Food makes the world go ‘round and finding a vacation where the food options are as appetizing as they are extensive is what the best dreams are made of. Of course, that dream is made even better in reality if that vacation is in a Caribbean destination like The Bahamas, known for its unique culture and cuisine.
Right up there with the stunning physical attributes of The Bahamas is the cuisine of the islands, which is diverse, delicious, and in some cases, daring. Some of the common items you’ll find on your plate are shellfish, lobster, conch, crab, fish, fruits, potatoes, pigeon peas, rice, and pork. All these ingredients and more are brought together in a passionate and determined fashion in The Bahamas… so much so that you’ll probably find yourself planning your return trip before leaving the island!
Also read: ‘Top 50 Fun Things To Do In The Bahamas’.
Food in The Bahamas stands out for its richness, intensity of flavor, and often, its simplicity. It is also set apart because of the unique twist often given to even the most common items, like regular mac and cheese, as compared to Bahamian baked mac and cheese (night and day!) A similar upgrade is granted to most dishes cooked up in this territory, and this is absolutely one of the things that makes The Bahamas a destination food lovers will enjoy.
If you’re planning on visiting The Bahamas or have booked your ticket already, here are some of the food and drink items you’ll need to get familiar with while in the islands!
In this article on the Sandals Blog:
Traditional Bahamian main dishes
Traditional Bahamian side dishes & snacks
Traditional Bahamian desserts
Popular Bahamian drinks
Get ready for the island getaway of a lifetime!
If you’re in The Bahamas, chances are you’re not going to leave without trying conch, one way or the other. Conch salad is a good way to start if you want to feel as though you’re eating something healthy, that’s also interesting and different. In your conch salad bowl, you’ll find diced conch meat with add-ons like chopped peppers, onion, tomato, salt and pepper. Everything is tossed about in a marinade made with lime, lemon, and orange juice. The marinade ‘cooks’ the conch a little, but other than that, expect your conch ceviche to be mostly uncooked. This dish tends to be a little spicy when local peppers are added in, so that’s something to keep in mind.
You can enjoy a bowl of boiled fish at any time of day, and it is especially popular during Christmas time in The Bahamas. There are different types of fish used for this dish, but the most common are the Bahamian snapper or the grouper, but pretty much any flaky white fish will do. Often, you’ll find boiled fish alongside buttered grits or Johnny cake, and it is usually cooked up with potatoes and spices. Bahamian boiled fish makes a comforting dish to enjoy particularly on one of the cooler nights in the islands!
If you’re a lobster fan, you’ll love these miniature ‘Caribbean lobsters’, which are cooked up in several different ways in The Bahamas. Most often though, Bahamian crawfish are broiled, or used in a ‘lobster’ salad. You’ll do well ordering crawfish as an appetizer paired with some tasty local sides, or as the central focus in a Caribbean centric entrée.
Expert tip: Guests of all-inclusive resorts Sandals Royal Bahamian and Sandals Emerald Bay can enjoy unlimited seafood and other dishes for free during their stay! Both resorts feature 11 high quality gourmet restaurants.
Every country has its own unique dishes that are a must try for visitors, and in The Bahamas, souse is one of the most popular. Try chicken souse, which is a wholesome soup that consists of lots of vegetables like onions, bell peppers, carrots, celery, and more. Fresh lime juice is added in for a zesty touch, and then either tender chicken pieces, oxtail, sheep’s tongue, or pig’s feet. If you’re trying it for the first time, start with chicken, and work your way up to the more diverse options, with a bit of pepper if you like it spicy. Johnny cakes (see side dishes) are the perfect side dish for souse, especially if you’re having it for breakfast.
The Bahamas is a great place to try conch for the first time if you haven’t already indulged in this Caribbean delicacy. Conch fritters are made with conch meat, onion, peppers, celery, garlic, and other seasonings. All the ingredients are combined, and then deep fried until they’re golden brown and delicious. While conch fritters may not be the healthiest dish, it certainly is one of the tastiest. Definitely have conch fritters with the dipping sauce, which is usually made from ketchup, lime juice, and mayonnaise.
