Traditional Jamaican Food You Must-Try Foods
The beautiful port town of Ocho Rios serves up some of the best and most authentic Jamaican cuisines of anywhere on the island.
From Scotchies’ spicy jerk to hearty pepper pot soup, you can truly immerse yourself in real Jamaican cuisine in Ocho Rios.
Don’t know where to start? Here are some popular dishes in Ocho Rios and beyond. If you’re staying with us at Villa Serenity, you’ll have the opportunity to try these meals catered to your specifications with your personal chef.
But, so you don’t get confused, here is how meals work in Jamaica. Don’t be surprised if you get served fish for breakfast!
In Jamaica, breakfast is a substantive meal of the day with high protein items like liver or fish and sides of dumplings, plantains, bananas, yams, or callaloo. If you’re in a rush to get out the door, you might have porridge, eggs, or sardines.
Lunch is usually packed or a smaller version of dinner.
Dinner depends on the night, of course, and the occasion. You might enjoy curry goat for a special occasion, or more normally escovitch fish, oxtails, peas, etc. It’s also popular to eat out, especially on Fridays, to enjoy traditional jerk chicken, pork, or other local staples.
Ackee and Saltfish
The national dish in Jamaica, Ackee, and Saltfish, is generally served for breakfast. Ackee fruit was brought by slaves to Jamaica from Ghana in Africa. Now in Jamaica, the fruit is widely available. Served alongside stewed salted codfish sautéed with vegetables and other herbs and spices. Ackee is a poisonous fruit before cooking but delicious after, with an egg-like look and taste. The salt fish adds depth of flavor to the meal.
Jamaican jerk seasoning is one of Jamaica’s signature dishes. Jamaican jerk is a style of cooking. The meat is dry-rubbed or marinated in a hot spice mixture with scotch bonnet peppers, pimento, nutmeg, soy sauce, and thyme. If you’re sensitive to spice, it may not be the dish for you, as jerk is quite spicy.
But if you’re looking for the true Jamaican experience, you won’t find anything more authentic than this. Bring a container of the seasoning home, and you’ll have Jamaica in a bottle.
In Ocho Rios, Scotchies is famous for having the best jerk chickens on the island.
This tasty treat usually comes with jerk chicken meals or fried fish, among other things. Cornmeal, sugar, flour, spices, milk, or water are used in its preparation. Ingredients are mixed together and fried until golden brown, and the result can be compared to Caribbean floats – just in a different cylindrical shape.
Pepper Pot Soup
Pepper pot soup is choke-full of delicious local vegetables and is a wonderful way to taste the variety of Jamaican cuisine with ingredients you may not be able to find at home. Callaloo, for example, is similar to spinach and a staple of pepper pot soup. Usually consisting of callaloo, okra, coconut milk (for texture), and meat, it is a traditional Jamaican dish.
In Ocho Rios, the meal is traditionally made with pork, stewed beef, or seafood. The soup is filling a stand-alone recipe or as a side dish.
Jamaicans love curried meats, especially goat, mutton, and chicken. But curry goat is quite Jamaican. A crowd-pleaser at house gatherings, this dish is delicious and tender. There is a slightly gamey taste to goat meat, but it is otherwise similar to beef.
Curry was brought to Jamaica in the 17th century by Indian workers. Over time Jamaicans have developed their own recipe. The Caribbean twist includes garlic, onions, ginger, hot peppers, and herbs, as well as a slow-cooked goat to maximize flavor. The addition of potatoes can increase the sauce’s thickness. Jamaican curry is also often spicier than the Indian variety.
Curry goat is a special dish. Often reserved for holidays or Sunday dinners in Ocho Rios and the island.
Reminiscent of the South American ceviche, the name escovitch derives from a Mediterranean term. An escabeche is a Mediterranean term describing the marinade or preparation of dishes prepared in a mixture of acid and salt before serving.
The Jamaican fish escovitch dish begins with frying a whole red snapper fish. Pickled vegetables, such as carrots, onions, peppers, pimentos, and chayote, are added to the dish. Many people recommended eating this meal the day following its preparation, so the flavors can combine. A favorite meal all year round, Jamaicans often include this dish in their Easter lunches.
Sweet Potato Pudding
You’ve probably never had a dessert quite like this. Sweet potato, coconut milk, raisins, nutmeg, cinnamon, spices are combined to make this classic Jamaican treat. With delicious custard layers formed on both the top and the bottom, it’s not difficult to see why lines can be so long for this traditional dessert.
It’s cooked in a dutch oven on a coal stove with hot coals on top of the pot. “Hell on top, hell on the bottom, and hallelujah in the middle” are how locals explain this cooking method.
You can buy pudding from “Pudding Man” in a little shop on the roadside near Ocho Rios in Priory, St. Ann. Travel TV shows featuring his famous pudding have aired both locally and internationally.
In Jamaica, fried plantains are a cuisine staple. Served as a side dish at breakfast, lunch, or dinner, they are the best type of addictive. There are multiple ways to prepare the fruit.
Coated in batter and fried, served with a dash of salt and pepper. You can also turn plantains into chips. Any way you slice them, they are a must-try item during your stay in Ocho Rios. Try both sweet or slightly sweet plantains – it depends on how ripe they are – to decide which side of the debate you’re on: sweet or not- so sweet.
Do any of these foods sound delicious? You can try all these dishes and more in Ocho Rios with a stay at Villa Serenity. Not only will we cook for you, but we also can recommend the best restaurants in Ocho Rios and beyond. Book a stay today!