Want to try some traditional Jamaican food? Here are 15 classic dishes you should eat in Jamaica!
The Jamaican Cuisine consists of a wide mixture of flavors, spices, and influences from various food cultures, who’ve come to the island for a long period of time in history.
And one thing is sure, food from Jamaica is tasty and rich in flavors! Jamaican food consists of both native ingredients as well as foods introduced from abroad, which are now locally grown.
Jerk Chicken is the most traditional food from Jamaica and if you’re a foodie, this is one of the must-try dishes. It’s characterized by the famous jerk spice, which is a special combo made from mixing cinnamon, cloves, ginger, thyme, garlic, pepper, and nutmeg.
Jerk Chicken is sold by street vendors as well as mid-range restaurants and high-end restaurants. It’s delicious, and a great snack after a few hours on the beach, or even better while you’re at the beach sipping on some refreshing Jamaican drinks!
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.
The Indians brought their curry with them, and today, you can enjoy Curry Goat, Mutton or Chicken at many local restaurants.
Ackee and saltfish
Ackee and Saltfish is the national food of Jamaica and a must-try along with the Jerk chicken. Some people don’t like it while others love it. The ackee is a sort of Jamaican fruit that came here from Ghana in the 18th century.
The locals 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 pot with tomatoes, onions, and spices.
You can get this for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, any time is ackee and saltfish time in Jamaica!
Ackee and saltfish, Traditional Jamaican Food – Photo: Shutterstock
This is quite similar to spinach, and it’s a leafy dark green plant, which is often eaten for breakfast in Jamaica. It can also be served as a side dish.
This fish stew might have an unusual name, but the flavor is amazing where either cod or mackerel is cooked in coconut milk with onions, tomatoes, and garlic until it gets a thick texture.
Run Down is one of the traditional foods from Jamaica that most Jamaicans miss will they travel abroad, or when living overseas. The dish is usually served with either rice or dumplings with boiled bananas.
And the reason for its name is because the fish is cooked until it more or less falls apart.
This is one of many Jamaican dishes that include fish, usually red snapper, which is being fried and served with vegetables. The origins of Escovitch fish comes from the Spanish jews.
Solomon Gundy was brought to Jamaica by Europeans, which has a long history of salted fish. The creamy smoked herring paste has got its own touch though thanks to local spices, and it’s commonly served on crackers as an appetizer.
Photo: Flickr / hmmlargeart
Bammy is a traditional flatbread from Jamaica, made from cassava. It was developed by the Arawaks and their simple flatbread, and today it’s sold all over Jamaica by street vendors and smaller food shops.
You can get it for breakfast as well with syrup, but it’s more common to get Bammy along with the main course.
The Jamaican Patty is quite similar to empanadas and often comes filled with beef, even though there are versions with chicken, shrimp, lobster or some kind of fish as well. It’s more of a snack rather than a full meal.
It’s basically a meat pastry which has lots of flavors and Jamaican spices that will entertain your taste buds, although you might want to eat a limited amount of these since they are quite calorie-heavy.
The Pepperpot soup is another traditional soup from Jamaica. Many foreigners find it strange that a hot and tropical island like Jamaica has such an extensive variety of soups, but the locals love their soups for a number of good reasons.
The Pepperpot soup is easy to prepare yet filling and easily digested.
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Jamaican Corn Soup
Corn is an integral part of the Jamaican cuisine, just like in the rest of the Americas and the Caribbean islands. The filling corn soup is one of the most famous Rastafarian inspired dishes.
Brown Stew chicken
Brown Stew chicken is popular throughout many Caribbean countries, Jamaica included, and it’s a popular meal on Sunday dinners. The Brown stew chicken is another delicious Jamaican stew that you shouldn’t miss.
The dish consists of fried chicken and vegetables who are cooked in aromatic spices until the chicken is tender and the stew has got its flavorful and rich gravy.
Jamaican Oxtail Stew
Oxtail is one of the most classic and loved foods from Jamaica, and it’s usually served with rice and peas. This hearty and savory meat stew is very satisfying, and it takes a couple of hours to prepare the dish as the meat slow cooks for several hours.
A good old porridge made from cornmeal, oats or plantains. It’s often eaten as breakfast and will ensure you to stay full throughout the day.
Rice and Peas
Rice and Peas is a common dish in Jamaica, often served for either lunch or dinner. It’s also referred to as the Coat of Arms, and it can be made with either beans or peas.
With that said “peas” in the Caribbean typically refers to beans and not the little green peas we eat in Europe and the USA/Canada. The most common Jamaican version of Rice and Peas uses red kidney beans, which are cooked in coconut milk and spices.
It’s often served along with Jerk Chicken.
More information about Jamaican Food
The Cuisine of Jamaica is a culinary fusion of various kitchens from around the world which has become a melting pot where the locals have added their own touch to every single Jamaican dish.
Most tourists come here to enjoy the beautiful beaches of Jamaica, but the food culture is definitely a good reason enough to visit on its own.
You might have noticed that much of the traditional food in Jamaica is either a stew or soup. Everything in Jamaican cuisine is grown on the island, so you’ll always get locally produced food in Jamaica, which is great.
Photo: Debbie Ann Powell/Shutterstock
What is the main dish in Jamaica?
Jerk chicken and Ackee and Saltfish are definitely the main Jamaican dishes.
Is all Jamaican food spicy?
Traditional dishes from Jamaica use a wide range of spices and flavors, and while some are somewhat spicy, a lot of Jamaican food is just flavorful and savory.
What is the national dish of Jamaica?
Ackee and Saltfish is considered as the national food of Jamaica.
Other Jamaican foods
- Fish tea (traditional Jamaican soup)
- Fried plantain
- Stamp and go
Ackee and Saltfish with Bammy is a typical breakfast in Jamaica. But you can also get porridge or Johnny cake with salt mackerel, which is another typical Jamaican breakfast.
Tea is also commonly served for breakfast since most Jamaicans prefer tea over coffee, which is mainly exported.
How many meals do Jamaicans eat a day?
Most Jamaicans will eat 2-3 meals per day, and the most important meals are breakfast and dinner.
What is the best Jamaican food?
For me, personally, I would say the oxtail stew and jerk chicken. But the ackee and saltfish is also a very nice food from Jamaica that I recommend everyone to try while visiting this lovely island.
Where to eat traditional food in Jamaica
Don’t be afraid of going local or order food from street vendors. They often have some of the best flavors of Jamaican food, and the prices will be a lot cheaper as well, which means you can try even more dishes.
Luxury and mid-range restaurants serving good food are available in most resort areas, but it’s a smart idea to check reviews before going to a restaurant. Unfortunately, like in all popular tourist destinations, some only care about money and take advantage of their good location.
If you have the chance to visit some local towns, I suggest having your lunch or dinner there. Choose a place that is filled with locals, and ask the staff for recommendations of their specialty.
Oftentimes, a local restaurant will have some specialty of the house, where they use an old family recipe.
Which is your favorite food from Jamaica? Leave a comment below!