Caribbean cuisine blends fruits and rice, seafood and spice. And it blends influences from around the world. Indian, French, Italian, American and Asian influences are just some of the tastes and flavors you’ll find. Beyond the bland buffets at all-inclusive resorts, there’s plenty of reason to seek out the best of the region. It’s not hard to find.
You can eat almost anything in the Caribbean at any type of restaurant. You'll rarely need to do more than turn up or book on the day, though some top-end places require advance booking.
- Restaurants Caribbean restaurants run from casual beach grills to fine dining.
- Cafes & bars Cafes are good for a casual breakfast or lunch, or simply a cup of coffee. Bars often offer meals.
- Hotels Many hotels have excellent restaurants open to nonguests. All-inclusives usually have a selection of restaurants, both buffet and à la carte.
Flavours of the Caribbean
Each island has its favorite dishes and you can tell a lot about the island's history and culture by what it chooses to put on its plate.
- Pepperpot Antigua’s national dish is a hearty stew blending meat and vegetables, such as okra, spinach, eggplant, squash and potatoes. It’s often served with fungi, which are not mushrooms but cornmeal patties or dumplings.
- Black pineapple The local pineapple was first introduced by the Arawaks and is smaller than your garden variety. It’s known as ‘black’ because it’s at its sweetest when kind of dark green. It grows primarily on the southwest coast, near Cades Bay.
- Rock lobster This hulking crustacean has a succulent tail but no claws and is best served grilled. (And you’ll be forgiven if after a few rum punches you’re humming a tune by the B-52s while digging in.)
Aruba, Bonaire & Curaçao
- Cheese An obvious Dutch legacy, usually eaten straight with a beer. When used in cooking it was traditionally a special treat.
- Keshi yena Comes in myriad variations: a cheese casserole with chicken, okra and a few raisins for seasoning. Much better than it sounds.
- Funchi Based on cornmeal, it is formed into cakes and fried, mixed with okra and fried, or used as a coating for chicken and fish.
- Goat (cabrito) stew A classic dish that most in ABC will say is made best by their own mother. Also appears in curries.
- Yambo A Creole gumbo stew with plenty of okra.
- Frikandel A classic Dutch deep-fried snack made from ground meat and a lot of pepper.
- Bitterballen Another Dutch classic – little deep-fried meaty balls served at roadside stands.
- Pastechi Dough pockets filled with meats and/or Dutch cheese, and deep-fried. Popular in curries.
- Satay Indonesian skewers of barbecued meat with a savory peanut sauce, via the colonial Dutch.
- Flying fish Served fried in delicious sandwiches all over the country. It’s a mild white fish that is great sautéed or deep-fried.
- Conkies A mixture of cornmeal, coconut, pumpkin, sweet potato, raisins and spices, steamed in a plantain leaf.
- Fish cakes There are myriad Bajan recipes, made from salt cod and deep-fried. Look for them being sold from food trucks.
- Cou-cou A creamy cornmeal and okra mash.
- Cutters Meat or fish sandwiches in a salt-bread roll. Best absolutely fresh and dripping with juice and a dash of hot sauce.
- Jug-jug A mixture of cornmeal, green peas and salted meat.
- Pepper sauce You'll find variations across the Caribbean but that from Barbados comes in the greatest variety. Done right, it lights your meal's fire without setting your mouth on fire.
- Bananas Local varieties are green even when ripe (look for them in markets). Much more complex in flavor than the usual supermarket varieties.
British Virgin Islands & US Virgin Islands
- Anegada lobster Hulking crustaceans plucked from the water in front of your eyes and grilled on the beach in converted oil drums.
- Fungi A polenta-like cornmeal cooked with okra, typically topped by fish and gravy.
- Pate Flaky fried dough pockets stuffed with spiced chicken, fish or other meat.
- Mannish water Stewy mixture of yams plus the head and foot of a goat; may cure impotency.
- Tortuga rum cake A heavy, moist cake available in a number of addictive flavors; makes a great gift to take home.
- Jelly ice Chilled coconut water sucked from the shell.
- Fresh fruit Dominica grows all sorts of fruit, including bananas, coconuts, papayas, guavas and pineapples, and mangoes so plentiful they litter the roadside in places.
- Sea moss Nonalcoholic beverage made from seaweed mixed with sugar and spices and sometimes with evaporated milk. It’s sold in supermarkets and cafes.
- La Bandera (the flag) The most typically Dominican meal. Consists of white rice, habichuela (red beans), stewed meat, salad and fried green plantains.
