Veganism has grown widely in popularity in places all over the world. Many people opt for a plant-based diet of healthy fruits, vegetables, grains, and beans. Even non-vegans take meatless days, indulging in delicious meat alternatives made from chickpeas, jackfruit, and mushrooms.
If you’re traveling or relocating to the Caribbean and wondering how you’ll maintain your vegan diet, many tasty dishes await you. From Jamaica to Trinidad, vegan fare is easy to find on the islands. Vegan food is a staple in many Caribbean dishes, from tostones in Puerto Rico to mangú in the Dominican Republic.
With over 13 islands and delicious vegan options on each, it’s hard to choose our favorite dishes. Still, we’ve put together three top Caribbean vegan dishes you should try on your next trip to paradise.
What is a Vegan Lifestyle?
Before we delve into these three delectable vegan dishes, let’s take a moment to grasp the essence of a vegan lifestyle and the advantages it offers.
At its core, a vegan lifestyle is rooted in compassion and ethical values. Vegans choose to exclude all forms of animal exploitation from their lives, including food, clothing, cosmetics, and entertainment. They embrace a plant-based diet that eliminates meat, poultry, seafood, dairy, eggs, and honey.
Additionally, vegans steer clear of products derived from animals, such as leather, fur, and products tested on animals. This conscientious choice aims to minimize harm to animals, promote sustainable practices, and foster a more harmonious relationship between humans and other sentient beings.
Beyond its ethical and environmental implications, adopting a vegan lifestyle has been linked to numerous health benefits. A well-planned and balanced vegan diet can provide all the necessary nutrients for optimal health and well-being. Here are a handful of reasons why veganism is considered a healthy lifestyle:
- Reduced risk of chronic diseases such as heart diseases, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer
- Effective weight management and metabolic health
- Enhanced nutritional value
- Increased intake of fiber, antioxidants, and phytochemicals for overall well-being
- Improved heart health with lower cholesterol and blood pressure
The web is brimming with a plethora of articles and websites dedicated to providing valuable insights and comprehensive information about the vegan lifestyle. There is an abundance of online resources ensures that you’ll find an abundance of valuable content at your fingertips. Whether you’re a curious individual looking to explore the benefits of a plant-based diet or a committed vegan seeking to enhance your knowledge.
From in-depth nutritional guides to delicious vegan recipes, these websites and articles cater to a wide range of interests and offer a wealth of information to help you embrace and thrive in the vegan lifestyle. Here are just a few web sites that shed more light on the vegan lifestyle:
- The Vegan Diet – A Complete Guide for Beginners
- Going Vegan 101
- I love Vegan
- Rainbow Plant Life
- Minimalist Vegan
- Amazon Prime – Vegan Lifestyle
- Vegan Lifestyle: Why Veganism is More than Just a Diet
The Caribbean: A Region of Islands and Coasts
The Caribbean, a region renowned for its pristine beaches, crystal-clear waters, and vibrant culture, is located in the western part of the Atlantic Ocean. The Caribbeans stretch across an area of approximately 1.06 million square miles.
The Caribbeans encompasses numerous islands, archipelagos, and coastal areas. It is bordered by the Gulf of Mexico to the west, the North Atlantic Ocean to the east, the Caribbean Sea to the south, and the Caribbean Basin to the north.
The Caribbean region is primarily made up of the Caribbean Sea, which is home to more than 7,000 islands, islets, and cays. These islands can be further divided into the Greater Antilles, including Cuba, Jamaica, Hispaniola (shared by Haiti and the Dominican Republic), and Puerto Rico, and the Lesser Antilles.
The Lesser Antilles consist of smaller islands such as Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, St. Lucia, and Grenada. The Caribbean Sea itself is located between the North and South American continents, and it serves as a gateway between the Atlantic Ocean and the wider Caribbean region. Top of Form
Even though Jamaica is a small island, it has produced some famous people and things.
