It originates from a blend of several culinary styles that populated the western portion of the island of Hispaniola, namely the French, African, Taíno natives, and Spanish influence.
Haitian cuisine, comparable to that of creole or criollo (Spanish for creole) cooking and similar to the rest of the Latin Caribbean, (the French and the Spanish-speaking countries of the Antilles), differs in several ways from its regional counterparts.
While the cuisine is unpretentious and simple, the flavors are bold and spicy that demonstrate a primary influence of African culinary aesthetic, paired with a very French sophistication with notable derivatives coming from native Taíno and Spanish techniques.
Though similar to other cooking styles in the region, it carries a uniqueness native only to the country and an appeal to many visitors to the island. Peppers and herbs are often used for a strengthening flavor. Dishes tend to be seasoned liberally.
Levantine influences have made its way into the mainstream culture, due to an Arab migration over the years, establishing many businesses. Years of adaptation have led to these cuisines to merge into Haitian cuisine
- Haiti was one of many Caribbean islands inhabited by the Taíno natives, speakers of an Arawakan language called Taíno.
- The barbecue (or BBQ) originated in Haiti.
- The barbecue not only survived in the Haitian cuisine, but was introduced to many different parts of the world and has numerous regional variations.
- They also introduced such Haitian specialties as the red beans and rice andmirliton (or called chayote; a pear-shaped vegetable) to the Louisiana Creole cuisine.
- When the Haitian Revolution ended and the people of Haiti won their independence in 1804 and established the world’s first black republic, thousands of refugees from the revolution, both whites and free people of color (affranchis or gens de couleur libres), fled to New Orleans, often bringing African slaves with them, doubling the city’s population.They also introduced such Haitian specialties as the red beans and rice andmirliton (or called chayote; a pear-shaped vegetable) to the Louisiana Creole cuisine.
List of Haitian dishes and sides
- Bouillon(mildly thick meat and vegetable soup)
- Goat meat
- Cassave or Kasav(flatbread made out of dried, processed bitter cassava, sometimes flavored with sweetened coconut.
- Chocolat des Cayes or Chokola La Kaye(homemade cocoa)
- Doukounou (sweet cornmeal pudding)
- Du riz blanche a sause pois noir or Diri blan ak sos pwa nwa(White rice and black bean sauce)
- Du riz djon djon or Diri ak djon djon(Rice in black mushroom sauce)
- Du riz a légume or Diri ak legim(Rice with Legumes)
- Du riz a pois or Diri ak pwa(Rice and beans)
- Du riz a pois rouges or Diri ak pwa wouj(Rice and red beans)
- Du riz a sauce pois or Diri ak sos pwa(Rice with bean sauce)
- Griot (seasoned fried pork with scallions and peppers in a bitter orange sauce)
- Macaroni au Gratin (macaroni and cheese)
- Pain Haïtien (Haitian Bread)
- Pate or Haitian patty(A very popular savory snack made with a delicate puff pastry stuffed with ground beef, salted cod (bacalao), smoked herring, chicken, and ground turkey topped with spices for a bold and spicy unique flavor)[
- Picklese or Pikliz(a slaw-like condiment made with spicy pickled cabbage, onion, carrot, and Scotch bonnet peppers)
- Salade de Betteraves (Beetsalad)
- Sauce Ti-Malice or Sos Ti-Malice(a spicy tangy sauce usually served over Griot or Cabrit)
- Soup joumou(pumpkin soup)
- Tassot et bananes pesées or Taso ak bannann peze(Fried Goat and fried plantains)
|Bulgar wheat (locally known as “blé”)
|Calabaza (a squash, also called “West Indian pumpkin”)
|Dried and salted cod||Dried black trumpet mushroom (locally called “djon djon”)||Eggplant
|Kidney bean (also called “red bean”)
|Malanga (also called “accra”)
|Polenta (a type of “corn meal”)
|Scallion (also called “*green onion”)
|Scotch bonnet (pepper)
|Yuca (locally known as “Cassave”)
Black mushrooms, spices, bergamot, and more at the Marché en Fer in Port-au-Prince.
