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Unearth scrumptious culinary delights by the bucket load with these Barbados foods and experience the wonder of one of the Caribbean‘s most underrated cuisines.
Renowned for its marinated meats, heavenly seafood, and plenty of heat and spice, from the white sandy beaches to the bustle of the city streets, great food can be found across one of the Caribbean’s most beautiful islands.
Brace yourself for glorious vibrance, searing heat, and lip-smacking dishes as we discover Barbados through 21 of its must-try foods, as recommended by a local.
1 – Fishcakes (Codfish Cakes)
Fishcakes are the quintessential appetizer for any occasion, including birthdays, weddings, and general family gatherings. The savory cakes are made of salted codfish, combined with fresh herbs and spices, flour, and water.
These light, fluffy bites are deep-fried to perfection and are usually accompanied by a spicy homemade ketchup and mayonnaise sauce. Mostly seen as bar bites and snack food, some locals also enjoy these crispy fishcakes for breakfast.
2 – BBQ Pigtails
If you’ve never heard about pigtails, then it’s time to open your palate to a whole new flavor! Pigtails might be known to the rest of the world as a hairstyle, but in Barbados, they are a dish of salted pork tails.
The pigtails are first cleaned and boiled to remove the excess salt from the meat. The boiled pigtails are then slathered in BBQ sauce and grilled on an open fire, giving the pigtails a sumptuously sweet caramelized skin.
The key to a finger-licking pigtail is very much in the sweet barbecue sauce, and this both sweet and salty dish can be served by itself as an appetizer or with fries for a hearty main meal.
3 – Bread and Two
If you love fishcakes, then you’ll absolutely find time for this beloved island dish. A ‘bread and two’ consists of two fishcakes sandwiched between a salt bread, lathered with a cheese and pepper sauce.
Salt bread is a white, fluffy local bread roll. It’s commonly sold in bread shops around the island and purchased in packs of 6 or 10. These rolls are the perfect sandwich for this hugely popular Barbados snack.
4 – Pickled Seacat
With a name like seacat, you might think twice about trying this dish! However, seacat is, in fact, a species of octopus native to Barbados waters.
This delicacy is similar in texture to calamari. Freshly caught from the sea, the seacat is chopped and boiled to soften its texture. It’s then commonly pickled with limes, salt, onions, scotch bonnet pepper, herbs, and cucumbers.
Left to marinate and soak in the flavors, once ready pickled seacat is a truly unique culinary experience. Hence, this native dish is a must-try when visiting Barbados.
5 – Sea Eggs
Sea eggs are a rare delicacy that are hard to come by due to overfishing laws. This seafood is essentially the Bajan caviar in the form of sea urchins that fishermen dive to the seabed for.
The sea eggs are commonly prepared sautéed with onions, peppers, spices, and tomato sauce in a pan. The key is not to overcook the sea eggs, as some Bajans even enjoy them raw.
The dish is commonly served with white rice. This delicacy is somewhat of an acquired taste and is mostly eaten by the older generation when the sea eggs are available.
6 – Bajan Chicken Soup with Dumplings
This soup is a weekly staple in Bajan households, served on the aptly named “soup day.” Soup day varies from family to family, but it is commonly either on Wednesdays or Saturdays. This soup not only tastes rich and delicious but is also packed with nutrients from vegetables and ground provisions.
Bajan chicken soup is essentially a pumpkin-based soup with sliced chicken, salted pigtails, carrots, onions, celery, okras, ground provisions (such as sweet and English potatoes, eddoes, and yams), and split peas. The ingredients in this filling Bajan soup are boiled with fresh herbs and seasoning and topped with fresh dumplings once the broth is ready.
The dumplings provide sweet bursts of flavor and are dropped in the soup only during the final stages of cooking. They are made from flour, sugar, water, and spices such as nutmeg and cinnamon. They are so delicious, in fact, it’s common to hear locals saying “make sure I get dumplings” when asking for this soup!
7 – Pumpkin Fritters
You simply can’t have a Sunday buffet without these tiny balls of warmth and flavor. Pumpkin fritters are a popular side dish for any meal but are commonly served at Sunday lunch buffets. Some locals also enjoy them for breakfast too.
The fritters are made from a batter of steamed pumpkin, egg, flour, baking powder, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and milk. The batter is first mixed, set aside, and then fried in oil.
Some Bajans prefer to shape their batter into balls before deep-frying, while others prefer to mold it into flat, mini pancake-shaped fritters. Pumpkin fritters can also be sweet or savory, depending on the amount of sugar added.
