Summer may be fading, but that doesn’t mean we can’t bring some sunshine into our homes. While most of us may not be able to jet off to the Caribbean right now, we can still enjoy the distinct and delicious flavours of this tropical hotspot.
From the fiery heat of curry goat seasoning to the sweetness of Caribbean rum cake, the sun-soaked flavours of Caribbean cooking are a great way to inject some warmth, colour and spice into your cooking, and create a carnival of flavour in your kitchen.
So, whether you’ve missed going on holiday this year or just want to try cooking something new, here are 8 authentic Caribbean recipes to cook at home.
1. Ackee & saltfish
Ackee is the national fruit of Jamaica, and ackee and saltfish isn’t only Jamaica’s national dish – it’s also a favourite breakfast of many Jamaicans. For some, the idea of pairing fruit and fish may seem odd, but ackee is a savoury fruit, and its delicate, nutty taste and soft texture perfectly complements the sharp taste and firm feel of the dried, salted cod. Once you add extra flavour from Scotch bonnet peppers, garlic, thyme, and onions, you’ll see why this dish is so loved.
Ackee isn’t sold fresh in the UK, but you can buy it in cans from most supermarkets; dried, salted fish is also available in many large supermarkets, as well as speciality shops.
After soaking the fish, boil it before removing any skin and bones. Then, heat your chillies, herbs and veg in a pan with some oil, add the fish and cook for around 15 minutes. Finally, add the ackee and heat through for another five minutes or so. Ackee and saltfish is delicious with avocado, crispy Johnnycakes (dumplings) and/or fried plantain (see the next recipe!)
To make ackee and saltfish, check out this recipe by Jamaican Foods and Recipes, or watch the video below. (NB: If you’re veggie and vegan and would like to try ackee, why not try this Jamaican ackee scramble recipe from Beauty and the Beets, which makes a great scrambled egg alternative?).
2. Tostones (crispy fried plantains)
Plantains are found all over the Caribbean and Central America, and they’re a staple ingredient in Caribbean cooking. Plantains might look like large bananas, but they’re cooked more like potatoes, and can be baked, boiled, fried, grilled, or steamed. There are so many ways to eat plantains – ripe or unripe, sweet or savoury – but one of the best ways to cook them is to make crispy tostones.
Tostones are twice-fried plantain slices that are a popular snack in Puerto Rico, Jamaica, Nicaragua, Cuba, Honduras, Haiti and the Dominican Republic. They’re super easy to make: simply slice green plantain, fry until golden, pat off excess oil before pounding the slices with a flat-bottom object like plate or glass, and then fry the slices again until crisp. Finally, sprinkle with salt and enjoy dipped into sauce or salsa – mojo verde goes especially well with tostones.
3. Brown stew chicken
Brown stew chicken is a classic Caribbean stew that’s packed full of warming flavours, and it’s commonly eaten in Jamaica, Antigua, Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, Saint Lucia, Grenada, Belize, and Dominica.
Made with chicken and vegetables, it takes a bit more time than most stew recipes, and there are lots of different spices used, including garlic, onion, salt, paprika, thyme, black pepper, allspice, ginger, and chilli – as well as brown sugar and browning sauce. But, while it might take a bit of time and effort, the rich, deep flavours you’ll have at the end are absolutely worth it.
The most important step to making brown stew chicken is properly marinating your meat so that the spices penetrate. After you’ve washed your chicken, combine your spices in a bag and massage the chicken with them until the meat is fully coated. Then, allow it to chill for a few hours – although overnight is best. Next, the chicken is lightly browned on the hob or in the oven and stewed for around 40 minutes until the meat is really tender. And as an added bonus, you’ll have a wonderfully scented kitchen after cooking, too!
To make brown stew chicken, check out this recipe from My Forking Life, or have a watch of the video below.
4. Jamaican bean curry
Black beans and kidney beans are eaten all across the Caribbean, but they’re especially popular in Jamaica, where they’re eaten with rice as a staple dish (see the next recipe for more details on rice and beans!). Packed with fibre, potassium, folate, and vitamin B6, black beans are a nutritional powerhouse, and together with kidney beans, which are high in iron, phosphorus and potassium, they can help support heart health. In general, beans are a cheap, filling and hearty ingredient, but they really shine in this flavoursome recipe.
Inspired by Jamaican Rastafarians, who were pioneers of a plant-based diet, this Jamaican bean curry is delicious, comforting and healthy – and the fiery chillies and earthy spice flavours are wonderfully offset by creamy coconut. For maximum authenticity, you could use the Jamaican brand Dunn’s River Peas & Beans – kidney beans, blackeyed beans and gungo peas in salted water – which you should be able to find in the World Food aisles in supermarkets. However, if you can’t find this specific tin, simply use individual tins of kidney beans, black beans, and/or blackeyed beans.
To make authentic Jamaican bean curry, try this recipe from Original Flava, or have a watch of their video below.