Take pikliz (spicy pickled vegetables), breadfruit, bergamot, watercress and even rum-infused power shakes.
Haitian Main Dishes
Food offers one of the most enjoyable contexts through which to understand a place. As we seek out certain types of dishes, we find ourselves in new experiences of all sorts.
Poulet Aux Noix (chicken and cashew nuts)
The northern Haitian specialty of chicken with cashew nuts.
A rich northern Haiti specialty of chicken cooked in a tomato-based sauce with cashew nuts that you’ll most likely find in and around the town of Cap-Haïtien..
Mayi Moulen ak Sòs Pwa, Poul an Sòs (cornmeal with beans and stewed chicken)
Stews are common in Haiti. Served on top of either cornmeal or rice, they are hearty, too. What makes Haitian stews special is the hint of warm sweet spices like clove and star anise
Griyo (fried pork)
Griyo, the perfect Haitian dish for meat lovers.
For meat-eaters, griyo is an absolute must-try traditional dish of Haiti. It is most often served with cabbage salad or better yet, spicy pikliz (onions and other vegetables marinated in a spicy vinegar sauce).
Lanbi an Sòs Lanbi Kreyol (conch in creole sauce)
Of all the fruits of the sea you can find in Haiti, conch seems to be among the most distinct to appear on restaurant menus. You can usually find it grilled (see below) or in a tomato-based creole sauce. Conch is a must-try if seafood is your thing.
Lanbi Boukannen, Woma Boukannen (grilled conch, grilled lobster)
As seafood lovers, we did a happy dance in Haiti for the availability and freshness of grilled lobster and conch. These are readily available in most coastal areas, but especially along the southern coast in and around Jacmel, Jacmel Cayes and Port Salut.
Tassot/Taso (dried fried meat)
Tassot with fried plantains.
Tassot is spiced, dried meat that is then fried. You may also have seen this in Mexico or Latin American countries as well, as tasajo. In Haiti, you’ll most often find Tassot Kabrit (goat) or Tassot Vyann (beef) sided with fried plantains. The description defies its tastiness
Mayi Moulen Kole ak Legim (cornmeal, beans and vegetable stew)
Friendly street food vendor selling vegetable stew with cornmeal in Jacmel.
The legim (think legume) is the vegetable stew part. The cornmeal consistency is somewhere between polenta and cream-of-wheat (or cream-of-cornmeal, as it were).
Diri ak Fèy Lalo ak Sirik (crab and lalo leaf stew)
A stew of crab and dark-green spinach-like lalo leaves. Rich and hearty. Traditionally, this is a specialty of Artibonite, the Haitian rice producing region.
Kalalou Djondjon (Haitian okra and black mushroom stew)
This is a sort of Louisiana-style gumbo made with okra and mushrooms, sometimes served with a kick of chili peppers. You can find it in some restaurants, but we experienced this dish stewed with chunks of pork and a healthy dose of crab legs (kalalou djon djon ak sirik ak vyann kochon) served atop white rice at a friend’s house.
Pwason Boukannen (grilled fish)
Grilled fish straight from the fishermen at Pointe Sable.
So many restaurants and seaside shacks serve grilled fish along the coast. We always asked for additional pikliz to go on top. So good.
Sides, Starches and Condiments
Besides all the meat and seafood, rice, beans and tropical starches rule the table in Haiti. Note thatfritay (fried foods) are often paired with spice and vinegar blends like pikliz (see below) to balance what goes into the digestive system.
Pickled cabbage and vegetables (onions, carrots, peppers, etc.), grated or shredded, served in a vinegar base and often dashed with chili peppers. A perfect compliment to fried and heavy foods. We became slightly obsessed with pikliz and were guilty of ordering extra portions of it everywhere we went. If you are sensitive to spice, be sure to taste before topping your plate.