8 – Jug-Jug
Jug-jug is a widely popular side dish that completes any Christmas plate. This side dish has been classified under Christmas dishes, and it is not usually eaten at any other time in the year.
Jug-jug has a base of meat and pigeon peas, mashed together into a thick paste. This base is made by first boiling pork, salted beef, and fresh pigeon peas in a pot, then transferring the boiled meat and peas to a food processor with finely chopped herbs and spices, to be mashed together.
The mixture is then put back on the stove with guinea corn and butter, and cooked to a porridge-like consistency. This dish goes perfectly with ham and turkey at Christmas dinner.
9 – Cou-Cou and Flying Fish
Our coveted national dish is cou-cou (coo~coo) and flying fish. This dish is rooted in national pride, with it being made on a weekly basis in households, and even more so during Independence month.
Cou-cou is a dish of cornmeal and boiled okras, cooked together to a consistency similar to that of polenta. A food deeply connected to the population’s West African roots, traditionally cou-cou is made with a cou-cou stick, which helps remove all lumps, and ensures a smoother consistency.
The second part of this dish puts our national fish, the flying fish, in the spotlight. This delicious fish is used in a stew to accompany the cou-cou. Flying fish stew has a tomato base and is cooked with fresh herbs, onions, garlic, and other seasonings.
You might also find cou-cou served with a salt fish (salted cod) stew on the menu, which is equally as scrumptious. This is true comfort food and a dish loved by many across the island.
10 – Macaroni Pie
Bajan macaroni pie, also known as just “pie” by locals, is an absolute must-try dish. This dish is loved by all ages and is a popular choice at buffets and important gatherings.
Macaroni pie consists of cooked macaroni pasta, cheddar cheese, onions, fresh herbs and spices, egg, milk, ketchup, and mustard. The ingredients are mixed together and placed in a casserole dish, topped in more cheese, and placed in the oven.
The result is a cheesy, flavourful baked pasta that melts in your mouth. This dish is usually served with meat or fish and salad on the side.
11 – Pudding and Souse
A family favorite on Saturdays, pudding and souse is a two-part dish consisting of pickled pork and steamed sweet potato pudding. The souse contains pickled pig parts, such as feet, ear, tongue, and knuckles, that were traditionally eaten by the poorest people.
These pieces are combined with lean pork cuts, steamed breadfruit, lime, cucumber, salt, and herbs. Left to marinate, the souse becomes infused with those flavors.
The pudding is made of grated sweet potato, browning, spices, sugar, butter, and herbs, and is steamed in a double boiler pot for hours until soft. Traditionally, the pudding is served in steamed pig intestines and cut into small chunks, but it can also be served without the casing.
12 – Roasted Breadfruit
Breadfruit, contrary to the name, is actually not sweet fruit but tastes rather like a mellow potato. It can be prepared in many ways, including steamed, fried, and in this case roasted. In Barbados, the breadfruit is placed over an open fire and turned periodically until its exterior is charred.
After the breadfruit is cooked it is cut in half, the heart (stem) removed, and served with a wide range of delicious fillings. The most popular fillings include butter, saltfish, barbecued pigtails, corned beef, and tuna gravy. This is definitely a local delicacy that will leave you satisfied for hours!
13 – Fish Cutters
In Barbados, “cutters” is simply a fancy word for sandwiches. Almost anything can be a cutter once it’s sandwiched between two pieces of fresh salt bread, from ham and cheese to one of the island’s favorite meals: fish cutters.
Fish cutters are a delicious sandwich of fried flying fish, tomato, lettuce, Bajan pepper sauce, and sometimes cheese. These cutters are a great treat to enjoy after a long day at the beach, served with fries.
14 – Frizzled Saltfish, Rice, and Peas
As with many Bajan dishes, you’ve probably already spotted the recurring theme of using saltfish as part of the dish! This quick meal is a simple dish, made by first placing pre-boiled saltfish, black pepper, herbs, onion, and garlic in a food processor and blending the ingredients together.
Once mashed, the saltfish mixture is fried until crispy and served with rice and peas. Rice and peas is a staple in Bajan households throughout the week and can be paired with any meat or fish. It is cooked with herbs and butter to really enhance the flavor.
15 – Conkies
It’s impossible to celebrate Independence Day (November 30th) without having a conkie or two… or three! These sweet, warm treats are made of freshly grated pumpkin, coconut, sweet potato, corn flour, sugar, spices, and butter, along with other ingredients, depending on preference.
