The island of Barbados is known for excellent and diverse cuisine; therefore it was extremely difficult to compile a list of only 10 delicacies of Barbados.
Barbadians love their food and there are many dishes and delicacies unique to the island.
You’re spoilt for choice when it comes to Bajan cuisine however you really must try to sample everything on this list of top 10 Barbados delicacies at least once.
Note: the decision to place flying Fish and cou-cou as two separate items was tough because these two in combination make up our national dish. Nevertheless, we think it was a wise choice since these two have individually formed their own unique followings over the years and are a ‘must try’, especially if you can find a local to cook them for you.
— Flying Fish
Flying fish is a huge part of our cultural identity. In fact, it is one of the national symbols of Barbados and features prominently on national artifacts like coins and local artwork.
Barbados is known as ‘the land of the flying fish’ and it accounts for about 60% of all the fish landed on the island. Everyone who has ever tasted this little local delicacy finds themselves hooked on its unique flavor.
Whether steamed, fried, pickled, barbecued, in between salt bread or with a side of our infamous cou-cou, this little fish is one of the defining features of a typical Bajan meal.
The second part of our national dish, cou-cou is made from cornmeal and okra, or breadfruit and green bananas, then topped with a variety of tomatoes, onions and peppers.
Either combination is a mouth-watering favorite of proud Bajans far and wide. And, of course, in Barbados it is usually served accompanied by flying fish.
Mauby is a drink made from the bark of trees native to the Caribbean and its unique bitter-sweet flavor is enjoyed by Bajans island-wide.
Many say mauby tastes like root beer and to some it is an acquired taste because of the bitter after effects. It’s usually mixed with sugar and a variety of spices such as cinnamon and aniseed.
You can buy the mauby syrup to mix with water at most supermarkets and convenience stores, however for those more naturalist in approach, it’s still also possible to buy the bark to boil and make your very own batch of mauby at home.
— Pudding and Souse
Bajans are known as ‘pork mouths’ so it’s not surprising that pudding and souse (made with various offcuts of pork meat) is a tried and tested old Bajan favourite, traditionally served island-wide on a Saturday. In fact, it has become something of a Saturday ritual for many locals.
The pudding is made from the intestines of the pig, stuffed with a unique blend of seasoning and sweet potato. The souse is essentially boiled pig’s head or feet served cold with onions, cucumbers, limes, parsley and hot and sweet peppers.
Of course, there are variations in recipes so you’ll just have to come and try it for yourself!
Conkies are a sweet cornmeal-based delicacy in Barbados. They are served hot and consist of cornmeal, raisins, coconut, sweet potato, pumpkin, and spices, all wrapped and steamed in banana leaves.
This delicacy really dominates the tables of Bajan household once a year around Independence Day celebrations (November 30th) however it is still eaten all year round and is certainly an iconic dish here on the island.
Follow our Conkies Recipe
— Coconut Bread (aka ‘sweet bread’)
As the name suggests, this Bajan delicacy, (as Bajans would say), is sweet, sweet, sweet! Coconut bread, or ‘sweet bread‘, mainly consists of coconut, sugar, mixed spices, and sometimes raisins.
Many Bajans have childhood memories of waking up on the eve of any national holiday to the sweet smell of this national delicacy baking in the oven. Nothing can quite compare to this sweet, sweet bread crumbling in your mouth. Taste it and see!
— Sea-Egg (sea urchin)
They are about 17 different species of sea urchin to be found in the coastal waters of this little island, but it’s the steamed White Sea Egg that has become a savoured Bajan delicacy and is definitely worthy of a place in our top 10 Bajan delicacies list.
Note: sea egg harvesting is controlled by law to limit harvesting to particular times of the year in order to prevent the depletion of the species.
— Rum Cake (aka ‘great cake’ or ‘black cake’)
It’s been contended that Barbados is a society that loves its alcohol (rum, in particular), and this argument is supported by the fact that most Bajans possess an undying love for great cake, also known as black cake or rum cake.
Black cake is another version of traditional fruit cake and basically consists of dried fruits, nuts, citrus peel, mixed spice, sugar, eggs, and our infamous dark rum.
It’s generally served over the Christmas / New Year period and holds a special place in every Bajan’s heart.
— Ginger Beer
Ginger beer is a non-alcoholic beverage indigenous to the island of Barbados.
Ginger beer can be home brewed and also comes in carbonated form as a soft drink. It generally consists of ginger, sugar, water and lemon juice. This Bajan delight tends to be served at Christmas time and is a household favorite on the island.
Bakes are traditionally and affectionately known as ‘survival food’ because they consist of three basic ingredients – sugar, water and flour. They look like a flat muffin and are quick and easy to make.
Bakes are not only a simple dish but they also taste great and for these reasons, these good old fashioned Bajan treats are a proud and prominent member of our top ten delicacies list.
Worth a mention…
This list cannot do justice to the amount of Bajan foods that could have been included as favored Bajan delicacies here on the island.
Foods like fish cakes, cassava pone, sugar cake, roast breadfruit, pig tails, rice and peas (a Caribbean favorite), not to mention the increasing amount of ‘ital’ foods available on the island (vegan in nature and closely associated with Rastafarian culture), are all worthy inclusions in this list of delicacies.
The list could go on!
Needless to say, the items on this list were chosen because they embody a Bajan tradition, our lifestyle, our history and our progression.
These foods are every bit as important as the national flag and our anthem because they are a part of the blueprint of any person who has lived and / or grown up in Barbados. They invoke memories and feelings of national pride and nostalgia.
Do your research and shop around for new and unique Bajan treats – you’re sure to find many more delicacies just waiting to be sampled.
By: Brett Callaghan