Jamaica has lots to offer. The country is famous for its sandy beaches and unique culture. However, not a lot of people visit the country with gastronomical intentions in mind. It’s a pity considering the diversity of the local food.
Traditional Jamaican cuisine is kind of a fusion between the indigenous people and Africans. Their recipes combine, interlock, and create new unique dishes that every tourist has to try. No matter what taste palette you prefer, you can find its delicious representatives here.
Jamaica is a country of diverse ingredients. It has a copious number of seafood recipes due to the easy availability of fresh ingredients. Also, it has quite a lot of food dishes with chicken, beef, and pork.
Numerous cultures have brought their recipes to the island. In time, they’ve adapted and evolved! At this point, it’s hard to determine only a few dishes as the best of the best. Many dishes I’ve tried are tasty and unique in their own way. However, I’ve tried to gather the creme de a creme of Jamaican cuisine to make a list for you!
Ackee and Saltfish
This is the epitome of authentic Jamaican food. If you visit the country, you have to order Ackee and Saltfish. Though the name is both descriptive and not, you’ll know it exactly when you see it. That is because it is a beautiful dish! The ingredients are colorful on their own and served with beautifully flaked saltfish!
If you’ve never tried ackee before, you should know that this fruit is poisonous when unripe. Thus, be careful with it in the wild. However, Jamaican chefs know how to cook this national ingredient well. Hardly any week comes by without a Jamaican family eating ackee and saltfish! This is a breakfast dish traditionally, but you can really enjoy it any time of the day!
Ingredients: ackee, saltfish, plantain, served with dumplings, scrambled eggs, or breadfruit.
Chicken Foot Soup
While ackee and fish is the national breakfast dish of the country, the chicken foot soup is the national soup of Jamaica. You’ll see many travel bloggers trying this kind of soup for its main graphic ingredient. The chicken claw may look somewhat gory and scary, but it hardly different from eating a soup with chicken wings; only the foot has more tendons.
If you go past the actual foot in your soup, you’ll taste the regular chicken broth with a mix of Jamaican spice palette, including thyme, garlic, and Scotch Bonnet pepper.
Ingredients: chicken feet, carrot, dumplings, yam, spices.
This is not a dish but a drink. All in all, Jamaica is hot, and you’ll have to try a variety of tasty and multi-colored drinks. Among the whole variety, I love sorrel the best. Traditionally, this is a Christmas drink, but you can order it outside of the holiday season as well. This is the drink that unites people! It is meant to be shared among friends and families during the holiday season.
The bright crimson color of the drink comes from the hibiscus plant. It can be served with a pitch of added rum or “virgin.” Either way, the added spices make it a slightly sweet, spicy drink that can effectively keep you cool on a hot summer day on the beach!
Ingredients: hibiscus leaves, ginger, pimento seeds, cinnamon.
P.S. Be careful with your first sorrel – it can act as a diuretic for some people.
What can be more iconic than jerk pork or chicken when it comes to Jamaica? Only a few dishes can complete with this international delicacy. Overall, jerk meats are incredibly popular not only in Jamaica but in many countries all over the world.
Personally, I don’t know the origins of these dishes but love them greatly. And Jamaicans support me in that! You can find the whole variety of jerk meats here, including chicken, pork, beef, and fish.
When you combine this unique way of cooking with the homemade marinade used to make the meat tender and delicious, you get a treat that you can eat for days! At least, that is what I would like to do! An authentic smoked smell and flavor attribute to the whole experience and transfer you to those days of BBQing with your friends.
Ingredients: meat/fish, a unique homemade marinade (with secret ingredients in each household)
Jamaica is a country with extensive coastal regions. Thus, fish is a common ingredient in a Jamaican kitchen. And though you’ll find lots of fish soups in the traditional Jamaican cuisine, I prefer fish steamed or roasted. And Jamaicans know how to handle it perfectly. A variety of seasonal vegetables usually accompanies the traditional mix of spices like onions, scallions, thyme, and peppers.
An extra node goes to Escoveitched Fish. This is the tastiest type of roasted fish in Jamaica.
Ingredients: fish, a mix of spices
Bummy is a highly popular Jamaican dish. This is basically a multi-purpose round bread. It can be served for breakfast with syrup or some other sweets, or come as a regular side dish for meats. Often served with steamed or roasted fish as well.
Interestingly, the word is that this is the bread that Christopher Columbus has been eating during his meeting with the Arawak Indians.
Ingredients: cassava root flour and coconut milk.
I miss hearing the word porridge in many cuisines. No wonder some royal families had poor health if their diet was void of porridges. Fortunately, cornmeal porridge is a trendy traditional Jamaican dish that is offered in numerous establishments. I also adore couscous as a side dish, which I’ve covered in the Moroccan food article previously.
Obviously, this is a breakfast dish. It is often fed to infants and children, but an adult is more than welcome to enjoy this creamy porridge (it can be both sweet and salty).
Ingredients: cornmeal porridge, sugar, nutmeg, coconut milk, milk.
Believe it or not, I looooove corn. Although it has been a rare guest in many cuisines I’ve covered before, I could eat and eat this ingredient if only added to the dishes. It makes a perfect side to meat dishes and is delicious when eaten alone, whether roasted or boiled!
In Jamaica, you get the whole dish out of one of my favorite ingredients. Jamaicans love soups in general and share my love for corn.
Ingredients: This soup can have an extensive list of ingredients, but the basics include coconut milk, celery, garlic, split peas, pumpkin, potatoes, bonnet pepper, and corn.
Sweet Potato Pudding
This is my favorite dessert in the whole of Jamaica. Who would’ve known that sweet potato can be well-suited for deserts! Sweet potato pudding and pone are both delicious. I had a difficult time deciding between the two. To this day, I’m still debating which one of these I prefer. They are both similar, though; thus, you can add them to one category and try both if you visit Jamaica!
Ingredients: sweet potato, coconut, sugar, raisins, cassava, cornmeal.