desserts that bring the sweetness of the island to your plate, food in the Caribbean is more than just a regional cuisine; it’s a celebration of the cultural diversity that makes sampling global fare such a delicious adventure.

For even more ways to explore your favorite foods, check out other experiences happening on Cozymeal.