10 Delicious Dishes to Try in the Caribbean

by Mat Probasco

10 Delicious Dishes to Try in the Caribbean

by Mat Probasco

In recent years, Caribbean food has gone global. Signature ingredients and dishes — including jerk spice mixes, hot sauces, and mango chutney — are well-known now, and both plantains and yellow rice with black beans are more common than ever. Some of the Caribbean's best-loved dishes have specific islands of origination, while others are popular across the region. Read on for some favorites and possibly some surprises, too, as well as where to get them on your next cruise. 

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Flying fish / Angie Torres
Mofongo
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1. Mofongo

Island: Puerto Rico

Essentially a stuffed plantain, this is Puerto Rico's most beloved dish. At its base, Mofongo is green plantain mashed with salt and water or a broth. Then it's packed around chicharrón (pork cracklings) or bacon and topped with vegetables, shrimp, beef, chicken, or pork. 

The Verdict: Admittedly, it's an acquired taste, but if you're going to try it do it here on the island where the dish was born.

Island: Puerto Rico

Essentially a stuffed plantain, this is Puerto Rico's most beloved dish. At its base, Mofongo is green plantain mashed with salt and water or a broth. Then it's packed around chicharrón (pork cracklings) or bacon and topped with vegetables, shrimp, beef, chicken, or pork. 

The Verdict: Admittedly, it's an acquired taste, but if you're going to try it do it here on the island where the dish was born.

Goat water
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2. Goat Water

Island: St. Kitts

This is an uber-local dish, not known by most tourists. So be prepared for some impressed looks when you order. Found all over the English Caribbean, goat water is essentially a thin goat stew with breadfruit, dumplings, green papaya, local spices, and maybe some potatoes or yams or whatever is handy too. 

The Verdict: Trust us, the name doesn't reflect this dish's deliciousness.

Island: St. Kitts

This is an uber-local dish, not known by most tourists. So be prepared for some impressed looks when you order. Found all over the English Caribbean, goat water is essentially a thin goat stew with breadfruit, dumplings, green papaya, local spices, and maybe some potatoes or yams or whatever is handy too. 

The Verdict: Trust us, the name doesn't reflect this dish's deliciousness.

Oil Down
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3. Oil Down

Island: Grenada

You have to say the name with the Grenada accent for it to sound right: something like “I'll Duhn,” which is likely from the origin, “boil down.” However you pronounce it, this combination of coconut milk, breadfruit, turmeric, callaloo leaf, peppers, a dumpling, and salted meat is Grenada's national dish. Some recipes call for the meat to be salted — beef or even cod or smoked fish. 

The Verdict: This rich stew is savory comfort food.

Island: Grenada

You have to say the name with the Grenada accent for it to sound right: something like “I'll Duhn,” which is likely from the origin, “boil down.” However you pronounce it, this combination of coconut milk, breadfruit, turmeric, callaloo leaf, peppers, a dumpling, and salted meat is Grenada's national dish. Some recipes call for the meat to be salted — beef or even cod or smoked fish. 

The Verdict: This rich stew is savory comfort food.

Roti
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4. Roti

Islands: Trinidad and Tobago

This burrito-like snack came to the West Indies from India and quickly became a Caribbean classic. It's a great on-the-go option, with curried potato and meat (usually chicken or goat) wrapped in a flat bread. Vegetarian alternatives sometimes include pumpkin.

The Verdict: Even Caribbean food newbies find roti — essentially a warm wrap full of comforting yellow curry — hard to resist. 

Islands: Trinidad and Tobago

This burrito-like snack came to the West Indies from India and quickly became a Caribbean classic. It's a great on-the-go option, with curried potato and meat (usually chicken or goat) wrapped in a flat bread. Vegetarian alternatives sometimes include pumpkin.

The Verdict: Even Caribbean food newbies find roti — essentially a warm wrap full of comforting yellow curry — hard to resist. 

Ackee and saltfish
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5. Ackee and Saltfish

Island: Jamaica

Jamaican breakfast is a celebration of the island, and ackee and saltfish is a national treasure. The ackee fruit came to the islands from Africa, and the salted fish from European tradition. At breakfast, it's often accompanied by bacon and tomatoes.

The Verdict: Savory and filling, it's a wonderful comfort food even as a snack. 

