While Barbados is mostly known for its stunning beaches and excellent snorkeling, its rich culture and incredible cuisine are also major reasons to visit this tropical destination.
The island’s melting pot culture has heavily influenced Barbados’ food. Taste spices from India, Britain, Africa, and Ireland when sampling authentic dishes infused with delicious island seasonings.
From the national dish of flying fish and Cou Cou to a slice of the sweet black cake, there’s a multitude of authentic specialties to try while on your paradise vacation. For a well-rounded and authentic food and beverage pairing, make sure to sample a sip of the traditional island rum.
Work up an appetite and taste some of the best Barbados dishes on your next tropical escape to this Caribbean island, where culinary delights match the beautiful seaside scenery.
No trip to Barbados is complete without trying the island’s national dish: flying fish. This fresh catch is a staple in Bajan cuisine, loved by locals and visitors alike.
This fish is extremely versatile, allowing you to choose from a variety of preparation methods. The most common are baking, frying, steaming, grilling, or pickling. Whether you prefer it simply grilled and served with lime juice or fried to perfection at a traditional Friday night Fish Fry, you can’t go wrong. For the ultimate taste combination, dip the flaky white fish in homemade creole sauce.
You’ll find flying fish prepared in some way on almost any menu, from snack huts and laid-back beach bars to fine-dining restaurants.
Flying fish is usually served with cou cou, another iconic Barbados dish. This popular side dish is also paired with beef stew and hailed as a staple in Caribbean cuisine in general.
You’ll find cou cou in Antigua as well as in the US and the British Virgin Islands. Although it’s usually prepared with okra, green bananas and breadfruit are other well-used ingredients cooked in combination with the cornmeal base. The consistency and taste are usually compared to grits and polenta. You’ll have plenty of opportunities to taste cou cou while on vacation in Barbados.
Cou cou is regarded as the other half of Barbados’ national dish of flying fish and brings a taste of African flavor to the island’s cuisine. This Bajan side has been a key culinary item in the island’s culture since early colonial days.
Bajan Fish Cakes
Fish cakes are a classic bite of Bajan cuisine. They are traditionally eaten at breakfast but are also popular as an appetizer. These deep-fried delights are made with salted cod or whitefish and homegrown spices, which are then battered and fried. Although fish cakes can be found almost anywhere with fresh seafood, Bajan-style fish cakes are unique to the island due to their specific mixture of spices.
You’ll find different variations at snack huts and fine dining restaurants. Dip the lightly crisped cake in mayonnaise or hot pepper sauce for the most authentic culinary experience. Another popular way to indulge in fish cakes is in sandwich form with salt bread and sometimes cheese, which is referred to as “bread and two.”
Indulge in some serious comfort food when ordering the Bajan equivalent of macaroni and cheese—with a Caribbean twist. Made with ziti or penne style pasta, this dish combines cheddar cheese, butter, onion, egg, breadcrumbs, evaporated milk, mustard, and ketchup. It’s baked as a casserole and enjoyed as a side with meat, chicken, or fried fish.
Your first bite of macaroni pie will have you swooning over the rich, creamy taste and robust flavor. The crunch from the breadcrumbs and savory pasta is a delicious pairing in this wildly popular Bajan delicacy.
Plantains are a versatile, starchy fruit that can be prepared in many different ways. Vitamin-packed plantains thrive in the Caribbean’s climate and are readily available for cooking, making them a key item within Bajan cuisine.
Plantains can be fried, wrapped in bacon, baked with cinnamon and sugar, cut and baked into chips, or made into fritters. They also make a delicious addition to various curry recipes. While in Barbados, you’re sure to encounter plantains in some form on your plate.
You can’t go to Barbados without sipping its world-famous rum punch. The island is known as “the birthplace of rum,” as its famed Mount Gay distillery has produced the spirit since the early 1700s. It’s no surprise that their rum punch is some of the best you’ll have while visiting Barbados.
The famous drink consists of Barbados rum, lime juice, simple syrup, water or passion fruit juice, and a touch of bitters. It’s usually garnished with a dash of nutmeg, as well. There’s nothing quite like watching the sunset on the picturesque beaches with a rum punch in hand. Cheers to your tropical getaway with this refreshing cocktail that you’ll be able to order almost anywhere on the island.
Read: Best Beaches in Barbados
Barbequed pigtails are a well-loved street food dish in Barbados. This easy-to-grab bite is the perfect example of Caribbean cuisine enhanced with an Asian influence. The savory pork treat is tied to the festival food scene, like Holetown and Oistins Fish Festivals, however, it’s readily available any time of year.
The pigtails are boiled first, bbq sauce is added, and then they hit the grill. The smell of the salted meat being cooked will lure you to streetside food vendors. Enjoy the pigtails hot off the grill as you stroll island streets or browse the markets.
