I recently made a trip to the Bahamas. If you’ve never been, you might consider a visit. Its close and easily accessible to the U.S. You can read about my visit Here. If you have spent any time on the islands, I’m certain you have encountered these dishes.
Many delicious foods are unique to the Bahamas, and I’ve chosen a few that are a top pick while visiting, that you might like to try again at home.
Peas ‘n Rice
This dish is a very common staple among the locals. It has been served in the Bahamas for as long as international explorers, settlers, rum runners and slave traders have occupied its many shores. Well… not exactly. Before rice was commonly imported, it was served as Peas ‘n Grits, and the peas are really a domestic bean from Africa, but other than those variables, its been around for a very long time.
- 1 onion – diced.
- 1 green bell pepper – diced
- 1/2 C bacon grease or cooking oil
- 2 T tomato paste
- 1/2 T coarse thyme or 2 fresh sprigs chopped
- 1 t salt
- 1 t pepper
- 1 t browning sauce
- 1 large can of regular pigeon peas or pigeon peas in coconut milk (Goya brand is common in US)
- 2 C long grain white rice – Mahatma preferred (uncooked)
- 3 C water
- 5 QT Crockpot
Heat grease (oil) in pot. Add diced onions and peppers, and thyme. Sweat down until onions are t
ranslucent. Then add paste, salt, pepper, and browning sauce. Stir till well mixed. Add pigeon peas, water, and stir. Bring to boil. Slowly stir in the rice, reduce heat to medium, stirring occasionally. Rice will color as it absorbs the water. When most of the water has absorbed, reduce heat to low, cover, and let simmer until rice is fully cooked.
Historically, this would also have cooked meat stirred in, similar to jambalaya, and served as a complete meal. You could do so, or just serve this as a side. The bacon grease gives this an authentic flavor, but on the islands, you use what is available, so oil works just fine. Green pepper can be
substituted with other colors, or even kicked up a notch with mild chili like Hatch or Anaheim. Don’t have any onion? Go with thin sliced celery. The point is that in the Bahamas, you use what you have, or change it to what you prefer, if the original recipe doesn’t suit your palate. Serves 4
Conch is a sea snail, that has been a staple in the Bahamas, even among the original occupants- the Lucayans. With the influence of many other cultures, and the availability of flour, and other vegetables, the Conch Fritter was born. Every restaurant in the Bahamas will have this as an appetizer, but you cannot go very far down a local road before you encounter a fry shop serving this as the main menu item. Frankly, they seem to taste better on the street.
- 5 C cooking oil
- 3 medium conch – minced or ground
- 1 bell pepper – finely chopped
- 1 small onion – minced
- 1 egg
- 1 C milk
- 1/4 t chili powder
- 1 t baking powder
- 1 C all-purpose flour
- 1/4 t salt
Heat oil in a deep fryer or large pot to 350 degrees. Clean and skin conch, remove eye, and put through a meat grinder or food processor. Place the remaining ingredients in a large mixing bowl to make a batter. Check batter for consistency. Too Runny – add some flour. Too Stiff – add just a little water. Drop batter by heaping tablespoon into hot oil. fry for 4-5 minutes, then turn over for another 4-5 minutes, until golden brown. Allow fritters to drain on paper towels. Serve with dipping sauce
In a bowl, mix:
- ½ C Catsup
- ½ t horseradish
- 1 T mayonnaise
- 1/2 t worcestershire sauce
- Salt to taste
This basic recipe is used in the home. The local shops and restaurants modify it slightly in an attempt to set themselves apart from their competitors, and you are welcome to do the same to suit the recipe to your own palate. You can find this made with the addition of celery, goat pepper, carrot, etc.
Can’t find Conch, or its cost prohibitive in your area, you can substitute with canned minced baby clams. Or just throw it to the wind, and go with finely minced crayfish, shrimp, or lobster. Might be just a delicious with bacon too!
The dipping sauce is pretty standard, but if you are making your own, I’d go with Fry Sauce. Its another cultural food novelty mostly found in Utah and East Idaho. I’ll have the recipe another day. Serves 4
A fresh citrus marinated salad. Its refreshing, and very popular.
- 4 conchs – skinned and cubedBahamian Boiled Fish
- 2 freshly squeezed limes
- 1 freshly squeezed orange
- 1 Tomato – Diced
- 1 Onion – Diced
- 1 Green Bell Pepper – Diced
- 1 t salt
Process the conch first, and add it to the lime juice in a bowl. Then prepare all the other ingre
dients. As each ingredient is completed, add to the bowl. When all are added, its tradition to mix with your bare hands, but utensils are a better idea given that this is not cooked. Dish up contents in bowls, with plenty of the marinade.
You can also substitute other seafood, but unlike the conch, you will need to cook them first, as this marinade isn’t going to cure the ingredients the same way as would a ceviche dish. Some wonderful additions can be other cubed fruit such a mango or pineapple. Serves 4
If you have ever had a New England Boiled Dinner, you might be thinking that this dish is similar. While its roots might be tied to British and American colonists’ boiled cooking methods, a Fish Boil in the Bahamas is a more subtle, savory dish. The fish is not actually boiled, but simmered near the end of the cooking process.
