Top 10 Traditional Foods in Antigua & Barbuda
Antigua and Barbuda, centrally located in the Eastern Caribbean, is popularly known as the ‘Land of 365 beaches’. Another thing visitors often rave about is the decadent food that is served up each day.
By this, we are not only referring to the fresh Barbuda lobsters that are seasoned and grilled to perfection when in season. There is also the succulent Antigua black pineapple, which is world-renowned and homegrown in the region.
Here are what we consider the top 10 most popular traditional dishes that Antigua and Barbuda has to offer and which we would highly recommend to anyone.
1. Saltfish and Chop Up
Saltfish (usually cod preserved with salt) is a staple in many Antiguan and Barbudan pantries.
A popular way to prepare this dish is by soaking or boiling the fish to remove the salt, then deboning and flaking it. The fish is then cooked with onions, tomatoes, garlic, and other veggies, and it is often served alongside Chop up for breakfast.
Chop up is a soft mash of boiled, chopped-up vegetables, namely callaloo, eggplants, and okra. Chop up by itself is vegetarian friendly, while the combo of saltfish and chop up is usually served alongside butter bread, Johnny cakes, mashed cassava, and other carb-rich breakfast staples.
2. Bun and Cheese
Bun and cheese is a popular breakfast item that can be purchased directly from local bakeries. The highlight of this dish is the Antigua raisin bun, which is spliced open, buttered, and eaten with sliced cheese: hence the name Bun and cheese.
Bun and cheese is most often eaten for breakfast but can also be eaten as a snack throughout the day. This dish is also eaten all year-round in Antigua and Barbuda, unlike in some of the other Caribbean countries where people only make buns for Easter.
3. Johnny Cakes
These balls of kneaded, deep-fried goodness are another staple in A&B. Crunchy and golden on the outside, soft and fluffy on the inside, Johnny Cakes are vegetarian-friendly, though they are usually served with meaty sides at breakfast time.
While in some Caribbean islands, this dish is referred to as fried dumplings and is made large enough to be spliced open and stuffed, the variation popular in Antigua and Barbuda is typically the size of golf balls.
However, rest assured that the portion sizes are generous as the smaller the Johnny Cakes, the more you can expect to get on your plate. These floury balls of deep-fried dough are sometimes even available at outdoor food stalls that sell barbeque, soups, and other local foods.
4. Black Pudding
Also called rice pudding, this dish is not a pudding at all in the classical sense of the word. Rather, black pudding is a sausage that is made of special herbs and spices along with blood and, optionally, rice and/or potatoes, all encased in animal intestines, usually cow, pig or goat.
The dish is very popular with British tourists, though others consider it an acquired taste. For most, though, this delicacy is extremely appetizing and it can be found throughout the Caribbean under many different names.
5. Goat Water
Goat water is one of the most iconic soups found in the Caribbean region, Antigua and Barbuda is no exception. Often described as a well-seasoned, meat-rich dish, it contains a light broth that is both extremely flavorful and aromatic.
You can expect to taste lots of herbs and spices in this dish, such as cinnamon and cloves, for instance. Don’t be surprised either to find lots of meat falling off the bone, and a burst of flavor with each spoonful!
Goat water is perfect as the first meal of the day as it’s so filling, but it can be found at many restaurants in Antigua and Barbuda throughout the day.
6. Conch Water
If you’re a fan of conch fritters and conch chowder, then you are likely to enjoy this extremely conch-rich dish that packs a flavorful punch!
Conch water is a light soup, seasoned to taste, which showcases the briny richness of the spiraled-shelled marine animal it is named after. This dish is very popular with seafood aficionados and can usually be found on every island that the turquoise water of the Caribbean Sea touches.
In Antigua and Barbuda, conch water is usually sold at roadside stands, mostly on Saturdays though it is also available as a menu item at several restaurants throughout the week. However, keep in mind that there is only a select period of the year when conch can legally be harvested from the ocean in A&B, so be sure to visit when conch is ‘in season’.
Souse is another dish that is extremely popular throughout the Caribbean. It can be served hot or cold, as an appetizer or as a full meal.
In Antigua and Barbuda, souse it is often eaten on Saturdays in homes and restaurants around the country, and a good souse begins with lots of different parts of the pig such as the head, trotters, and feet. The meat is tenderized, often in a pressure cooker, and then marinated in seasonings such as hot peppers, onion, garlic, and lime.
Souse is traditionally a very light soup though in some of the other islands it takes on a more ceviche-like consistency.
8. Fungee and Pepperpot
Also known as Antiguan polenta, fungee is part of the national dish of Antigua and Barbuda, which means that it does not get more traditional than this!
Fungee, which is vegetarian, is essentially a combination of cornmeal, okra water, and seasonings. This side dish is most often served with pepperpot, a hearty, one-pot stew that originated in Guyana and became adapted throughout the Caribbean.
Fungee and pepperpot is usually eaten for breakfast in A&B and it is usually available throughout the year. Special importance is given to the dish during patriotic holidays, when the country’s culture and cuisine are celebrated.
A hotly debated topic in Antigua and Barbuda is whether ducuna should be made with or without raisins. Either way, it is extremely delicious!
This vegetarian dish is renowned for its versatility and for how extremely filling it is. It can be served hot as a side dish, cold as a dessert, or thinly sliced and fried as a snack.
Often described as a dumpling, ducuna is most commonly made with grated sweet potato, coconut, and pumpkin with flavorful seasonings such as cinnamon. The mixture is then wrapped in a banana leaf and boiled in water like a Mexican tamale for it to harden and achieve the right consistency.
10. Seasoned Rice
Seasoned rice is a favorite with many local households in Antigua and Barbuda and is regularly cooked throughout the week.
As the name suggests, this is a rice dish, well-seasoned, and including chunks of meats (usually still on the bone). Usually, a combination of chicken, pork and/or beef is used to make seasoned rice, and usually beans and veggies are added.
This darkly colored dish is simple but tasty and goes well with a splash of hot sauce and a nice, fresh salad.
Most of these tasty dishes are accompanied by a selection of local beverages, keeping with the custom of true island living. Starting with breakfast, you can expect to be offered freshly brewed and aromatic bush tea, made from various herbs, fruits, flower petals, leaves, and tree bark. While for lunch and dinner, you can choose from a selection of locally-made cold beverages such as lime juice, passion fruit juice, sea moss, and sorrel.
There is also a variety of local liquors that are available at any time such as the local Wadadli beer and the English Harbour Rum that are indigenous to the islands. Finally, an assortment of local sweet treats can also be easily procured for dessert, including fruit cake, coconut tart, fudge, sugar cake, and many others.
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