Updated: May 27, 2021
Jamaica Attractions, Jamaican Culture, Jamaican Foods, Jamaican Dishes
The Jamaican Cuisine consists of a wide mixture of influences reflecting our rich cultural heritage. The colonial history of the island has created a melting pot of foods influenced by countries around the globe.
Known for its exotic and delicious cuisine, do you know that jerk chicken is the most popular dish in Jamaica, which is loved world-wide. Jamaica has also made popular beef patties, and introduced the world to Ackee and Saltfish, the Jamaican national dish.
Have a look at these 7 local dishes that you must try when you’re in Jamaica.
1. Ackee and Saltfish
The ackee fruit was brought to the Caribbean from Ghana before 1725 by African slaves. Ackee and saltfish (cod) is the national dish of Jamaica traditionally served as a breakfast meal on Saturdays, Sundays, or on special occasions. The ackee fruit looks like scrambled eggs and is cooked with salted fish and served with dumplings, fried breadfruit or ground provisions (yam or potatoes). If not cooked properly or picked before it is ripe, ackee can be poisonous.
Jamaicans absolutely love ackee, and it grows everywhere. It’s a favorite Jamaican food among tourists too, and the ackee and saltfish is usually cooked up in a frying pan with tomatoes, onions, and spices. You can get this for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, any time is ackee and saltfish time in Jamaica!
2. Jerk Chicken
Jerk is a style of cooking native to Jamaica in which meat is dry-rubbed or marinated with a hot spice mixture called Jamaican jerk spice. The blend of herbs, spices and pimento leaves, invented by Jamaican Maroons, has made Jerk chicken the most famous Jamaican dish. Jerk Chicken is a delicacy by itself, but is typically served with bread or festival (dumplings made with flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt, and sugar).
Jerk Chicken is the most traditional food from Jamaica and if you’re a foodie, this is one of the must-try dishes. Jerk Chicken is sold by street vendors as well as mid-range restaurants and high-end restaurants. It’s delicious, a great snack at the beach while sipping on some refreshing Jamaican drinks!
3. Oxtail and Beans
Oxtail is the culinary name for the tail of cattle. Formerly, it referred only to the tail of an ox (steer), or bullock. Jamaicans have made the dish popular and it is now a firm favorite. The meat is seasoned with local herbs and spices, fried, then cooked to perfection in a pressure cooker. Oxtail is very high in gelatin content, so it is cooked slowly over a low fire. That's when the meat falls off the bone, and you get that sticky feeling in your hands. This belly-filling dish is found at almost every Jamaican restaurant.
Jamaica's unique culinary style is a blend of all the peoples that inhabit the island, past and present, including the Arawaks, West Africans, Indians, British, and Spanish. Jamaican oxtail is reminiscent of the African one-pot cooking traditions used by the African slaves and Maroons on the island as early as the mid-1500s.
Oxtail is a dish that is popular around the world, but specifically within the Caribbean locally and abroad. Yes, it is what it sounds like. What used to be considered poor man’s food in the islands and in Jamaica is now one of the most expensive.
4. Curry Goat
Another popular food from Jamaica is Curry goat. This is the heritage of the Indian population in Jamaica after they came to work in the plantations after slavery was abolished. Curry goat is a curry dish prepared with goat meat, originating from the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia. The dish is a staple in Southeast Asian cuisine, Caribbean cuisine, and cuisine of the Indian subcontinent.
Jamaicans have developed a special love for curry and have added their own twist to make it unique. This dish can be found on any traditional island menu and is especially popular at festivals and parties. You can enjoy Curry Goat, Mutton or Chicken at many local restaurants.
5. Jamaican Beef Patty
Jamaica’s delectable patty, once a lunch-time staple is now an anytime-of-the-day type of meal. A traditional Jamaican patty is filled with a ground beef and hot peppers mix and cooked in a flaky pastry shell. It is often paired with coco bread as part of a full meal. The Jamaican patty has evolved over the years to offer varieties such as chicken, cheese, shrimp, lobster curry goat, and soy.
The Jamaican Patty is like empanadas and is more of a snack than a full meal. (Empanadas are a Spanish or Latin-American pastry turnover filled with savory ingredients that are either baked or fried.) It’s basically a meat pastry which has lots of flavors and Jamaican spices that will entertain your taste buds. You may want to eat a limited amount of these since they are quite calorie-heavy.
6. Escovitch Fish
This seafood dish is a favorite for fish lovers and is also commonly eaten around Easter. Escovitch is a style of cooking using vinegar, onions and spices. A style brought to Jamaica by Spanish Jews who lived on the island about 500 years ago. Escovitch fish is served with the remnants of its marinade, which often includes a generous serving of carrots, onions, sweet peppers and hot peppers.
This Jamaican dish is usually made with a variety of sea fish called red snapper.
7. Run Down
This fish stew might have an unusual name, but the flavor is amazing. It is made by cooking cod or in coconut milk with onions, tomatoes, and garlic until it gets a thick texture. The reason for its name is that the fish is cooked until it more or less falls apart.
Run Down is one of the traditional foods from Jamaica that most Jamaicans miss when they travel abroad or live overseas. The dish is usually served with either rice or dumplings with boiled bananas.
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Jacqueline Cameron is an editor/writer with years of writing experience running the gamut from blogging to reporting. She lives in Kingston, Jamaica and is the chief writer for the Jamaica So Nice Blog. She is a trained engineer and musician and loves to see people transformed through her work.