Caribbean Food 101

The Caribbean region has been influenced by many places throughout its history, most notably combining East Asian, South Asian, British, Spanish, West African, and Amerindian fare to create a delicious amalgamation of cultures. This diverse region includes more than 700 islands, islets, reefs, and cays, as well as mainland regions and countries like Nicaragua, Belize, the Guianas, and the Yucatán Peninsula. Stretching across such a wide area and fusing so many cultural influences, the Caribbean is rich with history, traditions, and cuisine that make it incredibly unique.

There are many flavors found in other areas but adopted and given a twist by Caribbean cuisine. China brought rice and mustard; Spain introduced orange, ginger, plantains, and grapes; and the Americas contributed beans, corn, potatoes, tomatoes, and squash to the region.

Ingredients commonly found in Caribbean food include coconut, tomatoes, chickpeas, cilantro, cassava, beans, plantains, rice, bell peppers, and sweet potatoes. Other staples of Caribbean food are thyme, rosemary, tarragon, celery, green onion, mint, marjoram, and scotch bonnet peppers, as well as aromatics like onion, garlic, and ginger. These items are often combined with oil to create a marinade called sofrito or mojo, which is very characteristic of Caribbean cuisine. This spicy, pungent mixture is used to marinate fish, pork, beef, poultry, and other meats local to the Caribbean.

Because so much Caribbean food relies on delicious and intensely flavorful pastes, marinades, and rubs, they often do not require much added grease, oil, or butter when cooking. The result is a variety of delicious stews, curries, and roasted meat meals.