Visitors to the Bahamas always rave about the Caribbean cuisine you can enjoy there! These are the 15 best foods in the Bahamas you need to try when you go.
The most popular Bahamian foods are a fusion of African, European, Eastern Indian, Chinese, and Amerindian flavors. Cuisine from the Bahamas features lots of seafood, like conch, crab, grouper, and red snapper. But if you don’t like fish, there’s plenty of other yummy food in the Bahamas for you to enjoy.
Whether you’re visiting the Bahamas on a cruise or an independent vacation, be sure to take time to eat in some of the local restaurants. There’s so much delicious Bahamian food you need to try!
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1. Cracked conch
The Bahamas are famous for conch (pronounced “konk”), and you’ll find this mollusk prepared in lots of different ways throughout the islands. Whenever I visit the Bahamas, the first thing I order is cracked conch—and I usually don’t love my seafood fried!
To “crack” the conch, chefs pound it with a mallet or frying pan to tenderize the meat. Breaded in a light flour batter then deep-fried until golden, cracked conch is a must-try dish when you’re in the Bahamas.
2. Peas n’ rice
Of all the foods in the Bahamas, peas n’ rice is the one you’ll likely see the most often. Served as a side dish with just about any meal, this traditional recipe evolved from the earlier peas n’ grits that were a typical meal made from staple crops. Once rice became a common import in the early 20th century, peas n’ rice was born.
The dish uses pigeon peas, not green ones as you might think! It’s actually very similar to Mexican rice and beans or the Southern US dish called hoppin’ john. Flavored with onion, sweet peppers, bacon, tomato paste, and thyme, peas n’ rice is the side dish you’ll want to have with every meal in the Bahamas.
3. Rock lobster
As a native New Englander, I’ve eaten quite a few lobsters in my day. But the rock lobsters you’ll find in the Bahamas are a bit different from Maine lobsters in their appearance, taste, and texture. Warm-water lobsters are spiny, and they don’t have large front claws!
Bahamas spiny lobsters aren’t quite as sweet as cold-water lobsters, and the texture is a bit different—they’re definitely easier to chew. If you’re a lobster fan, give rock lobster a try in the Bahamas. You’ll sometimes find them boiled, steamed, or grilled, but they’re most often broiled with butter or served in a fresh salad.
4. Conch salad
Fans of ceviche or poke will love trying conch salad in the Bahamas. This tasty salad traditionally made with fresh conch, chopped onions, tomatoes, and bell peppers is the perfect light dish for a hot day!
Before the conch meat soaks in a marinade made from freshly-squeezed lime, sour orange juice, and spicy goat pepper, it’s thoroughly tenderized and cut into bite-sized pieces. After the acidity of the marinade works its magic, the meat is tossed with chopped fresh veggies, and sometimes fruit! Lately, versions of conch salad featuring apple, pineapple, and mango have been appearing in some Bahamas eateries.
Pronounced “sowse”, this hearty stew is well-known as a hangover cure (keep that in mind if you have too many Goombay Smashes at the beach bar!) The name actually comes from a term for a drunkard, but even sober foodies will enjoy this meal.
You’ll usually find souse made with chicken, but traditional cooks might use pigs’ feet, sheep’s tongue, or mutton. Regardless of the meat used, souse includes chunks of potato, carrot, celery, and is seasoned with onion, lime juice, goat peppers, and an array of spices like bay leaf, thyme, and allspice.
6. Stew fish
Fish may not be a breakfast food in every culture, but stew fish is part of a traditional Bahamian breakfast! Originally made from turbot, today you might be likely to find this stew full of grouper or red snapper.
Made with potatoes, bacon, onion, sherry, tomato paste and herbs, the chunky broth adds lots of flavor to the mild fish. So skip your morning cereal and fill up on some stew fish to start your day in the Bahamas!
Sometimes written as Johnny cake, this cornbread recipe has been made in the Bahamas since just after the American Revolution. The recipe came from the enslaved people brought to the island with the fleeing Loyalists. (The original corn cakes that inspired johnnycakes were made by native peoples in the northern parts of the Americas where corn has been cultivated for 10,000 years.)
Johnnycakes aren’t particularly sweet, but many Bahamians top a piping-hot slice with butter, jam, or both! As a more savory option, you’ll also see it topped with a slice or two of cheddar cheese in the Bahamas. Try a wedge along with your stew fish or souse—it’s a great way to soak up all that flavorful broth.
8. Baked crab
During crab season, you’re bound to see vendors selling live crabs all over the islands—even on sidewalks and in parking lots! But I bet you’d prefer your crabs cooked, right? Baked stuffed crab, often served as a starter in the Bahamas, is a spicy, savory summertime treat.
