Caribbean food is a party for your tastebuds. With variations of sweet and heat, and loads of spices, it’s incredibly craveable and simpler to make than you may imagine.
Whether you’re vegan, vegetarian, or a meat lover, these 36 easy Caribbean recipes are full of island flavor.
What Is Caribbean Food?
Starting in the year 1493, Christopher Columbus brought over new ingredients during his voyages to the new world. These included chickpeas, coconut, eggplants, onion, cilantro, and garlic. These ingredients became a staple part of the Caribbean diet.
From there, Caribbean food became a fusion of cuisines from around the world including Cajun, Creole, European, Latin American, Indian/South Asian, Middle Eastern, Chinese, and Amerindian. The foods and spices used in these recipes came together in the Caribbean as peoples and cultures intertwined.
The cuisine has become quite popular, though it’s widely misunderstood. Many people think of Caribbean food as consisting of a few simple things such as pineapple, coconut, or jerk chicken. But in fact, it’s quite complex with ingredients and techniques that reflect the area’s origins and make it distinctly different from any other type of food.
9 Caribbean Recipe Essentials
These 9 Caribbean recipe essentials include a variety of foods, spices, and tools that are a necessary part of everyday Caribbean culture.
- Lots of spices – When you’re cooking Caribbean food, don’t be afraid to add spices – lots of them! Stock your spice cabinet with a full range of spices including paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, adobo seasoning, cinnamon, allspice, scotch bonnet, bay leaves, saffron, turmeric, cayenne, and salt and pepper.
- Jerk seasoning – A unique blend of spices, different brands have their own combination. Most include chili, allspice, black pepper, cumin, thyme, paprika, bay leaves, and turmeric, along with salt, pepper, garlic, and onion. It can be found in most large supermarkets, online, and in Caribbean shops. A spice mix is usually best, but you can also find it in a marinade.
- Coconut – Coconut is extremely versatile, and Caribbeans use it in all its forms. That includes coconut milk, coconut oil, coconut water, as well as dried and flaked coconut. What makes it so special is that it can add a rich and creamy texture to any dish, including grains or stewing meats.
- Different kinds of fruit – Fruit is abundant across the Caribbean, which means you’ll find it in almost every recipe. In addition to coconut, you’ll want to have on hand fruits like banana, plantain, papaya, pineapple, mango, passion fruit, breadfruit, and ackee. These fruits are versatile enough to create both sweet and savory recipes.
- Rum – Rum can not only be enjoyed in a glass, it’s also a great ingredient to add deep, rich flavor to your Caribbean food. You can choose from all its varieties including dark rum and spiced rum. It gives sweet treats a unique flavor and can be used to create a delicious glaze for meats.
- Rice, beans, and legumes – These are Caribbean pantry staples. This is due to the influence of Latin American and European cultures. You’ll want to stock up on different rice varieties such as long grain rice, coconut rice, and yellow rice. And be sure to grab beans and legumes such as black beans, red or kidney beans, pigeon peas, and chickpeas.
- Variety of pots and pans – Look for pots and pans that distribute heat evenly and uniformly to prevent the food from being burned or scorched. They should have a good thickness across the bottom. Choose from different types of metal including copper, aluminum, and iron or cast iron.
- Mortar and pestle – A traditional cooking tool, a mortar and pestle are used to crush, grind, and mash ingredients including spices and different types of food. They come in a variety of sizes depending on the capacity you need. A one to three cup capacity should be used for heavy duty jobs, but if you’re only crushing or grinding spices, a smaller capacity will work just fine.
- Pastelle press – You can find this handy tool in either wood or metal. It helps to make traditional pastelles, a staple around the holidays. The design allows for a perfectly formed pastelle with the right thickness and round shape.
12 Easy Caribbean Recipes for Meat Lovers
Meat lovers rejoice! You can’t go wrong with these 12 Caribbean recipes.
- Jamaican Beef Stew with Scotch Bonnets, Ginger, & Allspice | Simply Recipes
- Caribbean Flank Steak with Coconut Rice | Beef It’s What for Dinner
- Jamaican Beef Stew with Rice | Serious Eats
- Jamaican Meat Pie | Immaculate Bites
- Roast Beef Caribbean Style | Taste of Home
- Jamaican Pepper Steak | Jamaican Foods & Recipes
- Classic Caribbean Corned Beef | SideChef
- Caribbean-Style Beef Curry Rice | Certified Angus Beef
- Caribbean Jerk Steak | Home Chef
- Jamaican Beef Patties | Allrecipes
- Caribbean Ribeye Steaks with Grilled Pineapple Salad | Lake Geneva Country Meats
- Caribbean Beef Stew (Carne Guisada) | The Spruce Eats
12 Easy Caribbean Recipes for Vegetarians
These 12 meatless meals are the perfect option any day of the week.
- Jamaican Fried Dumplings | A YouNique Journey
- Crispy Caribbean Veggie Wraps | Taste of Home
- Curried Jamaican Stew | The Vegan 8
- Jamaican Steamed Cabbage | Recipes from a Pantry
- Jamaican Sweet Potato Pudding | Healthier Steps
- Caribbean Veggie Stew | Wise Living
- Jamaican Pinto Bean Curry | Bianca Zapatka
- Caribbean Jerk Quorn Meatless Filets with Rice | Quorn
- Jamaican Cornmeal Porridge | Jamaicans.com
- Jamaican Cabbage Recipe | Recipes from a Pantry
- Jamaican Callaloo | Healthier Steps
- Jamaican Banana Bread | Insanely Good Recipes
12 Easy Caribbean Recipes for Vegans
Try these 12 vegan Caribbean options – the ultimate plant-based recipes!
- Vegan Jamaican Bowl | Plant-Based Passport
- Vegan Caribbean Bowl | Holy Cow Vegan
- Vegan Caribbean Paella | That Girl Cooks Healthy
- Vegan Caribbean Crunch Wrap | One Great Vegan
- Vegan Caribbean Jerk Chili | One Green Planet
- Vegan Jamaican Power Bowl | Orchids & Sweet Tea
- Vegan Caribbean Plantain Curry | That Girl Cooks Healthy
- Vegan Rasta Pasta | From the Comfort of My Bowl
- Caribbean Feast | Veggie
- Man-up Caribbean Veg Curry & Fresh Roti | Happy Foodie
- Vegan Caribbean Breakfast | That Girl Cooks Healthy
- Vegan Caribbean Pelau | Eats Well with Others
Full of delicious flavors and aromas, you can liven up mealtime with these 36 easy Caribbean recipes.
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