How familiar are you with Jamaican food? Perhaps you’ve already had multiple tastes of this intriguing cuisine that is full of coconut flavored meals and unique dishes, or possibly you’ve yet to have your first encounter with the foods of Jamaica!
To get you started on your journey of discovering Jamaican cuisine, which includes delicious foods like beef Jamaican patties, callaloo and ugli fruit, below is the best bucket list that takes you through the savory dishes, desserts, snacks and drinks that are traditional to Jamaican cuisine. I guarantee that you’ll be salivating by the end!
Jamaican Food Bucket List: Names of Dishes, Desserts & Drinks to Eat from Jamaica
Jamaican Food (Snacks & Dishes)
1. Ackee & Saltfish
First up is a dish called ackee & saltfish, made of the ackee fruit and saltfish. Ackee is considered to be Jamaica’s national fruit, having been imported to the Caribbean from Ghana in the early 18th Century, with ackee & saltfish often recognized as Jamaica’s national dish. Eaten for breakfast, boiled ackee and salt cod is sautéed together with various vegetables, after which it is seasoned with paprika and pepper, among other spices. Although not mandatory, for garnish bacon and tomato can be used.
Made from bitter cassava, bammy is a traditional flatbread in Jamaica, having already been eaten by the original inhabitants of the country. There are two different methods to baking bammy, the traditional way being similar to the Native American method for making tortillas, while the more modern way produces thicker bammies, which are dipped into coconut milk before serving. Bammies can be eaten like tortillas or like any wheat bread, with whichever fillings you desire, as a snack or with any meal of the day.
Belonging to the same family as jackfruit and mulberry, breadfruit is a fruit used in various ways in Jamaican cuisine. It may be boiled in a soup, roasted on the stove, used in salads, or fried to be served as a side dish. It is commonly eaten together with the native Jamaican food ackee & saltfish, which was described above.
4. Brown Stew Chicken
This is a classic Jamaican style stew. It is made with chicken, which is cooked until tender, and vegetables, and it is heavily seasoned with spices, including brown sugar, garlic powder, dried thyme, and many other spices.
Callaloo is a vegetable dish that is widely popular among the Caribbean islands. Its main ingredient is a leaf vegetable, though which one is specifically used depends on the availability of the vegetables, which varies within the countries on the Caribbean. In Jamaica, the callaloo dish is usually eaten together with saltfish, seasoned with various vegetables, then steamed and served for breakfast. You’ll find it typically served with breadfruit, green bananas which have been boiled, and dumplings.
6. Chicken Foot Soup
Besides the obvious main ingredient, chicken foot, another main character of this soup is pumpkin, making for an interesting base combination. In addition, big chunks of corn, carrot, bell pepper, and other vegetables are added to this delicious soup prior to serving.
7. Coco Bread
A staple of Jamaican kitchen, coco bread is made out of a mixture of flour, yeast, and coconut milk. It has a hint of a sweet flavor. A coco bread is commonly sliced in half, eaten as a sandwich, with Jamaican beef patties as its filling.
Recipe: Coco Bread by Immaculate Bites
8. Curry Goat
Although curry goat originated from South Asia and Southeast Asia, it has since long ago become a staple meal in Jamaican and Caribbean cuisines as well – in fact, it may be more popular in Jamaica than anywhere else today. The main ingredients for this dish are curry powder and goat meat; they are then turned into a stew, along with potatoes and other ingredients. Finally, it is typically served over rice and peas.
Recipe: Jamaican Goat Curry by Hank Shaw
9. Escovitch Fish
This interestingly named dish involves as its main ingredient a whole fish that has been fried until it has become crispy. Before serving, it has then been covered with various pickled vegetables, such as sweet peppers and carrots, among others. To achieve the most delicious taste, the dish is left to marinate in the fridge overnight prior to serving.
10. Festival Fried Dough
Also known as Jamaican fried dumplings, the festival fried doughs are fritters made of cornmeal, known to be somewhat sweet. They’re typically eaten with jerk meats.