Diri Kole or Diri ak Pois (rice and beans) or Mayi Moulen ak Pois(cornmeal and beans)
Bean sauce poured atop rice or cornmeal, a Haitian staple.
White rice cooked with beans or served with a bean sauce is very common throughout Haiti. Another variation of this includes Diri Blan ak Sos Pwa Noir (white rice and black bean sauce) or rice with a white bean sauce. Depending on the consistency the cook is after, cornmeal is often swapped for rice in these dishes.
Diri Djon Djon (rice with black mushrooms)
Rice cooked with black mushrooms.
While white rice is usually served with a bean sauce topping (see above), diri djon djon is usually served on its own because of the distinct aroma and rich flavor of the jhon jhon mushroom.
Bannann (Plantains), Fried or Boiled
The most common approach to the ubiquitous Haitian plantain: fried plantains (bannann peze), which are often sided with any of the main meals mentioned above. Although perhaps not the healthiest option, they are also delicious topped with a heaping spoonful of pikliz. We were admittedly less excited by the boiled plantain option.
Lam Veritab Fri (Fried breadfruit)
Definitely worth seeking out. Sometimes you’ll find fried breadfruit mixed together on a plate with fried plantains.
When in season, avocado is plentiful and tasty. Get your fill, particularly as a side to various meat dishes and grilled seafoods. Pairs beautifully with a nice, tart pikliz.
A gorgeous — and equally delicious — watercress salad at Auberge La Visite in the mountains.
Watercress was fresh-plucked from the ground at the foot of the waterfall we passed on the return from a hike to Pic Cabayo. It’s then tossed with other vegetables and edible flowers, as in the salad pictured above.
Soup Joumou (pumpkin/squash soup)
Pumpkins and squash are quite common throughout Haiti. You may find pumpkin and squash soup on its own or — you guessed it — stewing in a pot of goat meat and other vegetables.
Bouyon Tèt Kabrit (goat head bouillon)
A hearty favorite in the hills just outside of Port-au-Prince. Trust us, it’s much tastier than it sounds. We sampled this in places like Mare Rouge and Seguin, just outside of Parc National La Visite and Pic la Selle.
Breakfast in Haiti
Travelers in Haiti can find breakfasts with the usual suspects such as eggs, toast or cereal in hotels..
Pwason Seche ak Bannann (dried fish and boiled plantains)
Dried fish in the making, headed for a typical Haitian breakfast.
Particularly as you head south along the coast, you’ll see strings of morning-dried fish hanging on racks.
Spaghetti for breakfast in Haiti? Yes, spaghetti, the breakfast of Haitian champions. It makes sense when you consider the importance of starting one’s day with a hearty breakfast.
Jus Blennde (blended shake)
Jus blennde is a staple of the Port-au-Prince night street food scene. These shakes are essentially meal replacements so that people can eat something hearty, but perhaps not as heavy as meat, at night. It was made from approximately 15 ingredients including boiled potato, carrot, manioc (cassava), and breadfruit; banana, papaya, peanuts, sugar, vanilla and almond extracts, evaporated milk, ice, rum and a wedge of la vache qui rit cream cheese for good measure
A ground corn and cocoa shake specialty hailing from the seaside Haitian town of Les Cayes. Rich, sweet and heavy enough to keep you full for the whole day. If you are seeing a pattern of filling food here, you are beginning to understand the “why” that underlies the historical function of food in Haiti.
Haitian Desserts and Snacks
Haitians have a sweet tooth, no two ways about it. It’s not surprising considering the country’s wide production of sugar cane.
Mamba (peanut butter)
Haitian peanut butter is all natural. It’s also a revelation. Northern varieties are purportedly six-times blended while those in the south are less smooth at four-times blended.
Spicy peanut butter varieties are made when ground peanuts are turned with a scotch bonnet or habanero pepper. After one taste of this, you’ll never look at the possibilities of peanut butter quite the same.
Dous Makos (Haitian fudge)
Dous Makos dries so it can be cut into slices.
