Authentic Jamaican food has, over the centuries, been developed first by indigenous Jamaican, and then later influenced by Spanish, British and African people, who have either traded with Jamaica or even have come to call the island home. If you’re looking to increase your repertoire in the kitchen, why not try authentic Jamaican food?
In this blog, we will feature various flavorings, appetizers, meals, vegetarian options, desserts, and drinks that together will create an authentic experience of Jamaican cuisine!
Ingredients featured in authentic Jamaican food
This section will showcase the ingredients you may expect to find in a Jamaican kitchen. Firstly, you may take note that a Jamaican diet has a lot of seafood and tropical fruits. The meats that Jamaicans traditionally cook with are goat, cod fish, beef, and chicken. Grains in common use include rice, corn, and flour, which is used to make bread, pastries, and rotis. Vegetables that grow and are eaten in Jamaica are cabbage, peas, kidney beans, yams, sweet potatoes, and okra. Pick any of your favorites to incorporate into your Jamaican recipes. In Jamaica’s tropical fruit selection, you may find ackee, banana, plantain, mango, pineapple, guava, and soursop. Finally, and essentially, Jamaicans love to create ‘jerk spice,’ which you can read about in the main meals section.
Side dishes and appetizers
In this section, you will discover some of the choicest Jamaican food ideas for appetizers and side dishes. One example of a side dish strongly associated with Jamaica is known as the Jamaican Coat of Arms, or rice and peas. This simple meal is a stew made with rice and beans and coconut milk. Another favorite Jamaican stew is called callaloo – a simple version of which is made from steamed amaranth leaf, salt, onions, and scallions. More complex versions of callaloo can also include saltfish (salted cod), tomatoes, and scotch bonnet peppers, which are all served with butter. Plantain, a tropical fruit very similar to a banana, is traditionally picked green and then pulverized and fried or boiled. It can be served alongside callaloo and roasted breadfruit for a Jamaican breakfast.
Curry goat is a dish that is often reserved for special occasions, but who says your Jamaican dinner isn’t exactly that? Curry goat is usually served with the abovementioned ‘rice and peas’, and sometimes with fried plantain. Another option is to serve curry goat on a roti with lentils.
A second traditional meat dish in Jamaica is jerk chicken or jerk pork. First, jerk spice is prepared from allspice (called pimento in Jamaica), scotch bonnet peppers, cloves, cinnamon, and ginger. The jerk spice is then made into a marinade and brushed wet onto chicken or pork, into which holes are poked so that the marinade may be more easily absorbed. The traditional way of cooking jerk chicken or pork is by smoking it in a specially designed barrel to achieve a smoky taste.
Jamaican vegetarian dishes
Jamaica possesses a large contingent of Rastafarians, who are known for eating no pork and not much salt, or in some cases being vegetarians. Rastafarian culture is quite influential, and many other people are vegetarians too. Therefore, there is a rich assortment of Jamaican vegetable dishes. One option is to create a vegetarian Jamaican patty, which is made from pastry, mixed vegetables, soy, and cheese, and is spiced with turmeric and served with coco bread. In this way, it resembles a vegetarian burger. A second option for Rastafarian people and vegetarians is the Ital Stew – a spiced bean and vegetable stew, made with little salt. Another cross-cultural option is pumpkin soup, which is not uniquely Jamaican, but commonly available there.
An alcoholic beverage long associated with Jamaica, popular at least since the days of ship trading and seafaring, is Jamaican rum. It is used in many cocktails, such as the mojito with its spearmint and sugar, or the pina colada, with its crushed ice, coconut milk, and pineapple juice. Two more possibilities are carrot juice spiced with nutmeg and vanilla or mango juice served by itself.
A great way to finish off the special occasion of a Jamaican meal is with a Jamaican dessert. Many Jamaican desserts contain mango because of its sweet flavor. Another sweet, fruit-based dessert is the banana fritter. A slightly less sweet option is soursop ice cream. The soursop is a dark green, prickly fruit of an evergreen tree that grows easily in many tropical and subtropical climates. On the savory end of the scale of desserts is the potato pudding.
If you’re looking to add that tropical island feel to your meals, then Jamaican cuisine is the perfect way to get exactly that. Dive into the delicious tastes of a country whose food has been heavily influenced by numerous cultures, and show off your knowledge of international cuisine.