Richly Flavorful & Diverse
Jamaican recipes have evolved to represent the melting pot of cultures present on the island. Ingredients cultivated by the area's original inhabitants remain popular in Jamaican cuisine today. These include scotch bonnet pepper, sweet potatoes, and cassava root. Spanish and British colonists introduced new culinary traditions. Notably, the Europeans brought African slaves with them, who introduced elements of West African cuisine. The strong African influence endures in Jamaican recipes today; jerk sauce, ackee fruit, and dishes like callaloo are all examples. It was the Maroons who devised “jerking,” which is a method of spicing and cooking pork underground that allowed them to cook food without visible smoke, thus keeping their whereabouts a secret.
The Europeans also brought a large number of the Hakka people from China to Jamaica as laborers. While the Chinese-descended population in Jamaica is now much lower due to violence in the 1970s, their influence endures in dishes like Jerk Chow Mein. Europeans also brought Indians to Jamaica as indentured workers. Their influence shows in the importance of spices in today’s Jamaican recipes as well as in the prevalence of curry dishes. Today's Jamaican recipes have evolved to include influences from all of these different cultures. The cuisine is richly flavorful, diverse, and delicious. Want to experience the culinary joys of Jamaican food at home? We’ve rounded up the five best Jamaican recipes to cook yourself! Are you ready to start your culinary journey to Jamaica?
#1 Jamaican Jerk Chicken
We couldn’t make a list of the best Jamaican recipes without this classic! Jerk chicken is one of Jamaica’s best-known dishes for good reason – it’s succulent, spicy, and perfectly charred from grilling. The jerk seasoning and jerk marinade offer unprecedented levels of flavor. If you don’t have these on hand, don’t worry – you can make your own from scratch. Jamaican jerk chicken is well-known for being spicy yet sweet, tender, and juicy. Want to make this classic Jamaican recipe at home?
#2 Jamaican Rice and Peas
Often served alongside jerk chicken or another protein, Jamaican rice and peas is a staple recipe. Perfectly fluffed rice is paired with delicious and nutritious red kidney beans. (Note that there are no actual peas in this recipe, but it’s historically called “rice and peas” by Jamaicans.) A hint coconut milk adds flavor and elevates the dish while mild jerk seasoning, allspice, and thyme add depth. Traditional Jamaican rice and peas also calls for a scotch bonnet pepper to add spice and kick – this staple dish is anything but basic! Some recipes use chicken stock, but this dish can easily be made vegan. If you’re preparing a traditional Jamaican feast at home, this rice dish is the perfect way to round it out. We highly recommend that you give it a try!
#3 Jamaican Beef Patties
This Jamaican dish is rich, savory, and intensely flavored. A spicy filling of beef and potato is surrounded by a buttery, flaky pastry pocket for melt-in-your-mouth, savory goodness. The dough is colored with turmeric, but you can also use curry powder for an extra kick. The traditional recipe also calls for scotch bonnet peppers, which are very spicy and can be tough to find. If necessary, you can substitute habanero, but keep in mind that if you have kids or can’t handle too much spice yourself, you may need to use less pepper to keep the heat level manageable. Ready to make these savory, spicy beef patties at home?
We couldn't write a list of the best Jamaican recipes without bammy! Sometimes referred to as Jamaican flat bread, bammy has been a centuries-long staple for the Arawak Indians (also called Tainos), who were the first inhabitants of Jamaica. It’s made from grated cassava that’s lightly salted and shaped into discs. Then each disc is soaked in coconut milk for sweet, moist flavor before being pan-fried to crispy-edged perfection! With just three ingredients, bammy is a low-cost, filling recipe that works with a variety of diets, including gluten-free, paleo, and vegan. It makes a great accompaniment to other Jamaican dishes, especially fish. Want to try making your own bammy at home?
#5 Jamaican Oxtails
If you’re unfamiliar with oxtails, this Jamaican recipe is the perfect introduction! The meat is fall-off-the-bone tender and intensely flavorful. Butter beans, carrots, onions, and a thick gravy round out this juicy meal. Flavorings include soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, brown sugar, garlic, ketchup, and scotch bonnet pepper. The result? Savory, succulent ox tails that are perfectly spiced and ready to enjoy! We recommend serving these with a side of Jamaican rice and peas. In a rush? Using a pressure cooker or slow cooker can save time and effort while still delivering juicy, delicious Jamaican-style oxtails! Ready to make try your hand at this classic Jamaican recipe?