20 of the Most Popular Jamaican Dishes

Introduction to Jamaican Culture

I am Jamaican, a proud daughter of my island. My man calls me an Empress. This is a respected name for women among our people, especially the Rastafarian culture. I am not Rasta, yet, but I love the Rasta life. This hub is not about the Rasta culture but the food culture of the Jamaican people. We are a diverse nation. Our motto is "Out of many; one people". Our motto simply means that our ancestry is from many people, nations and background but we are one culture, as we have become our own people who have fought our own battles, we are free. Yes we would like to believe that our ultimate home is Africa but to deny our other ancestry would be hypocrisy.

Because of our diverse background our food has become diverse in its own right. Our dishes are mostly combinations of different cuisines from Asia, Southern US, Africa and Europe. Below is a list of twenty such dishes. There are others but these are very popular on the streets or in our "Country style" or "Jamaican style" restaurants or as we commonly call most of them, "cook shops".

Here are twenty Jamaican dishes served everyday on our Island

1. Jerk Chicken is the most popular Jamaican dish known worldwide for its authentic Jamaican jerk flavor. Using spices such as the pimento, scotch bonnet pepper, scallion, onions and thyme. There are some with their secret ingredients but those are the basic. Served jerk pan style or authentic original style roasted over coals on top of the pimento wood.

2. Jerk pork is second and uses similar seasonings as the jerk chicken. Not as popular as the chicken because it’s more expensive, the most known place in Jamaica to find jerk pork is in Boston, Portland. Because of the popularity of the jerk pork found in Boston, people from all over the island will name their dish “Boston Jerk Pork” which would increase sales, as it is believed that the best tasting pork originated in that part of the island.

3. Red peas (kidney beans) soup made with salt beef and or pig tails. Pigtail in Jamaica is cured with salt and has to be soaked overnight or pre-boil for a few minutes to get some salt out before cooking. The dish is made with the peas, taro, yellow yam, dumplings and scallion, pimento, thyme and pepper. You have a choice to use coconut milk or not, depending on your taste.

4. Steamed fish (at this point there is no particular order because all the dishes are loved the same). In Jamaica is actually stewed fish. It is mostly done on the beach especially Healthshire and some other very popular beaches around the island. Scallion, pimento, pepper, thyme, bammy and sometimes carrots and potatoes are done with this dish. Every cook has their own steam fish style so everywhere you go you get a different flavor….mm mm.

Jamaican food and ingredients


5. Fried fish and fried bammies. In case you are wondering, bammies are made from cassava. Cassava has been in Jamaica for a very long time and was the main staple of the Arawak Indians. The root is grated or milled, squeezed dry and them made into flat (1/2 to ¾ in thick cakes). Bammy is a tasty food and is very popular with fried, steamed or roasted fish.

6. Roast fish. This is really a fish steamed in foil. The fish is seasoned and stuffed with callaloo (the Jamaican spinach) and steamed on a grill. You can season with the jerk spice and it becomes jerk fish.

7. Stewed peas. Most households make this dish once per week every week. It’s made with red kidney beans called red peas here in Jamaica. We cook the peas with the pig tail and salt beef until all is soft then we add our seasonings and cook until a gravy is formed. This is quite similar to the soup but the soup has lots more water and this is served with rice. The soup is a dish by itself. In the stewed peas we put some tiny little dumplings called spinners. The taste of the stewed peas and soup are distinctly different.

8. Chicken foot soup. The feet of the chicken are used to make soup. We use pumpkin, carrots, potatoes, cho-cho, yellow yam and a packet of soup powder mix that comes in different flavors.

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9. Manish water. This is a soup made from the head, feet and tripe of the ram goat. In some countries it’s known as Billie goat. It is very important to use the ram goat because it gives a different flavor that the “she goat”, yes that’s what we call a nanny goat. Another important ingredient in the mannish water is young bananas. You slice the bananas thinly with skin and all and cook them in the soup. Ingredients include yellow yam, dumpling, potato, pumpkin and carrots. You can add other things if you like. Use a ram goat noodle to flavor the soup!