Mixed and steamed until soft, the mixture is then traditionally spooned into fresh banana leaves, that have also been softened. Once wrapped inside the banana leaf, the conkie is finally steamed over boiling water. The result is a soft, spice-filled treat that locals eat for breakfast and throughout the day. It’s definitely a must-try if you’re on the island in November.
16 – Bakes
Fried bakes are our version of breakfast pancakes. These incredibly simple yet delicious treats are quick to whip up and a perfect pairing with eggs and bacon, or simply your morning tea.
Bakes are made from a batter of flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, sugar, baking powder, and water. Once mixed, the batter is shallow fried until golden brown. While bakes are generally enjoyed for breakfast in Barbados, you can also serve them as a snack or dessert.
17 – Sweet Bread
Also known as coconut bread, sweet bread is sold by bread shops around the country every day of the week. This wholesome loaf of sweetness is made by first grating fresh coconut and combining it with flour, raisins, dried cherries, sugar, spices, milk, and butter. The fragrant dough is baked in a loaf pan, topped with brown sugar.
A sweet treat that Bajans from all walks of life love, this dessert is perfect for an afternoon pick-me-up when served with tea or coffee.
18 – Sugar Cakes
Lovers of sweet shredded coconut will find a special place in their hearts for sugar cakes. These sweet treats were traditionally sold by food vendors but now can also be found in supermarkets islandwide.
Sugar cakes are a simple dessert of sugar, water, and grated coconut. The sugar and water are boiled into a thick syrup, at which point the coconut is added and stirred in vigorously. After boiling for a short while, the sweet mixture is spooned onto a baking tray to cool for a few hours until it has hardened.
Sugar cakes come in a variety of colors, as food coloring is commonly added to the mixture before hardening. This sweet treat brings back fond memories of childhood for so many Bajans.
19 – Cassava Pone
This dish is renowned for its soft, semi-pudding-like texture and is served in squares. Cassava is a well-known root crop in the Caribbean and is usually used in savory dishes.
On the contrary, cassava pone is made of cassava flour, grated coconut, spices, sugar, flour, and margarine. These ingredients are mixed, placed in a shallow baking dish, and brushed with sugar water. The mixture is then baked until golden brown.
20 – Black Cake
Another delicious traditional Christmas food is black cake, also known as rum cake. It’s a cake consisting of dried fruits, such as cherries, raisins, currants, and prunes, soaked in Bajan rum. The fruits are soaked well in advance to enrich their flavor, sometimes for up to three months or even longer, as the longer the fruits soak, the stronger the rum flavor in the cake.
Once the fruits are ready, they are mixed into the cake base, which is then baked. Once out of the oven, some Bajans will even pour more rum over the cake to increase to strengthen its flavor.
Locals love this cake, and outside of Christmas and the festive period, it is commonly used as the base of wedding cakes. This rich, fruity, and wholesome cake can be stored for months at room temperature due to the alcohol content, but you’ll be lucky if it lasts that long!
21 – Guava Cheese
Sold by the sweet vendor, guava cheese is definitely not traditional cheese. Guavas are tropical fruits found in many countries in the region, including Barbados, often used in juices, jams, and desserts.
Unlike traditional cheese, this treat is dairy-free and sugar-filled. It is made by boiling fresh guava fruit in water until softened, and the pulp can be extracted.
Once mixed, the guava is placed back in a cooking pot, to which sugar and lime juice is added until the mixture becomes thick. This fudge-like sweet is then cooled, rolled out, cut into squares, and rolled in sugar. Once you’ve had a bite, you simply won’t want to put down this tropical delight, that’s for sure!
Barbados Food Summary
So many unique and mouthwatering culinary delights await when you grace the bustling towns and sandy shores of Barbados, you’ll want to stay longer to seek out as much delicious food as you can.
Whatever your intentions of visiting this beautiful island, be sure to make food an important part of it. Caribbean cuisines are commonly overlooked on a global scale, which makes their breathtakingly fresh seafood, tropical ingredients, and soul-singing dishes all the more satisfying when you try them.
Hopefully, these Barbados dishes have given you just a little insight into the ingenuity, passion, and craft of Bajans when it comes to not just food, but everything that’s important in life. Enjoy the heat, the dancing, the adventure, and the dishes when you visit, and soak up and try as much of it as you possibly can!
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Author: Cara is a freelance content writer and digital marketing consultant living in Barbados. She is passionate about sharing the rich culture and cuisine of Barbados through writing.
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