Island: Jamaica

Jamaican breakfast is a celebration of the island, and ackee and saltfish is a national treasure. The ackee fruit came to the islands from Africa, and the salted fish from European tradition. At breakfast, it's often accompanied by bacon and tomatoes.

The Verdict: Savory and filling, it's a wonderful comfort food even as a snack. 

Flying fish
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6. Flying Fish

Island: Barbados

The flying fish is the national symbol of the island of Barbados. And the prepared dish — fried with pepper sauce or on a plate with cou cou (a cornmeal and okra mash also called fungi) and coleslaw — is traditionally served on Fridays.  

The Verdict: Does crispy fried fish ever disappoint? We think not, especially when the fish is freshly plucked from the Caribbean Sea. 

Island: Barbados

The flying fish is the national symbol of the island of Barbados. And the prepared dish — fried with pepper sauce or on a plate with cou cou (a cornmeal and okra mash also called fungi) and coleslaw — is traditionally served on Fridays.  

The Verdict: Does crispy fried fish ever disappoint? We think not, especially when the fish is freshly plucked from the Caribbean Sea. 

Sancocho
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7. Sancocho

Island: Dominican Republic

Sometimes known as seven meat soup, Sancocho has chicken, pork, sausage, and goat as well as plantains, yucca, squash, and loads of spices. It's often served with avocado, white rice, and plenty of hot sauce.

The Verdict: This hot and heavy soup is a snooze-maker. Get ready for a great meal ... followed by an epic beach nap. 

Island: Dominican Republic

Sometimes known as seven meat soup, Sancocho has chicken, pork, sausage, and goat as well as plantains, yucca, squash, and loads of spices. It's often served with avocado, white rice, and plenty of hot sauce.

The Verdict: This hot and heavy soup is a snooze-maker. Get ready for a great meal ... followed by an epic beach nap. 

Callaloo
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8. Callaloo

Island: St. Thomas

The uninitiated might have a little trepidation about this lumpy green soup — but don't be put off! Many islands have one or more versions of this popular dish, prepared with greens and sometimes coconut milk. Island to island, the basic difference is the base vegetable, which could be water spinach, dasheen (taro) leaf, or something similar. 

The Verdict: Fish, crab, and even pork can go in the yummy soup, but often so does the insanely hot scotch bonnet pepper ... you might want to eat around them.

Island: St. Thomas

The uninitiated might have a little trepidation about this lumpy green soup — but don't be put off! Many islands have one or more versions of this popular dish, prepared with greens and sometimes coconut milk. Island to island, the basic difference is the base vegetable, which could be water spinach, dasheen (taro) leaf, or something similar. 

The Verdict: Fish, crab, and even pork can go in the yummy soup, but often so does the insanely hot scotch bonnet pepper ... you might want to eat around them.

Foie Gras Lobster
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9. Foie Gras Lobster

Island: Martinique

No, foie gras is not traditional Caribbean fare, but that fits in perfectly with what Martinique does best. This multifaceted French island prides itself on blending flavors. Influences include European, African, traditional Caribbean, Indian, and basic Creole flavors.

The Verdict: Spiny lobster tail is rich and buttery, and it's delicious accompanied with foie gras and creole spices.

Island: Martinique

No, foie gras is not traditional Caribbean fare, but that fits in perfectly with what Martinique does best. This multifaceted French island prides itself on blending flavors. Influences include European, African, traditional Caribbean, Indian, and basic Creole flavors.

The Verdict: Spiny lobster tail is rich and buttery, and it's delicious accompanied with foie gras and creole spices.

Guava Duff
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10. Guava Duff

Islands: Bahamas

Found throughout the Bahamas, this sweet treat might not be the most beautiful, but it does incorporate the many flavors of the island. There's guava paste folded inside dough and full of nutmeg and cinnamon and spice. The dessert is often also covered in bits of fruit, powdered sugar, or lemon sauce.

The Verdict: If you like the spices of the Caribbean, you'll love the fruit cake-inspired flavor.

Islands: Bahamas

Found throughout the Bahamas, this sweet treat might not be the most beautiful, but it does incorporate the many flavors of the island. There's guava paste folded inside dough and full of nutmeg and cinnamon and spice. The dessert is often also covered in bits of fruit, powdered sugar, or lemon sauce.

The Verdict: If you like the spices of the Caribbean, you'll love the fruit cake-inspired flavor.

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