10 Best Foods to Eat in Jamaica

#Jamaica is known for being the birthplace of reggae music, having stunning beaches, and producing some of the best rum in the world. But how much do you know about Jamaican #food? While not as popular or widespread as Italian or Chinese cuisine, Jamaican food is nonetheless delicious and well worth trying. So if you're planning a vacation or even a relocation to Jamaica, make sure you pen in some time to visit the local restaurants.

Sweet, spicy, hearty, rustic, and aromatic, the best foods to eat in Jamaica can just as easily be found in street food vans as in upscale restaurants. Once you try them, you'll be coming back for more for sure!

Jamaican cuisine is bursting with hundreds of unique dishes, from soups to snacks to desserts. Recipes may vary from region to region or change based on the season's meats, fruits, and vegetables. You won't make a mistake no matter where you start your food adventures, but there are still some staples of Jamaican cuisine that you simply cannot miss out on.

Best Foods to Eat in Jamaica

And don't worry – they won't cost you a fortune. When you're saving up for traveling to Jamaica, you only need to budget around $100 a day (including the food). As one of the most affordable locations in the Caribbean, Jamaica is the perfect tropical vacation spot when you don't have money to throw around.

1. Jerk chicken (or pork)

If you've tried any Jamaican dish, it's jerk chicken. But you should have it while in Jamaica, nonetheless. Not trying such a staple dish is equivalent to eating out in Hong Kong and skipping the sweet and sour pork. A veritable institution in and of itself, jerk chicken is a traditional Jamaican dish prepared by marinating the meat in a flavorful blend of spices before smoking it over a fire of pimento wood.

The seasoning comprises allspice, scotch bonnet peppers, cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, ginger, garlic, and thyme ground into a paste. Slow-cooking the meat on pimento wood further infuses it with a unique flavor from the smoke. The result is perfectly charred, tender, juicy, and spicy meat that goes well with rice and peas, steamed cabbage, and fried plantain. However, you can try jerk pork instead if you're not a chicken fan.

If you try one thing in Jamaica, make it jerk chicken.

2. Ackee and saltfish

Another must-try is the national dish of Jamaica – ackee, and saltfish. Typically a breakfast food, this meal looks like scrambled eggs – and tastes completely different. Ackee is a round, reddish fruit with yellow flesh originally from West Africa but growing in abundance on the island.

It is first boiled, then sautéed with salted codfish, onions, tomatoes, chilis, and some spices. Coleslaw, dumplings, hardo bread, and fried breadfruit sometimes follow as sides. The result is a unique blend of sweet, savory, and spicy that some consider an acquired taste, but all see as one of the most authentically local foods to eat in Jamaica.

3. Curry goat (also mutton or chicken)

Initially an Indian dish, curry has taken the world by storm. Cheap and easy to make yet filling and incredibly flavorful, it is a favorite for tourists traveling the world on a budget as a local variation can be found in virtually every country you visit. Indian immigrants working on sugar plantations introduced it to Jamaican cuisine as well.

Today, curries are a staple of Jamaican food. The most common version uses goat meat, but mutton and chicken are also popular. To prepare it, you slowly simmer the meat in a spicy sauce. Then you serve it over a steamy bowl of rice and peas.

4. Jamaican patties

Ubiquitous across the island and popular outside of it, too, the Jamaican patty needs no introduction. You may even have found it while exploring Miami, New York, Buffalo, Atlanta, or any other city with a significant Jamaican diaspora. A flaky turmeric pastry with a filling of spicy ground beef, this delicious snack packs a proper punch of flavors.

5. Fish and festival

It's not the kind of festival you're probably thinking of! Rather, it refers to deep-fried dumplings served along with grilled vegetables and fish in this dish. And while they are delicious, they are not the star here. What makes this dish so great is the fresh catch straight from the sea. You might end up with parrotfish, kingfish, oysters, or crab on your plate – all of it prepared to mouth-watering perfection.

Fresh fish and seafood is abundant on the island.

6. Run-dun (fish stew)

Also known as rundown, this simple fish stew is easy to prepare yet incredibly satisfying to eat. If you're moving to Jamaica from the US and need a hearty meal to get you through the day, you can even try making this at home. Just put cod or mackerel in large chunks into a pot with some diced yams, tomatoes, and onions, and cover it all in coconut milk.

Then add the island spices and leave it all to simmer while you go down the to-do list you should follow when moving internationally. The melt-in-your-mouth texture, rich flavor, and enticing aroma will keep you motivated through all the packing. But make sure to try the local version too! It'll be even fresher and more delicious.

