Caribbean cuisine is a wonderful melting pot of different flavors, techniques and fresh ingredients, many of which you won’t find anywhere else in the world. Caribbean foods are also known for their punchy, bold flavors, which are guaranteed to light up your tastebuds.
While some people might describe the dishes we’re about to discuss as weird foods, many others will look upon them fondly, as the staple foods of their upbringing. So, if you’re lucky enough to be traveling to the Caribbean soon, make sure you look out for some of these standout Caribbean delicacies. You won't be disappointed.
We already covered Caribbean street food, the best Caribbean cuisine and herbs and spices in Caribbean cooking. Now, we're going to take a look at something a little different. These are some of the dishes that might seem strange or bizarre to travelers to the Caribbean, but are actually quite delicious.
Those who have travelled to the Caribbean in the past know that many of the islands are home to large populations of iguanas. So it might not surprise you that the reptiles have found their way onto dinner menus.
Iguana meat tastes quite similar to roasted duck. It’s rich and full of flavor. If you’re looking to try cooked iguana, you’ll be most likely to find it at restaurants in Guyana and Trinidad, as well as a few other islands in the vicinity. Typical iguana dishes include iguana stew, roasted iguana and even iguana soup.
One of the most famous Guyanese dishes you’ll come across in your travels is the delicious Guyanese black pudding. This old favorite is made with pigs blood, and can trace its origins back to the UK and Ireland, where black pudding is still a popular choice on breakfast menus. Pigs blood, fat and oatmeal is encased in runners, which are then usually fried before serving.
Rice is not out of the ordinary, and neither are peas. But rice and peas is probably not the dish you are imagining. In fact, rice and peas is a dish made with beans, rather than the garden peas that its name brings to mind.
Typically served with jerk chicken, another delicious Jamaican staple, rice and peas is a mixture of rice and pigeon peas, seasoned with salt, pepper, scotch bonnet peppers, onion and thyme. This is actually a very easy Caribbean recipe to make at home as well.
Ackee is a well-known delicacy in Jamaica. In fact you can’t travel to the island without encountering ackee food. Similar to lychee, ackee is the national fruit of Jamaica. It’s most often found accompanying saltfish, another one of many West Indian foods you absolutely must try. Ackee is also commonly served with poached smoked haddock, or pan-fried with a fillet of fresh red snapper.
You might have heard of the salted pigtail that many travelers encounter when exploring the Caribbean. But will you be brave enough to try it? We recommend that you give it a go, because this is a fabulous Caribbean comfort food that tastes a whole lot better than it sounds. Look out for hearty salted pigtail stews, salted pigtail callaloo or salted pigtail soup. You can’t beat it.
Conch meat is something you’ll find being enjoyed across the Caribbean islands, but it’s most popular in the Bahamas. Here it appears in many dishes, such as conch fritters, conch salad and a local favorite: roast conch. Best served on the beach with a rum runner or two, this wonderful dish is the perfect way to try conch meat.
The Caribbean is home to so many delicious, exotic fruits that you won’t find elsewhere in the world. Breadfruit is a great one to try. Not only is it unusual, it’s also really good for you. Jam-packed with vitamins and minerals, breadfruit has been popular with Jamaicans for generations. And, strangely enough, this fruit really does taste like bread.
We know you have eaten bananas, but did you know you could eat the green ones? In the Caribbean, people often boil up green bananas to make them palatable. Locals also love to slice and then fry pieces of green banana to make banana chips, the perfect accompaniment to your evening cocktails on the beach, especially if you're staying at an all-inclusive resort.
A pate made with smoked red herring, Solomon Gundy might sound a little odd to those not from Jamaica, but it’s a real favorite with locals. The pate is full of big flavors, as it’s made with Scotch Bonnet chillies, onion, thyme and pimento berries. It’s wonderful served on water crackers, as a pre-dinner appetizer.
It’s impossible to explore Jamaica without encountering Jamaican goat soup on a restaurant menu, and when you do, make sure you order it. Also known as Mannish Water, this dish is made with goat’s head, which is a little reminiscent of the monkey brain delicacy of urban legends, but don’t be put off. The goat’s head is full of flavor, and you’ll be so glad you tried it.
So, now we’ve whet your appetite, we hope you’ll enjoy tasting a few of these weird yet delicious Caribbean foods when you travel to the islands. The Caribbean is home to so many wonderful, exotic dishes, so look out for amazing flavors and ingredients you might never have heard of before.
Many of the strangest sounding dishes are in fact the tastiest. Be brave when you order and you might find that it pays to be adventurous.
Did we miss one of your favorite dishes? Do you like your iguana meat cooked differently than the way we mentioned? We want to hear about it. Drop your favorite Caribbean dishes in the comments below.