On any vacation to the Caribbean, one of the top attractions is the food. These islands boast some of the most delicious dishes in the world.
The cuisine in this area is influenced by a huge range of different cultures, including Indian, Asian, Spanish, British, African, Dutch, French, and American, all of which come together to create unique flavors and dishes that are found only in the Caribbean.
To help you make the most of your next vacation, here is where to find the best Caribbean food.
Trinidad & Tobago: Crab and Callaloo
If you’re heading to Trinidad & Tobago and you love seafood, you will want to try their national dish, crab and callaloo. Though it may look unappetizing at first glance, it’s actually quite a rich dish, full of spicy flavor.
In these islands, “callaloo” refers to two things: the green leaves that grow from the dasheen plant or a stew made from those leaves. For this dish, saltwater crab is simmered in dasheen leaves along with pimento, coconut milk, butter, thyme, scallions, okra, onions, and scotch bonnet peppers.
This combination of ingredients results in a creamy stew that packs a punch with its spice and heat. It is typically served alongside a starchy accompaniment such as rice, flour dumplings, or macaroni pie.
Dominican Republic: La Bandera Dominicana
While the Dominican Republic doesn’t have a national dish, many locals would recommend trying one of their most popular meals: La Bandera Dominicana. Whether you’re choosing to delight in this tasty dish for lunch or dinner, you won’t be disappointed.
La Bandera Dominicana is a combination of stewed beans, stewed meat (you can choose between beef, chicken, and pork), and white rice. It is often served with a side salad and avocado.
Cuba: Ropa Vieja
Ropa Vieja is a must-try dish if you’re visiting Cuba. It is made from mouth-wateringly tender slow-cooked shredded beef that is seasoned with tomatoes, bell peppers, and garlic. Typically it is served with black beans and yellow rice.
This dish originated in the Canary Islands (a small Spanish archipelago located just off the coast of northwestern Africa), and is now one of the best Caribbean foods throughout all of the islands. However, it is possibly most popular in Cuba. To set it apart from the rest, the authentic Cuban version is served alongside boiled cassava in a garlic and citrus sauce, cooked with beans and rice.
Aruba: Keshi Yena
Aruba’s national dish is Keshi Yena. If you’re looking for a cheesy treat, then this is the pick for you! Made from a large, round ball of cheese that has been hollowed out and stuffed with interesting ingredients such as spiced meats, capers, olives, scotch bonnet peppers, and a range of tangy sauces, the Keshi Yena is served either baked or steamed and comes brimming with flavor.
This dish originated as a common meal among slaves when the Dutch colonized Aruba. They brought over cheeses such as Edam, ate the center, and threw out the rind. Their slaves would eat the rind by filling it with whatever leftovers they could find (typically meat and vegetables), which produced a tasty and nutritious meal.
Turks and Caicos: Conch
If you’re visiting the Turks and Caicos Islands, you’ll want to try conch, their most popular seafood dish. This large sea snail (typically from the Queen Conch) may seem unassuming at first, but actually offers firm, white meat. Conch is a commonplace ingredient in many delicious dishes, such as soups, salads, and stews.
Conch is prepared in a variety of ways in Turks and Caicos, but you most often find it breaded and fried, or served raw as part of a mixed salad with a variety of fresh and delicious flavors including vegetables and lime juice.
The Bahamas: Cracked Conch with Rice and Peas
If you’re heading to The Bahamas, you will find cracked conch with rice and peas on practically every menu. A difficult meat to get right, if not cooked well, conch can be tough and chewy. In order to make it more tender, cracked conch is soaked in water for several hours and then pounded until smooth and thin.
After this process, it is soaked in lime juice, breaded in a light batter, and deep fried. The result is a particularly satisfying meal, with a crunchy exterior and tender interior. Cracked conch is usually served alongside rice and peas for the ultimate Bahamian meal.
Jamaica: Ackee & Saltfish
You may already be familiar with some of the most popular dishes in Jamaica, such as jerk chicken or rice and peas. But one very popular Jamaican dish that is often overlooked is ackee and saltfish. In fact, this is Jamaica’s national dish.
Ackee is a pear-sized fruit that has a somewhat earthy taste and creamy texture; when cooked, it kind of resembles scrambled eggs. It is typically prepared by being boiled, diced, and fried up with scotch bonnet peppers and a variety of spices.
The saltfish that accompanies this (typically cod) is first boiled to draw out some of the saltiness before being fried with green peppers and onions. It is commonly served with a starchy food such as traditional Jamaican breads or Festivals.
It may come as a surprise to many, but this dish is actually a common breakfast choice in Jamaica, though you can also enjoy it for both lunch and dinner. It’s also important to know that you should only order this dish at an authentic Caribbean restaurant with good reviews, as there are parts of the ackee that can be poisonous if not prepared correctly.
Martinique: Grilled Snapper with Creole Sauce
Planning a trip to the French Caribbean? Be sure to make a stop in Martinique if you’re a seafood lover so you can try their famous grilled snapper, served with a delicious Creole sauce.
Snapper features a firm texture and mild taste and is seasoned with garlic and rosemary before being cooked directly on the grill.
The Creole sauce that accompanies this dish is arguably one of the most delicious sauces you’ll ever try. Made with tomatoes, garlic, seasonings, herbs, and the Cajun “holy trinity” of celery, onions, and bell peppers, this sauce certainly tickles the tastebuds! A similar version can also be found that is made from chicken stock and seasoned with ingredients such as cayenne, hot sauce, bay leaves, black pepper, parsley, and thyme.
Bonaire: Stewed Goat Meat (Kabritu Stoba)
Known locally as Kabritu Stoba, stewed goat meat is a must-try if you visit Bonaire, a Dutch Caribbean island. Kabritu Stoba is a rich stew, simmered in a tomato-based sauce and brimming with beef broth, lime juice, garlic, salt, onion, paprika, vinegar, jalapeno, black pepper, and butter.
As their national dish, you can expect to find it as a staple on many menus at restaurants all around the island. Goats are one of the few domestic animals that thrive on this rocky island, making them a common ingredient in many of the island’s dishes.
Trinidad & Tobago: Cassava Pone
As with any tasting menu, we thought we’d finish off with something sweet!
If you’re heading to Trinidad & Tobago and you have a sweet tooth, you’ll definitely want to try Cassava Pone. Made from the cassava root, this sweet delicacy is also the main ingredient in tapioca.
Cassava pone is a dessert made from cassava, pumpkin, and coconut and seasoned with cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger, which gives it a unique kick.
Do you agree with our choices for the best Caribbean food? Let us know in the comments!
And if you’re a foodie and want recommendations for the best Caribbean restaurants, feel free to reach out to one of our trusted travel advisors via our Contact Us page. They can share their expert advice as well as help you plan your dream Caribbean getaway.