- Blue Mountain Coffee: Jamaica is renowned for producing some of the finest coffee in the world, particularly the esteemed Blue Mountain coffee. Grown in the misty mountains of the island, this smooth and flavorful coffee is cherished by coffee connoisseurs worldwide.
- Luminous Lagoon: Jamaica is home to one of the world’s few bioluminescent bays, known as the Luminous Lagoon. This natural wonder lights up at night with a mesmerizing glow caused by the microscopic organisms in the water. Take a boat tour and witness this magical phenomenon as the lagoon sparkles around you, creating a truly surreal experience.
- Reggae Music and Bob Marley: Jamaica is the birthplace of reggae music, a genre that has become synonymous with the island’s culture. The legendary Bob Marley, one of the most influential musicians of all time, hails from Jamaica, and his spirit lives on in the vibrant music scene and the devotion of the Jamaican people to their musical heritage.
When is the Best Time to Travel to the Caribbeans?
Generally, the peak tourist season in the Caribbean is from December to April. This is when the weather is usually dry and temperatures are pleasantly warm. This period is ideal for those seeking sunny days, clear skies, and a lively atmosphere with various events and festivals taking place.
However, it’s worth noting that this is also the busiest time, and prices for accommodations and flights tend to be higher. If you prefer fewer crowds and lower rates, you might consider visiting during the shoulder seasons, which are from May to June and November. During these months, the weather is still enjoyable, with warm temperatures and fewer tourists.
The Caribbean does have a rainy season, typically from July to October. August and September are the peak months for hurricanes. Prices tend to be lower during the rainy season, making it an attractive option for budget-conscious travelers.
The hurricane season in the Caribbean typically runs from June 1st to November 30th. During this period, there is an increased risk of tropical storms and hurricanes forming in the region. The peak of the hurricane season usually falls between August and October, with September being the most active month historically.
It’s important to note that not all Caribbean islands are equally susceptible to hurricanes. Some islands are located outside the primary hurricane belt and have a lower risk of being directly affected by major storms. Islands such as Aruba, Bonaire, Curaçao, Barbados, and Trinidad and Tobago, for example, are generally considered to have a lower risk compared to others in the region.
Eating Plant-Based in the Caribbean
Eating plant-based is a way of life for many. Whether it’s a dedication to animals, your health, the environment, or a combination of the three, it’s apparent that eating vegan means much more than not eating animals. If you live in a metropolitan area, vegan food is likely right in your backyard. But what happens when you venture out to another place?
You’ll be pleasantly surprised if your next location is in the Caribbean. The beautiful tropical climate with sunshine year-round makes the Caribbean islands the ideal environment for exotic fruits and vegetables. Locals indulge in tropical fruits such as soursop, mangos, bananas, and coconuts. There’s also no shortage of fresh vegetables and legumes, including callaloo, okra, pigeon peas, and chayote.
Plenty of Caribbean dishes are inherently vegan. Although many people in the Caribbean eat meat and fish, the typical diet also consists of rice, beans, fruits, and vegetables.
For example, many Rastafarians in Jamaica follow an Ital diet. Rastafari is a Jamaican religion developed in the 1930s. The Rasta way of life considers the body as a temple and encourages members to eat as so.
The Ital diet promotes natural living and restricts eating most animals and animal by-products. There are different variations of Rastafari, so some Rastas follow a strictly vegan diet while others are vegetarian or don’t eat red meat. Opportunities abound for you to enjoy unique vegan dishes in the Caribbean.
Where to find Vegan Dishes in the Caribbean
Nowadays, it’s much easier to find at least one vegan restaurant almost anywhere you go. Still, you may find more vegan food options because of where you are in the Caribbean. Here are some of the best islands for vegan dishes in the Caribbean:
- Puerto Rico
- Trinidad and Tobago
- The Cayman Islands
- St. Lucia
Many of these islands accommodate vegans with similar dishes you’d find back home, like black bean burgers and vegan mac and cheese. But if you want to eat like a local, you can discover many traditional vegan dishes at street vendors, family restaurants, and cafes.
