Haitian Food: 20 Best Dishes to Try in Haiti
The nation of Haiti is located on the island of Hispañola, side by side with the Dominican Republic. It is known not only as the world’s first black republic but also for its beautiful beaches, culture, and cuisine.
Like other Caribbean islands, Haitian cooks have developed unique cooking techniques and use the freshest local ingredients to create unique, delicious, and simply unforgettable traditional dishes.
If you’re looking forward to sampling a range of exotic, mouth-watering treats on your next trip, we’ve listed 20 typical Haitian dishes every traveler should experience when discovering this incredible Caribbean island.
1. Soup Joumou
Soup joumou is placed #1 on our list because it symbolizes freedom for Haitians. In 2021 it was also added to UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage list of global treasures.
This soup, made with squash purée, beef, potatoes, and vegetables, is traditionally served on New Year’s Day to celebrate Haiti’s hard-fought independence from France.
It was once the exclusive delicacy of the white masters, while the enslaved people who prepared it were forbidden to eat it. But since January 1st, 1804 – the day Haitian revolutionary leader Jean-Jacques Dessalines declared Haiti’s independence – joumou has become a symbol of freedom that graces every Haitian’s table on New Year’s Day.
At home, with family and friends, everyone hopes to enjoy a bowl of soup joumou on that day – a culinary event and celebration of freedom that’s not to be missed.
Haitian kremas is an emblematic Haitian alcoholic drink served on special occasions in Haiti. It’s a luscious cocktail of coconut milk, unsweetened condensed milk, sweetened condensed milk, spices, and rum.
Together, they create a sweet, smooth, and creamy texture, and a small glass is enough to make your taste buds explode with pleasure. During the Christmas holidays, kremas is a must-have drink, but be cautious – it’s so delicious that it’s tempting to keep on drinking. But all that alcohol will shock you when you try to stand up!
Fritays are small pieces of pork, marinated and then grilled (griots), and served with a hot sauce and fried plantains. They are the favorite meal of Haitians in a hurry and are sold all over the country by roadside chefs with cooking equipment installed under a makeshift hut.
At first, you may be wary of trying them, once you’ve taken the plunge and tasted a sample, you’ll be delighted that you have and likely be back for more!
Legim is among the most popular Haitian vegetable stews. It is made from a wide variety of vegetables, including green beans, watercress, chayote squash, carrots, cabbage – the list goes on, and every Haitian cook has their unique take on the basics.
According to some, pikliz takes its name from the English word pickles. This makes sense, as pickles everywhere are a mixture of raw vegetables macerated in vinegar – just like the Haitian pikliz. Pikliz is hands-down every Haitian’s favorite condiment. If you try it, you’ll notice that no matter how much pickliz you devour, there is rarely enough.
This crunchy blend of cabbage and carrots makes this condiment the perfect side dish. It makes an ideal partner for all kinds of fried dishes such as griot, fried chicken, weighed banana, etc, as the acidity of the pickliz balances the rich fattiness of the fried food.
6. Pate Kòde (Haitian Patties)
This might be your new favorite if you’re looking for a new comfort food. Pate kode are delicious and you’ll have plenty of choice of fillings, such as hot dogs and eggs, smoked herring and eggs, chicken and cabbage, etc.
The possibilities are endless when stuffing these patties, you can literally put whatever you want in them and they’ll still taste good!
7. Haitian’s Russian Salad
No matter what Haitian event you’re attending, potato and beet salad almost always finds its way onto the table.
This famous Haitian combo is a special local take on the more traditional versions of the Russian salad. It is a colorful salad made of potatoes and mayonnaise mixed with the beet’s scarlet color, making it appealing to the eye and the palate. It is found in every Haitian home during the holidays and on Sundays and is often accompanied by rice djondjon or macaroni gratin.
Akasan is a specialty found throughout Haiti. Usually served hot or warm at breakfast accompanied by bread, it is a real treat for the stomach and a source of income for the many vendors who sell it.
This drink is prepared with cornmeal or milled corn kernels, milk (as desired), and aromatic spices such as cinnamon. These ingredients make akasan a filling drink that’s also a valuable source of nutrients.
Tchaka is one of the most popular specialties of Haiti. It combines red peas, dried cracked corn, and smoked and salted pork meat (especially pig’s trotters). It needs to simmer for many hours for the flavors to develop and takes a day to prepare.
Although a bit time-consuming, the preparation of this dish is quite simple. The peas and corn are cooked separately and then mixed with the pork. The mixture is spiced to taste and left to simmer until the tchaka has the desired rich consistency. A simple but mouth-watering preparation that’s well worth waiting for.
This versatile bread is made from manioc. It is usually eaten for breakfast, as a snack, or in the evening with butter, mamba, jam, avocado, or anything else you feel like. It can also be filled with coconut – really, the only limit is your imagination!
