International Cooking: Food from Barbados

This week I returned to the Caribbean, cooking food from Barbados!

Barbados is an island country in the Caribbean and is thought to have first been visited by humans around 1600 BCE. Evidence suggests more permanent settlements emerged between the 4th and 7th century.

During the late 15th century, the Spanish claimed Barbados. However, it seems they were only interested in the people, many of whom they took as slaves. A few decades later, the Portuguese staked their claim on the island, but they abandoned it. All that remained from their claim were wild boars, which they had introduced to ensure a good supply of meat on future visits.

In 1627, the British established a colony on Barbados. This colony operated plantations and relied on African slaves to work them. Slavery was gradually discontinued after the Slavery Abolition Act in 1833.

Barbados gained independence in 1966, and today is a republic within the Commonwealth. It is one of the leading tourist destinations in the Caribbean.

What Do People Eat in Barbados?

Bajan cuisine is a result of influences from many countries, though most of the meals I came across seemed to be in line with what other Caribbean countries eat. Curry is popular, though not native to Barbados, and you can also get British-style fish and chips and American fast foods such as hot dogs and burgers.

As you might expect, fish is popular in Barbados. Flying fish is the most prominent native fish, but mahi mahi and billfish, such as swordfish, are common too.

Chicken and pork show up in a lot of dishes, and it was suggested I make a ham as part of my cooking challenge since I could use the leftovers for sandwiches. I did like this idea, but ultimately decided against it because it would have been too much food just for me (my husband is weird and doesn’t like ham).

A meal will typically consist of a main dish based on meat or fish, accompanied by a few side dishes, such as potato salad, macaroni pie, cou cou, or rice and peas. Popular condiments are ketchup and Bajan pepper sauce.

Desserts are often based on coconut, rum, raisins, or local fruits. There were a few things I was interested in trying, but ultimately I ruled them out. There are only so many sweet things I can fit into this challenge!

What I Made

Scroll down to read about other popular Barbadian dishes I didn’t make!

Bajan Swordfish

Bajan Swordfish

Since I knew I couldn’t make Barbados’ national dish, fried flying fish, I decided to prepare a different fish dish. I followed some suggestions from Reddit and went with swordfish cooked with Bajan seasoning.

I seasoned the fish according to this recipe from Milk Street, with onion, chives, garlic, thyme, allspice, lime zest, and a little vinegar and brown sugar. I baked it in the oven instead of grilling it, but I do think it would be really good grilled. It was my first time eating swordfish and I wasn’t sure how it would hold up, but it turned out pretty well. I served this with some Bajan pepper sauce and macaroni pie.

Macaroni Pie

Macaroni Pie

I know I made macaroni and cheese only a few weeks ago for the Bahamas, but macaroni pie was a popular suggestion and I did still have half a box of macaroni so I decided to go ahead and make it.

This was similar in some ways to the Bahamian macaroni and cheese in that both are usually served in squares, feature peppers and onion, and are often a little spicy. But this version also had ketchup and mustard, and I have to say they gave the dish great flavor. It doesn’t taste like ketchup or mustard at all, just delicious. I got the recipe from Cooking Aboard With Jill.

Bajan Pepper Sauce

Bajan Pepper Sauce

This isn’t really a dish on its own, but it’s a very popular condiment in Barbados. I thought about buying some from Amazon, but I already have like five different kinds of hot sauce. Then I came across a recipe for homemade Bajan pepper sauce from, so I decided to just make it. It’s meant to be made with scotch bonnet peppers, but I used habaneros instead since that’s what I could get. My sauce isn’t completely smooth, but the recipe said to leave it slightly chunky so I did.

This stuff was really good! I ate it with the swordfish and with various sandwiches I made with the salt bread (see below). It’s also really good on eggs.

Salt Bread

Salt Bread

This bread isn’t actually salty. In fact, these are really just like regular bread rolls, and I love bread so I don’t need much of an excuse to make some. In Barbados, salt bread is one of the few types of bread that isn’t sweet, which is probably how it got its name. It’s popular for making sandwiches with a range of ingredients.

I used the recipe from My Bajan, but I doubled the salt because I didn’t think there was enough. True, this bread isn’t supposed to be salty, but if you don’t put enough salt in bread it can come out tasting pretty bland. My salt bread came out delicious, and I’m glad I did increase the salt.

