People who identify themselves with the country of Barbados, often call themselves “Bajans”. Bajans are proud people, and you can tell this by the way they carry themselves, their love for their island, and of course the amazing local dishes enjoyed by locals and tourists alike. This love translates to a beautiful experience for all who visit the island, who discover for themselves just why Bajans are so passionate about the land that they call home.
Where food is concerned, Bajan cuisine is literally a mixing pot of cultures. Flavors from places like Africa, Portugal, and India stand out, and there are also Irish, Creole, and British influences that are apparent even with tasty, tropical touches mixed in. Bajans often use fresh ingredients and home-grown herbs and spices in their cooking, which means even if you think you’ve tried something before, you may still be surprised at its Bajan transformation and upgrade!
Of all the interesting food options on the island, seafood is somewhere at the top in terms of popularity, and you’ll frequently see items like fish, shrimp, lobster, sea eggs, and crab on the menu. Apart from that, some of the things you see might be a little unfamiliar, as at most local restaurants, indigenous food is often incorporated into the menu.
If you’re planning on going on vacation to Barbados, pudding and souse, pepperpot and cou cou are some of the things you’ll need to get familiar with ahead of your holiday, and as you read on you’ll learn a bit more about what goes into these amazingly unique Bajan dishes which will definitely keep you coming back for more!
In this article on the Sandals Blog:
Ten traditional Bajan main dishes
Five traditional Bajan side dishes
Five traditional Bajan snacks
Three traditional Bajan desserts
Five popular Bajan drinks
Fish of all varieties are popular among the islands, which makes it not at all surprising that flying fish, with a side of cou cou, is the national dish of Barbados. Considering that flying fish is also the most popular fish catch on island, it explains even further why this dish is loved so much by locals who have various ways of preparing it. Most commonly, you’ll find it next to cou cou, which is cornmeal cooked with okra and water (more on the traditional Bajan side dish cou cou later in this article).
Frying, steaming, baking, or pickling are the most popular methods of preparing flying fish in Barbados, and though the basic aspects of making this dish remain the same, seasonings may vary depending on where you get it. Nevertheless, it is one of those things that you shouldn’t leave Barbados without trying.
Fish cakes are a Caribbean delicacy, and like in most of the other islands in Barbados, they are made by battering and deep frying them. The filling usually consists of salted cod or white fish and an assortment of herbs and spices. You won’t have a hard time finding fish cakes in Barbados; they’re available from most local food vendors, and even at some of the more upscale restaurants on the island. Some people eat their fish cakes with hot pepper or mayonnaise on the side, while others make a sandwich called “bread and two” with their fish cakes, and this is done by sandwiching the fried fish cake into a bread roll with pepper sauce.
Who can resist a hearty chicken curry? You might have tried chicken curry before, but what makes this dish extra special in Barbados is the signature Bajan seasoning, which adds the perfect blend of spices, and an overall richness. Curry is best over plain rice, with baked macaroni pie or in flatbread… and in the latter case it would be known as chicken roti. These are the most popular ways to serve it, but chicken curry is so versatile that you can pair it with just about any Bajan side.
Bajans know good food, and Barbados is one of the Caribbean islands which has mastered the art of pepperpot. You’ll find meat of all varieties in the classic Bajan pepperpot stew, including pork, mutton, beef, and more. Bajan spices and hot peppers bring the stew together, and pepperpot is usually served alongside rice or bread. It is a popular holiday dish, but you can also find it at some local restaurants throughout the year. If you plan on recreating this dish at home, keep in mind that it works best for a family meal, or for a party, since pepperpot is usually cooked in large proportions.
Jug jug is one of those seasonal delights that make people happy around the holidays, and it can be compared to the Scottish dish known as haggis. Traditional jug jug is made with guinea corn flour, pigeon peas, salted beef brisket, ham or other salted meat, pork or chicken, onions, and other herbs and spices. Pepper is optional. Bajans are very particular about how this dish is made, and the perfect jug jug will resemble the consistency of Cou Cou, and not a regular soup. Some people like preparing this dish, refrigerating it, and warming it up and serving it the next day.
Don’t worry, it’s not the playful and amazing marine animals that people fly thousands of miles to the Caribbean to swim with in the ocean that we’re talking about here. When it comes to food, Mahi Mahi or Dolphin in Barbados refers to a popular sport fish that Bajans often serve pan-seared or blackened. The best way to have this is with a side of fries, or with a full meal that includes seasoned rice, lentils, and a fresh salad.