10. Cow cod soup is another manly soup that only the strongest of men eat. In Jamaica we don’t say “eat soup”, we say “drink soup” because soup must have a lot of fluid that we drink from the soup bowl. In case you are wondering what is the cow cod, it is the testicles and or the manly organ of the bull. We call both male and female cows, even the bull…lol but it’s really bull cod soup. Add your ingredients to your preference.

11.Curried goat. This is maybe the third or fourth most popular dish but it is not 100% Jamaican. The idea of the curry is Indian but the method of making the dish is Jamaican. The Indian will burn their spices in the oil before adding the meat. Jamaicans add their spices directly to the meat, rubbing in the flavor with their hands. We make sure the oil is smoking than add the meat and cover the pot. We stir the meat ever so often to keep it from burning. When we are satisfied that the seasoning has penetrated the meat enough and it has a good color we add a little water. If the there is fluid in the pot from steaming the meat, we let it cook in its own juices until ready to eat. Serve with white rice and boiled green bananas.

12. Curried chicken is a very popular quick meal that friends make when they are on the river at a cookout or after a football match. It is done similarly to the curried goat but cooked much quicker. The chicken is cut into small to medium or even bite sized pieces.

13. Fricassee chicken is a commonly known as stewed chicken. It is usually seasoned with all your favorite spices and placed and pot with hot oil and covered to let steam and cook in it’s own juices. Browning or soy sauce is used to make it dark. Did I mention that Jamaicans like their meat dark?

14. Brown stewed chicken. This is done by frying the chicken until dark brown then stewing with seasoning and water until the gravy has a nice consistency. This is the most popular Sunday dinner served with rice and peas.

15. Tripe and beans. The cow tripe is cleaned and washed in the river. I like it if I make it myself because the truth is I am a bit persnickety when it come to my food. Broad beans are cooked with the tripe and stomach to make a nice stew, eaten with rice.

16. Oxtail and beans. I love the tail of the ox which is larger than the regular cow tail. This part of the animal is closer to the spine so when jointed you get a nice looking piece of meat. It takes a long time to cook so start cooking 3 hours before dinner. It is often cooked with broad beans.

17. Salt Fish (cod fish) run dung (run down). This dish is definitely maybe one of the most original and authentic Jamaican dishes you will find anywhere. The coconut milk is reduced to about a third then the cod fish which has been soaked or boiled is cut into bite size pieces and added to the coconut reduction. Season with scallion, thyme, scotch bonnet pepper and lots of black pepper. Served with dumplings, renta yam and boiled bananas or roast breadfruit.

18. Ackee and saltfish. This is our national dish and should be at the number one spot but unfortunately a lot of people around the world don’t know the ackee and certainly not the dish. Ackee is a fruit that is consumed like a vegetable. It is usually cooked until tender (about 15 -20 minutes), the cod fish is boiled with the ackee to give the ackee flavor and to reduce the saltiness. The cod fish is cut into very small pieces after being boiled. The water that they were boiled in is thrown away and the cod fish is cooked with scallion, onions, garlic and pepper then the ackee and black pepper are added. Stir thoroughly and serve with roast breadfruit or yam, boiled bananas and dumplings. Also very nice with warm bread or white rice.

19. Fish tea. This is actually fish soup. There are different versions, some lighter than others drinking like a broth while others are a full meal. The most common fish to use for this is the doctor fish which is said to put back strength in the body. Add your preferred vegetables but remember to add the young green bananas.

20. Cow Foot. This one I am not very fond of but many people love it. It takes a while to cook and is served with almost any staple you want. Remember to season this well to make sure it’s flavorful. You may add beans if you like.