11. Fish Tea
Though it’s called such, fish tea isn’t actually tea, but a popular Caribbean style fish soup that’s especially prominent in Jamaica’s cuisine. It includes various types of fish and seafood, in addition to which various filling vegetables are used. This delicious and warming spicy soup typically takes hours to prepare.
Recipe: Fish Tea by Liz Della Croce
12. Fried Plantains
Popular all across the Caribbean and several other regions of the world, fried plantains are eaten as a side dish, with any meal you may feel like eating it with. The plantains are prepared by peeling them, then cutting them into bite sized slices, and they’ll be fried on a pan for nearly half an hour, in the middle of which they’ll be taken out to be flattened with a potato masher or an equivalent.
13. Gungo Peas Soup
Another Jamaican food that’s a favorite among many is the soup made of gungo peas. It is rich in flavor, featuring also beef, pig tails, yellow yam, and various vegetables and spices.
14. Hard Dough Bread
Yet another staple Jamaican food is the hard dough bread, which you can easily find eaten in just about any Jamaican household. It has a dense consistency, and a slightly sweeter taste than Pullman loaf, for example. It’s typically sliced in rectangular slices and eaten in various ways, such as with spreads, or as sandwich bread, or by breaking the slices of bread into a cooked porridge.
15. Ital Stew
The word “ital” comes from the word vital, with ital food using some of the same ideologies as kosher, except it goes far enough to believe that the food ought to be vegetarian, on top of being unprocessed. Ital stew’s base is in coconut milk, involving more than a dozen different ingredients, including various vegetables and spices. This stew is popular especially among the Rastafarian movement.
Recipe > Ital Stew by Charla
16. Jamaican Beef Patties
Jamaican beef patties are a popular Jamaican food, having been created from a mixture of influences coming from various immigrants, laborers and slaves arriving into the country. In addition to the beef, this pastry includes as main ingredients cayenne pepper, cumin, and curry, inside a pasty-like dough. It’s commonly eaten as a main meal, either on its own or inside coco bread.
Recipe > Jamaican Beef Patty by Marcela
17. Jamaican Corn Soup
Another dish that is closely related to the Rastafarian movement is this corn soup. It’s incredibly flavorful and popular to eat as comfort food. Besides corn cobs, it includes coconut milk and various vegetables, and of course spices.
18. Jamaican Porridge
Porridge is a go-to breakfast food in Jamaica, whether you’ll be eating it on a relaxing morning at home, or picking one up at a street vendor while on the go. Of the various different types of porridge, cornmeal porridge – which also includes coconut milk, bay leaves, brown sugar, vanilla extract, and possibly also condensed milk – is considered a favorite among Jamaicans.
19. Jamaican Red Peas Soup
Using red kidney beans and salted pigtails as its main ingredients, Jamaican red peas soup is another popular soup belonging to Jamaican cuisine. With the addition of various vegetables and dumplings into the dish, you’ll create a thick and hearty, delicious meal for the whole family to eat.
Recipe: Red Peas Soup by Original Flava
20. Jamaican Spiced Bun
Dark brown in color and shaped in a similar fashion as a loaf of bread, this bun, albeit sweet, the most common ways to eat the spiced bun is with cheese, or butter, or with a glass of milk. Using molasses and dried fruits as some of the main ingredients, Jamaican spiced bun gets especially popular around Easter time, though it is eaten every season of the year.
21. Janga soup
Janga is the Jamaican word for freshwater crayfish, also known as shrimp. It’s a traditional soup that also includes various vegetables and spices. A fun fact related to the soup is that it’s seen as an aphrodisiac, even offering men long endurance!
22. Jerk Chicken
Jerk chicken is the absolute favorite way in Jamaica—and across the Caribbean islands—to cook chicken. The jerk seasoning comprises Scotch Bonnet chili peppers (or alternatively habaneros) and allspice, making for a hot and spicy meal. After marinating the chicken overnight, the chicken is simmered in a saucepan or grilled at medium heat, or possibly even baked in the oven. You can use the same methods to cook pork or fish with jerk seasoning, as well.
23. Mannish Water
Besides janga soup, mannish water is another Jamaican food regarded as an aphrodisiac. Its main ingredient is goat meat, which has been seasoned with herbs and spices. Other ingredients include various vegetables, as well as yam, potatoes, and even bananas.
