As festive colors adorn the streets and extended family makes their way into town again, it can only mean one thing – Christmas in the Caribbean is upon us! In this season of joy and togetherness, what better way to celebrate than by bringing a taste of the tropics to your holiday table? For those planning a traditional dinner, we’ve curated a few Caribbean holiday recipes worth bookmarking – a blend of time-honored dishes passed through generations and modern twists on classics, each celebrating the rich culture and distinctive flavors that define Caribbean cuisine. So, don your apron, cue up our Reggae Christmas playlist, and let’s infuse your holiday season with flavor!

Jazz in the Gardens 2024
Jazz in the Gardens 2024

Let’s start with drinks

Trinidad and Tobago’s Ponche de Crème

Call this the Trinidad version of eggnog. Popular across the Caribbean, this recipe combines egg yolk with condensed and evaporated milk, but it also doubles down on the festive warm spices like cinnamon and nutmeg. One non-negotiable addition, however, is four dashes of Trinidadian Angostura aromatic bitters.

8 Favorite Caribbean Holiday Recipes From Around the Islands

What you need:

  • 1 cup rum
  • 5 large eggs
  • 1-2 teaspoons lime zest
  • 3 cans of sweetened condensed milk
  • ½ cup evaporated milk
  • 4 dashes of Trinidadian Angostura aromatic bitters
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon

What to do:

  1. Whisk eggs and lime zest with an electric mixer until fluffy. 
  2. Gradually add condensed milk, then pour in the evaporated milk and mix. 
  3. Add in the rum and bitters and sprinkle with nutmeg and cinnamon. 
  4. Transfer to a bottle and chill for at least 1 hour before serving over ice.

Caribbean Sorrel

Sorrel, also known as roselle, hibiscus tea and flor de jamaica, is a popular and refreshing drink in all of the Caribbean, but especially Jamaica during the holiday season. It is sweet, tangy and slightly spiced, and has a deep connection to West African history. Whether it’s 90° or 60°, this festive drink can be enjoyed everywhere and any time!

8 Favorite Caribbean Holiday Recipes From Around the Islands

What you need:

  • 2 cups dried sorrel petals (hibiscus petals)
  • 1 cup white rum
  • 8-10 cups water
  • 1-2 cups granulated sugar (adjust to your sweetness preference)
  • 6-8 whole cloves
  • 1-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and sliced
  • 1-2 cinnamon sticks (optional)
  • 1 orange peel (optional)

What to do:

  1. Rinse the dried sorrel petals under cold water to remove any debris or dirt. Drain well.
  2. In a large pot, bring the water to a boil. Once boiling, add the sorrel petals, ginger slices, cloves, cinnamon sticks and orange peel (if using). Stir well, and then reduce the heat to low.
  3. Simmer the mixture for about 15-20 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and let it cool. Strain the liquid into a large pitcher, discarding the used sorrel petals and spices.
  4. Add sugar to the strained liquid, starting with 1 cup. Stir until the sugar is completely dissolved.
  5. Add the rum to the pitcher and mix well. 
  6. Refrigerate, serve over ice and garnished with a slice of orange or a cinnamon stick.

Moving onto mains

Haitian Turkey Roulade

A dish that can be found at every Haitian Christmas Eve potluck is Turkey Roulade, a fusion of succulent turkey with aromatic herbs and spices. We talked with award-winning Haitian chef, Vicky Colas, to get her tips for the perfect recipe.