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© 2012 Carolee Samuda

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Comments 43 comments

Vincent Moore 4 years ago

I am hungry now after reading this very vast array of delicious foods you are serving up here for us at the Hubs. I wish we had smellahub, for not only would we be able to read your words but smell them to.

It would have us drifting with the hunger you bestow upon us here. LoL...I have never been to your country although I have many friends who have and they recount their food experiences with me. Many of which you have mentioned here, they tell me they thoroughly enjoyed Jerk Chicken and the best ever to be served is in your country.

Many try to simulate, but the real and best is to be found in Jamaica. Thank you for sharing the tastes and spices used to make these wonderful dishes. If I ever visit your end of the world, I will feast on Jerk Chicken for sure. Hugs

DonnaCosmato profile image

DonnaCosmato 4 years ago from USA

How very interesting and what a treat to have the insider information about each dish!

Cardisa profile image

Cardisa 4 years ago from Jamaica Author

Hi Vincent, Jerk chciken is Jamaican so it cannot taste the same anywhere else. The spices are best made fresh. The packaged spices are not the same. Thanks, I wish we could smell the recipe hubs

Cardisa profile image

Cardisa 4 years ago from Jamaica Author

Thanks Donna. I realize that people have been searching for Jamaican food so I decided to trade the secret! lol

RealHousewife profile image

RealHousewife 4 years ago from St. Louis, MO

Hey Cardisa! I loved the history you started with - that is very interesting. I like the motto :) and oh the food looks so good Empress:) Jamaican me hungry!

Cardisa profile image

Cardisa 4 years ago from Jamaica Author

LOL...Hi Kelly, I like that you are talking Jamaican food so delicious. Many people from around the world love our food.

cookies4breakfast profile image

cookies4breakfast 4 years ago from coastal North Carolina

Cardisa, thank you for the recipes. Between those and the photos, I'm salivating!

Cardisa profile image

Cardisa 4 years ago from Jamaica Author

Cookies4breakfast, I hope you like the recipes. I tried to give some idea how the dishes were made so people could try them but I will try to do as many full recipes as possible whenever I make them. I hate posting recipes with my own photos.

Thanks for reading and commenting.

cclitgirl profile image

cclitgirl 4 years ago from Western NC

Mmm, Cardisa, you're making me hungry. I know this is going to sound crazy, but I feel like I have a huge chunk of Jamaica in my heart. I grew up in a nursing home and my mom always needed extra help. So, she went to the nearby hotel and convinced about 20 people on work visas from Jamaica to work for her. For years, it was Jamaica this and Jamaica that. I love the people and the culture!! So much good food. Though I'm Latina, I delight in cooking cuisines from all over, including Jamaica.

Lastly, have you been over to Rasta1's hubs? He's from Jamaica and is always talking about the Rasta life. I've learned so much from him. You might enjoy his hubs. :)

Cardisa profile image

Cardisa 4 years ago from Jamaica Author

Hi Ccligirl, yes I know Rasta, we are good friends. Jamaican food can be addictive because of the Thanks for the wonderful comment. I have not eaten much Latina food. I love Spanish rice but can't remember having anything I must give your cuisine a try.

Thanks for stopping by.

angela p profile image

angela p 4 years ago from Richmond, Virginia

As always you provide such interesting hubs. I am scared to try the goat! I need to try new things I know but I scared. LOL.. Regardless, beautiful presentation and a great read.

jeyaramd profile image

jeyaramd 4 years ago from Mississauga, Ontario

I enjoy jerk chicken a lot. Especially, when its done on the old barbecue. Its so good. The seasoning and all. I remember when I use to study on the island. I enjoyed Friday night barbecues with the music out loud from the shops nearby. Now, that's what I am talking about. Thanks for sharing.

Cardisa profile image

Cardisa 4 years ago from Jamaica Author

Angela, it's nothing to be scared of If you eat beef, you can eat goat, the meat is milder and has less toxins. Our goats are fed naturally too, no artificial or store bought food, all vegetation.