Exploring new cuisine opens your eyes to new ways to experiment with your favorite foods and create something delicious. Whether you’re eating at a food cart or learning from a local, these three dishes are the perfect place to start discovering delicious plant-based Caribbean food.
Vegan Ackee and “Saltfish”
Ackee and Saltfish is the national dish of Jamaica. Jamaicans commonly enjoy this dish for breakfast or brunch.
Native to West Africa, ackee is a savory fruit with a thick crimson skin. When ripe, the sealed ackee opens up to resemble a flower-like shape with three to four yellow pegs and black seeds. Ackee has a delicate, nutty taste and soft texture that easily absorbs any flavor.
Enslaved Africans brought along the ackee seed to Jamaica as a good-luck charm. Fresh ackee can be poisonous if not prepared correctly.
Before picking, the skin must naturally open. Each yellow peg is then picked and thoroughly cleaned, and the red membrane embedded in the flesh is removed. You can also find canned ackee readily available in markets throughout the Caribbean.
Saltfish, or salted cod, is popular not only in the Caribbean but also in Europe, Africa, and the Americas. Originally used as a cheap form of nourishment for enslaved people, saltfish gradually became a staple in many Caribbean meals.
The ackee and saltfish combination makes a unique, creamy, salty dish bursting with flavor. Garlic, onions, thyme, scotch bonnet pepper, green peppers, and scallion are all added to create a divine meal. A side of avocado, steamed callaloo, fried ripe plantain, and fried dumplings complete this incredible feast.
You can replace the salted cod with hearts of palm to make vegan ackee and “saltfish”. Hearts of palm are the cores of palm trees. These fleshy, slightly crunchy, but tender vegetables make the perfect saltfish replacement. When you soak hearts of palm in a salt brine with a few nori flakes, you won’t even miss the saltfish.
Trinidad and Tobago is a twin island nation near Venezuela in the southern West Indies. Within its breathtaking beaches and picturesque mountains lies incredible options for delicious vegan food. Indian, South Asian, and West African cuisine highly influence Trinidad’s cuisine. You’ll easily find many delightful vegan options with staples like rice, roti, chickpeas, curries, and dhal.
Trinidadian Doubles is a staple street food that’s also vegan. This tasty sandwich is made with two pieces of fried flatbread and stuffed with curried chickpeas. You can dress your doubles with delicious coriander and tamarind sauces, mango chutney, kuchela (spicy, green mango chutney), and cucumber.
The secret to irresistible Doubles is slow-cooked, tender chickpeas that have simmered long enough to soak up all the flavor of the curry sauce. A perfect vegan treat for any time of the day, you can find doubles in popular restaurants, little cafes, or just walking down the street in Trinidad and Tobago.
Side note: Trinidad and Tobago, are a vibrant and diverse twin-island nation, located in the southern part of the Caribbean Sea. Situated just off the northeastern coast of Venezuela, Trinidad and Tobago can be found in the region known as the Lesser Antilles.
Trinidad, the larger of the two islands, lies closer to the South American mainland, while Tobago is situated further northeast. With their tropical climate and stunning natural beauty, these islands offer a unique fusion of cultures, traditions, and landscapes. From lush rainforests and pristine beaches to bustling cities and charming villages, Trinidad and Tobago provide a captivating experience for visitors. They can showcase their rich history, warm hospitality, and breathtaking scenery of the Caribbean.
Here are a few additional links of what you can do in this twin-island nation:
- Things to do in Trinidad and Tobago
- 12 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Trinidad and Tobago
- Must see attractions in Trinidad and Tobago
Doubles may have arrived on the food scene less than a century ago, but they’re cherished by everyone from both locals and tourists. Today, Doubles has made its way up the Caribbean chain to other islands, including St Lucia, Grenada, and even Jamaica. The food is loved so much that May 30th is recognized as International Doubles Day.