There are many ways to cook conch, but the cracked conch method is one of the most delicious. Cracked conch is essentially fried conch, and during the preparation process you’ll notice chefs pounding the conch meat with a mallet until it’s tender. Later the thin slices are coated with batter, and then deep fried. Order your cracked conch in The Bahamas with a side of vegetables, dipping sauce, and fries (ketchup or hot sauce optional)!
Though there are myths that Lionfish were released into Caribbean waters by way of an aquarium being flooded during hurricane Andrew in 1992, the truth of the matter is, long before that Lionfish were spotted near the region – in Dania Florida, to be exact (1985).
They have since made their way to the Caribbean, and their population has increased in recent years. As the Lionfish has no natural predators, this is a problem for marine life in the region which are often the target for Lionfish.
The solution? In many islands including those of the Caribbean, Lionfish has started to appear on menus, with more and more creative ways to cook it being conceptualized. Before cooking the spines of the Lionfish are removed, and underneath it all is a white, buttery meat, that many people are growing to love. While in The Bahamas, look around for light menu items like Lionfish tacos!
Flavorful, rich, and a little spicy, minced crawfish is a comfort food that has long secured its place on the dinner table in The Bahamas. Bahamian crawfish are large, and not to be confused with small crayfish you find in the US. These instead are large spiny Caribbean lobsters, with spiky whips instead of claws. For this dish, after being boiled, shelled and shredded, crawfish meat is often sautéed in tomatoes, peppers and other spices. Later it is placed back into the shell and served with white rice or another local accompaniment.
Conch chowder is a great introduction to the conch frenzy of The Bahamas, and this is a hearty soup if there ever was once. With tomato as a base, conch chowder is a medley of flavors including that of thyme, basil, crushed red pepper, garlic, fennel, potatoes, plum tomatoes, and more. During preparation the conch meat is stewed until tender along with the other ingredients. When conch chowder is done well, it is done exceptionally well, and you’ll probably be tempted to have a second bowl with a side of freshly baked buns!
Much unlike stewed or boiled chicken, steamed chicken isn’t cooked in boiling hot water. Instead, in The Bahamas you’ll find local chefs using their signature tomato sauce to braise the chicken, which creates an entirely different result. This is one menu item that will pleasantly surprise you, as many people find it doesn’t look or taste as they would expect. Try a local street food tour which will take you to the best spot to try Bahamian steamed chicken!
Seafood is popular in The Bahamas, and stew fish or stew conch are the perfect examples of dishes that can do no wrong. If you’re a seafood lover, don’t leave the islands without trying a hearty fish stew, or stew conch, which is usually made with lots of spices, tomatoes, celery, onion, and other delicious ingredients. Have either of these for breakfast or lunch and you’ll be filled for a few hours at least!
You probably won’t be able to get enough of Bahamian baked crab once you’ve tried it just once; like most other dishes, the Caribbean twist is what makes regular crab stand out in this territory. Before getting onto your plate, your crab would have been baked inside the shell, then removed from the shell at which point various seasonings, breadcrumbs and other ingredients would be added in. After that it would be stuffed back into the shell ahead of being served. A lot of the time you’ll find that the crab is a bit spicy, and it’s best when eaten hot.
There’s a wide variety of fish to be enjoyed in The Bahamas, due to the abundance of fish in the surrounding oceans. Your fish meal is guaranteed to be fresh and tasty no matter how it’s prepared, but seared or fried are both delectable options. Most commonly, snapper and grouper are what you’ll find being served at local spots, and these are usually served whole. You can order just fish, or a complete fish meal if you choose, but be sure to add some fresh lemon or lime over top, and maybe even some pepper to add a little zing to your meal.
Fire engine is considered a comfort food in The Bahamas, with many people even attributing it to being a hangover cure. It’s salty, spicy, and savory, and includes ingredients like corned beef, corn, sweet pepper, celery, onions, tomato paste, rice, or grits. Fire engine is a breakfast staple but is versatile enough to suit other meal times. The name of the dish has something to do with its ability to keep your belly ‘warm’, or keep you filled until you’re ready to dive in for more!
Who doesn’t like patties, especially when they’re made Caribbean style? In The Bahamas, patties made with fillings like minced beef and vegetables are immensely popular, as are the ones made vegetarian, or vegan style. Sometimes local patties can be on the spicy side, but not overly so. This is the perfect snack to pack into your bag if you’re planning on doing some exploring around town or spending the day out.