7. Oxtail stew

Jamaican cuisine uses oxtail in a couple of different ways in a couple of different dishes. But the most popular way to eat it is in a stew. The meat is braised with tomatoes, butter beans, and black pepper, spiced with all the usual suspects. Patience is the secret ingredient here. However, that patience is what makes this stew one of the best foods to eat in Jamaica.

Slow cooking for a long time is essential to achieving the right tenderness of this otherwise tough protein.

8. Rice and peas

A popular side dish for many meals is Jamaican-style rice and peas. It is a mixture of rice and beans (typically kidney or dried gungo peas). These are cooked in coconut milk along with thyme, pepper, garlic, onion, scallion, and allspice. It pairs well with many other popular dishes, especially stews and curries. But the blend of creamy coconut milk and punchy flavors makes it irresistible even on its own.

You can have it with your favorite main for lunch or dinner, then eat the leftovers for breakfast. The grain and legume will be plenty filling enough to get you through a day of scrolling hansenbros.com to figure out how to move to Jamaica permanently so you can enjoy all this delicious food every day. As a side or as a main, rice and peas is an authentic Jamaican dish.

9. Escovitch fish

Not feeling hungry enough for a big hearty meal? Try the escovitch fish instead. It's crispy, golden-brown, deep-fried fish (typically whole) that comes with a side of pickled vegetables. The most common sides are carrots, onions, scotch bonnet peppers, and pimento berries. A sauce of vinegar, lime, and spices adds an extra refreshing kick to the dish.

10. Pepper pot soup

If you're looking for a lighter meal or a vegetarian option, then pepper pot soup is for you. It is a traditional Creole-style soup with leafy greens. The main ingredients are typically callaloo (think spinach or collard greens) and amaranth. The boiled and diced greens are then cooked with a mixture of yam, cocoyam, okra, scotch bonnet peppers, and pimento berries.

For extra richness and creaminess, you can also add coconut milk. Traditionally, pepper pot soup also has pigtails, salted beef, or cod, but you can easily skip those!

Other things to try while in Jamaica

While these are the best foods to eat in Jamaica, there are plenty more you can try. Stews and soups are very popular. So if you like those, order some fish tea or mannish water. When you get tired of all the meat and fish, give fried plantains or fried breadfruit a go. And for dessert, you can choose between Jamaican-style porridge, gizzada, sweet potato pudding, and coconut drops. Of course, you'll need something to wash it all down with.

Give authentic Jamaican tea a go, or try the beautifully rich Blue Mountain coffee. And if you want a taste of something stronger, rum, Red Stripe beer, and Dragon Stout are all great options for a night out on your tropical vacation.

Here are some stranger delicacies:

Canabutter - As the name suggests, this is a baked product made from infusing marijuana (cannabis sativa) and butter.

Mannish water - Despite what the name might suggest, it’s not actually water. Instead it is a soup that is cooked with scotch bonnet pepper and various boiled parts of the goat, which namely includes the head, the liver, testicles, tripe and the intestines. It gets its name from the fact that goat testicles are one of the most common ingredients used to make it.

Chicken foot soup - This soup is made with pumpkins, carrots, yellow yam and chayote. The recipe also uses okra (ladies fingers) and scotch bonnet pepper.

Peanut Porridge - This porridge is exactly what the tin says. It’s mainly made through blending flour, boiled water, cornmeal, boiled peanut, oatmeal in a container and then adding vanilla extract, nutmeg, condensed milk and evaporated milk.

Grater cake - This is a traditional Jamaican sweet treat that is made using the white parts of coconuts, sugar and peppermint essence.

Fish tea - This is a spicy and thick Jamaican tea that is used as a common appetizer with fish as the principal ingredient. Although it’s called fish tea, it commonly also includes ground yam, carrots, pumpkin and potatoes and green bananas. It’s also flavoured with milk.

Blue Drawers - This is a starchy and boiled pudding mainly made up of cornmeal, green banana, coconut, brown sugar and and spices which is tied up in a banana leaf. We also call it tie-leaf.

Stew Peas - Commonly eaten at lunch or dinner time, this dish is made with coconut milk, hot pepper, pig’s tail, stew peas and red kidney beans.

Conch - In Jamaica, people love to extract the meat of conch and then fry, jerk, stew or curry it and use them in soup and fritters. It’s also quite popular in the wider Caribbean particularly in Turks and Caicos, Puerto Rico, the Bahamas, Dominican Republic, Grenada and Haiti.

Gizzada - The is a coconut tart made from a mixture of grated coconut and sugar that is placed within a pastry shell.

Kalyan Panja