Jamaica’s proud Caribbean spirit is most noticeable in the country’s cuisine including breakfast. Jamaican breakfast is in sharp contrast to many typical egg and bread-based breakfasts. From fresh fish and fruits, let us guide you through what to expect from a Jamaican breakfast.
What Do Jamaicans Eat For Breakfast?
Breakfast in Jamaica is heavily influenced by the island’s natural geography. Situated within the flourishing, warm waters of the Caribbean Sea, fish and seafood can often be found on the country’s breakfast tables.
Indigenous crops including fresh fruits are extremely popular. Jamaican breakfast foods have also been heavily influenced by other parts of the world.
Corn has made its way to the island from the North American mainland. Meanwhile, many of the spices used in authentic Jamaican breakfast dishes come from even further afield. Indian, Chinese, and Middle Eastern flavors have all made their way into the cuisine.
Additional influences have come from the main seafaring countries in Europe. For instance, Jamaica’s love of tea almost certainly began with the British, who ruled the island for more than 300 years until 1962.
Before the British, Jamaica was part of the Spanish empire. It can be said that the island has adopted the very best of world cuisine.
Traditionally, the resulting dishes have been eaten with the fingers. It’s said to be all the better for fully experiencing each food. Don’t worry though, as a visitor to the island, you’ll generally be provided with cutlery.
The Top Jamaican Breakfast Dishes
On our last trip to Jamaica, we made an extra special effort to get out of the resorts that line its exquisite coast and seek out the very best cuisine going. You’ll find our pick of Jamaican breakfast ideas here, which acts as an extension to our traditional Jamaican food guide.
Ackee And Saltfish
Ackee and saltfish is without a doubt, the Jamaican national dish. A particular favorite of the world’s fastest man, Usain Bolt, ackee and saltfish can be thought of as a gravy-less stew.
Belonging to the lychee family, ackee is a fruit native to West Africa. It was first brought to Jamaica in the 1700s. It has a creamy texture and subtle nuttiness that lends it an almost savory flavor.
Ackee is typically boiled and then lightly fried with the salted cod to form the basis of the dish.
Onion, black pepper, and sweet paprika are added, as well as fiery hot scotch bonnet chili peppers. Tomatoes help ease the chili heat.
Ackee and saltfish is usually served alongside bread, fried dumplings, or boiled bananas.
These little balls of delightfulness owe a lot of their heritage to the humble donut. Although the fried dumplings that form part of a typical Jamaican breakfast are both savory and unfilled.
They are made by preparing a simple bread dough, which is divided into palm-sized pieces and fried. Vast vats of steaming oil can be found on city center streets, as well as in cafes and restaurants, exactly for this reason.
Relatively plain on the tongue, fried dumplings generally fill an accompanying role to dishes like ackee and saltfish.
Don’t be put off by the name, because boiled bananas are definitely worth trying at least once. Boiled bananas are a staple of Jamaican and many Caribbean island breakfast tables. The most important part of their preparation is the use of green unripe bananas.
Both edible bananas and special cooking bananas can be used. But it’s absolutely vital that they are as firm and green as possible.
Much firmer raw than a ripe banana, to the extent it can be quite tough to pull off the peel, green bananas also have a much mellower taste profile. This is closer to a cooked potato than a banana when served.
Boiling the bananas softens the firm flesh, making them a suitable alternative to bread at breakfast.
Sometimes called ‘cog’ or ‘pop’ instead, cornmeal porridge is exactly what it sounds like it should be – a warming porridge made using yellow cornmeal.
But instead of fresh milk, which was difficult to keep in the hot climate before fridges became commonplace, cornmeal porridge is traditionally made using tinned condensed milk.
This gives the porridge a luscious sweet taste, which is enhanced further by the addition of spices like cinnamon and nutmeg. Vanilla is also an absolute must. The other difference to an oatmeal porridge is the consistency. The cornmeal dissolves into the milk, giving a silky-smooth texture on the tongue.
While cornmeal porridge can be eaten just as it is, to make it extra special you can decorate its surface with tropical fruits. Mango goes particularly well, as does pineapple.
Satisfying any need you might have for fried foods during a Jamaican breakfast are saltfish fritters, which can also be eaten for lunch and dinner.
Irresistibly crunchy on the outside, yet containing soft moist cod packed with flavor on the inside, saltfish fritters are frankly divine.
Not only is there the gentle moreish quality of the salt curing process to tickle the tongue, but also a list of herbs and spices that include smoked paprika, bell peppers, chili peppers, thyme, and a sprinkling of sugar to balance everything out.
To heighten the taste sensation further, they are often served with a hot pepper dipping sauce.
No traditional Jamaican breakfast should be considered complete if it doesn’t include johnnycakes. Possibly developed from the name ‘journey cake’, because they were an easy food to pack when traveling, johnnycake is a griddled flatbread that’s also made from cornmeal.
Frying them in oil gives the flatbreads a crunchy crust, which then reveals a soft crumbly interior taking on the flavor of the butter and milk added to the dough.
As diverse in preparation as the influences to Jamaican cuisine, johnnycakes are sometimes stuffed with meat, fish or cheese.