In The Bahamas, peas ‘n rice often refers to rice with pigeon peas. These two dishes are usually made separately, and then combined with vegetables, spices, fresh stock, and sometimes salted pork or bacon. Peas ‘n rice is the perfect accompaniment for just about any Bahamian dish you can think of, and it is truly delicious (and not at all hard to find)!
Bahamian Johnny cakes are a little sweet, and they are usually baked until golden brown then served in block shapes, or slices. You can have Johnny cakes for breakfast or as a snack on the go while in The Bahamas. There are plenty of ways to eat this treat which has a pretty short ingredient list (milk, butter, sugar, flour, and baking powder), but among the most common are with butter or jam slathered over top or accompanying a soup or stew. Either way, once you try it, you’ll understand right away what the fuss was all about.
Comparable in popularity to peas ‘n rice, crab and rice is a heartier version of that Bahamian staple. There’s a bit of history behind crab and rice that you should know: it is said to have been one of those recipes brought to the islands by African American slaves from the southern United States. Today, most Bahamians know about crab catching practices in the summertime and the delicious result of a good catch even if they don’t engage in the traditional practice themselves. Try this savory dish while in the islands for an authentic taste of The Bahamas.
As Caribbean people like to say, you haven’t had baked macaroni and cheese until you’ve tried it in the Caribbean. The magic is in the seasoning, and in The Bahamas, baked macaroni and cheese includes ingredients like onions, green peppers, and other herbs and spices. Eggs, milk, and sometimes mustard and even ketchup are added to the macaroni once it’s boiled, and then everything is placed into a baking dish, and topped with cheese. Some people choose to use more than one kind of cheese, which helps to enhance the flavor. Once cooked, the macaroni is cut into squares and served either individually, as a side for a full meal.
Photo credit: JJava Designs/Shutterstock.com
Potato salad no matter where it’s made is hard to resist, but the creamy and filling version of this menu item available in The Bahamas has won many a heart over the years. Diced boiled eggs and mixed vegetables are some of the ingredients you’ll find in your potato salad in The Bahamas, which will likely accompany a barbequed meal. Since this dish is easy to make, you’ll find many variations. As mayonnaise is usually included in this dish, ensure that whatever potato salad you decide to try in The Bahamas is fresh, and from a reputable restaurant or food stop.
There’s hardly any Caribbean dish as addictive as fried plantains, and once you try it for the first time you may even have a hard time deciding when enough is enough. Made right, these will be the right consistency; not too firm, and they’ll also be on the sweet side. Fried plantains taste great with just about anything, but you’ll frequently find them on barbeque plates, with jerked meats, or with a regular meal.
It’s easy to go wrong with even simple dishes like cole slaw, but in The Bahamas this dish goes oh-so-right with sweet touches added in. Most Bahamians will add some sugar to their cole slaw, as well as a little lime juice over the vegetables. The result is refreshing and appetizing, and it’s best eaten alongside a fried, barbequed, or otherwise spicy meal.
Described by some who’ve tried it as “unbelievably good” and “a must try dessert”, Guava Duff is an island favorite if there ever was one. Bahamians say the secret to this spongy cake with diced guava being done right is all in the rum sauce that is used to coat the dessert before it’s served.
Considering it involves rolling the dough in a way to form guava spirals in the center and other intricacies, it can be a little difficult to get Guava Duff just right, but that’s not something you’ll need to worry about on your vacation as you’re bound to find a spot serving up this local delicacy. Eat it while it's hot, and don’t forget to look up the numerous health benefits of guava you’ll be benefiting from once you’re done!
If it’s your first time to The Bahamas, it is vital that you try rum cake at least once. Rum cake is unofficially the national desert of the islands, and rightly so as you’ll hardly find a person who isn’t a fan.
According to Bahamian history as most locals will tell you, rum in The Bahamas goes way back to the days of rum supply ‘overflow’, to the point that locals started using rum in many recipes for preservation purposes, and to spice things up. This marked the beginnings of rum cake, and not much has changed since aside from the fact that the dessert is now hugely popular.
