Food, glorious food!
Want to get in touch with Bajan culture? The best way to get to know the island is through your tastebuds.
One of the authentic delights of visiting Barbados is the opportunity to experience delicious authentic Bajan cuisine. It is certainly an experience – Barbadian food is made with a combination of fresh local produce and various ingredients, enhanced with aromatic herbs and spices to create that distinct Bajan flair and flavor.
The national dish of Barbados is flying fish and cou-cou, traditionally served on Fridays. Barbados is known as ‘the land of the flying fish,’ It is one of the Bajan national symbols. The flying fish is skilfully boned, then rolled and stewed down in a gravy of herbs, tomatoes, garlic, onions, and butter. Cou-cou is similar to polenta and is traditionally made with yellow cornmeal and cooked with finely chopped okra, water, and butter. However, cou-cou can also be made with breadfruit and green bananas and served with salt fish or beef stew. Although a simple dish, as you can see, the options are endless.
Another popular Bajan dish (or snack) is fish cakes. These tempting little fried treats are made with salted cod, flour, herbs, and pepper and are served island-wide in all corners, from rustic rum shops to elegant cocktail parties.
As Barbados is an island surrounded by water, a wide variety of high-quality fresh fish is also readily available – barracuda, kingfish (wahoo), snapper, billfish, chubb, yellowfin tuna, and dolphin, you name it, we have it!
The Friday night Fish Fry in the quaint fishing village of Oistins on the south coast is a great way to sample these local catches of the day. A definite ‘must-do experience for locals and tourists alike. Oistins is ideally within a five (5) minute drive from hotels and apartments in St. Lawrence Gap.
Note: Some visitors are mistakenly horrified to see dolphins on local menus – the fish is also called mahi-mahi or dorado, and rest assured, it is not related to the porpoise.
The most common way to cook fish in Barbados is to season it with Bajan seasoning, coat it with egg, dust it in fine breadcrumbs, and then fry it in hot oil. Bajan seasoning is a blend of fresh herbs such as thyme, marjoram, spring onions, onions, garlic, parsley, basil, and scotch bonnet pepper such as clove, black pepper, paprika, and salt. You can buy it pre-made in most supermarkets and convenience stores island-wide – try it for yourself.
A popular Bajan lunchtime favorite is a fish ‘cutter’ – fried flying fish or a fillet of fish sandwiched between a Bajan salt bread.
Bajans love their pork, and whether roast pork with crackling, baked ham, or stewed-down pork chops, Barbadian pork’s quality is incredibly delicious.
A local delicacy is ‘pudding and souse made with various offcuts of pork meat combined with sweet potato and different herbs. It is a Saturday ritual for many Bajans to eat pudding and souse. You’ll find many vendors selling this local dish religiously on Saturdays to cater to the demand of the local people.
Chicken usually heads up every Bajan’s shopping list. On Sundays, it is traditionally stuffed with fresh herb stuffing made with the local ‘Eclipse’ crackers and baked whole. It can also be stewed, barbequed, stuffed with Bajan seasoning and fried, cooked with rice, curried, boiled into a delicious soup with vegetables – the list could go on.
Tip: Ask a local for their advice for cooking chicken and test it out for yourself!
While the diet of most cultures tends to focus on just one staple, the starch served with a meal in Barbados varies, with a wide variety of ground provisions available on the island – sweet potato, yam, breadfruit, eddo, green banana, bakes, cassava, rice, cou-cou, pasta, vegetables, and so on.
Rice is mainly cooked with pulses such as pigeon peas, black eye peas, or lentils. Breadfruit, a large green football-sized fruit, tastes and texture like a potato. It is served slathered in tomato, onion, butter sauce, mashed, or as crisp, wafer-thin chips. You can also keep it simple and roast it on a wood fire with a serving of coconut milk, fresh lime, and sweet or hot pepper.
One of the most popular searches for a meal in Barbados is macaroni and cheese, referred to only as macaroni pie.
Many fresh, locally grown vegetables are available from local markets. The most famous market is downtown Bridgetown, a hive of activity on a Saturday morning.
Bajans serve their vegetables in many ways.
Pumpkin is served boiled or made into sweet patties and sprinkled with sugar and spice. Plantain, a banana family member but unpalatable when uncooked, is served fried or baked wrapped in bacon. Okra is dotted with a bit of fresh lime juice or as part of a vegetable stew. Christophine (or chayote), a sugarless member of the melon family, is another unusual and popular vegetable often served with a cheese sauce or can be grated fresh into a salad.
Tip: Why not pop your vegs into a pot and cook up a storm with a hearty vegetable stew? You can even try going entirely ‘ital’ (from the Rastafarian faith – ital meaning ‘vital’ and strictly vegan) and make your own boiled dumplings from flour and coconut. Try it and see!
Bajans are known for being ‘sweet mouths.’ Local candies include guava cheese, tamarind balls, peanut brittle, and chocolate fudge. However, the most common and traditional Bajan dessert is coconut bread (also called sweet bread). For fancier occasions, lemon meringue pie, cheesecake, chocolate icebox pudding, good old chocolate cake, and Bajan-baked custard are some local favorites.
Last Updated: January 27th, 2023
Publisher: Totally Barbados