In Jamaican cuisine, as well as other West Indian cultures, oxtail is often cooked into a stew with butter beans, and is served over rice. Jamaica’s use of oxtail traces all the way back to the mid-1500s and it’s seen as a delicacy today.
25. Pepper Pot Soup
Using callaloo as its base ingredient, the pepper pot soup can be eaten as a vegetarian version, with meat, or with shrimp. It goes heavy on adding vegetables and spices into the soup, making for a hearty meal.
26. Rice and Peas
A delicious bowl of rice and peas is the most popular side dish in Jamaica. It’s especially common to eat together with oxtail and curry goat, but it can be eaten together with various dishes, at any time of day. Although referred to as peas all across the Caribbean countries, the dish is actually made with kidney beans.
A traditional stew dish in Jamaica, it uses reduced coconut milk as the soup’s base, with various seafood, as well as onion, plantain, tomato, and yam included as main ingredients. For fish, mackerel and other locally caught fishes are typically used. Rundown is traditionally eaten for breakfast.
28. Solomon Gundy
Typically made with smoked red herring, solomon gundy is a Jamaican style pickled pâté. It’s served as an appetizer, together with crackers.
These are a type of a dumpling, differentiating themselves from other types of dumplings largely in that they’re dense and hearty in their structure. One reason why they’re named “spinners” is because they tend to spin (and sink) while being cooked. To make Jamaican spinners, you only need flour, kosher salt, and water.
30. Stamp and Go
Made using salt fish as the main ingredient, stamp and go is a fritter dish, typically served for breakfast. It is usually likened as one of the first fast food items in Jamaican cuisine.
31. Steamed Cabbage
Jamaican style steamed cabbage is popular to include as a side dish during meals. Its main ingredients are shredded cabbage and carrots, along which bell pepper, garlic, onion, and thyme are typically mixed into the dish.
32. Ugli Fruit
A fruit with a truly interesting name, ugli fruit is a cross between an orange and a grapefruit, with a sweeter taste in comparison to the latter. It is native to Jamaica, with highly nutritional value. You can read my article on ugli fruit if you wish to know more!
33. Blue Mountain Coffee
Existing in Jamaica since 1728, this is coffee that is grown on Jamaica’s Blue Mountains. It is liked for its mild flavor that barely has even a hint of bitterness to it, which is how it has grown to be one of the most expensive coffees in the world, with the majority of the coffee being exported to Japan at the moment. You don’t even have to travel to Jamaica to try it—you can buy a pound here.
34. Bob Marley Cocktail
While the Bob Marley cocktail is specifically the signature cocktail of Jamaica’s Secrets Montego Bay resorts, the vibes of the drink will remind you of Jamaica no matter where in the world you’re drinking it in. To put together this drink, a mixture of light rum, orange curacao, blue curacao, sweet and sour mix, strawberry daiquiri mix, lime juice, mango, and ice are used. It can be made and served in various ways – including flamed!
Recipe: Bob Marley by Cocktail Pro
35. Dragon Stout
Dragon Stout is a dark beer produced exclusively in Jamaica. It’s relatively high in alcohol percentage, but has a sweet and creamy taste, with an aftertaste resembling mocha coffee. Brown sugar as well as caramel and roasted malts are used in producing the beer.
36. Guinness Punch
Continuing with items in the Jamaican cuisine that are likened as an aphrodisiac and an endurance enhancer is the delicious Guinness punch, consisting of a mix of Guinness Stout and three kinds of milk. It’s a simple drink to make but has such an exciting and delicious taste to it.
37. Irish Moss Drink
The main ingredient of this ingredient is Gracilaria, which is a red algae, and where the name of the drink also comes from. It’s boiled in milk with sugar, plus various other spices like cinnamon and vanilla. Other ingredients may also be added to the drink.
38. Jamaican Rum
While Jamaica may not be the birthplace of rum, it’s Jamaican rum that made the spirit globally famous. Its taste is noticeably different to other rums produced on the Caribbean islands, one large differentiation point being the fact that Jamaican rum doesn’t consist of any added sugar. Jamaican rum is a full-bodied kind, meaning it has undergone a natural fermentation process; this in turn means only all natural yeast is used, with no added sugar or other artificial flavors, with the fermentation taking place in oak barrels.