Grouper is the ideal fish among the locals, however any whitefish will do just as nicely, so don’t hesitate to try this with snapper, cod, halibut, flounder or any other suitable species. One species that would do very well for you to request from your local fish shop is Lionfish. Its an invasive non-native species in the Caribbean, and because it has toxic spines, has not been a favored catch among fishermen. Cut those spines off though, and process like any other fish, and you have one of the best tasting fish on the market. By requesting this species, you’ll create a demand for Lionfish, and perhaps its numbers will finally be reduced, so native populations aren’t as impacted by this invader. If you do get your hands on this delicious species – you will be in for a real treat.
- 2 Lbs of Grouper or other whitefish. Filets or bone-in are fine.
- 2 Limes – juiced
- 1/4 t Salt
- 1/4 t Pepper
- 4 Potatoes – Large cubes
- 2 Celery Stalks – Large Cubes
- 1/4 Goat Pepper- diced (Or other hot pepper)
- 2 T Butter
- 1 T Cloves – Whole
- 1 Garlic clove – chopped
- 3 C Water
Season fish with lime juice, salt and pepper. Set side to marinate. In a pot, combine all other ingredients, bring to boil and cover for 15 minutes until potatoes are just becoming soft. Uncover, add fish with lime juice to pot, setting on top of potatoes. Reduce heat to simmer uncovered for 10 minutes, or until fish is flaky. Don’t leave too long or it will fall apart, and potatoes will be mushy.
Place contents on plate, sided with Peas n’ Rice or buttered grits. Additions to consider are carrots or cabbage. Plantain also pairs very well. Serves 4.
The Bahamas were part of the British commonwealth until fairly recently, and adapted many of their words and gastronomy. Duff is a traditional English word for pudding, and both duff and pudding have been used interchangeably in English literature. In the Bahamas it has more commonly been a substitute for the word dessert, although many of these are boiled/steamed much like English pudding anyway.
Guava Duff is served with a butter sauce, often infused with rum in true Caribbean style.
- 1 C Sugar
- 4 T Butter
- 3 Eggs – beaten
- 3 C Guava – mashed (seeds removed, then food processor or steamed and mashed)
- 1 t Nutmeg – ground
- 1 t Cinnamon – ground
- 1/2 t Clove – ground
- 4 C Flour
- 2 t Baking Powder
Combine sugar and butter in a bowl, and blend till well creamed. Now add eggs, guava, and spices, blending until smooth. Add baking powder to flour and stir or sift until well mixed, then add to bowl with all other ingredients. Stir well until all ingredients are well mixed and a firm dough is formed.
Cooking has a number of options. Traditionally this would be cooked in a calico or light muslin p
udding bag. You can wrap in many layers of cheesecloth. If you don’t have such a bag or cloth, you can place in a long plastic bag and seal up, so long as no holes are present. A used plain bread bag would work. Another option is to use a double boiler, oil the top pot and put the duff evenly in the pot. The last option would be to put the duff in a narrow, empty can, and place in a pot of boiling water deep enough to come up to 3/4 way to the top of the can.
Boil / steam for 3 hours. Slice and serve with butter sauce drizzled on top.
- 1 C powdered sugar
- 1/4 C butter
- 1 t boiling water
Cream butter, then gently blend in sugar, as this stiffens, mix in the water. Melt just before serving. If you want Butter Rum sauce, just add 1/2 T of rum, or 1/4 T rum extract in the mixing process.
Bahamian meals would not be complete without authentic drinks. Personally, I don’t imbibe, and don’t encourage it. but if you do, these drinks can be mixed with 1-2 fl oz of your favorite liquor, such a rum, gin, brandy.
This is a staple citrus beverage in the Bahamas. Nobody is quite sure how it got its name, but it will definitely please.
- 1 C Lime Juice (preferably Key Lime)
- 1/4 C Lemon Juice
- 1 C Simple Syrup (Or granulated sugar)
- 1 Gallon Water
Mix all the ingredients, and chill for 1-2 hours or serve directly over ice. This is a tart, but less puckering version of limeade. To make this like a limeade, just cut the water to half. Key limes really make the difference here, but whatever limes you can acquire to juice will be fine. Least preferable would be to use bottled juice. Locals who have no lemons available, have opted to use orange juice, which is an interesting, refreshing variation. Serves 8
This was originally an alcoholic beverage that required a very non Caribbean alcohol – vodka. With the exception of the resort towns, that ingredient is not as prevalent or popular, and thus it has also been made with more commonly available liquors. But there is still a large demand for it without alcohol ie “unleaded” as some locals like to say.
- 3 C Coconut Water
- 1 C Sweetened Condensed Milk
- 1/2 t Nutmeg
- 1/4 t Cinnamon
Mix all ingredients and chill for 2-3 hours. If you have had the good fortune of getting fresh coconut water, use the coconuts to serve this simply delicious drink. It will take 5 to 6 coconuts to have enough water. You can use the Canned Coconut water just as easily. Its reminiscent of Horchata but with a tropical twist. This can also be processed in a blender with ice to create a very nice frozen drink!
For those of you who have visited the Bahamas, I anticipate that these recipes will bring back fond memories. Those that haven’t yet visited, What are you waiting for? Until you can visit, these recipes will give you a small taste of the Bahamas.