8 Favorite Caribbean Holiday Recipes From Around the Islands

What you need:

  • 1 turkey breast
  • 8 ounces celery, batonnet cut
  • 8 ounces carrots, batonnet cut
  • 8 ounces leeks, julienne cute
  • 8 ounces onions, julienne cut
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1⁄2 tablespoon pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

What to do:

  1. Preheat your oven to 375 F. In a sauté pan over medium heat, add olive oil, celery, carrots, leeks, and garlic. Stir for about 5 minutes until vegetables are softened. Set aside.
  2. Butterfly the turkey breast with a boning knife. Lay out the breast on top of a cutting board and cover with a plastic wrap. Use a meat tenderizer to gently flatten the breast. 
  3. Remove wrap and season the turkey breast surface with salt, pepper, cinnamon, garlic powder and onion powder.
  4. Place the sautéed vegetables on top of the seasoned turkey and roll the turkey breast as tightly as possible, keeping the vegetables from spilling from the sides. Wrap the turkey in a sheet of aluminum foil, and secure the ends to prevent juices from leaking out. 
  5. Place the wrapped turkey on a cooking sheet in the oven and cook for about 40 minutes, or to an internal temperature of 165 F. 
  6. Use the turkey skin to make a turkey chip by placing it on a sheet pan in aluminum sheets. Add sheet pan on top to press, and season to taste. Bake at 350 F for 15-20 minutes.
  7. Once the turkey roll is cooked, slice it into rounds and serve with the crispy turkey chip as a delightful garnish.

Jamaican Curried Goat

Christmas dinner in Jamaica often includes a time-honored tradition – curried goat. Slow-cooked to perfection and typically prepared on the bone, this flavorful dish features succulent goat meat marinated in a rich blend of aromatic spices, including turmeric, cumin and coriander. This delicacy is often paired harmoniously with rice and gungo peas.

8 Favorite Caribbean Holiday Recipes From Around the Islands

What you need:

For the meat

  • 4 pounds goat meat, cubed
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1 red onion, sliced
  • 2 scotch bonnet peppers, sliced
  • 4 green onions, sliced
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • ½ teaspoon ginger
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder
  • Salt and black pepper

For the curry

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoon curry powder
  • 2 cups water
  • ½ of a red and green bell pepper, chopped

What to do:

  1. Clean goat meat by soaking it in lemon juice, then rinsing and draining.
  2. In the same large bowl, season the meat with salt. 
  3. Add the onion, scotch bonnet peppers, green onions and garlic into the bowl and mix. Then, add the onion powder, paprika, ginger, curry powder, salt and pepper and toss. Cover and let the meat marinate for at least one hour in the refrigerator.
  4. In a large pot over medium heat, fry curry powder in oil. Then, add the marinated goat and a little water (if needed to prevent sticking) and cook for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally. 
  5. Pour 2 cups of water into the pot, cover and let simmer for 2 hours, or until meat is tender. 
  6. Add the bell peppers to the pot and cook uncovered on low for 30 minutes, or until the curry thickens.
  7. Enjoy with your favorite sides!

What’s a main dish without a side

Yuca Con Mojo

Every Cuban household is likely looking forward to Yuca Con Mojo being on the table this Christmas. This is a simple dish that holds a ton of flavor, and bonus points — it’s so easy to make!

8 Favorite Caribbean Holiday Recipes From Around the Islands

What you need:

  • 1 pound yuca root
  • ½ stick of butter
  • ½ large onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • Salt and black pepper, to taste

What to do:

  1. Trim the yuca ends and slice into 2-3 inch pieces, cutting the skin off of each piece and any dark areas on the white flesh. 
  2. Remove the core by cutting each piece in half lengthwise, then quartering. Cut off the core and chop the usable yuca into chunks.
  3. Transfer yuca to a pot, cover with water and bring to a boil. Cook on medium-low for 30 minutes or until it can be easily pierced with a knife. Drain and cool.
  4. Heat butter in a skillet. Cook onion for 3-5 minutes until translucent. Add garlic and let it get fragrant. 
  5. Add the remaining butter, lime juice, lemon juice, salt and black pepper and simmer for 10 minutes.
  6. Toss the cooked yuca chunks in the garlic sauce in the skillet. Transfer to a serving pan and enjoy!