11. Dous Makòs
Dous Makos is a variety of vanilla fudge originating in Petit-Goave, Haiti. The sweet usually contains three signature stripes:
- A light-colored vanilla layer
- A chocolate layer
- A red layer made with food coloring
The candy was created in 1939, by Fernand Macos, who many consider the founder of the Haitian version of the Hershey family. Look out for this luscious treat whenever you’re in Haiti -it’s now a part of the country’s food culture!
12. Bonbon Siwo
If you want to add the flavors of Haiti to your table, bonbon siwo, Haitian gingerbread, is the dessert for you. This hot and spicy tropical treat is also easy to make.
It’s dark and dense thanks to the coconut milk and cane syrup and is boldly flavored with fresh ginger, cloves, and cinnamon. Make this Haitian treat for your loved ones to serve with a cup of hot chocolate or milk.
13. Haitian Pork Griot
Haitian griot is a recipe for marinated pork that is so succulent that even a dedicated vegetarian could make it their favorite dish! But, joking aside, there’s a good reason why Haitian griot is genuinely one of the most famous meat dishes in Haiti and a favorite at family gatherings and celebrations.
Boneless pork is marinated in a broth of citrus, garlic, onions, shallots, and a mixture of spices before being pan-fried until crispy. You can accompany the griot with rice, bannann peze (fried plantain) and don’t forget to add some pikliz (pickled veggies).
14. Diri Djondjon
Diri djondjon is a classic Haitian rice dish cooked with local black mushrooms called “djondjon”. These provide a unique flavor and impart a striking gray-black color to the rice.
Djondjon rice is cooked like traditional rice, but seasonings and additional ingredients vary. Although it’s typically prepared with lima beans, fresh or frozen peas can make an acceptable substitute! It will be just as good. The dish can also be served with fish, chicken, or shrimp mixed into the rice, making it extra filling and delicious.
15. Bouillon tèt kabrit
Bouillon tèt kabrit is a traditional dish that receives very mixed reviews. The name means ‘bouillon with a goat’s head’ in English, and an entire goat’s skull is one of the key ingredients.
The tender goat meat is simmered in a traditional Creole sauce for this Haitian dish, including the goat’s guts and intestines. It is served with seasonal vegetables or rice for a mouthwatering and hearty meal worth trying.
16. TomTom ak Kalalou Gombo
Although Tomtom ak Kalalou Gombo is now considered a specialty of Jeremie in southern Haiti, in colonial times, it was the daily meal of Haitians. It’s made from boiled and crushed breadfruits served with seafood and okra sauce.
Tomtom ak kalalou is made for sociable mealtimes. The traditional way to serve this dish is to place the mashed breadfruit in the middle of the table, the gumbo purée next to it, and invite the assembled guests to take turns digging in with their fingers. Next, they dip it into the gumbo sauce to season and finally pop it into their mouths in one go. Then pause to enjoy until the next round. This dish is the ultimate sharing experience for those who want to spend time bonding with their family.
PS: If you get the opportunity to try this dish, remember to swallow without chewing, as that is considered bad manners.
17. Pain Patate
Looking for a dessert to warm you up? Pain Patate is undoubtedly one you should look out for. Very popular among Haitians, it’s prepared with healthy sweet potatoes and spices.
The consistency can be anything from meltingly soft to as firm as banana bread, depending on the cook. However, if you like desserts, it’s guaranteed you’ll love this.
18. Diri ak Lalo
Diri ak Lalo is a traditional stew based on dark green lalo (jute leaves). This dish, when served with crab, is typical of Artibonite cooking and is one of their signatures takes on Haitian cuisine. This flavorful dish can also include beef or be meat-free and is served with national white rice.
19. Bouillie de Bananes Plantains
Another Haitian breakfast favorite is Labouyi Bannann (plantain porridge). It’s a must-try for every visitor to Haiti.
Porridge has long been an integral part of Caribbean cuisine. As a nutritious, low-glycemic carbohydrate full of fiber, porridge keeps you feeling full for an extended period. Rather than more common grains such as oats, wheat, and corn, Labouyi uses plantains. The result is meltingly soft, creamy, and light.
20. Mayi Moulen ak Zepina (Corn and Spinach)
Corn with spinach is a typical Haitian dish. Fresh local spinach is chopped and sautéed with onions and tomatoes. The coarse corn is then boiled to create a smooth, chewy cornmeal paste.
As Mayi is an excellent source of protein and iron, it’s typically served at breakfast with slices of fresh green avocado – the perfect energy boost to start the day. When planning a busy day’s sightseeing, there’s nothing better than this spinach corn dish to keep you energized all day.
Related: Most Popular Haitian Desserts
Related: Unmissable Haitian Christmas Foods