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17 Best Jamaican Dishes To Try

Learn about traditional Jamaican cuisine with these dishes.

Jamaica is a warm and vibrant country, and its food reflects that.

Spicy Grilled Jerk Chicken with Lime and Spices

Islanders use various blends of spices and herbs to create food that’s rich in flavors and colors. Once you eat Jamaican food, you’ll never forget it.

Having consulted both locals and tourists as well as tried a whole slew of amazing dishes myself, I’ve compiled the following list of the most popular Jamaican foods.

Popular Jamaican Foods

Check out our favorite traditional Jamaican dishes and find your new favorite!

Ackee and Saltfish

Ackee and saltfish are only one of the most popular Jamaican foods. It’s also the island’s national dish. 

The meal comprises ackee fruit and salted codfish, and it’s generally a breakfast dish, even though you can enjoy eating it at any time of the day.

The ackee fruit is highly poisonous when not prepared properly, but it’s completely safe to eat when the fruit opens.

Locals carefully season the fruit, and then it’s served with the salted codfish. If you’re trying ackee and saltfish, you should enjoy it with fried dumplings, one of the most common sides dishes it’s paired with. 


Curried Goat

Jamaicans prepare several different types of meat using curry, but I’d easily choose their curried goat if I had to pick a favorite.

Jamaican curry differs greatly from the type eaten in Asia, both in preparation and taste.

It draws inspiration from Indian curry, but it’s modified for a more British palette. The result of this fusion of cuisine is a curry dish that’s far less spicy than most of the ones served in India.

The meat is extremely Ill seasoned, which gives it a highly aromatic and savory taste.

The typical pairing for curry goat is white rice. The flavorful meat contrasts the rice in a way that’ll make your taste buds dance. 


Mannish Water

Here’s a fun fact about mannish water: It’s widely considered an aphrodisiac in Jamaica.

The truth of this belief may be debatable, but one thing that will never be up for debate is the deliciousness of this soup.

Jamaican locals make mannish water using the head of the goat. The soup’s broth is rich and flavourful from the several herbs and spices present in the dish.

Ground provisions such as bananas and yams are also common in this soup. 


Oxtail And Beans

If you’re eating oxtail and beans in Jamaica, you have to pair it with rice and peas. Oxtail is what its name suggests: the tail of an ox. 

Jamaicans take this part of the ox and season it with a mouthwatering combination of herbs and spices. Then they allow it to cook until it’s soft and tender.

Beans are an extra addition to this dish that, in my opinion, elevates it to the next level. Broad beans are the type that most locals use.

I can’t explain in words how delicious this dish is. My only advice is that you have to try it for yourself. 


Jerk Chicken

This is a strong contender for the most popular Jamaican dish of all time. The Jerk method of cooking involves slowly cooking meat over a wood fire.

The meat is coated in several spices before being placed on the grill. 

One of these spices is traditionally All-Spice or Pimento, as it’s more commonly called on the island. Pimento wood is the traditional wood used for the flames. 

Chicken isn’t the only food you can prepare using the jerk method. Jerk pork, fish, and other meats are also possible and delicious. It’s also one of the healthier ways of preparing meat. 

Jerk chicken has a spicy, smoking taste that you’ll find mouthwatering. You can jerk chicken at several Jamaican restaurants.

But, Jamaican locals will tell you the best place to the best place to enjoy this iconic dish is from the food vendors who line the roads with steel drums filled with perfectly seasoned cooking over coals. 


Callaloo

If you enjoy collard greens, you’ll love callaloo. Calaolll is a left green vegetable that Jamaicans use in several dishes.

It’s not uncommon to find it cooked in rice, but it’s just as commonly serviced by itself.

The most common way for callaloo to be served is with salted codfish in a meal that’s aptly named callaloo and saltfish.

The callaloo is always well seasoned with several herbs, and the salted codfish gives it a special kick. 

