For a small island, Jamaica is home to a wide-ranging and exciting blend of culinary influences and flavors. Incorporating traditions from around the world with uniquely Jamaican ingredients, this cuisine is unlike anything else and offers an incredible gastronomic experience.
These are the 10 foods you won’t want to miss on your next Jamaican vacation.
1. Jerk Chicken
If you go to Jamaica and don’t eat jerk, you have missed something big. This island staple refers to the marinade and the way the chicken is cooked to make the perfect and unique flavor. Pork, tofu, fish, and shrimp are also valid substitutions for chicken. You can find jerk throughout the island, in spots ranging from sit-down restaurants to roadside stands.
2. Beef Patty
Technically there are way more fillings for these than just beef, but the classic and delicious standard are these flaky, savory turnovers filled with ground beef and spices. Vegetable and chicken varieties are also excellent. Grab one of these yellow-tinted pastries at either Juici Patties or Tastee Patties – or get one of each and join the age-old debate over who makes them better.
What’s better than dumplings? Fried cornbread dumplings. These little bite-sized snacks are light and delicious, and eating them is fun – kind of like a festival! The odd name is apropos after all; these Caribbean fried dumplings are absolutely delectable.
4. Ackee and Saltfish
Basically the national dish of Jamaica, this can be eaten as either breakfast or dinner, and is often served alongside fried plantains, boiled green bananas, or breadfruit (see number six). The ackee fruit is originally from Ghana, and the fish is dried cod that’s usually soaked overnight to remove most of the salt.
This dish of greens is made throughout the Caribbean, but the Jamaican version is distinctive. The main ingredient is amaranth leaves, known locally as callaloo, and it is simply steamed with salt, onions, and scallions. It’s a deceptively basic dish, but iconic, and one you’ve really got to try to understand.
A starchy fruit native to the South Pacific, this light, slightly sweet fruit makes a great side dish for any meal. Often fried or roasted, breadfruit has a taste a bit like potato, and as a staple of Jamaican cuisine, you really should give it a try during your visit to the island.
7. Run Down
This stew usually consists of fish (most often mackerel or cod), coconut milk, yam, tomato, onion, and various seasonings. Often served with breadfruit, you can find it in restaurants throughout Jamaica, and it is even commonly eaten for breakfast. Have it whenever you feel the urge, but make sure you do at some point while on island time!
8. Pickapeppa Sauce
This condiment is basically the Sriracha of Jamaica, without the overwhelming spiciness. There are extremely hot versions of Pickapeppa sauce available, some made with extra hot Scotch Bonnet peppers (which are famously spicy). But there are also mild versions, and even a mango variety. Whatever your ideal spiciness level – enjoy!
9. Rum Punch
Jamaican rum is known around the world as being among the best. If you’re not up for drinking it straight, try it in classic Jamaican rum punch. Besides the high quality rum, the drink’s fruit juices and other additions make it the perfect island drink.
10. Red Stripe
No trip to Jamaica is complete without sampling the island’s most famous beer. It’s not quite the same as the Red Stripe you can get at home, which is brewed in the States. The bottles you get in Jamaica are still brewed in Kingston. From its mild flavor to the distinctive shape of its bottle, Red Stripe is uniquely Jamaican and a must-try when visiting.
Savor jerk chicken and these other delicious dishes on on your own trip to the paradise of Jamaica. Contact a travel advisor to start planning your foodie vacation today.