Jamaican Jerk Jackfruit
Jerk Jackfruit doesn’t come as a surprise on this list. You might have even indulged in jerk jackfruit tacos at a restaurant in your hometown.
Jerk is a traditional seasoning originating in Jamaica, but islands throughout the Caribbean use many variations. You can add Jerk seasoning to everything from fish to tofu. Most jerk seasonings include a blend of spices, including:
- Onion powder
- Garlic powder
- Cayenne pepper
- Black pepper
- Dried thyme
- Hot pepper flakes
Jackfruit is a tropical tree fruit in the fig, mulberry, and breadfruit family. Native to Asia, Africa, and South America, jackfruit is an incredible meat alternative. The flesh of young, unripe jackfruit easily absorbs flavors and marinades. No wonder jerk seasoning is the perfect addition to jackfruit.
Jerk jackfruit takes a creative spin on a staple Jamaican flavor. Jackfruit’s firm texture and neutral flavor, mixed with a bold jerk kick, create a hearty meat substitute that pulls apart into strings reminiscent of pulled pork.
You might be used to jerk jackfruit tacos in Western places like the US. But in the Caribbean, there are many ways to enjoy jerk jackfruit. You can make a delicious sandwich or pair jerk jackfruit with other vegan Caribbean staples, like rice and peas, avocado, and mixed vegetables to make delicious food.
Enjoy Vegan Dishes in the Caribbean
Caribbean food is one of the most beloved cuisines on the globe. With such a wide range of influences from across the world, Caribbean fare marries the best of each to create delightful dishes bursting with unique flavors. Luckily, as a vegan, you don’t have to miss out on the excitement.
You may even be tempted to travel to each island and see what it has to offer. Be sure to travel safely, and don’t forget to purchase overseas insurance or international insurance. That way, you can protect yourself if any accidents happen.
Here are a handful of great web sites dedicated to vegan dishes found in the Caribbeans:
Veggies Abroad – https://veggiesabroad.com/vegan-friendly-caribbean-islands
Island Routes – https://www.islandroutes.com/inspiration/vegan-in-the-caribbean
9 Best Cities for Vegans to Travel in the Caribbean – https://www.vegantravelagent.com/9-best-cities-for-vegans-to-travel-in-the-caribbean
9 Best Vegan Resorts in the Caribbean 2023 – https://ecoworlder.com/9-best-vegan-resorts-in-the-caribbean-2022
Everything You Need to Know About Vegan Caribbean Food – https://vegnews.com/interviews/vegan-caribbean-heritage-month
Royal Caribbean Vegan Food: Best Vegan Dining on the Cruise – https://justinpluslauren.com/royal-caribbean-vegan/
Don’t Forget to Travel Safely!
We hope you have discovered that you can embark on a Caribbean adventure while adhering to a vegan lifestyle. You can whip up delightful plant-based meals at home.
However, it’s crucial not to overlook a vital aspect of your journey: travel insurance. One very important step that people forget when making international travel plans is purchasing travel insurance.
We never plan for accidents to happen, but sadly, they happen more than we realize. We’ve been serving travelers for over 25 years and have heard more tragic stories than we would have liked.
To view the best travel insurance option for you and your family, please head over here. And if you are looking for trip cancellation insurance to protect your travel investments and deposits please head over here.
Before you travel, make sure you have a travel health insurance plan that will protect you and your loved ones. You will be able to travel with peace of mind knowing your covered if anything unfortunate happens. Good Neighbor Insurance also has created short videos on how to use your trip cancellation and travel insurance as well as questions and answers our guests have asked over the years.
- Videos on Understanding my trip cancellation insurance
- Videos on Understanding my travel insurance
- Ask Doug – Questions and Answers about your Travel Insurance
We sincerely hope you enjoy your travels in the great Caribbean and beyond!