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Jamaican Cuisine

Jamaica Jerk (History)

This Jamaican way of cooking food has invaded restaurants and cafés worldwide, adding a hint of spice to cocktail parties and backyard cookouts alike. Just about any meat can be jerked, but the real secret to the flavourful taste is the marinade, a truly Jamaican blend of spices and seasonings. Of course, a homemade jerk marinade is best, but today there are several commendable brands of jerk seasoning that do just fine.

Jamaican cuisine includes a mixture of cooking techniques, flavors, spices and influences from the indigenous people on the island, and the SpanishBritishAfricans, Indian and Chinese who have inhabited the island. It is also influenced by the crops introduced into the island from tropical Southeast Asia. Jamaican cuisine includes various dishes from the different cultures brought to the island with the arrival of people from elsewhere. Other dishes are novel or a fusion of techniques and traditions. In addition to ingredients that are native to Jamaica, many foods have been introduced and are now grown locally. A wide variety of seafoodtropical fruits and meats are available.

Some Jamaican cuisine dishes are variations on the cuisines and cooking styles brought to the island from elsewhere. These are often modified to incorporate local produce. Others are novel and have developed locally. Popular Jamaican dishes include curry goat, fried dumplingsackee and salt fish (cod) (which is the national dish of Jamaica), fried plantain, “jerk“, steamed cabbage and “rice and peas” (pigeon peas or kidney beans). Jamaican Cuisine has been adapted by AfricanIndianBritishFrenchSpanish,Chinese influences. Jamaican patties and various pastries and breads are also popular as well as fruit beverages and Jamaican rum.

Jamaican cuisine has spread with emigrations, especially during the 20th century, from the island to other nations as Jamaicans have sought economic opportunities in other areas.


Jerk spices packaged in jars

Women selling desserts in Kingston, Jamaica, c. 1899

Cuisine of the Tainos

Christopher Columbus visited Jamaica multiple times towards the end of the 15th century and the beginning of the 16th century, once even shipwrecked on the north coast for twelve months (1503–1504).

Hale, Edward Everett, 1822-1909. The Life of Christopher Columbus: from his own letters and journals and other documents of his time. “CHAPTER XII, Refuge at Jamaica.” 1891. Electronic Text Center, University of Virginia Library.

During these visits he described a way the Arawaks (the indigenous inhabitants of Jamaica) preserved meat by adding peppersallspice and sea salt to make what is now known as Jamaican jerk spice.

Development of the cuisine

The Spanish, the first European arrivals to the island contributed dishes such as the vinegary concoction escovitched fish (Spanish escabeche) contributed by the Spanish Jews. Later, Cantonese/Hakka influences developed the Jamaican patty, an empanada styled turnover filled with spiced meat. African cuisine developed on the island as a result of waves of slavery introduced by the European powers. More Chinese and East Indian influences can also be found in Jamaican cuisine, as a result of indentured labourers who replaced slaves after emancipation brought their own culinary talents (especially curry, which Jamaican chefs sometimes use to season goat meat for special occasions).

AfricanIndianAmericanChinese and British cuisines are not new to the island. Through many years of British colonialism the cuisine developed many habits of cooking particular to a trading colony. The natives of Jamaica drink the most tea per capita in the Caribbean to this day as a result.

Jamaican Cuisine and the Rastafarians

Jamaican Food Facts The Jamaican cuisine is quite diverse and mention must be made of the Rastafarian influence. Rastafarians have a vegetarian approach to preparing food, cooking, and eating, and have introduced a host of unique vegetarian dishes to the Jamaican cuisine. They do not eat pork, and the strict ones do not eat meat, including poultry and fish. There are even some who believe in cooking with little or no salt and cooking in an ‘Ital‘ way.

Popular ingredients

Curry goat with rice and peas

Jamaican patties and Red Stripe beer

Popular dishes

Ackee and saltfish

Jamaican patty wrapped in coco bread

Dinner plate with black beans, shredded beef, jerk chicken, rice and plantain

A Jamaican breakfast includes ackee and saltfish, seasoned callaloo, boiled green bananas, and fried dumplings.

Main courses


Side dishes

Breads and pastries


Ting grapefruit soda, bottled

Irish Moss drink in can and over ice ℗ is your source to learn about the broad and beautiful spectrum of our shared History.