Advice

9 Caribbean Dishes You Simply Must Try

Street-side stands, like this one in St. Thomas, tend to cater to locals with casual, authentic fare. - Photo by Ian Spanier / Aurora Photos

Escape the tourist traps, and seek out these authentic island dishes. You may have to research where to get them in advance, and travel a little farther from the ship terminal, but it’s so worth the effort to sample local West Indian fare on your vacation rather than settling for what’s easy and convenient.

Here, dishes to look for when you’re in the region. We’ve listed the island of origin for each, but you can often find these on neighboring isles, too:

caribbean flying fish sandwich

A Flying Fish Cutter on Salt Bread, with French fries
Photo by RJ Lerich / Shutterstock

1. Flying Fish Cutters

Barbados

You may have had fried fish before, but probably never like this: The fish — which could be flying fish, blue marlin, or mahi mahi — is battered, crispy, and served on salt bread, usually with lettuce, tomato, ketchup, and yellow mustardy hot sauce.

jamaican patti

Jamaican patties
Photo by WITTY234 / Shutterstock

2. Patties

Jamaica

These meat-filled baked dumplings are wrapped in a yellow pastry — which is often colored with turmeric, curry powder, egg yolk, or suet — and filled with spiced ground beef, curried chicken, or vegetables. They’re eaten with Scotch bonnet-laden hot sauce and sometimes served with coco bread — a sweet and soft bun made with coconut milk.

fry bake trinidad and tobago

Bake, ready to be stuffed with chicken
Photo by RJ Lerich / Shutterstock

3. Bake

Trinidad and Tobago

This deep fried, puffy bread is light and crispy on the outside and pillowy on the inside, and it’s filled with interesting ingredients like cod, salmon, chicken, or rich okra. It’s most commonly seen at breakfast stuffed with saltfish stewed with tomatoes.

doubles tomato chickpea curry

Curried chickpeas for Doubles
Photo by Charlotte Lake / Shutterstock

4. Doubles

Trinidad and Tobago

Picture two rich fried flatbreads sandwiching curried chickpeas and tamarind, and sometimes coconut or mango. It may just be the most flavorful vegetarian dish you’ve ever had — even before you add the hot sauce.

caribbean jerk chicken

Jerk Chicken
Photo by Rohit Seth / Shutterstock

5. Jerk Chicken

Jamaica

Imagine the best, tastiest chicken you’ve ever eaten … then imagine that dish as plain and boring compared to this one. Jerk chicken is seasoned with allspice and cloves, and served with Scotch bonnet hot sauce. It’s powerful, even without the hot sauce; with it, it’s an explosion of flavor you won’t forget anytime soon.

cook up dirty rice

Cook-up seasoned with jerk spices
Photo by Andrea Skjold / Thinkstock

6. Cook-Up 

Jamaica

Think of this as the jambalaya or fried rice of the Caribbean. A one-pot meal, the dish is a combination of rice seasoned with jerk spices and mixed with meat and vegetables. Some variations include black-eyed peas.

saltfish

Ackee and saltfish with fried dumplings
Photo by Rohit Seth / Shutterstock

7. Ackee and Saltfish

Jamaica

Ackee fruit — part of the same family as Asian lychee and longan — is cooked with preserved saltfish for a rich breakfast. The most surprising thing about ackee? It looks remarkably like scrambled eggs when it’s cooked.

dahl pouri roti

Roti filled with curried chicken
Photo by RJ Lerich / Shutterstock

8. Roti

Trinidad and Tobago

These flavorful little wrap sandwiches are the most popular fast food in the Caribbean: Picture wheaty, pancake-like wraps often filled with a potato stew studded with some kind of seafood or meat — usually goat, lamb, curried chicken, shrimp, or even conch. 

callaloo with fried dumplings

Callaloo with fried dumplings
Photo by Rohit Seth / Shutterstock

9. Callaloo

Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago

This green soup is made from water spinach, amaranth, or another green — depending on which island you’re on. The whole recipe varies from island to island, but it can include coconut milk, okra, yams, and even saltfish. It’s often served with hot bread and salad topped with avocados.


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