Iconic Jamaican Meals

Discover the Flavours of Jamaica

Get ready to embark on a culinary journey and come to Jamaica with an appetite for adventure! Jamaica is a foodie haven loaded with a variety of restaurants, street food hotspots and fruit stands boasting a bounty of flavours and spices as diverse as our people.  Come experience the vibrant flavors and unique culinary heritage of our island beautifully reflected in our cuisine through our unique ingredients, methods of cooking and signature flavours.

It’s easy to find something to excite your palate in Jamaica. Local food favourites can be found just about anywhere on the island, from roadside stalls to fine dining restaurants. From our renowned spirits, to rice and peas and curry chicken, there are lots of Jamaican dishes to tick off your must-try list. A hearty Jamaican breakfast of Jamaica's national dish, ackee and saltfish, is the breakfast of champions. Indulge in a plate of ackee and saltfish, steamed callaloo, pear (avocado) fried plantains (Jamaicans pronounce it "plahn-tins"), boiled green bananas, yellow yam, and fried or boiled dumplings with a hot cup of aromatic Blue Mountain coffee or fresh fruit juice for the perfect start to your day. Liver and bananas, salfish and callaloo, curried or stewed chicken with boiled dumplings (yes, we eat chicken for breakfast!), mackerel rundown and steaming bowls of porridge are also perennial breakfast favourites.

Iconic Jamaican Meals

"Jerk", is synonymous with Jamaica. The signature "jerk" style of charring meats marinated in a signature spice combination including scotch bonnet peppers, thyme, and pimento, cooked over sweet wood and pimento wood, is one of the enduring legacies of the fusion of African and Taíno cultures in Jamaica. Don't be fooled by imitations; for a dish to be classified as “authentic jerk,” the meat has to be smoked over pimento wood which gives jerk its characteristic delicious smoky flavour. There is no substitute for the distinctive, telltale flavor that pimento wood imparts to jerk, so head to Boston, Portland, to the famous Boston Jerk Centre or renowned jerk spots, Scotchies, in St. Ann, Pepper Thyme or Kingston Jerk in Kingston, or Sweetwood Jerk Joint in Ocho Rios, for authentic jerk experiences.

You will find a variety of delicious soups, boiled corn, and a bounty of seasonal fruits at food stalls dotting the roadsides. Some popular rest stops are renowned for their signature fare so be sure to stop when travelling around the island and enjoy spicy peppered shrimp (crayfish) by Bamboo Avenue, yam and saltfish at Melrose Hill, or smoky pan chicken  served with thick slices of hardough bread, found all across the island to name a few.

The Iconic Jamaican Patty

If Jamaica had another national dish, it would probably be the Jamaican patty.  There is nothing like the eating a hot Jamaican patty sandwiched between the buttery folds of a soft,  coco bread and washing it down with one of our refreshing local juices or sodas for a quick lunch on the go. This lunch-time favourite is a derivative of the Cornish pasty introduced by the English with a Jamaican spin. Today, this golden, flaky pastry is filled with a variety of savory meat or vegetable fillings and is a quick and delicious snack to grab on the go. Devon House, or Tastee, Sugar & Spice, Juicy Beef or Mother's, with multiple locations across the island, are the go-to spots for Jamaican patties. They are best enjoyed fresh from the oven, piping hot! Brushing away the crumbs after biting into a Jamaican patty is a vital part of the experience as well as trying to avoid scalding your mouth with the molten fillings by chewing and blowing on each bite at the same time.

Jamaican Favourites

Try our famous curried goat - tender goat meat cooked in aromatic spices and curry, served with white rice at Claudette's Top Class Restaurant on Spur Tree Hill in Manchester, or Moby Dick in Kingston, reputed for having the best curry in town. Slow-cooked oxtail, simmered with spinners (little dumplings) and butter beans in a rich and savory gravy is another local favourite. Try it at Usain Bolt's Tracks and Records in Montego Bay, M10 in Kingston or Miss T’s Kitchen  in Ocho Rios for this sumptuous dish bursting with flavour. Stew(ed) peas with spinners (little dumplings), is the ultimate Jamaican comfort food. Try  delicious slow cooked red kidney beans in fragrant coconut milk spiced with escallion, garlic, pepper, and thyme with salted meats (or the vegan version), over white rice with some fried plantains and you'll think you died and went to heaven!

Eateries like Gloria’s and Little Ochie are renowned for delicious seafood served by the gentle lapping waters of the Caribbean Sea. Visit Aunt May's Seafood Restaurant or choose from an array of vendors at Hellshire Beach in St. Catherine for fresh-caught seafood, cooked to perfection.   Escovitch fish (succulent fried fish topped with a spicy vinegar-based sauce and pickled vegetables) is a true Jamaican delight best paired with soft, sweet fried breads, called festivals or flat (gluten-free) cassava breads called bammy; eaten with your fingers, and your toes buried in the sand.

Saturdays in Jamaica are traditionally for eating soup. Be adventurous and try mannish water, usually offered at social events like dances, parties and concerts, not for the faint of heart. Not that adventurous? Roadside stops often offer different versions of hearty red peas or pumpkin soups filled with any combination of meats, dumplings and yam, cassava, or potatoes. Not a meat-eater? No problem! The vegan versions are just as tasty!

Ital is Vital

Jamaica offers a wide variety of vegan and vegetarian dishes. Our rich coconut flavoured rice and peas, callaloo dishes like pepper pot soup or calalloo rice, fresh salads, vegetable stir fries, soups  and pastas, lentil or bean stews, yatties (vegetarian patties), or raw cuisine in addition to  a wide variety of sun-ripened fresh produce bursting with flavour. Book a visit to Zimbali Culinary Retreat in Negril, or Stush in the Bush in St. Ann for unforgettable farm to table experiences.  Embrace the Rastafarian  way of eating with ital cuisine, which can be vegan or vegetarian, prepared using all natural ingredients without salt. Stop by Bob Marley's One Love Café for a taste of ital, or restaurants like Just Natural and King David.

Country Cooking

Jamaican country cooking just hits differently. Maybe it’s the country air and wood fire that always makes the food taste sweeter. Stop by roadside stands to try sweet roasted yellow-heart breadfruit, roast corn, or saltfish and roast yam slathered in butter for a delicious snack while exploring the island. Cornmeal or sweet potato pudding will certainly hit the spot after any meal, especially when served warm off a coal stove. They don't call it "Hell a top, hell a bottom and Hallelujah in di miggle" for nothing! Check out the Pudding Man in Priory, St. Ann for a delicious slice of heaven.

Weakness for Sweetness

Jamaican love a sweet treat after a meal. Be sure to visit Devon House IScream Shoppe and try their award winning ice cream, rated as one of the best in the world. Take a short hop over to the Devon house Bakery for a variety of tempting baked treats. Remember, when on vacation, calories don't count! Local traditional sweets include the tart sweetness of tamarind balls, and peanut "cakes" fused by caramelized sugar with hints of vanilla. Pink and white "grater" or "cut" cakes made with spiced, sweetened shredded coconut, gizzadas (a mixture of coconut, nutmeg and sugar baked in scalloped edged pastry shells), sticky peanut brittle, sweet coconut drops spiced with ginger, and the sticky molasses flavoured "Busta Backbone" sweeties are always crowd pleasers.

There is so much more that Jamaica has to offer. Get ready to explore the diverse and mouthwatering cuisine that this island paradise has to offer and come back to "Mmmm!"