13 Traditional Jamaican Foods, According to a Local
Dream of visiting Jamaica? You can start those travels in the kitchen with traditional Jamaican foods like jerk chicken and rum cake.
Similar to a fluffy American dinner roll, coco bread is a sweet, buttery bread that’s usually paired with a beef patty (more on that in a moment), veggies or jam. Learn how to make coco bread at home in just five easy steps.
If you’re wondering what is Jamaica’s most popular food, beef patties are definitely in the running. It’s the Jamaican recipe that locals cannot get enough of! It’s a simple pastry of a buttery flaky crust filled with minced beef. It’s so good, Jamaican beef patties are eaten for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
This is a notoriously precarious meal to prepare! But when it’s done right, it’s a glorious dish. Because it’s not easy to make, curry goat is often served at special occasions and family gatherings. The leftovers make a popular lunch perfect for any day of the week, especially when served with white rice or roti.
Like curry goat, curry chicken is a dish inspired by Indian influence in Jamaica. The chicken is cut into bite-sized portions, sprinkled liberally with Indian curry spices and sauteed in freshly cut herbs. It’s a versatile dish that can be had for breakfast, lunch or dinner. The only unwritten rule is that curry dishes should be had with white rice instead of rice and peas, but everyone has their preference.
One of the most expensive dishes on any Jamaican restaurant menu is oxtail. But Jamaicans will say it’s worth every dollar. Because of its price tag, oxtail is often reserved for special occasions like Christmas or family gatherings. It’s typically stewed with mixed herbs and spices and paired with beans.
Rice and Peas
This is Jamaica’s twist on rice and beans. The dish is usually prepared with a rice of your choice and kidney beans and served as the main side on a Sunday for dinner. Spiced with coconut milk, scallions and thyme, rice and peas is the perfect accompaniment to most meat dishes. Braised oxtail, Jerk chicken or a Caribbean chicken recipe are all perfect options to pair with rice and peas.
This Christmas cake is one of the most well-known Jamaican desserts. Dubbed a rum cake because of the infusion of rum into the fruits used to make the cake and in the cake batter itself, Jamaican rum cake is a common marker of the festive season. By the way, these are the best Jamaican rum brands.
Cabbage is a commonly had vegetable in Jamaica, but it’s not typically eaten on its own. While it can be steamed with just bell peppers and onions, it’s usually steamed with saltfish or corned beef, too, like in an easy Jamaican Cabbage and Saltfish recipe.
Jerk chicken is Jamaica’s staple street food, perfect for a Friday dinner or a weekend road trip lunch. This spicy chicken dish is made unique by a special blend of herbs and spices roasted over pimento wood. Learn how to make your own jerk seasoning here.
Vegetable juices and fruit juices are very popular in Jamaica. In a traditional Jamaican household on Sundays, there will be a freshly made pitcher of vegetable juice, preferably carrot juice.
Ackee and Saltfish
Jamaica’s national dish is one of the most popular Jamaican recipes to make this list. Ackee is a brightly colored fruit that is inedible until cooked. To prepare it, ackee must be boiled until tender and seasoned with salt, pepper and complementary herbs of choice. Saltfish, also known as codfish, is the meat component of this Jamaican recipe. Try it with roasted breadfruit!
Complete the Jamaican experience by downing some fresh coconut water from the fruit or the bottle. Coconut water is said to be a cleanser of the heart. We don’t know how true that it is, but it is definitely refreshing. Have a refreshing sip with any of the Jamaican recipes in this list.
Breadfruit is a fruit Jamaicans like to use as an affordable starch substitute. This large fruit is typically prepared by boiling, frying or roasting. Breadfruit is a vibrant green fruit that goes well with jerk chicken and just about any meat dish.