Thanks for reading and commenting.

Cardisa profile image

Cardisa 4 years ago from Jamaica Author

Yes, you have been to Jamaica! I hope we didn't disturb you too much as you Jerk chicken is great, done the right way with the right spices. There are a lot of people who take the short cut.

Thank you for stopping by and leaving a comment.

medina143 profile image

medina143 4 years ago

Wow! I was just telling my sister that I wanted to learn how to cook jerk chicken but I prefer pork so now I can learn how to cook both. My ex-boyfriend is Jamaican and his mother had her PHD in nutrition and health I believe. She cooked amazing !!!! I loved her because she was so sweet and kind and was an amazing cook. I have tried the jerk-chicken, curried chicken, curried goat, and salt fish, I LOVED it all. I don't miss my ex-boyfriend but I sure do miss his mom lol. Thank you for sharing about your traditions and culture, I hope to learn some of these delightful recipes.

Jackie Lynnley profile image

Jackie Lynnley 4 years ago from The Beautiful South

This is great to share your country's recipes with us. I am having to see what I can and can't eat now but I am sure I can work a few of those in! I love new recipes. They always also give me ideas for more recipes, how about you?

Cardisa profile image

Cardisa 4 years ago from Jamaica Author

Hi Medina143, I loved that you don't miss the ex but you miss his I hope to be sharing some more recipes in full very soon. I am in the process of making my own jerk pan so as soon as that is taken care of, I will share the jerk recipe but in the meantime I will do doing the others. I already have the red peas soup.

Thanks for stopping by and leaving such delightful comment.

Cardisa profile image

Cardisa 4 years ago from Jamaica Author

You are right Jackie and you can modify th recipes to suit your diet too. Take for instance the jerk, instead of using the pre-packaged spice, you can make your own and omit the salt.

bluebird profile image

bluebird 4 years ago

Wonderful hub - has to be, it's about food, right?! But extra special that you would share your country's recipes with us, that makes it even better, as we tire of the same old dishes each of us are used to. Now we know where to go to experience a taste of Jamaica. What a way to get close to you and your beautiful country without going there!

Thank you, thank you, thank you ~ you are a dear!

Cardisa profile image

Cardisa 4 years ago from Jamaica Author

Thank you Bluebird :)). I really hope you enjoy the recipes I've shared. I hope to share some more in the coming weeks. Thank you for your wonderful comment.

Dexter Yarbrough profile image

Dexter Yarbrough 4 years ago from United States

Hi Empress Cardisa! I love me some jerk chicken! Yes, indeedy! My favorite! Can you cook most of these dishes? When I come to Jamaica, I want to hang out with you! Great hub and excellent photos and history!

Cardisa profile image

Cardisa 4 years ago from Jamaica Author

Hi Dexter, as a matter of fact I can cook all Jamaican dishes! I once had my own "cook shop" too! You are welcome to hang out with us and get real home made food done Jamaican style. The thing about hotels is that they fancy up the food too much so most people don't get the real Jamaican flavours until they go out on the streets.

BkCreative profile image

BkCreative 4 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City

What I respect about Jamaican cuisine is that if you use an animal for food you use the whole animal - no waste. Most cultures around the world do this while Americans are hung up on tons of hamburgers.

I'm not a meat eater and so Cardisa I hope you will also share with us some of the many nutritious drinks that are popular in Jamaica. I live in Brooklyn, NYC so I get to enjoy them all.

And how about a list of desserts, snacks? I love sweets.

Thanks for the delightful hub! Rated up and more of course!

marshaleepinnock profile image

marshaleepinnock 4 years ago from Bronx NY

Big up yhuself Cardisa. I am a proud Jamaican as well. Thanks for embracing our culture.