- Bananas (guineos) A staple served stewed, candied or boiled and mashed. With plantains, the dish is called mangú; with pork rinds mixed in it is called mofongo and is nothing like the iconic Puerto Rican version.
- Fish Central to the Dominican diet – usually served in one of four ways: al ajillo (with garlic), al coco (in coconut sauce), al criolla (with a mild tomato sauce) or a la diabla (with a spicy tomato sauce).
- Pastelitos By far the most common snack in the DR – fried dough containing beef or chicken, which has been stewed with onions, olives, tomatoes and then chopped and mixed with peas, nuts and raisins.
- Oil down Beef and salt pork stewed with coconut milk. Best served with some fresh bread.
- Saltfish and bake Seasoned saltfish with onion and veg, and a side of baked or fried bread.
Guadeloupe & Martinique
- Acras A universally popular hors d’oeuvre, acras are fried fish, seafood or vegetables fritters in tempura. Acras de morue (cod) and crevettes (shrimp) are the most common and are both delicious.
- Crabes farcis Stuffed crabs are a typical local dish. Normally they’re stuffed with a spicy mixture of crabmeat, garlic, shallots and parsley that is then cooked in the shell.
- Blaff This is the local term for white fish marinated in lime juice, garlic and peppers and then poached. It’s a favorite dish in many of Guadeloupe’s restaurants.
- Baguettes Oui, they can thank the French for having the best bread in the region.
- Creole flavors The spicy and piquant basis for any a fine dish.
- Plat complet Consisting of diri ak pwa (rice and beans), bannann peze (fried plantain) with meat and sos (sauce).
- Fried meat Popular, and includes poule (chicken), griyo (pork), tasso (beef) and kabrit (goat). Serve with pikliz (spicy pickled cabbage, carrots and onion).
- Diri djon djon Rice cooked with dried black mushrooms, it is a delicacy.
- Soup jomou (pumpkin soup) Served on Sundays and Independence Day (January 1).
- Jerk Jamaica’s most well-known dish, jerk is actually a cooking method: smother food in a tongue-searing marinade, then smoke over a wood fire.
- Seafood Snapper and parrotfish are popular. A favorite dish is escoveitched fish – pickled in vinegar then fried and simmered with peppers and onions.
- Breadkinds A catchall term for starchy sides, from plantains and yam to pancake-shaped cassava bread (bammy) and johnnycakes (fried dumplings).
- Saltfish & Ackee Jamaica’s national dish, and a delicious breakfast besides. Ackee is a fleshy, somewhat bland fruit; saltfish is, well, salted fish. When mixed together they’re delicious, somewhat resembling scrambled eggs.
- Brown stew Not a soup, brown stew is another popular method of cooking that involves simmering meat, fish or vegetables in savory-sweet sauce.
- Patties Baked shells filled with spicy beef, vegetables and whatever else folks desire. Cheap and filling.
- Goat water Montserrat’s national dish is far more loved than its dubious-sounding name would suggest. ’Got some?’ is a frequent conversation starter and refers to the spicy clove-scented broth accented with floating chunks of goat meat. It’s eaten hot with a crusty bread roll.
Food trucks are popular for cheap, innovative fare.
- Mofongo A plantain crust encases seafood or steak in this signature dish.
- Brazo Gitano The ‘Gypsy’s Arm’ is a huge cake roll, filled with fresh, mashed fruit and sweet cheese.
- Lechón Asado Smoky, spit-roasted suckling pig is sold at roadside trucks and is a taste of heaven.
- Sorullitos de Maíz Deep-fried corn-meal fritters make an excellent bar snack.
St Kitts & Nevis
- Stewed saltfish Official national dish; served with spicy plantains, coconut dumplings and seasoned breadfruit.
- Pelau Also known as ‘cook-up,’ this dish is the Kittitian version of paella: a tasty but messy blend of rice, meat, saltfish, vegetables and pigeon peas.
St Vincent & the Grenadines
- Fresh produce St Vincent produces top quality and delicious fruits and vegetables.
- Savory pumpkin soup More squash-like than the American Thanksgiving staple; often like a rich stew.
- Saltfish Dried fish that has been cured: delicious when made into fishcakes.
Trinidad & Tobago
- Doubles Curried channa (chickpeas) in a soft fried bara (bread).
- Bake and shark Seasoned shark steaks, topped with salad and local sauces and served in a floaty fried bake.
Turks & Caicos
- Lobster Don’t miss tasting the fresh lobster during your stay – traditionally served in a butter sauce with lime, it’s the culinary highlight of the country.