As the cool breeze of a Caribbean “winter” continues to sweep over the sun-kissed islands, we’re excited for a fresh start to the new year. If one of your goals is to further embrace the rich culinary options of the region while committing to a healthier lifestyle, we’re here to help. Here are five healthy island recipes that are sure to become the talk of the archipelago.

Jazz in the Gardens 2024
Jazz in the Gardens 2024

Coconut-Crusted Mahi-Mahi

With the Caribbean Sea teeming with fresh catch, embrace the bounty of the ocean in this mouthwatering recipe. Baked to perfection, the coconut crust adds a crunch to the flaky fish, while the lime zest brings a nice kick. To top it off, this recipe offers a healthy dose of omega-3 fatty acids!

5 Healthy Island Recipes to Kickstart the New Year - mahi

What you need:

  • 4 Mahi Mahi filets
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon coarse black pepper
  • 1 cup flour
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup shredded toasted coconut flakes
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil

What to do:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spread coconut flakes on a baking sheet and toast for 5 minutes. Cool completely and then combine with breadcrumbs.
  2. Turn the oven up to 425°F.
  3. Make an egg wash by whisking together the water and eggs in a bowl. 
  4. Pat each filet dry and sprinkle the smoked paprika, sea salt and black pepper on each side of the fish.
  5. Dip each filet into flour, then the egg wash mixture, and finally coat it in the coconut-breadcrumb mixture.
  6. In a large pan, melt coconut oil over medium heat. Sauté the fish for 1-2 minutes per side. Transfer the pan to the preheated oven and bake for 10-15 minutes or until the fish is cooked through.
  7. Serve with rice or greens and enjoy! 

Jerk Chicken Lettuce Wraps

As the heart of Jamaican cuisine, jerk seasoning is a must. For a healthier alternative to plain jerk chicken, swap out your rice and peas for crisp lettuce leaves as a wrap and generously fill with diced mangoes and cilantro. Bursting with flavor and low in carbs, these jerk chicken lettuce wraps offer a perfect balance between health and taste — and they’re great for lunch on the go!

5 Healthy Island Recipes to Kickstart the New Year - jerk chicken

What you need:

  • 3 pounds of chicken breasts or thighs
  • 1–4 sliced Scotch Bonnet peppers (to preferred taste) 
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 medium onions, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons thyme
  • 2 tablespoons ground allspice
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • ½ cup soy sauce
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons coarsely ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 firm mango
  • A few sprigs of cilantro / parsley 

What to do:

  1. Roughly chop the peppers, garlic and onions. 
  2. Blend the peppers, garlic and onions with all of the seasonings, olive oil, soy sauce and lime juice in a blender to make the jerk marinade. 
  3. Cut any extra fat off of the raw chicken and dice into pieces. Rub a majority of the marinade into the meat, setting some aside for basting later. Leave the chicken in the fridge to marinate overnight. 
  4. Grill the meat slowly until cooked, turning regularly, basting with some of the remaining marinade while cooking for extra flavor. (For best results, cook over a barbecue heated with pimento wood. Or, bake in the oven for 30 minutes, turn the meat then bake for a further 30 minutes.)
  5. Chop up the chicken into bite sized pieces. Add the chicken atop freshly washed lettuce leaves, top with diced mangoes and freshly chopped cilantro / parsley and enjoy!

Callaloo Soup

Full of tropical goodness, this soup features the leafy green callaloo, a staple in Caribbean cuisine, alongside a medley of vegetables, coconut milk and savory spices. The result is a hearty and nutritious bowl to warm your soul.

What you need:

  • 1 bunch of callaloo leaves
  • 1 cup diced okra
  • 1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced
  • 1 can (15 oz) red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 scallion, chopped
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 1 can (14 oz) coconut milk
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon thyme
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • Salt and pepper to taste

What to do:

  1. Wash the callaloo leaves thoroughly. Remove tough stems and chop.
  2. In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add chopped onions, minced garlic, scallion and carrots. Sauté until the onions are translucent.
  3. Add sweet potatoes, okra and red kidney beans to the pot. Stir well.
  4. Sprinkle thyme, paprika, salt and pepper over the vegetables. Stir to coat the vegetables with the seasonings.
  5. Pour in the coconut milk and chicken broth. Bring the soup to a gentle boil, then reduce the heat to simmer.
  6. Add the chopped callaloo leaves to the pot. Simmer for about 15-20 minutes or until the sweet potatoes are tender.
  7. Taste and adjust the seasoning if needed. 
  8. Ladle the soup into bowls and serve hot. Squeeze a bit of lime juice over each bowl before serving and enjoy!

Mango and Avocado Salsa with Baked Plantain Chips

5 Healthy Island Recipes to Kickstart the New Year - mango salsa

In the land of abundant mango trees, celebrate the marriage of these two delights in a refreshing alternative to plain chips and salsa. The combination of the sweet and savory salsa with the crunchy plantain chips will become a favorite guilt-free snack, perfect for any occasion.

What you need:

For the salsa

  • 1 ripe mango
  • 1 avocado
  • 1 roma or beefsteak tomato
  • 1 jalapeño, seeds removed
  • ⅓ cup red onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2-3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

For the plantain chips

  • 2 large plantains, pealed
  • 1 tablespoon avocado oil
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt

What to do:

  1. For the salsa, dice or chop all of the vegetables, then combine them in a bowl with the garlic, lime juice and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set in the fridge as you make the plantains.
  2. For the plantains, preheat the oven to 350°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Thinly slice the plantains, place in a large bowl and thoroughly cover with olive oil.
  3. Arrange the slices in a single layer on the baking sheet and sprinkle with sea salt.
  4. Bake for 15 minutes, or until the edges turn golden.
  5. Remove from the oven and allow the plantain crisps to cool completely.
  6. Dip the plantains in the fresh salsa and enjoy!

Caribbean Fruit Salad with Ginger-Lime Dressing

The year-round abundance of tropical fruits inspires a refreshing fruit salad that celebrates the diversity of flavors. This light and hydrating salad is a go-to option for those seeking a fresh dessert or a refreshing side dish to complement their meals.

What you need:

  • 6-8 cups fresh fruit (oranges, pineapple, kiwi, mangos, strawberries and bananas)
  • 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger root
  • ½ cup fresh lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon lime zest

What to do:

  1. In a bowl, combine freshly grated ginger, lime juice and zest to form the “dressing.” Allow to sit for at least 30 minutes before adding to the salad.
  2. In the meantime, gather and cut the fruit into bite-size pieces. Arrange into a large bow in whatever layers you like.
  3. Pour the dressing over the fruit and toss. Enjoy immediately! 

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