Cardisa profile image

Cardisa 4 years ago from Jamaica Author

Hi BK, thank you for a very insightful comment. Yes, Jamaicans tend to eat the whole animal, as for me I don't. I don't think I could eat the private parts of an

Yes I will share some drink, snacks and desert. Thanks for the additional inspiration.

Cardisa profile image

Cardisa 4 years ago from Jamaica Author

Hello Marshalee, welocme to my hubspace, and if you are new, welcome to Huppages!

You know Jamaican women love to cook for their men and when I cook and my man eat off the whole pot of food I feel proud.

I am proud of my country and my culture.

Big up!

Jennifer Essary profile image

Jennifer Essary 4 years ago from Idaho

Thank you for sharing your favorites and the link to your blog. It is easy to hop on the web and find all sorts of recipes but I've always thought they're better when they come directly from the native land. I love Indian food but the best I've ever had was in the home of a friend who had recently moved here from India. I've only had jerk chicken in restaurants but you're inspired me to make my own along with the jerk pork, and curry. Thanks again for sharing. Voted up useful, and awesome : )

Cardisa profile image

Cardisa 4 years ago from Jamaica Author

Thank you Jennifer. I appreciate the visit and I hope you make some of the dishes and enjoy them. I also have a blog with other recipes you may like and some of the full recipes are there too.

epigramman profile image

epigramman 4 years ago

....oh yessssssssssssssssssssssssss you are an Empress indeed in my humble epi-book with nary a bombastic word in sight except this is one fantastic hub which will be bookmarked by me for my own private use in the kitchen (and in the bedroom too if necessary -lol) and will be posted on my FACEBOOK page with absolute mad delight and a direct link back here your heart.

lake erie time ontario canada 7:54pm

Cardisa profile image

Cardisa 4 years ago from Jamaica Author

Oh Epi, you do know the way to a girls heart...a link from Facebook!

I hope you enjoy them epi and of course I hope your kitchen and bedroom experiences will be

stephaniedas profile image

stephaniedas 4 years ago from Miami, US

Wow, I'm salivating now. You're a great hubber, I'm sending this one out to my friends :)

Cardisa profile image

Cardisa 4 years ago from Jamaica Author

Thanks Stephanie. I hope you make some of those dishes and enjoy them.

Thanks for reading and commenting.

rambansal profile image

rambansal 4 years ago from India

A very nice and well-designed hub, indeed.

Cardisa profile image

Cardisa 4 years ago from Jamaica Author

Thank you Rambansal.

rebeccamealey profile image

rebeccamealey 4 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

So glad to have found you and your wonderful recipes.

Cardisa profile image

Cardisa 4 years ago from Jamaica Author

Hello Rebecca, thank you. Welcome to my hubspace.

rasta1 profile image

rasta1 4 years ago from Jamaica

This is good, I am going to do a hub about the 10 most popular Jamaican vegetarian foods and link to this.

Cardisa profile image

Cardisa 4 years ago from Jamaica Author

Hey Rasta, you miss dis one Can't wait to read that hub. Add a little Rastafarian flavour to the hub because people love that sort of thing.

Jhallgren 2 years ago

Thanks for sharing! My fiancé and I are getting married exactly one month from today in Jamaica so I am making jerk chicken tonight to celebrate!

Cardisa profile image

Cardisa 2 years ago from Jamaica Author

Congrats Jhallgren. I hope your wedding goes really well.

Hendrika profile image

Hendrika 2 years ago from Pretoria, South Africa

Some of these dishes sounds really nice and come close to your bean dishes. I unfortunately do not know many of the herbs used in your cooking

Cardisa profile image

Cardisa 2 years ago from Jamaica Author

I realize that most people have no idea what pimento seeds are. For the most part, that's the most uncommon spice used. Thanks for commenting Hendrika.

Janet 21 months ago

Awesome page!

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    Carolee Samuda (Cardisa)1,135 Followers
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    Carolee is a passionate writer with a love for learning and teaching. She is a published author, poet, blogger and content creator.

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