Jamaica is one of the most popular travel destinations for those looking for a sun-soaked getaway. However, there is another great reason to head to this beautiful island nation – the food! Jamaican snacks are undeniably delicious and pair perfectly with the sweet and spiced rum and ginger beer that the country is famous for.
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Jamaican Snacks To Eat In Jamaica
Many Jamaican snacks have roots in colonial cooking, with cheap ingredients and fast preparation key to these tasty foods. Jamaican sausage and seafood are also very popular, as they were readily available during the British occupation of the island in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Fishermen would bring home hauls of saltfish, shellfish, and scallops, which became a mainstay of the Jamaican diet. When it came to fruits and vegetables, locals favored easy-to-grow options like starchy plantains and bananas for frying, baking, and eating as-is during hot summer months.
Want to know more about Jamaican snacks? Let’s have a look at some of the most popular options!
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If there is one thing that Jamaicans, old and young love, it’s ginger! While ginger beer may be the drink of choice, Busta candy (also known as Staggaback or Bustamante Backbone) is one of the most popular sweets in the country.
This hard Jamaican candy is made from sugar, coconut cream, ginger, and lime juice and makes for a sweet and tangy treat when you’re craving something sugary. While you can buy packets of Busta from Jamaican corner stores and grocery stores, it’s incredibly easy to make it at home! Simply melt the ingredients together, then pour onto a baking sheet and allow to cool.
Be careful when eating, though – the chewy texture has been known to cause damage to teeth!
Jamaican Tamarind Balls
Jamaican tamarind balls are the country’s answer to rum balls, and in our opinion – far more delicious! Tangy tamarinds are shelled, then broken up into shreds, and coated in sugar. Once the mix is softened, the tamarind balls are rolled together and coated in shredded coconut. They make for the perfect Jamaican dessert.
If you’re feeling like something a little stronger, many vendors add spiced rum to the mix – however, most versions are made without any alcohol at all. This traditional Jamaican snack can be found at grocery stores, though the best ones are sold at Jamaican beachside markets!
Blue Drawers (Duckunoo)
While the name is unusual, this traditional Jamaican snack is anything but! Blue drawers, also known as duckunoo or tie-a-leaf, is a beloved food on the island, and has many variations depending on the region of origin.
Cornmeal, cinnamon, vanilla, and butter are mixed with wet ingredients like banana and sweet potato, then tied with banana leaves and blue string. The resulting parcel is then cooked over an open flame or in an earth oven, resulting in a delicious, sweet pudding sure to have you coming back for more.
If you’re wondering about the unusual name, it comes from Jamaica’s colonial days – many natives couldn’t afford elastic to hold up their underwear, so they used blue string to keep their drawers in place!
Jamaican Beef Patties
When talking about traditional Jamaican food, you can’t go past beef patties. Comparable to an empanada, Jamaican beef patties can be found everywhere on the island, from cafés and restaurants to markets, and are the pinnacle of comfort food. Hearty, spicy, and rich, these crispy snacks can be eaten as a light dinner, a midday pick-me-up, or a full meal with rice and peas on the side.
Jamaican immigrants to the UK and US took this recipe with them, and now the beloved Jamaican food is available all over the world. While beef filling is the original, you can also find versions with chicken, pork, and cheese! According to locals, the best way to enjoy beef patties is by washing it down with a cold beer – perfect in the hot Jamaican sun!
You may have had banana chips from your grocery store back home, but nothing beats Jamaica’s take on this classic snack! Unlike traditional dried fruits, this Jamaican street food only has three ingredients – banana, coconut oil, and sea salt. Simple to make and highly delicious, banana chips are a local favorite in cities like Kingston.
Street vendors favor green bananas for their high starch content, as it holds up better during frying. While banana chips may look similar to plantain, don’t be fooled! Plantain chips are usually savory and often come with chili salt for dipping.
Stamp And Go
Jamaican seafood is some of the best in the world, so snacks like Stamp and Go are culinary staples! These traditional saltfish fritters pop up everywhere, from street markets to casual get-togethers and cocktail parties. If you’re wondering about the unusual name, it’s believed to have come from British officers in the 18th century – when they wanted something done quickly, they would shout ‘Stamp and go!’ at sailors and dock workers.
The saltfish is mixed with spices, then coated in flour and fried until crispy. Serve with chili sauce or aioli, then wash down with some ginger beer as you watch the sun go down over the glittering water.
If you are driving around Jamaica and see a street vendor with clear bags filled with red seafood, slow down! Born in St Elizabeth near the Black River, peppered shrimp are the quintessential Jamaican street food, and well worth sampling during your visit.
Freshwater shrimp – sometimes referred to as crayfish – are heavily seasoned with garlic, pepper, annatto, and the devilishly hot Scotch Bonnet chili, then cooked whole over an open flame until bright red. These soft-shelled crustaceans can be eaten as it, or you can peel them for an easy bite. If you choose the latter, make sure to wear gloves – if Scotch Bonnet gets in your eyes, you’ll know about it!
Sometimes, you just need something quick for when you’re on the go. Big Foot Snack is one of the most popular snack brands in Jamaica – for a very good reason! These cheesy, crunchy Jamaican snacks have been on the market for over 3 decades, and are a regular feature in children’s lunch boxes.
In recent years, Big Foot has become a cult favorite in the US, with many travelers looking for them on Amazon and in specialty grocery stores – look out for the trademark foot-shaped logo! There are also a few different flavors to try, though we believe that the original is the best.
If you try a Jamaican beef patty, you may come across coco bread! As the name would suggest, this starchy bread is made from coconut milk and flour and is surprisingly sweet. Locals will often make a sandwich by splitting a coco bread roll, then putting a Jamaican beef patty between the pieces.
The sweetness of the coconut milk perfectly complements the spices and chili of the patty, making for a hearty snack sure to please even the fussiest eater! You’ll see coco bread on the menus of any restaurant selling beef patties, or the rolls sold on their own in bakeries around the island.
Among one of the most polarizing traditional Jamaican foods is Solomon Gundy. This unusual pate is made with pickled, salted fish and is usually served with crackers as an appetizer. Smoked herring, mackerel, and shad are minced together, then seasoned with copious amounts of chili peppers, salt, pepper, and garlic. You can find Solomon Gundy on the menus for many Jamaican restaurants and resorts, but the rich, salty taste definitely isn’t for everyone!
Jamaican Snacks – Worth The Trip!
Traditional Jamaican food is the perfect accompaniment to any tropical holiday. Pair your culinary experience with delicious beverages, make friends with the locals and enjoy the beautiful scenery.