Native to the Haitian town of Petit-Goave, dous makos production looks a kind of taffy production where milk and sugar are boiled in log-fired cauldrons. The signature look of dous makos: the three stripes, beige, brown and pink.
Kasav (cassava bread)
In Haiti, cassava bread is less moist like bread and more dry like a cracker. The version we bought were stuffed with a not-so-sweet chocolate and paired with Haitian peanut butter.
Kasav ak manba (cassava bread and peanut butter), a great street snack.
But the best way to have cassava bread is fresh on the streets of Port-au-Prince with a dose of spicy peanut butter slathered on top.
Tablèt Nwa (cashew ginger brittle)
Just like it sounds, where cashews and sugar cane are turned with ginger for a zip. You can find vendors selling it along the road from Les Cayes to Port-au-Prince, but it’s a specialty of the town of Cavaillon. You can also find brittles around the country made with peanuts, sesame seeds, coconut, almonds and cashews.
Pain Patate (sweet potato cake)
If you come across sweet potato cake, give it a shot as it’s made with sweet potatoes, bananas and spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla.
Chokola Peyi (Haitian hot chocolate)
Haitian hot chocolate is a terrific experience, particularly if you endeavor to buy the relatively inexpensive ingredients and requisite tools at the Marché en Fer in Port-au-Prince.
The makings for Haitian hot chocolate: raw chocolate, cinnamon, star anise.
Haitian hot chocolate production begins by shaving a ball of pure chocolate with a Haitian grater — that is, against the holed and hollowed out side of a tomato can. Then simmer cinnamon sticks, star anise, nutmeg and fèy bwadin leaves in water (we’ve been told that whole nutmeg or mace is good as well). Add your ground chocolate, some sugar, some vanilla essence a tiny pinch of salt, and thicken it with some evaporated milk (don’t skimp on this). Shave some of the rind of a green bergamot (a shriveled, pungent lime-like citrus fruit) for the final touch.
Learning to make Haitian hot chocolate — then consuming the fruits of our labors — in the hills above Port-au-Prince was one of our favorite memories of our time in Haiti.
The history of coffee in Haiti, including its near disappearance as an industry, is a shame. Haitian coffee is quite good and in terms of flavor, its Arabica beans can hold their own against competing Central American and African counterparts. Of the major brands available in supermarkets, check out Rebo or better yet, Selecto. If you really wish to go off the beaten path, try the local bean at Fondation Seguin grown in the hills above Port-au-Prince where they are trying to train local farmers in coffee production.
Barbancourt rum: the ideal way to wind down the day in Haiti.
Given the prevalence of sugar cane in Haiti, it probably comes as no surprise that rum is the national spirit of choice. Although Haiti makes several types of rum, Barbancourt is the national standard dark rum that is available in a number of grades — most notably 3-star, a perfectly drinkable 4-year aged or 5-star, a perfectly smooth one-part spicy, another-part sweet 8-year aged. Although we rarely drink rum straight, we found ourselves doing this throughout our travels in Haiti. It’s that good.
Kleren / Klerin
An unrefined spirit similar to white rum, kleren is distilled from cane sugar. We visited a family-runkleren manufacturer near Cap-Haïtien in northern Haiti to witness the process from start — pressing the sugar cane to get juice — to its multi-distillation chamber finish. The resulting white rum used to be called “guildive” as it was considered so strong that it would “kill the devil” when you drank it.
A cold Prestige on the beach. Pretty. Perfect.
No trip to Haiti would be complete without drinking a cold Prestige on the beach. Prestige, a relatively heavy American-style lager, is the ubiquitous Haitian beer of choice. For various reasons, including the climate and the brew itself, it’s best served very cold.