Pudding in Barbados refers to steamed sweet potatoes made with onions, salt and pepper. Souse is a pickled pork dish. The pudding serves as the filling for the pickled pork, and the two are combined expertly for an end result that’s bursting with flavor.
Pudding and souse is one of the most loved food duos in Barbados, and while there you can experiment with sweet versus spicy variations to see which you like best. Though pudding and souse are always in high demand, it may take some asking around to find the best spot to pick this up. When in doubt head for the vendor with the biggest crowd!
Roti is notorious in the Caribbean, and it is a common menu item in Barbados. You can get roti of every variety on the island, flavored with local herbs and spices. Consider it the island version of a burrito and enjoy it with anything from curried potatoes and vegetable filling, to chicken, beef, and fish varieties. Try the local Chefette fast-food joint for a quick roti on the go.
This dish isn’t as weird as it might sound, and you don’t have to worry about ending up with a full pig’s tail on your plate. In fact, many people liken it to barbequed ribs in terms of look and taste, especially when slathered with barbeque sauce. Before they get to your plate, BBQ pig tails would have been boiled, barbequed, and thrown around in a delicious barbeque sauce. If you see these on the menu, they are certainly worth a try.
Brown stew chicken is at the heart of Caribbean cuisine. This chicken stew, cooked the Caribbean way, is so popular that it has made its way into the international realm, being served up at Caribbean restaurants across the globe.
In Barbados you can try an authentic version of this classic dish, made even better for the fact that local spices and other seasonings are at the disposal of all who make it. You can get brown stewed chicken at almost every local restaurant in town. Don’t forget to ask for extra gravy!
Locals make the well-known cou cou dish with cornmeal and okra, or breadfruit and green bananas. Some people compare it to grits. Cou cou is part of Barbados’ national dish, and surprisingly, it is also the national food of the British Virgin Islands, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Antigua. The dish is said to have origins with African settlers in the region, and in Barbados this is one side dish you’ll frequently find on your plate.
If you’re looking for something delicious to eat while in Barbados that you can recreate easily back at home, bakes are a great option. All you’ll need is flour, sugar, nutmeg, and Bajan spices, which you can pick up at the local market during your time on the island. Once the batter for bakes are combined, it is then deep fried until golden brown. Once fried, bakes are either served plain, with fish cakes, as a side for fish or barbeque dishes, or with anything you like stuffed inside.
Bajan rice and peas goes with just about anything, but it is often served with fried fish. On this island, rice and peas refers almost solely to pigeon peas and rice.
The cooking process for rice and peas is simple; the peas are cooked first with seasonings, and the rice is added after. Some people choose to boil the rice with coconut milk to give it a fluffier texture and a sweeter taste. As rice and peas sets the foundation for a scrumptious meal, precision is key!
You just might fall in love with macaroni pie in Barbados as it has much more zeal than the conventional mac and cheese. Macaroni pie is often served with fried fish, as well as curried or stewed meats.
Ingredients for Bajan macaroni pie include tubed macaroni, grated cheddar cheese, evaporated milk, ketchup, yellow mustard, onion, egg and breadcrumbs. The ingredients are all placed into a casserole dish and baked. When this dish is done well, it is extremely rich, and may just be the best thing you’ve tasted in your life.
Freshly baked and delicious, however you decide to eat it, salt bread is a great choice for dinner rolls or cutters. Though sweeter bread varieties are preferred in Barbados, salt bread definitely has its place, and locals enjoy it as a snack, sandwich, or as a side. Even though the name suggests otherwise, salt bread isn’t saltier than regular bread, but it is when compared to other sweet bread treats.
Cutters are essentially simple sandwiches made with salt bread. To make these, a roll of salt bread is cut in half to make room to stuff your choice of filling inside. Fillings include egg, sausages, ham, or fish – but you can put pretty much anything you desire into a salt bread roll. Salt bread can be eaten all day round, and you’ll find it at most local food spots. Spice yours up with a dash of local pepper.
Dive into your journey of culinary exploration in Barbados with conkie, a much-loved Bajan snack. With corn at its base, conkie is a snack that is especially popular around the island’s Independence Day which is observed annually on November 30th.
Aside from corn flour, other ingredients for this local snack include pumpkin, sweet potato, grated coconut, and raisins; these are all steamed in a banana leaf that is wrapped and tied up. Though you may not spot it as often all throughout the year, sometimes you can order it from a local deli.
Guava cheese is a real treat, just don’t expect it to look or taste anything like regular cheese though; its color is that of cranberry, and it has a fudge-like appearance. Guava cheese is sweet with a hint of citrus. It’s made by combining guava pulp with sugar, lime juice, and other ingredients. Guava cheese is sometimes eaten with salt bread, or on its own.