5. Curry goat with rice and peas
Another dish that’s super popular in Jamaica and beyond is curry goat, a rich stew that’s made with goat meat, potatoes, and plenty of spices, and is also commonly served with rice and peas. A hearty, warming dish, the curry is stewed for several hours so the goat meat becomes really tender and the flavours of all the spices (curry powder, garam masala, allspice, ginger, garlic, thyme, chillies, and white pepper) have time to properly infuse.
Goat meat can be bought at international shops and markets, but if you can’t get hold of any, you can swap it for beef shanks or briskets, as the textures of both meats are similar. Traditionally, curry goat is served with Jamaican rice and peas (rice and beans) – another hearty, comforting dish that’s bursting with flavours from coconut milk, fresh thyme, onions, garlic, chillies, bay leaves, and allspice. If you’re veggie or vegan but want to sample the flavours of this authentic Jamaican dish, you could just swap the meat for a mock-meat alternative and follow the same recipes.
To make Caribbean curry goat with rice and peas, try this recipe from Butter Be Ready. To find out more about cooking curry goat, check out the video below.
6. Caribbean black cake
If you have a sweet tooth – or you’re a fan of the wonderfully rich taste of fruit cake or Christmas cake – then making Caribbean black cake should definitely be on your culinary to-do list!
Soaked in rum and with a deep, dark colour and even deeper taste, black cake is made all across the Caribbean, and although it’s traditionally made at holidays or for celebrations, you don’t need a reason to whip up this gorgeous treat. Though, if you like the idea of enjoying it as a Christmas cake, be aware that it lasts for several months if stored properly!
The dark colour of the cake comes from the dried fruits (usually prunes, currants, raisins, dates, and glace cherries) that are then soaked in red wine and dark rum. While some say you should allow the fruits to soak for several months (or even years!), if you can’t wait that long you can simply simmer the fruits in the wine and rum so they absorb the flavours.
The texture of Caribbean cake is more similar to that of a pudding rather than a crumb cake, so be sure not to overcook your batter. Once cooked, try to leave your cake a few days before tucking in (if you can!); the flavours are best this way.
To make an authentic Caribbean black cake, try this recipe from Alica’s Pepperpot, or have a watch of the video below.
7. Caribbean spiced corn soup
Spiced corn soup is a popular dish in both Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago, where it’s often eaten as street food or as an ‘afterparty’ meal, where people gather around a huge bowl of soup after a big event.
But you don’t need to be on the move or have been partying all night long to enjoy this tasty, healthy soup, and it’s perfect as a warmer on cold winter evenings or just as a fresh, delicious soup on a sunny afternoon. It’s great to store in the freezer too, so you might want to make extra so you have a hearty meal to heat up when you don’t feel like cooking.
This corn soup is hot, sweet, and spicy, though the heat of the Scotch bonnet chilli is perfectly offset by the creamy coconut – and the classic Caribbean flavours of thyme, ginger, and pepper add a lovely fragrant kick. This is a hearty soup that’s thickened with yellow split peas, potato, and pumpkin. But if you prefer a lighter mix, you can always leave out one of these ingredients. Caribbean corn soup is traditionally eaten with dumplings; you may want to try this dumpling recipe by The Spruce Eats.
To make Caribbean spiced corn soup, try this recipe by Cook Like A Jamaican, or have a watch of the video below to make a Trinidad-inspired soup with dumplings.
8. Trinidad fish stew
In the Caribbean, stewing fish is a common way to eat it, and fish stew is especially popular in Trinidad and Tobago. While the Jamaican-style fish stew is brown, cooked in the style of their brown chicken stew, the Trinidadian version tends to be redder due to the tomatoes and tomato paste. It’s a simple stew that packs a real punch in terms of flavour, combining marinated fish with spices, herbs, peppers, tomatoes, and onions.
The great thing about this dish is that it can be adapted to your personal preferences. You can use any white fish you like, although kingfish, mackerel, red snapper, and tilapia are all popular in the Caribbean.
After marinating overnight, traditionally the fish is fried, though if you’re trying to eat healthily you might want to steam it – or just cut back on the oil. Then, you simply add your veg, herbs and spices and stew until the flavours come together beautifully. Serve with fried plantain for maximum authenticity!
To make your own version of Trinidad fish stew, you might want to try this recipe from Simply Trini Cooking – or watch the video below.
Caribbean cooking is vibrant, colourful, and absolutely delicious. From traditional meat-based dishes like brown stew chicken and curry goat to fresh fish stews, and veggie options like Jamaican bean curry and spiced corn soup, there really is something for everyone.
It can be easy to fall into the pattern of cooking the same old meals time and again, but trying out new recipes from international cuisines is a great way to mix things up. Plus, you might discover how much you enjoy cooking with new ingredients and flavours you’d never heard of before. And if in the process you manage to bring a little sunshine into your home, all the better!