As far as island vacations go, a vacation in Antigua is a cut above the rest. What makes it so are the kinds of experiences you can expect to find there, its rich culture, and the tantalizing local cuisine that you probably won’t be able to get enough of.
Picture: Bayside lunch at Sandals Grande Antigua.
In Antigua, there are tasty hints of many other places in the food that is served up at local restaurants. As is the norm in most Caribbean islands, there is a West African influence in many local dishes, and other more surprising inspiration from places like China, India, Syria, Lebanon, and even Jamaica. There are also Spanish and British influences in Antigua food.
All of this means you’re about to have the time of your life going on a culinary journey in Antigua. Helpful hint: you can’t go wrong with fresh local seafood or jerk chicken, and ‘fungie’ just may surprise you!
Don’t let the name throw you off, this is the national dish of Antigua and it has nothing to do with mold or mushrooms. Antiguan fungie is made with cornmeal and okra paste that is formed into balls; the combined ingredients are then sautéed. Salt fish is typically stewed and added as a side, and for whatever reason, these two dishes perfectly complement one another. Saltfish and fungie are most commonly eaten for breakfast and dinner in both Antigua, and sister island Barbuda.
Love to try a variety of dishes while in Antigua? All-inclusive resort Sandals Grande Antigua is located on a gorgeous beach and offers 11 gourmet restaurants.
Jerk chicken almost immediately brings about thoughts of Jamaica, and this is one of many things that first gained popularity in Jamaica and spread across the other islands. Jerk chicken involves an intricate preparation process; sometimes dry rubs are done for flavoring, and spicy homemade sauces are added in. Jerk chicken is something you can find just about anywhere in Antigua, and your chances of satisfaction are high as most people follow the slow cooking process resulting in a tender and delicious meal.
Vacation goers wanting to try something new will enjoy conch, and all the various ways that it can be prepared. Conch is available at various roadside stops and local restaurants in Antigua. Try conch chowder, conch fritters, conch salad, and even conch curries while on the island. Of all the preparation methods, conch fritters are the most popular, and you can expect these to be deep fried to perfection. Conch fritters are a great snack, or a side dish.
This is likely one of the strangest names for a food item you’ve ever heard, but goat water is a real thing and it is tremendously popular in the Caribbean. The first thing you should know is that this dish is considered an aphrodisiac. It’s a light soup cooked up with just about any piece of goat meat that you can imagine, including bones. Herbs and spices like cinnamon and clove are added in, and sometimes dumplings, yams, potatoes, and more. Goat water is usually eaten around breakfast time, and it is offered by some local restaurants. Keep in mind, this dish is very filling!
When it comes to Antigua and Barbuda’s food, Ducana is almost as traditional as it gets. Ducana is a sweet potato dumpling or pudding that is loved by most who try it. Chances are, you’ll love it too! Ducana is made with grated sweet potatoes, grated coconut, sugar, flour, coconut milk, raisons, ginger, nutmeg, and a variety of other seasonings and ingredients. Sometimes pumpkin is included. All the ingredients are placed into a banana leaf and boiled in water. This dish tends to be a little on the sweet side, and for that reason is combined with savory choices like stewed saltfish.
If you can’t decide what to eat while on the go in Antigua, just know that you can’t go wrong with roti. This dish which is basically a wrap filled with chicken, beef, pork, seafood or vegetables is popular all around the Caribbean, and in Antigua you can add curried sauce to your roti. Roti can either be a side to a full meal, a snack, or even a whole meal depending on how big it is, and whether sides like fresh salad are included.
Pineapple is a favorite for many people around the world, but not many have experienced the black pineapple of Antigua. The shortened name for this version of the fruit is the Antiguan Black, and it is known as the sweetest pineapple in the world. It can be tough to tell when this fruit is ripe, as the green tint remains no matter what stage of ripeness it is at, so you’ll need to ask an experienced local for advice before you dig in. The Antiguan Black is also less acidic than other pineapples, and the core tends to be more tender. Once you find the perfect Antigua Black Pineapple, slice it, chill it and enjoy!
No Caribbean menu is complete without some Johnny Cakes, and this bread-like delight which is cooked on a griddle is often used as a sandwich, and served with fillings including cheese, saltfish, or other ingredients. Johnny cakes in Antigua are made with cornmeal, sugar, salt, milk or water. Try a few of these with your breakfast, or as a side with a light lunch.
Who can resist the sweet and sour allure of tamarind balls? These too are said to have originated from Jamaica, and they are incredibly popular today. These are essentially snacks made with tamarind pulp, that are sometimes spiced up, or just rolled in sugar. Take some home with you to share with friends or family.
Shawarma is an international favorite, and it is super popular in Antigua much thanks to immigrants from Syria and Lebanon who introduced it to the island. Various meats are cooked on a vertical rotisserie or spit and served with sides including pita bread or salad. There are plenty of meat choices for your shawarma in Antigua including lamb or mutton, chicken, turkey, beef, or veal.
A tasty treat if there ever was one, the name of this dessert lets you know what to expect when you bite into it – coconut and sugar, with a zing of ginger. These sugar cakes are pretty to look at with designs created with food coloring, and you might just have a hard time convincing your children to just eat it and get it over with.
Made with sugar, butter and milk, fudge is a simple Caribbean staple that receives a bit of a twist depending on the island on which it is being cooked up. In Antigua, coconut milk is usually added in, and there are various flavors of fudge including tamarind, pineapple, and ponche kuba. Bring some home as a souvenir if you don’t finish them all before your return!
If you’re vacationing with kids and trying to get them to be more open minded to trying authentic Antiguan food, you can start with something like peanut brittle, which is a simple dessert that includes caramelized sugar and peanuts. You’ll find it being sold in the form of bars or chunks at most local markets.
This British inspired dessert is something of a comfort food, and in Antigua it is anything but mundane. Ingredients include cubed white bread, eggs, milk, spices including nutmeg, cinnamon, vanilla and ginger, and a spicy rum sauce topping.
You’ll have quite a few opportunities to taste local rums while in Antigua, and one of the best times to do this is during an interactive rum tasting tour of the Antigua Distillery. Go along for an opportunity to sip on something buzz worthy in paradise.
The Caribbean and rum punch go hand in hand, and Antigua is one of the islands where a well-made rum punch may very well become your best friend. You can find rum punch at most restaurants and bars, which isn’t surprising since it’s so easy to make. All you’ll need is some local rum, lime juice and cane sugar. Sometimes nutmeg and other ingredients are added in to spice things up.
Insider tip: Speaking of spicing things up, Sandals Grande Antigua offers 11 gourmet restaurants, and 7 bars (including swim-up bars!). Guests can eat and drink as much as they want during their stay. It’s all included, always unlimited!
Though some historians dispute this, Wadadli is said to have been the name given to Antigua by the first settlers to the island. Nevertheless, Antigua’s most popular beer goes by that name, and its sweet, light flavor will likely win you over, particularly on a hot day by the beach!
You can get all kinds of food in Antigua, from national dishes like fungie and saltfish, to Middle Eastern cuisine, Chinese food, and other varied food choices. Locally speaking, fresh fish, seasoned rice and jerk chicken are top choices.
Rum is popular in Antigua, and you’ll find out why after trying the local rum punch!
Food is reasonably priced in Antigua – at an average local restaurant you can expect to pay around $10 to $20 per person for a meal. Want to enjoy gourmet food at its finest right at your resort? Consider going all-inclusive at Sandals Grande Antigua.