Blue-Zone Worthy Caribbean Food Is Vibrant and Flavor-Packed and You Should Be Eating a Lot More of It

Caribbean food is hot right now. In 2023, the National Restaurant Association labeled the cuisine as “a major global trend,” and in the same year, Forbes dubbed the fusion of island cuisines “America’s new favorite food.” It’s not hard to understand why Caribbean flavors are so popular. The islands in the Caribbean Sea (of which there are hundreds, belonging to multiple countries like Jamaica, Cuba, and Grenada) offer a vibrant medley of dishes, which are mostly characterized by bold spices, fresh herbs, and tropical fruits.

But, while Caribbean foods have much in common, they are far from the same. In Cuba, for example, you can expect a subtler, milder use of seasoning, while Jamaican food has a little more spice. Ingredients in many Caribbean dishes are similar, plantains, rice, and beans, for example, are staples, but cooking techniques and styles differ from island to island. In Puerto Rico, mofongo (mashed plantain) is popular, while in Jamaica, tostones (plantain fritters) are a go-to for many.

To help you enjoy the distinct flavors and ingredients of the Caribbean from the comfort of your kitchen, we’ve compiled a few of our favorite vegan recipes inspired by the region below.

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Is Caribbean food vegan-friendly?

Because of their location in the Caribbean Sea, it’s not surprising that seafood is a staple on most Caribbean islands. Many regional dishes are also meat-heavy, with chicken, goat, and oxtail being particular favorites. But vegan-friendly options are also common, due to the abundant use of fruits, vegetables, legumes, and grains in the region.

Plantains, for example, which are a starchy fruit similar to bananas, are a popular ingredient, and so is cassava, a starchy root vegetable. Rice and peas is another staple dish across the region, but it’s particularly popular in Jamaica, where it is traditionally made with rice cooked in coconut milk and seasoned with spices such as thyme, scallions, garlic, and Scotch bonnet peppers, along with kidney beans or pigeon peas.

Most of the vegan-friendly dishes from the Caribbean are not just delicious and loaded with flavor, but they’re also nutritious. Recently, more experts have been comparing the diets of the Mediterranean, which are renowned for their health benefits, with the Caribbean way of eating.

It’s not totally the same; the Caribbean diet tends to be higher in meat, as well as sweets and fried foods. But, as Janet Helm, MS, RDN notes for the US News & World Report, “the foundation of the traditional Caribbean diet is based on plant-based ingredients.” She noted that staples include tubers, rice, corn, grains, fruits, vegetables, and legumes, all of which are, of course, plant-based whole foods. To learn more about how to cook with many of these Caribbean ingredients, check out our vegan recipes below.

7 delicious Caribbean-inspired vegan recipes

Rachel Ama

1 Fried Vegan Caribbean Jackfruit Fritters

If you want to enjoy the seafood flavors of the Caribbean islands without the actual seafood, check out these vegan jackfruit fritters from recipe developer Rachel Ama. Shredded jackfruit is marinated in soy sauce and nori flakes before being mixed with onions, tomatoes, and herbs. The jackfruit is then coated in chickpea flour batter, before being fried until golden. Serving with sweet chili sauce is a must.
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VegNews.PhylloPieYuki Sugiura

2 Vegan Caribbean Callaloo and Plantain Phyllo Pie

This unique, flavor-packed, Caribbean-inspired vegan pie by Denai Moore, a vegan cookbook author and musician, needs to be on your must-try-next list. It combines callaloo, a plant frequently used in many Caribbean countries, with plantains, tofu, and vegan cheddar, before wrapping it all in deliciously crispy phyllo pastry.
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VegNews.TostonesKarla Salinari

3 Vegan Tostones Rellenos

Instead of ground beef, these tostones by Karla Salinari (who is also known as the Latina Health Coach) feature plantain cups filled with seasoned, protein-packed tempeh. They’re extra delicious when topped with plenty of avocado, pickled red onion, and cilantro.
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VegNews.vegancurry

4 Creamy Coconut Milk Jamaican Vegan Curry

Renowned professional chef Mitchel BonHomme is the culinary genius behind this creamy, comforting coconut milk curry recipe. Perfect served over rice on a chilly day, the mild yellow curry is made with Jamaican curry powder, coconut milk, and mixed vegetables.
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VegNews.PastelonKarla Salinari

5 Vegan Pastelón Puerto Rican Sweet Plantain Lasagna

Salinari’s hearty vegan version of this traditionally beef-heavy dish is warming, comforting, and packed with flavor. Ripe plantains replace lasagna sheets and are layered with a savory mix of sofrito, mixed vegetables, and plenty of melted vegan cheese.
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VegNews.PanzanellaYuki Sugiura

6 Vegan Jamaican Beet and Feta Panzanella Salad

Another delectable offering from Moore, this vibrant panzanella salad is a delicious fusion of Jamaican and Italian cuisine. With roasted beets, crispy hard dough bread, cherry tomatoes, radishes, mint, and vegan feta, all tossed in a tangy garlic dressing, we’re confident this dish is set to become your new lunchtime go-to.
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VegNews.JerkTofuWrappedinCollardLeaves

7 Vegan Jerk Tofu Wrapped in Collard Leaves

In traditional Jamaican jerk cuisine, meat is rubbed with jerk seasoning (which includes ingredients like Scotch bonnet peppers, pimento, thyme, garlic, scallions, nutmeg, and more spices), before it is cooked over a fire. But in this vegan recipe, esteemed chef Bryant Terry walks you through how to achieve similar flavors with tofu, a cast-iron skillet, and peanut oil.
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