Roti is a quintessential Barbados food item that can be found throughout the Caribbean, as well. Roti blends Caribbean fare with Indian culinary influences for a quick and well-loved meal. Designed like a burrito, this on-the-go dish is a hot, bread-like pocket (similar to pita) that is filled with a wide spectrum of items. Chicken, fish, beef, curried potatoes, and vegetables are just some of the ingredients wrapped up in this delicious delight.
Other options include curried pork, shrimp, pumpkin, spinach, and even some fruit, such as mango. The pairing choices are seemingly endless. Grab a roti at a local beach bar, street vendor, or fast food restaurant while adventuring on the island. It might just be the perfect lunch or afternoon snack to keep you going.
For a traditional Bajan sweet treat, indulge in a slice of Black Cake. This Bajan specialty features prunes, dried cherries, and raisins soaked in rum. The end result is anything but dry, using the island’s star beverage to create this popular confection.
It’s most often compared to British plum pudding, which is considered the foundation for the evolution of this recipe. Traditionally, this dessert is served during the holiday season but can be found throughout the year in some places on the island. The recipe for Black Cake is one passed down from generation to generation and is best enjoyed with family and loved ones.
Barbados is known for its prime access to fresh seafood and Mahi Mahi is one of the most widely-served types of fish on the island. Locals call it “dolphin,” however, rest assured it’s just the regular Mahi Mahi fish they’re talking about.
This fresh catch is often served blackened with a blend of Caribbean spices, grilled, fried, or pan-seared with a drizzle of lemon. Pair this deliciously flakey white fish with rice and lentils, salad, potatoes, or french fries.
If you want to experience the most popular spot for ordering Mahi Mahi, head to the famous Fish Fry on Friday night at the Oistins Market. The combination of authentic cuisine and the lively night market atmosphere is a true Barbados experience.
Pepperpot stew is a traditional Sunday or holiday comfort food that is all about bringing families together. Although it’s very popular in Bajan culture, this dish was first created in the South American country of Guyana. Classic pepperpot stew features beef, pork, and mutton, as well as hot peppers and a mix of Bajan spices. Sometimes a combination of meat is used.
Bread and butter are typically served with stew and are the best way to sop up the flavorful “cassareep” sauce. The mouthwatering brown sauce comes from cassava root mixed with authentic spices and then boiled until it becomes the thick foundation for the stew. Rice is another side paired with pepperpot that compliments the main dish nicely.
Pudding and Souse
The culinary duo of pudding and souse is a key savory item in the Bajan diet. Consisting of pickled pork (souse) and steamed sweet potatoes with onions (pudding), it’s a must-try when visiting the island of Barbados.
The pork is pickled in onion, lime juice, and cucumber. It’s traditionally ordered for lunch and can be made in sweet or spicy versions, depending on your preference.
This unique island fruit is starchy and plays a versatile role in Bajan cuisine. You’ll see breadfruit trees all over Barbados with the sizable green fruit protruding between the large leaves.
Comparable to jackfruit, breadfruit has been incorporated into recipes throughout the island’s history. The fruit is often baked into chip form, roasted, or boiled with butter. Pickled breadfruit is a traditional side to pair with pudding and souse, too. It’s also used as a substitute for cornmeal, which creates an alternative version of the famous cou cou side dish.
Grab a conkie, a popular Bajan snack that is traditionally eaten in celebration of Barbados’ Independence Day at the end of November. It’s also sometimes found at local delis throughout the year.
Taste the delicious blend of flavors including pumpkin, sweet potato, sugar, coconut, egg, milk, raisins, cornflour, and a mixture of spices and melted butter that are all wrapped up in a banana leaf and come together when they’re steamed to perfection. This authentic culinary delight is also called a “stew dumpling” by locals and is served hot for ultimate enjoyment.
Cassava is a root vegetable found all over Barbados and magically transformed into various culinary dishes with authentic recipes. One of the most popular is a cross between a cake and pudding with the perfect amount of sweetness.
Fulfill your sugar craving with a sticky piece of Cassava Pone, created from grated frozen cassava, grated sweet potato, milk, coconut, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Carrots, cherries, or raisins are additional ingredients that might be included, as well. This popular treat is a must-try when visiting Barbados.
If you’re looking to dive into the more adventurous side of Bajan gastronomy, Sea Eggs are a delicacy that won’t disappoint. These golden gems are a variety of sea urchin that can be harvested after they are unearthed in the Caribbean’s shallow reefs.
The sea egg is cracked to reveal the roe, which is cautiously removed. Fish markets and restaurants sell Sea Eggs and are usually served sauteed, steamed, stewed, fried, or even raw. For a traditional Bajan Sea Egg meal, pair the culinary specialty with white rice and cucumber. If you dare to try them raw out of the shell, spritz a bit of lemon juice on top.
From freshly caught fish and festival bites to sweet treats and cultural cuisine staples, let the flavors of the island enhance your vacation in paradise. Experience the best of the Caribbean’s culinary scene on a luxury cruise to Barbados. Browse itineraries on our website and book your next getaway today.