Just because that’s the most popular way to serve callaloo as a side doesn’t mean it’s the only way. While I loved eating callaloo and saltfish, my favorite way I was served the dish was when it was paired with chicken.

If you or your child is a picky eater who wants to add more leafy greens to your diet, I highly recommend trying this meal, 


Chicken Foot Soup

The name of the soup says it all. While I was trying this soup, some people were a little wary of trying chicken’s feet. I can tell you that there’s nothing to be scared of. 

The soup is extremely flavorful and rich. Jamaicans generally season it with herbs and spices, like stitch bonnet pepper and thyme, and they also add ground provisions such as Jamcian pumpkin, green bananas, and yam.

The chicken foot is soft and tender, with a chewy texture that really adds to the eating experience.

If you’re completely against eating chicken’s feet, you can try eating just the broth and ground provisions. 


Easter Bun

Eating Easter bun is one of the highlights of celebrating Easter in Jamaica. Easter bun is similar to hot cross buns, but it has a Carribean twist I adore.

During the season of Lent, it’s a Jamaican tradition to avoid cooking on Easter day. 

Instead, locals would eat slices of cheese sandwiched between two slices of the spiced bun.

Jamaican Spiced bun often comes filled with fruits and raisins, but there are serval variations available if you aren’t a fan of these additions. 

Bun and cheese became so popular in Jamaica that it’s enjoyed outside of easter. While bun and cheese might be a classic pairing on the island, in my opinion, the Jamaican Easter bun is just as delicious by itself.  


Fish Tea

No seafood lover’s trip to Jamaica is complete without trying some fish tea.

Fish tea typically has a lighter broth than the other soups on this list, but that doesn’t make it any less flavorful or nutritious. 

Another thing that you should note about fish tea is that it’s spicy. Scotch bonnet pepper is often prominent in this soup, and if you’ve ever tried them, you know they pack a serious punch.

Fish tea is filled with several vegetables, making this dish a healthy choice.

In addition to leaving you energized, Fish tea is also said to have aphrodisiac properties. 


Jamaican Rice And Peas

The name rice and peas is somewhat a misnomer. The most common variant of the dish doesn’t involve any peas.

The leagues most commonly used are kidney beans, which generally give this dish its distinct green color.

Jamaicans use peas and beans interchangeably, and there is a version of the dish which uses pigeon peas instead of the usual kidney beans.

Jamaicans call this “gungo rice and peas.” It’s also possible for you to find rice and peas made from other beans, like black beans.

What makes rice and peas stand out is the combination of seasoning and coconut milk used in the dish. Rice and peas are the perfect carbs to pair your protein with for the perfect meal. 


Sweet Potato Pudding

Sweet potato pudding is inarguably one of the most popular Jamaican desserts, and for a good reason.

Locals traditionally make the dish on a wood fire. It has a unique texture where the base of the puddings is firm while the top is soft.

The pudding gets its flavor from several spices and flavorings, such as cinnamon and nutmeg and coconut milk.

It’s not unheard of for other additions, such as raisins or even alcohol, to be added to the dish. 

You can enjoy this dessert anytime you want to, as it pairs Ill with most breakfast, lunch, and dinner options. I promise that you only need to try it once to start craving the taste.


Escoveitch Fish

If you’re a fan of seafood and spice, you need to try escovitch fish. The preparation of this dish involves seasoned fish that’s fried to crisp perfection.

Then, the fish is covered in pickled vegetables. The most common options are carrots, sweet peppers, and opinions, but you can use anything you want.

The fish and vegetable combo is then left to simmer in a spicy vinegar sauce, which is what gives escovitch fish its distinct and memorable taste. 

The most common food for escovitch fish to be paired with is fried fish or bammy.


Fricassee Chicken

Fricassee chicken is the most common way that chicken is eaten in Jamaica. Its method of preparation is similar to brown stew chicken, but they are not the same.