What you need to know about rum cake is that after the cake itself is baked and cooled, thick, butter rum sauce or syrup is added over top. Putting in the rum after the cake is baked ensures it’s rich and somewhat potent, something that makes these cakes very popular around the festive (holiday) season. Get your rum cake in The Bahamas from The Bahamas Rum Cake Factory or order one from a local baker.
It’s always a good time to have a Bahama Mama, whether you want to have one of these cocktails made with rum, coconut rum, fruit juices or coffee-flavored liqueur as a post breakfast treat, or as a bar starter on a Bahamian night out. Bahama Mama cocktails pair well with just about anything, and they’re super refreshing with freshly squeezed pineapple and lemon juice added in.
Sky Juice is a little less mellow than some of the other lighter island drinks, but it will help you quickly sink into the Caribbean rhythm. Made with coconut water, gin and condensed milk, this is a distinctly Bahamian concoction that will make you wonder why you didn’t come to the Caribbean sooner.
For unlimited Bahama Mama’s, Pina Colada and other cocktails, stay at one of Sandals all-inclusive resorts in The Bahamas, where you can eat and drink as much as you want, whenever you want. It’s all included in your stay!
If you fancy sweet drinks, you’ll enjoy Goombay Punch which taste a bit like pineapple soda. You can get this drink in the can pretty much anywhere in The Bahamas in varying sizes, and in 20 oz bottles. Get a six pack if you’re spending the day at the beach; you can choose from the regular Bahamas Goombay punch or try the Goombay Fruit Champagne.
Goombay Smash is a classic Bahamian cocktail made with Goombay Punch and other ingredients. It was first served up in Green Turtle Cay by Emily Cooper of Miss Emily’s Blue Bee Bar. Key ingredients are dark rum, coconut liqueur, pineapple juice, lemon juice, and simple syrup. You’ll find many variations of this cocktail in The Bahamas, but they’ll likely be equally as satisfying!
Let go of your inhibitions with a citrusy Yellow Bird as you enjoy your laid-back Caribbean vacation. Rum, liqueur, orange and pineapple juices bring this cocktail to life, and you’ll do well to start your Bahamian adventures with one of these somewhere in the mix.
Nassau’s one and only craft beer is a must-try when vacationing in The Bahamas! Visit the Pirate Republic brewery while in this city and enjoy a variety of their craft beers. You can find the brewery close to the cruise port and historic city center of Nassau, they also run a small pub on Paradise Island.
Looking for more fun things to do in Nassau? Read ‘78 Exciting Things To Do In Nassau, The Bahamas’.
Kalik Beer is known as the beer of The Bahamas, and its name has something to do with cowbells and Junkanoo, the annual Bahamian carnival celebration. The name ‘Kalik’ is likened to the sound the cowbells make when shaken; cowbells are an integral part of the Junkanoo Festival, as are other traditional Bahamian instruments. The beer itself is considered a national favorite, and you can enjoy various different versions including regular, light (Kalik Light), and extra strong (Kalik Gold and Kalik Platinum).
When travelling to a foreign destination hundreds of thousands of miles away, one should definitely make a point of sampling the local beer. In The Bahamas, Sands Beer is one of those, and it is one of the most popular beer choices in The Bahamas. Especially, Sands Pink is a popular choice for on the beach, as it comes with the refreshing taste of grapefruit. Best described as full-bodied and smooth, you’ll be drawn in by the flavorful crispness of this beer, especially when sprawled out on one of the amazing beaches of The Bahamas!
You can call switcha a local lemonade, as the base is lemons and limes. It is absolutely one of the best drinks to have on hand on a hot beach day, especially if it’s available ice cold. Order some from a local spot, and pack it into a cooler if you’re planning on spending the day out in the sunshine.
Now that you know what to eat and drink while in The Bahamas, nothing is stopping you from having an amazing time at its tropical islands. Whether you plan to spend most of your time sampling tropical cocktails, restaurant hopping, or just exploring the beauty of the islands, The Bahamas will certainly fulfill your every vacation need!
Not sure which island in The Bahamas to visit? Read: ‘Where To Stay In The Bahamas? The 14 Best Islands To Go.’