Cutter (Sandwich)


In Barbaros, a sandwich is known as a cutter. A common cutter filling is ham and cheese with Bajan pepper sauce, and I added some tomato as well. Mayonnaise, mustard, and ketchup are common condiments too. It is important to use proper cheese here, like cheddar, and not American cheese. According to the Bajan subreddit, that would be wrong. This was easy for me though, since I rarely buy American cheese and always have cheddar on hand. Ham, cheese, and tomato sandwiches happen to be one of my favorites, and I love the Bajan pepper sauce, so of course I enjoyed this a lot.

Pudding and Souse

Pudding and Souse

Pudding and souse is a popular lunch in Barbaros. The pudding is made of steamed sweet potato, and the souse is pickled pork. Traditionally, the souse was made using pig trotters, ear, snout, and tongue, but this isn’t always the case nowadays. I used a more modern recipe from, which suggested pork shoulder could be used for the souse.

I cooked the pork shoulder, then shredded it, and mixed it with cucumber, lime juice, parsley, onion, and habanero. I refrigerated the souse for a few hours before serving. The pudding is just grated sweet potato mixed with thyme, marjoram, chives, more habanero, and some butter. This used to be mixed with pig’s blood and is often still served in pork casings, but I didn’t use either. The pudding can be steamed or baked in the oven. I chose to bake it since that was easier for me.

This is usually served with breadfruit on the side, but that’s not something I can get here. I made a lot of salt bread so I ate that with my pudding and souse.

I actually don’t really like sweet potato. I find it too sweet! So I was kind of wary about the pudding. But it actually turned out pretty good, and I think it’s because usually when I’ve had sweet potato before, it’s been roasted, which just makes it sweeter. Sweet potato is something I have always wanted to like, so maybe now I’ll try eating it in some other recipes.

As a whole, I found this dish to be really good.

Fish Cakes

Fish Cakes

Bajan fish cakes are made from salted cod, onion, herbs, and Bajan pepper sauce, held together in a flour, egg, and milk batter. They’re deep-fried and can be served as an appetizer with various dipping sauces, or on salt bread.

I used the recipe from Mrs. Island Breeze and I have to say, these things were really good. Salted cod isn’t easy for me to get and I already had regular cod in the freezer, so I decided to use that instead. I did find a method of salting the fish briefly, which I carried out, and I made sure to add salt to the fish cake batter. I will add this to my ever-growing list of recipes to try with salted cod when I get some since these were delicious and I know I’ll make them again.

Bread and Two (Fish Cake Sandwich)

Bread and Two

This is just a sandwich with two fish cakes on it, known in Barbados as ‘bread and two’. I added some Bajan pepper sauce too. I don’t feel this is a proper dish on its own but since I was already making the salt bread and the fish cakes, I thought I would eat it and take a photo. This was delicious!



Bajan bakes are like little, sweet, cinnamon-flavored pancakes, though they don’t have egg in them and are made with water rather than milk. I shallow-fried mine, but they are often deep-fried. Bakes are typically eaten for breakfast, often with other foods such as bacon, eggs, beans, and plantains, but they can also be enjoyed as a snack throughout the day.

I followed this recipe from Cookpad because the author talks about their Bajan nan making them, so it must be authentic! I really liked them; my husband ate them but says they’re not for him. But he’s picky and won’t eat 90% of the things I’m making for this challenge so that doesn’t mean much.

  • Fried flying fish – breaded and fried fillets of flying fish, usually served with a creole sauce and cou cou. Cou cou is made from cornmeal and okra (similar to the fungee I made for Antigua and Barbuda).
  • Jug jug – a side dish made from pigeon peas, guinea corn flour, and salted meat. Herbs and onions are added for seasoning. This is usually served hot with sliced meat and is popular at Christmas.
  • Coconut turnovers – baked buns with a sweet coconut filling, usually seasoned with spices such as allspice and cinnamon.
  • Conkies – a sweetened mixture of cornmeal, coconut, sweet potato, raisins, and pumpkin wrapped in banana leaves and steamed. Conkies are traditionally made during November to celebrate Barbados’ independence.

Final Thoughts

This was another great week! I think my favorite dish was the fish cakes, and the salt bread made for some excellent sandwiches.

Next week I will be cooking food from Belarus.

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