Local Eats Across the Caribbean: Our Top Picks

The island flavors will find their way into your heart (through your stomach).
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Charcoal barrel for making Jamaican Jerk fish and chicken. Very typical in Jamaica, it is also frequent in the Carribean coast of Costa Rica, where this photo was taken (Puerto Limón).

There’s an incredibly rich mix of culture to be found in the Caribbean — take Barbados, the birthplace of Calypso music; Cuba and its storied political history; or Puerto Rico’s famous rum and original drink the piña colada. There’s one thing, however, that music enthusiasts, history buffs and cocktail sippers can all get behind: traditional Caribbean meals. Food embodies a nation’s very culture and essence, and it is a window into each island’s reality. After all, food is an adventure. Check out our top must-try dishes in the video below:

From Puerto Rico to Barbados, here’s more about the customary Caribbean recipes you’ll want to taste — take our word for it, and the cruises that will take you right to them:

Puerto Rico: Mofongo

The most popular (and by many accounts, most-loved) Puerto Rican dish, mofongo, is packed with flavor: It’s made from not-yet-sweet, fried plantains mashed with garlic, pork rinds, salt and oil in a wooden mortar. The mash is then shaped into a ball that’s perfect to absorb the signature creamy broth around it — usually including a rich mixture of garlic and olive oil with chicken, veggies, beef or even octopus.

Now is the perfect time to catch a cruise to Puerto Rico to get a hands-on lesson from a local chef (and wash it down with a mojito, of course).

Barbados: Coucou & Flying Fish

Coucou, served with flying fish, is the national dish of Barbados — and one you won’t soon forget. Somewhat similar to polenta or grits, it’s made with cornmeal and okra. The recipe requires constant stirring to make sure the coucou is a smooth consistency, and it’s then topped with the flying fish, a national symbol that can be seen on the country’s coat of arms. Complete with a sauce or gravy made of Barbadian spices, this hearty and delicious meal is an authentic taste of Barbadian culture.

Chart your course for Barbados, and try this delicacy for yourself.

Jamaica: Jerk Chicken

One of the most popular Caribbean dishes, jerk chicken from Jamaica is very much worth a try on the island to ensure the most authentic flavor. The meat is dry-rubbed or marinated with allspice (or pimento, as Jamaicans call it) along with scotch bonnet peppers — which really bring the heat!

Back in the day, locals first cooked the chicken (or pork) over a smoking wood fire. Now it’s made in wood-burning stoves or large drums called “jerk pans,” ensuring the meat picks up plenty of that smoky flavor.

This is certainly the signature dish of Jamaica, but there are so many other delicious foods to savor. Why not cruise to Jamaica and taste them all?

A delicious Cuban ropa vieja stew on a bed of rice with lime garnish.


Cuba: Ropa Vieja

This dish translates to “old clothes” in Spanish, because it resembles a pile of colorful rags — but don’t let that fool you! Ropa vieja is the meal people write home about. For this beloved Cuban staple, shredded beef — traditionally flank steak — is combined with broth, tomatoes, olive oil, bell peppers and caramelized onions. Added spices like cumin, paprika and sometimes a little cayenne pepper bring out the flavor.

This tasty mix is then served up with maduros (or fried sweet plantains), rice and Cuban-style black beans for a plate that locals say everyone loves.

Whether you want to learn to cook a la Cuban style or simply be served the real deal, catch a cruise to Cuba, which can now include an optional overnight stay in Havana and visits to Cienfuegos and Santiago de Cuba.

Ready to head down to the Caribbean and sample the local fare? The perfect cruise to take you on a culinary adventure is waiting here.