Get a taste of the islands with these Jamaican vegetarian recipes.
When people think of Jamaican food, they often picture Jamaican jerk chicken or grilled or blackened seafood, but island food isn’t always about the meat.
There are some spectacular Jamaican vegetarian dishes to enjoy, as well.
Don’t get me wrong; there is nothing wrong with a good jerk marinade.
However, there are plenty of other meatless options out there, and people don’t always give them enough credit. Here are 20 of my favorites.
My brother hates cabbage; he thinks it’s pretty much the closest thing you can get to true evil on this planet.
Even so, he loves Jamaican steamed cabbage.
(Of course, he thinks it’s called “carrot hash.” He would never have tried it if we’d called it cabbage.)
It takes 20 minutes to make and is sweet and herby, with none of the sour bitterness that sometimes comes with steamed cabbage. It really is a treat.
I couldn’t create a list of Jamaican dishes without adding the famous jerk marinade.
You may be asking, “Why would I need marinade if I don’t eat meat?”
Two words: Grilled vegetables.
This marinade takes your veggies up to a whole other level of deliciousness.
Trust me; you don’t have to eat meat to enjoy Jamaican jerk anything.
Jamaican callaloo is similar to turnip greens, spinach, or mustard greens.
This recipe provides you with the most traditional way of making it.
Along with the callaloo itself, you’ll also need white and green onions, olive oil, garlic, thyme, tomatoes, water, a Scotch bonnet pepper, and salt.
It takes about 20 minutes to prepare.
This beautiful stew is colorful, flavorful, and full of all kinds of things that are good for you.
It’s also a great source of fiber and numerous vitamins and minerals.
There are plenty of fruits, vegetables, and legumes in the ingredients list: bell peppers, jalapenos, onions, kidney beans, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, greens, and scallions.
There are almost as many herbs and spices, including red curry paste, allspice, red pepper flakes, salt, cumin, cinnamon, and cloves.
You’ll combine all this in a vegetable broth base, and you’ll add some coconut milk for extra color, flavor, and creaminess.
It’s a fantastic stew that won’t leave you feeling hungry.
Cornmeal porridge is a regular staple of Jamaican breakfasts for freshly weaned babies, the elderly, and everyone in between.
It has a mildly sweet taste, and because its flavor is so light, people often jazz it up with fruit, berries, extra cinnamon and sugar, or other favorite toppings.
There’s no better way to fix carrots than in the Jamaican style.
They’re soft, tender, and covered in brown sugar and butter, almost like candied yams.
You’ll also add pineapple juice, hot sauce, lemon juice, garlic, and chili powder to them!
They’re spicy and herby, with just a hint of underlying sweetness that makes them incredibly unique.
You may think you’ve had good banana bread; you may even love banana bread.
Unless you’ve had Jamaican banana bread, you have no idea how good it really can be.
Jamaican banana bread pairs traditional baking ingredients – flour, baking soda, butter, sugar, and baking powder – with cream cheese, bananas, lemon and lime zest, vanilla, and more.
And that doesn’t even include the topping!
You’ll make the warm, crumbly topping from brown sugar, lime juice, butter, toasted pecans, and coconut.
Oh, and did I mention both the bread and its topping are spiked with rum?
Yeah. This stuff is the real deal. You’ll never be able to look at banana bread the same way again.
This decadent dessert is sweet, dense, and supremely moist. Its texture is somewhere between a pudding, custard, and pie.
The taste is like sweet potato casserole, only a little bit sweeter. It’s superb.
Also known as “Johnny cakes,” Jamaican fried dumplings have perfectly crispy outsides and soft, warm insides.
As a result, they taste like fresh doughnut holes.
They’re simple to make and require only the most fundamental ingredients, including salt, flour, baking powder, sugar, butter, and water.
One of the things I love about Jamaican recipes is how bold and complex the flavors are.
Few recipes exemplify that as good as Jamaican chickpea curry.
It’s a dense, hearty dish, and although the recipe is long, it primarily includes herbs, spices, and other small, often-used ingredients.
These include salt, cayenne pepper, paprika, curry powder, ginger, and garlic.