Breadfruit’s starchy nature makes it unlike most other fruits, and its unique texture means that it also is never served up in a fruit bowl. In the Caribbean, breadfruit is considered a ground provision, along with things like yam, dasheen and the like.
There are various ways to cook breadfruit, and most people choose to either boil or bake it or make it into chips. Breadfruit is delicious alongside steamed fish, or brown stew chicken.
Paw paw is an interesting fruit with a wild flavor. Many people describe it as a mango-banana-citrus blend that’s super sweet. Paw paw is rich in antioxidants, vitamin C, magnesium, iron, and other nutrients. It has a short shelf life, which means your best chance for the freshest variety might be right on island. Try the local fruit and vegetable market to pick up some paw paw while in Barbados.
Sweet bread, also known as Bajan coconut bread, is a staple at most Bajan homes particularly around Christmas, or on other special occasions. Inside the crispy crust of this bread you’ll often find raisins, coconut chunks, and cherries. Coconut bread looks like any other loaf of bread, but it’s a sweet treat you’re sure to love.
Cassava pone is made with frozen grated cassava and coconut. It is a dessert that satisfies your sweet tooth, without being overly sweet. Cassava pone is known for its stickiness and gooey texture, and it is best described as a combination of cake and pudding. Other ingredients in this dessert include grated sweet potato, cinnamon, nutmeg, and sometimes carrots and raisins.
Making Bajan Black Cake is a process that includes soaking fruits like cherries and raisins in rum with spices, but you won’t have to worry about baking your own during your holiday as this dessert is readily available during most of the year. If you travel during Christmas or the holiday season however, you’ll be able to have more than your fill of this delicious treat which usually incorporates Bajan rum.
You haven’t tried rum punch until you’ve tried rum punch in Barbados, or at least that’s what the locals will tell you. Waste no time arguing with bartenders, or any islander, where to get the best rum punch. Just order and drink up. No matter where you order, you’re sure to agree that rum punch in Barbados is absolutely delicious and refreshing. What more could you want during your Caribbean holiday?
Want to enjoy unlimited free Rum Punch on the beach or at the swimming pool? Guests of Sandals all-inclusive resorts in Barbados get unlimited signature cocktails and other drinks. All created by the best bartenders on the island, using premium brand liquors.
As it tends to be a little bitter, Mauby is one of those drinks you’ll either detest or love unconditionally. There is no in between, but this drink is certainly worth trying for an authentic taste of Barbados.
Ingredients in mauby include mauby bark, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Locals believe there are several health benefits for mauby, including cholesterol reduction, treatment for arthritis, and more.
If you travel to Barbados around Christmas time, ginger beer is one of those things you might be offered everywhere you go. Even though it is considered by some to be a holiday drink, you can find it at other times of the year.
In Barbados, this non-alcoholic drink is made with ginger, sugar, water, and lemon juice. It is available in carbonated or non-carbonated versions.
Another popular Christmas drink, sorrel has plenty of health benefits that you’ll appreciate, especially since it is so delicious to begin with. Sorrel is made from dried petals of the sorrel flower (hibiscus), which is believed to help lower blood pressure and it is also high in vitamins and minerals. Other ingredients include clove, ginger, and sugar. Even though it is most popular around the holidays, you can still find sorrel at some local shops at other times of the year.
Banks Beer’s has done a notable job with marketing over the years, so much so that you may even recognize the name of this beer when you come across it in Barbados. Banks Beer is so popular in Barbados in fact, that it is considered by some to be a national symbol. Pack it into your beach cooler along with your other drinks to have something cold and refreshing to sip on out in the sunshine.
Did you know? Sandals Royal Barbados comes with a bowling alley and a craft beer bar, serving 19 beers from all over the world - for free, unlimited. All drinks are included in your stay!
Barbados is also known as “The Rum Island”, which makes it more than apparent what the most popular thing to drink there is: rum! This equates to rum punch and lots of it as you’ll probably be able to tell right off the bat as you’re sipping on your welcome rum punch drink, and sampling rum punch specials at local bars.
See what else Barbados is known for.
The national food of Barbados is Cou Cou and Fried Flying Fish. Second in popularity is pudding and souse, but as with all other Bajan food, it all depends on your individual taste, and what you’re looking for.
All-inclusive resorts like Sandals Barbados are a great choice if dining and having lots of food options are an important part of your holiday. Sandals Barbados offers guests unlimited food and drinks 7 bars, including swim-up bars, and 18 themed restaurants. It just doesn’t get any better than that when it comes to having so many amazing options in one place in Barbados!