Brewed in a similar fashion to beer, Malta is a non-alcoholic malt beverage. It is lightly carbonated, and caramel color and corn are sometimes added in producing the beverage.
40. Red Stripe Beer
Red Stripe beer is a pale lager that’s brewed in Jamaica, in addition to which Heineken also brews this beer. Its recipe was originally created in the United States, from where it was brought over to Jamaica.
Sorrel is Jamaican style hibiscus tea. In addition to the sepals of the roselle flower, ginger and sugar, plus occasionally clove, cinnamon, and even white rum, go into producing the tea. It is served chilled and is especially common to drink during Christmas time, together with sweet potato pudding or Jamaican fruit cake.
Another popular carbonated beverage in Jamaica, Ting is flavored with grapefruit juice concentrate. Its taste is a mix of sweet and acid.
43. Jamaican Rum Cake (aka: Fruit Cake)
Called by several different names, depending on who you ask, the Jamaican fruit cake – also called Christmas cake – is customary to eat during Christmas, but also other holidays, from Easter to weddings. It is a fruit cake soaked in rich dark rum, typically consisting of cherries and cranberries, plus raisins and prunes.
44. Bulla Cake
Often simply called bulla, this is a cake made from molasses, using ginger and nutmeg as the main ways to spice it. The final product is a small and round flat loaf, and is common to eat with avocado, butter, or cheese. It’s a traditional Jamaican food that has been especially popular to offer school children as a treat.
45. Bustamante Backbone
A traditional Jamaican dessert, Bustamante backbone comprises dark brown sugar, grated coconut, grated ginger, water, and a little bit of lime juice. The ingredients are all mixed together before being left to cool until they’ve turned into a hard texture, which is then cut into squares.
Made from corn and sugar, cocktion is a Jamaican dessert, in the form of a small ball. Occasionally food coloring is used to color the balls into a more appetizing color.
47. Coconut Drops
Coconut drops are Jamaica’s answer to toffee. Combining the toffee-like gummy texture with chewy but soft pieces of coconuts, it’s a sweet tasting traditional dessert in Jamaica. Typically five ingredients go into making this delicious treat: coconut, sugar, ginger, nutmeg, and salt.
48. Duckanoo (Jamaican Blue Draws)
A variation of the Caribbean dish ducana, with roots on the African continent, duckanoo is a dumpling-like sweet dish made using batata, brown sugar, coconut, sweet potato, and various spices. All the ingredients are mixed together and tied up inside of a banana leaf, with the “package” then being cooked by boiling to be ready for serving.
Gizzada is a small tart pastry, with a pinched crust shell and a coconut filling that is simultaneously both sweet and spicy. It’s a classic treat that drew its inspiration from the Portuguese tart guisada.
Recipe: Gizzada (Coconut Tart) by Dani
50. Grater Cake
In a grater cake, a layer of grated coconut is covered with sugar icing. They’re cooked together in boiling water, until it reaches its sticky and soft texture. It’s common to add pink or red food coloring on the icing to make the treat look prettier.
51. Sweet Potato Pudding
Although it’s called a pudding, the consistency of the sweet potato pudding is often more similar to a cake or a pie. For main ingredients sweet potato, flour, coconut milk, dried fruits, vanilla, nutmeg, and brown sugar are used.
Another wonderfully coconut flavored dessert, toto is a small coconut cake of a small size. Both shredded coconut and coconut milk go into creating the dish. Additional spices may be used to flavor the cake, but it can also be made simply with flour, brown sugar, baking soda, and baking powder.
Recipe: Jamaican Toto by Analida
How many of the Jamaican foods on this list were you already familiar with? Which dish was the most surprising one to you? While Jamaican jerk chicken has been making rounds around the world, shockingly many Jamaican dishes are yet to be well-known outside of the Caribbean islands (like Jamaican beef patties!). But in some ways, doesn’t that make it all the more exciting to get to have a taste of this delicious Caribbean cuisine?
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