Foods You Must Eat In Jamaica

When it comes to food, Jamaicans have a saying “half of your life gone” if you wilfully abstain from eating certain dishes. The saying loosely translates that you may very well be living a reduced quality of life as a result of your decision! Your tastebuds may never know the extraordinary glory of a true Jamaican meal, or the unforgettable experience of a foodgasm until you try the best foods on the land. Here are 9 Jamaican foods you must eat in Jamaica and add to your food bucket list.


Fresh from the oven comes the golden yellow, half-moon shaped Jamaican patty. For more than half a century, the patty has held a firm position among the best Jamaican foods. This popular pastry has a flaky shell and incredibly delicious filling which these days can be beef, cheese, chicken, vegetables, ackee, lobster or shrimp.  The patty is best eaten when warm and served with an equally warm, buttery bread that Jamaicans call “coco bread”. It is common as a lunch time meal or mid-morning snack, however there are smaller bite size variations known as cocktail patties which are a big hit at social events.

Jerk chicken  or pork

The good thing about Jamaican jerk is you can find it almost anywhere on the island, sometimes in the most unexpected places. You’ll be walking along the road and the waft of smoke and sweet sauce from the nearby jerk pan, immediately sends a message to your brain that this food must be devoured. Your taste buds are piqued for the meat that has been prepared with jerk sauce, Jamaican natural spices and then slowly cooked over a grill. When done right, jerk chicken or pork is spicy and flavourful right down to the bone. Jamaican or not, don’t miss out on the island’s famous jerk – have it alone or with festival, rice and peas or bread.

Rice and peas

Jamaican rice and peas has the renowned title of being the most important dish to cook every Sunday in every Jamaican home. And to what does it owe such an undisputed status? The basic ingredients are rice and peas (kidney beans are more common but gungo/pigeon peas are also popular). However, the dish is incomplete without fresh coconut milk, seasoned with thyme and escallion, and the optional scotch bonnet pepper on top. Usually an entrée dish, rice and peas may be served with any meat and a serving of vegetables.

Escoveitched fish

Seafood lovers, you haven’t lived until you have tasted real Jamaican escoveitched fish. It starts with a simple fish that is seasoned with salt and pepper and fried to a golden brown. However, this is where things start to get interesting. The fish is heavily decorated with rings of onions, fresh, bright orange carrots and scotch bonnett peppers heavily marinated with a peppery vinaigrette. In minutes, you can reward your taste buds with the strangely delicious, spicy, tangy taste. Escoveitched fish is a popular delicacy – and a great way to give the meat a break. It is best had with bammy, festival or bread.


Legend has it that eating a festival is literally like a having a mini festival in the mouth! Seriously though, festival is a type of fried dumpling, known for its golden colour, sausage-like shape and crispiness. Biting into a festival dumpling reveals a pleasant taste that comes from a blend of cornmeal and flour dough, milk, baking powder and optional spoon of sugar. It can be had as a savoury item, but is most commonly an accompaniment to fried or escoveitched fish, or served with jerk meat dishes and sometimes soup.

Stewed peas

For good reason, stewed peas is one of the favourite dishes of many Jamaicans. Traditionally, the main ingredients are red peas also known as kidney beans, beef and pigs tail – yet, it is not uncommon for Jamaicans to cook up a pot of stewed peas with chicken foot, pork or even saltfish. Still others will have the stew with only the peas – and with its added Jamaican spices, it remains a tasty option for dinner time.

 Sweet potato pudding

“Hell a top, hell a bottom, and hallelujah in the middle!” This ole’ time riddle was talking about the classic method used to bake the mouth-watering sweet potato pudding – with hot coals below and on top of the pot steaming with sweet deliciousness. Nowadays, modern ovens have taken over, but the good ole’ sweet potato pudding remains firmly in its place as one of the best Jamaican desserts there is. Made from the staple, sweet potato, it brings to the mouth flavourful surprises created by the raisins and spices such as nutmeg, cinnamon and vanilla that are added. Sweet potatoes are also packed with nutrition, so you get the best of both worlds – nutrition and great taste.

Bread pudding

The name may sound unappealing but your first bite of Jamaican bread pudding will make you a convert. Usually made from the textured crumbs of brown or white bread several days old, this crazy delicious pudding is one of the best desserts there is. The soft, sweet dessert is even tastier when served with ice cream or whipped cream. Plus, it’s super easy to make so you will most likely succeed in creating a tasty bread pudding if you try it for yourself.

Ackee and Saltfish

There’s a reason why Ackee and Saltfish has been ranked as one of the top 10 national dishes in the world. Ackee lovers especially like the dish for its salty/spicy taste as it usually flavoured with local spices, more commonly, black pepper. It is also a very visually appealing dish as the ackee is bright yellow in colour, surrounded by the contrast of green peppers and red tomatoes. Traditionally, ackee and saltfish is more popularly served at breakfast with the combination of any one of these foods; fried or boiled dumpling, yam, green banana and fried, roasted or boiled breadfruit. However, fanatics of the dish will eat or serve it at any time of day. Who can blame them? Ackee and saltfish is truly the peak of gastronomical ecstasy.


These are the Foods You Must Eat In Jamaica and add them to your list whenever you travel there.