To make this dish, chefs combine fresh crab meat with bread crumbs, butter, onions, bell peppers, thyme, and lemon juice before cooking. The cooked mixture is then stuffed into crab shells and baked until lightly browned. Try drizzling lemon juice on top for more fresh flavor!
9. Benny cake
The first time I saw Benny cake on a dessert menu in the Bahamas, I wondered who Benny was and if his cake was any good. Then I tried it and found that it’s not a cake at all, it’s more like a candy. And Benny isn’t a person—the name comes from benne, another word for sesame seeds.
Benny cakes are made from a simple recipe, just sesame seeds, sugar, water, and a pinch of salt. Bahamian candy makers let the candy base come to a boil and then add the seeds, stirring until it’s thick and golden brown. Then the candy is turned out by the spoonful onto a greased pan to cool. These are definitely a unique Bahamas treat to try!
Familiar to those living in the southern US, grits are a staple breakfast food that’s also a traditional dish in the Bahamas. But if (like me) you live in a place where grits are rarely on the menu, give them a try when you’re visiting the islands! And don’t worry about their name—they’re not gritty at all. Grits are made from stoneground corn, slow-cooked in water until they reach a creamy consistency.
In the Bahamas, you’ll find grits on the menu with all sorts of interesting add-ons! Some popular additions are tuna salad, chunks of rock lobster meat, or boiled fish. You can also find plain grits with butter or with melted cheese stirred in. Try it for breakfast or at any time of day!
11. Conch fritters
The last time I visited Nassau, I told my seafood-averse daughter that she needed to try conch fritters. After all, they don’t have that fishy smell (or flavor) that sometimes turns people off from seafood. She loved them so much that she insisted on ordering them every single day of our eight-day trip. We sampled them everywhere—beach bars, upscale eateries, and of course at Nassau’s famous Arawak Cay Fish Fry. (In case you’re curious, she gives her “best conch fritters in Nassau” award to the Tiki Bikini Hut on Junkanoo Beach.)
Chopped queen conch is mixed with a savory batter seasoned with goat pepper, hot sauce, and sea salt. Minced veggies like onions, green peppers, and tomatoes are then added to the batter before shaping it into balls and deep-frying. Conch fritters usually come with a side of calypso sauce for dipping: a mix of ketchup, mayonnaise, worcestershire, and hot sauce.
12. Guava duff
One of the few indigenous fruits to the Bahamas, guava is considered a superfood—and it’s delicious! Bahamian cooks have been making guava duff for centuries, inspired by British steamed pudding recipes brought over by colonists.
Guava duff combines guava fruit and sweet dough, rolled up in a pinwheel. The roll is steamed for about an hour before it’s sliced and topped with sweet rum or brandy butter sauce. It’s usually a special occasion treat for Bahamians—but any trip to the Bahamas is a special occasion, right?
13. Crab n’ Rice
If you’re looking for a heartier version of the ubiquitous peas n’ rice for a filling main course, Bahamian crab n’ rice is where it’s at.
Summers see swarms of black and red crabs in the Bahamas, and steaming pots of the delicious crustaceans bubble in kitchens throughout the islands. Full of tender crabmeat and whole claws, the dish is livened up with tomatoes, garlic, onions, and spicy goat peppers. Crab n’ rice is a seasonal specialty, so enjoy this dish during your next summertime visit to the Bahamas.
14. Coconut tart
Visitors to the Bahamas always notice the coconut palms growing everywhere, and all those fruits are put to good use on the islands. One of the yummiest uses of coconuts is in the traditional Bahamian coconut tart, a recipe that dates back to the 17th century.
Unlike fruit tarts you may be familiar with, the coconut tart has a cake-like dough topped with a thick fruit filling made from coconut, simple syrup, and nutmeg. A second layer of dough sandwiches the filling, and tart-makers often add a decorative lattice pattern on top. Yum!
Snorkelers and divers will be familiar with the exotic-looking (and venomous) lionfish that now makes its home in Caribbean waters. This invasive species has no natural predators and threatens the sustainability of native marine populations.
What can we as responsible travelers do to help? Eat them of course! Several years ago, the famous Graycliff Restaurant in Nassau added lionfish to its menu, and many other chefs in the area have followed suit. Now that lionfish is a valuable commodity, fishermen have been eager to help control the population, potentially saving native marine species.
Lionfish is a flaky, buttery white fish that adapts well to various methods of preparation. If you like grouper or mahi-mahi, give lionfish a try when you visit the Bahamas. And yes—lionfish are safe to eat!
Food tours in the Bahamas
Do you want to sample lots of these foods in the Bahamas, but you don’t have much time? Or maybe you just don’t know where to go? Here are some awesome food tours you can book in popular tourist areas in the Bahamas.
Nassau food tours
Freeport food tours
Helpful resources for your trip to the Bahamas
What are your favorite foods in the Bahamas? Have you ever wanted to try any of these Bahamian foods? Let me know in the comments below!
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