Haitian Djon Djon Rice (Black Mushroom Rice)

A popular side dish with Turkey Roulade, this black mushroom rice is perfect for a holiday meal.

8 Favorite Caribbean Holiday Recipes From Around the Islands

What you need:

  • 1 cup parboiled rice
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup djon djon mushrooms (for broth)
  • 2 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 2 sprigs of thyme
  • 2 tablespoons onions, small dice
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon pepper
  • 1⁄2 cup vegetable broth
  • 1⁄2 cup green peas

What to do:

  1. In a large saucepan, add water and djon djon mushroom. Bring to a boil for 2 minutes, then turn it down to a simmer for 6 minutes.
  2. Strain the mushrooms and preserve the water.
  3. Wash and rinse rice under cold water and set aside.
  4. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, add olive oil, then sauté onion and garlic for three minutes, until soft.
  5. Add 1 1⁄2 cup of the reserved mushroom water to the pan. Season with salt, pepper, ground cloves and thyme, and bring to a boil.
  6. Add rice. Let it cook for about 8 minutes or until 2⁄3 of the water has evaporated. Gently stir the rice and cover it.
  7. Bring the heat down to low. Leave it covered for 10-15 minutes before checking. Cook until fluffy. If the rice is dry, add more mushroom water.

Dessert? We’ve got that covered too

Bahamian Coconut Cheesecake

With coconut trees on every island and cay in the Bahamas, adding this fresh fruit into desserts is a no-brainer. ‘Wow’ your guests with this tropical take on a classic cheesecake dessert. 

8 Favorite Caribbean Holiday Recipes From Around the Islands

What you need:

For the crust:

  • 1 ½ cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 1 ½ cups shredded coconut, toasted
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ½ cup unsalted butter (1 stick), melted

For the filling:

  • 4 packages cream cheese (8 oz each), room temperature
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 2 cups cream of coconut
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 1 cup shredded coconut, sweetened

What to do:

  1. Preheat the oven to 325°F and wrap the outside of a 9-inch baking pan with foil.
  2. For the crust, mix graham cracker crumbs, toasted shredded coconut and sugar in a medium bowl. Add the melted butter and mix until well blended. Press the mixture into the bottom and up the sides of the prepared pan. Set in the fridge to chill while preparing the filling.
  3. For the filling, beat cream cheese and sugar in a large mixing bowl until well blended. Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Beat in the egg yolk. Add cream of coconut, whipping cream and shredded coconut, mixing until just blended. Pour the mixture into the chilled crust.
  4. Bake the cheesecake until it’s puffed and golden, approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes. 
  5. Once done, transfer to a rack and let it cool completely. Refrigerate until well chilled.

Bajan Sweet Bread

While not technically a dessert, Bajan sweet bread should most definitely be enjoyed post-meal with a cup of tea! And, you can even have it for breakfast the following morning for a sweet start to your day.

8 Favorite Caribbean Holiday Recipes From Around the Islands

What you need:

  • 3 cups flour
  • 3 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ grated nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 sticks of butter (1 cup)
  • 1 ½ cup sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 ½ cups milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups coconut, grated
  • ½ cup baking cherries, washed and dried (can substitute raisins)

What to do:

  1. In a large bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, salt, nutmeg and cinnamon together. 
  2. In a separate bowl, cream the butter. Add the sugar into the mix, a little at a time and continue to beat until the texture is light-colored and fluffy.
  3. Add the eggs one at a time, beating thoroughly after each add. Then, add the vanilla and mix.
  4. Fold a small portion of the dry mixture into the butter mixture. Alternate adding the milk and the flour mixture, mixing in between, until all incorporated.
  5. Add the cherries to a small bowl and mix with a little bit of flour to remove excess moisture. Then, stir them into the batter.
  6. Add in the coconut and mix well.
  7. Pour the bread mixture into two greased loaf pans and bake at 350ºF for about an hour, or until lightly browned on top and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. 

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