Those spices, along with the Scotch bonnet pepper, onions, and allspice berries, are where most of the flavor extravaganza comes from, while the carrots and chickpeas provide the heartiness.
If you’ve never had eggplant but always wanted to try it, this is the perfect first-time recipe.
Although it’s so good, you may never like eggplant cooked any other way!
Eggplant is one of those foods that doesn’t have a ton of flavor on its own. It’s not bland, exactly, but it is mild.
That’s why this recipe uses so many seasonings, herbs, and of course, the famous Jamaican jerk sauce.
The result is an herby, oniony, full-flavored dish that practically melts in your mouth.
Thanks to the addition of nutmeg, condensed milk, ginger, vanilla, and rum, this carrot juice is creamier and sweeter than regular carrot juice.
You can, of course, leave out the rum for a non-alcoholic drink option.
13. Gungo Pea Soup
Comfort food at its finest, this rich, hearty soup is high in fiber and protein, thanks to all the healthy veggies it contains.
Despite the lengthy ingredients list, it’s simple to make, and if you pre-cook your peas, it only takes 20 minutes from start to finish.
Basically, you cook your peas for about an hour. (Again, you can do this ahead of time to save time at dinner.)
Once your peas are fully cooked, add the rest of your ingredients. Once it starts to boil, reduce your heat.
Then let the mixture simmer for about 20 minutes.
All that’s left is to enjoy this delicious, stick-to-your-ribs meal.
If you suffer from gluten sensitivity, this recipe for bammy is one you’re going to want to bookmark.
Better yet, you may want to memorize it instead.
Luckily, there’s not much to it. You’ll only need four ingredients to make it – peeled and grated cassava, coconut milk, salt, and oil for frying.
As a result, bammy is not only gluten-free but also paleo- and vegan-friendly.
It’s tasty, too, and it has a lovely golden-brown color. It tastes good with pretty much anything.
No list of Jamaican recipes is complete without at least one plantain recipe on it.
This sweet, candied plantain recipe is my favorite way to cook them. Plus, you can make them in 20 minutes.
16. Peanut Drops
Peanut drops take a little over an hour to make, but they require very few ingredients.
You’ll just need peanuts, brown sugar, ginger, cinnamon, vanilla, water, and little prep work.
They’re sweet, crunchy, and so, so, so good. In short, peanut drops are what Payday candy bars wish they could be when they grow up.
Toto, or coconut cake, is another dessert that Jamaican chefs know how to do right.
I suppose that’s one of the benefits of living in a tropical region where coconuts are abundant – you learn to make excellent coconut cake.
The dessert is grain-free and features the bold, spicy flavors of ginger, nutmeg, and allspice.
The coconut and vanilla powder add plenty of sweetness, and the texture is soft, fluffy, and somewhat spongy.
It’s a light dessert that almost tastes like coconut-covered spice cake.
18. Tamarind Balls
I like just about anything that requires only three ingredients and can be ready in 20 minutes.
Even so, tamarind balls are a particular favorite of mine because they’re so yummy.
There are plenty of variations on this recipe, but I enjoy this one.
The tamarind balls are delightfully sweet, but there’s just a tiny hint of the fruit’s natural sourness, as well.
For that reason, many people think of them as “an acquired taste,” but I’ve loved them since the first time I tried them.
These may look strange and unappetizing, but they are anything but! If you or someone you love has a major sweet tooth, these are a must-try.
The only ingredients are diced coconut, vanilla, brown sugar, water, and a pinch of salt.
(You can also add a bit of powdered ginger if you like.)
That ingredients list alone is enough to give you a sugar rush, so imagine the sheer amount of sweetness on your tongue when you try them!
*Spoiler alert: It’s a lot of sweetness, and it’s amazing.
Did you ever have Candy Farm Three Color Coconut candy when you were a kid?
If so, then you have some idea of what Jamaican grater cake is.
It’s kind of like the homemade version of the Candy Farm candy, but it’s missing the brown layer, is a little fluffier, and isn’t quite as sickly sweet.
It is delicious, though, and it’s pretty, so it’s great for potlucks.
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