Ackee is the national fruit of Jamaica. It has a vibrant red color on the outside husk when it’s ready to be picked from the tree. On the inside of the pod is the edible yellow part of the fruit.
Breadfruit is a large, starchy, round fruit rich in carbohydrates. It’s a great side dish that can be prepared in many different ways. For example, you can bake it, fry it, roast it, and boil it.
A “flatbread” made of cassava, also known as yuca. You can fry, steam, or toast it. Try pairing it with fish.
A favorite for breakfast, callaloo is a leafy green vegetable. It looks like spinach or kale, and you can purchase it fresh or in cans here in the United States. Or grow your own at home.
Jamaica is known for its world-famous jerk chicken, but many other chicken recipes exist. We use chicken in many of our main dinner entrees.
Coco bread is a sweet, soft, chewy bread. It’s normally eaten around lunchtime with ‘patties.’ We place the patty inside the coco bread and eat it like a sandwich.
Coconuts play a major role in many Jamaican recipes. And there’s nothing like fresh coconut water on a hot day. They’re green when fresh off the tree and brown when older, as you’ll see in many Caribbean stores.
You can purchase coconut milk in cans or make it fresh at home. Blend shredded coconut and some warm water, strain off the liquid, and boom – coconut milk!
Coconut oil is used as cooking oil, and it tastes great. It’s solid and liquefies at around 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Use it as a substitute for many other cooking oils.
A yellow flour made from dried corn. Cornmeal is mostly used when making cornmeal porridge, but it’s also used in Jamaican culture to prepare fried dumplings and ‘festival.’ You can purchase it in fine, medium, or coarse textures.
Curry powder is a mixture of turmeric, coriander, cumin, and other spices. It’s the main ingredient in our curry dishes, like chicken and goat.
Many Jamaican recipes use fresh fruit. Mangos are popular and a favorite of many across the island.
Other fruits include:
- June Plum
- Star Apple
Green Bananas are another popular Jamaica fruit. They are firm and starchy. We use and eat them as a side to complement many of our dishes. It’s a main source of carbohydrates in our meals.
Next to chicken, goat meat is a popular Jamaican protein. Curry goat is the most popular goat meat recipe.
Hard Food (Provisions)
Hard food is the main source of carbohydrates in Caribbean cultures. It’s a name we use to group foods like yams, green bananas, boiled dumplings, and other starchy food.
Jamaican All-Purpose Seasoning
A mixture of different spices. It usually includes salt, black pepper, garlic, onion, pimento, and other seasonings. Use it to add some flavor to your dishes easily.
If you ever go to Jamaica, there are lots of ginger products. Fresh Jamaican ginger is used in our curries and ginger beer.
Jerk cooking originated in Jamaica. Jerk seasoning is a mixture of spices, including thyme, chili, pimento, nutmeg, cumin, sugar, black pepper, and more.
Lime and lime juice are often more popular than lemon in Jamaican recipes. We use it to ‘wash’ our meat and seafood before cooking meals.
A pantry staple fish in Jamaican households, canned mackerel is used mostly in Mackerel Rundown.
Molasses is a thick, dark syrup and a by-product of the sugar-making process. We use it a lot in our desserts, cakes, and sweets.
Nutmeg is a very fragrant spice with a hard outer shell called mace. You can grate it into porridge, cakes, pastries, and desserts.
A green tube-like fruit with a sticky texture, Okra is a popular vegetable used in many Jamaican recipes.
Oxtail is a famous Jamaican dish up there with jerk chicken. It’s meat from the tail of the cattle that are slow cooked. It can take hours for the meat to cook and become tender, but when ready, it tastes phenomenal.
We Jamaicans have a special name for our avocados; we call it ‘pear.’ And it’s about 2-3 times the size of a regular avocado you might see at your local grocery store. They naturally grow this big on the island.
Peas and Beans
Jamaican recipes use a variety of peas and beans. They’re also a great source of protein in many ‘ital’ (vegan) recipes.
For example, there are:
- Gungo Peas
- Pigeon Peas
- Black-Eyed Peas
- Kidney Beans
An often used spice. You can buy it whole or ground in powder form. We use the whole pimento in recipes like rice and peas and meat dishes.
Plantains are related to bananas, but unlike bananas, you don’t eat them raw. They are commonly fried or boiled in Jamaican recipes. Unripe plantains are green to yellow, and when fully ripe, the skin turns black.
Pumpkin’s a main ingredient in our soup and curries. It grows wild in Jamaica with green outer skin.
We Jamaicans love our rice and peas or white rice. Long-grain or basmati rice is usually the go-to ingredient in our rice dishes.
Saltfish is the main ingredient along with ackee in Jamaica’s national dish. It also goes great with callaloo and some fried dumplings in the morning. Before adding it to a recipe, it must be soaked for a while or boiled to remove a large amount of the salt. You can find it sold in packs in many grocery stores.
Scotch bonnet peppers bring the heat in lots of Jamaican recipes. It has a one-of-a-kind taste and is very hot, so be careful when handling it and remember to wash your hands after. You can adjust the spiciness when cooking by removing the seeds and inner ribs of the pepper.
Snapper is versatile fish with a firm texture and great taste. You can fry, steam, roast, and prepare it like any other fish recipe.
Jamaicans call spring onions ‘scallions.’ It has a milder taste than onions, and we use it in many recipes, especially our jerk chicken recipe.
Sweet potatoes are more popular than regular potatoes in Jamaican cuisine. We call them ‘irish potato’ and use them in our soups and curries.
A key herb used across the Caribbean when cooking, thyme brings a nice flavor to many of our recipes. You can grow your own at home, buy it in a bunch at the store, or even dried.
Starchy root vegetables are often used in our recipes.
Here are a few:
- Sweet Potatoes
- Dasheen (Taro)
Turmeric adds a strong yellow color and lots of flavor to the recipes that use it. Turmeric is a single ingredient versus curry powder, a mixture of multiple spices combined. Just be careful, as they both stain white and light clothing.
A popular carbohydrate and hard food, yam is peeled, steamed, or boiled and used as a side in various Jamaican recipes. Out of all the yams, yellow yam is a favorite.