We live in a time when food and food culture are everywhere. People love to share recipes and experiment with different foods from all around the world. Whether it is a traditional English Sunday dinner menu with recipes of all kinds to traditional Caribbean dessert recipes, many cooks are eager to give new cuisine a whirl. Caribbean desserts are a good choice for people in regions because the ingredients are usually readily available, and the recipes are often quite simple and straightforward.
The question, though, is why make Caribbean desserts when you can plan a trip and sample some of the most famous Caribbean desserts for yourself? Whether it is something as tasty as Toto in Jamaica or Cassava Pone from a vendor in Barbados, a big part of any visit should include some of the top Caribbean desserts.
Naturally, from island to island, Caribbean desserts vary based on the influences from different groups of settlers, as well as the influences of the readily available ingredients. After all, the modern Caribbean is radically different from the historical Caribbean. With warmer temperatures, and lots of native fruits and other ingredients, islanders have created recipes suited to their surroundings.
Yes, you will find a variety of custards, puddings, cakes, cookies, and ice creams in Turks & Caicos, Jamaica, and St Barts, among all of the other islands. However, each is going to have its own specialties based on what ingredients islanders have historically been able to obtain easily and affordably.
For instance, many Caribbean dessert recipes rely heavily on coconut for the simple reason that coconuts are in great abundance throughout the region. As one author wrote, “The biggest inspiration comes from the abundance of naturally sweet tropical fruits. Also, sugarcane was one of the early crops brought to the Caribbean by Spaniards and it became a major cash crop during colonial times. These factors and the influences of the European settlers makes for an abundance of sweet treats throughout the islands.”
Best Caribbean Desserts
So, just what are the most famous and common Caribbean desserts? In no particular order, a list would have to include:
This is a cake popular in Jamaica and the West Indies. High in spices and flavorings, it also relies heavily on grated coconut. Alternatives may have rum or raisins to maintain moisture. This is one variations of the coconut sweet cake popular in the Caribbean and uses easy-to-find ingredients like sugar, eggs, milk, butter, flour, and simple spices such as nutmeg and ginger. It also, as noted, uses a liberal amount of coconut.
With challenges in obtaining dairy products easily in the past, islanders made do with more innovative ingredients. This is the basis for soursop ice cream, one of the lesser known but tastier Caribbean desserts. It relies on condensed milk, cornstarch, water, and the soursop fruit. It is churned like a traditional ice cream and then frozen and makes for a delicious finish to a classic meal. Nutmeg ice cream is also a popular option and relies on freshly grated nutmeg in a traditional ice cream recipe.
Caribbean puddings are heavily influenced by the British colonials who arrived in the area throughout the past few hundred years. The recipe uses the readily available sweet potatoes common to island cuisine, along with a lot of coconut milk and some flour. The mixtures are usually heavily seasoned with spices and sugar and a traditional recipe has it cooked in a heavy pot that features a lid capable of holding hot coals. Today, it can be made in the oven and is usually served as a Sunday dinner dessert. Another of the Caribbean puddings to try is arroz con leche, which is basically rice pudding with an island accent.
Another coconut sweet cake popular in the Caribbean, this one is very dense and gummy. It uses cassava root, and lots of coconut along with other common island ingredients, including sweet potatoes, pumpkin, and sugar. Spiced lightly with nutmeg, it is thought to be a dish that originated with the Arawak people of Barbados. As one writer noted, it is “so popular that it is regularly the first dessert to sell out at bake sales, and it is said that if you ask any Bajan about pone, you are almost guaranteed to be regaled with a cherished childhood memory.”
This is one of the most unusual Caribbean pastries because it can be adapted to any seasonal fruit. The basis of duff is pastry dough that is wrapped around a sweet filling, typically a very sweet one like guava. It is then steamed or boiled (a lot like a dumpling) and when finished, it is covered in a butter-heavy and sweet sauce flavored with brandy or rum.
While many call it Bahamian rum cake, it is a dish popular throughout the entire region. Why? The Caribbean was once a rum capital and so rum as a flavor in cake made perfect sense. It also uses a lot of coconut and often some island fruits.
And what about Caribbean desserts with chocolate? It would make sense to find a lot of chocolate in the Caribbean region as it is also home to many cocoa plantations or former cocoa growing operations. It is true that (as one writer noted) the “Caribbean bean is feted for its fine flavor courtesy of the hot sun and green hills that make planting and harvesting a year-round affair.”
Travelers will find many ways to enjoy cocoa in different desserts and even in beverages, as well as some spa treatments that use it in facial masks!
So, whether you have wisely booked one of the many premiere luxury rentals in the Caribbean, or you want to feel inspired by the best Caribbean desserts recipe options, you can start here. It won’t be long before travel opens up again, and you can then head to the Caribbean to savor these, and other, sweet treats!