In fricassee chicken, the chicken is mostly cooked before it’s added and allowed to simmer in a sauce. 

Because the chicken is already cooked, the time it’s allowed to simmer for is significantly shorter.

Both dishes require that the meat be well seasoned, and both use a sauce called browning for flavor.


Brown Stew Chicken

Brown stew chicken is a Jamaican classic. Brown stewing chickening involves seasoning it to perfection, then allowing it to slow cook in various herbs such as garlic and onions.

It gets its name and its color from the fact that brown sauce, called browning in Jamaica, is used in the dish.

Unlike fricassee chicken, most of the cooking process for brown stew chicken occurs while it’s being stewed.

The end result of this cooking process is flavorful chicken coated in an even more flavorful sauce. Brown stew chicken can be paired with anything, from white rice, to rice and peas to ground provisions. 

Brown stew chicken is so popular in Jamaica that some people even eat it for breakfast. I prefer it over fricassee chicken because I think it’s more tender, but I recommend that you try them both and form your own opinion. 


Jerk Pork

I know I spoke about the jerk method of preparing food earlier when in the jerk chicken entry, but jerk pork is so delicious and well-loved that I had to give it its own entry.

Similar to jerk chicken, jerk pork is well marinated in a combination of spices and herbs before being prepared.

I can tell you that jerk pork is one of the most delicious meals I have tried on the island. The meat was spicy but not to the point where it overwhelmed the herbs and spices.

The meat was also tender and juicy to the point where the fat melted in my mouth.

Jamaica has an entire festival dedicated to jerk pork called the Portland Jerk Festival. If you can, I’d highly recommend that you check it out. 


Steamed Fish

Like several other options on this list, Steamed fish is spicy and delicious. 

Some locals season their fish with spices and herbs such as onions, scotch bonnet pepper, thyme, and some powdered spice blends.

The fish is then put to steam in a large skillet, where vegetables such as carrot and okra are slowly added during the duration of the cooking process.

The fish is severed on the bone, but it’s so tender it falls right off.  


Bammy

Bammy is a delicious cassava cake that is a must-have. We couldn’t write a list of the most popular Jamaican foods without including this amazing side dish.

Bammy is made by grinding the cassava root into a power. This power is then combined with coconut milk.

Then the excess coconut milk is drained using a cheesecloth. Cooking bammy involves frying it until it’s crisp and crunchy.

The most common food that bammy is paired with is fish, but that doesn’t mean you need to limit your options. 


Popular Jamaican Foods

  1. Ackee and Saltfish
  2. Curried Goat
  3. Mannish Water
  4. Oxtail And Beans
  5. Jerk Chicken
  6. Callaloo
  7. Chicken Foot Soup
  8. Easter Bun
  9. Fish Tea
  10. Jamaican Rice And Peas
  11. Sweet Potato Pudding
  12. Escoveitch Fish
  13. Fricassee Chicken
  14. Brown Stew Chicken
  15. Jerk Pork
  16. Steamed Fish
  17. Bammy

Final Thoughts

The best way to enjoy your time in Jamaica is by thoroughly exploring the food possibilities of the island. I highly recommend trying any foods on this list that perked your interest, as they have all left a lasting impression on me. 

Pair these Jamaican dishes with a smooth Jamaican rum for the true island experience!

Moreover, Jamaica’s cuisine is far too extensive and diverse to be contained in one list, so I would encourage you to ask the locals for more suggestions if given the opportunity.

What are some of your favorite Jamaican foods? Let us know in the comments below, and we’ll make sure to check them out.

Learn more about different food cultures here on Restaurant Clicks, like the best Dominican foods or Vietnamese dishes you have to try!

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Written by Erin Elizabeth

Erin lives in East Passyunk and enjoys checking out the local restaurants in South Philly and beyond. Her favorite restaurants are those with spicy food and outdoor seating so that she can bring along her dog, Miss Piggy.