Diri Kole (Rice and Beans)
4 cups of Jasmine Elephant Rice
2-3 tsp of Adobo seasoning salt
2 Maggi chicken bouillon cubes
1 tsp of black pepper
4 sprigs of fresh thyme
10 whole cloves
2 tsp of garlic powder
2 bay leaves
1 cup of olive oil
2. Let it boil over high heat for 15-20 minutes
3. Add 8 more cups of water as the beans begin to surface to the top
4. Let it cook until the beans are softened
5. Drain the beans and reserve the liquid.
6. In a separate pot, add 1 cup of oil over high heat.
7. Add the cooked beans into the pot.
8. Mix in the spices and seasonings
9. Stir-fry the beans for about 5 minutes.
10. Add in the fresh thyme and bay leaves.
11. Pour in the reserved liquid.
12. Add rice and stir occasionally over high heat.
13. Keep uncovered and continue to stir as needed.
14. Reduce heat and let it cook until all the liquid is absorbed.
15. Cover over low heat. Remove bay leaves and thyme.
Jus Papaye Papaya Juice
2 pinches of salt
1 can of evaporated carnation milk
3 tbsp of sugar
1 tsp of vanilla extract
Serve chilled. Enjoy!
Haitian Pate Haitian beef patties
1 lb ground beef
1 medium onion, diced
3 garlic clove, minced
1 medium shallot, diced
1 tsp. lime juice
1 tsp. Adobo seasoning salt
1/2 scotch bonnet pepper, chopped
1/4 tsp. thyme
1/4 tsp. rosemary
1 tbsp. tomato paste
2 tsp. olive oil
Over medium heat, heat oil in a skillet or saucepan. Add onions, garlic, shallot, peppers and seasoning mixture. Stir-fry for 1 minute until softened. Add the meat and simmer with water until meat is tender and water is absorbed. Add tomato paste and stir well until medium brown.
On a clean surface area, dust with flour generously to prevent dough from sticking. Using a rolling pin, flatten the dough and stretch in a rectangular circle. Roll dough front to back and back to front until 1/8 inch thick. Spread the lard or shortening mix generously.
Fold in the flaps to cover over coated areas. Sprinkle the dough with flour and roll out evenly. Form into a ball and set aside for 15 minutes.
Repeat the steps to flatten and fold the dough. Wrap the dough ball in plastic and let refrigerate overnight.
Preheat oven at 375° and prepare to bring out the dough. Unwrap dough and roll out evenly. Divide into disc like shapes. Roll disc dough, as thin as possible. Place disc dough in the palm of your hands and extend pieces with fingers. Add filling. Fold dough and seal edges. Bake at 300° until golden brown. Serve warm.
2 cups of all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
1 cup water
1 cup Lard (Manteca) or substitute with 1 cup of shortening and butter mixed together
1/2 cup of olive oil
water as needed
1 large scallions, diced
1 half medium cabbage, diced
2 potatoes, peeled and chopped
2 yanm, peeled and chopped
2 malanga, peeled and chopped
2 butternut squash, peeled and chopped
2 turnips, peeled and chopped
1 stalk of celery chopped
3 medium carrots, chopped
1 6 oz. package of spaghetti
1 tablespoon of tomato paste
1 scotch bonnet pepper
4 parsley sprigsMeat seasoning spices:
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp thyme
2 shallots, diced
1 tsp Adobo® seasoning salt
2 Maggi® chicken bouillon cubes
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1. Marinate the meat overnight or for at least 1 hour.
2. Place the seasoned meat in a stockpot and cover with water.
3. Add oil and let boil over high heat. Keep covered until the water has evaporated.
4. Uncover, stir and simmer a few drips of water occasionally to brown the meat.
5. Keep stirring and simmer water occasionally until you have a nice browning color to the meat
6. Stir in one tbsp of tomato paste. Remove meat and set aside pot for the vegetables.Vegetables
1. In a separate bowl, cut into small pieces the large scallions and half medium cabbage.
2. Peel & chop the potato, yanm, malanga, butternut squash, carrots, and turnip.
3. Wash the vegetables. Add to a separate pot of boiling water.
4. Cover and cook over high heat for about an hour. Reduce heat and add scotch bonnet pepper.
5. Once the squash is fully cooked, remove it from the pot. Use some of the cooking water to blend the squash into a puree.
6. For best flavoring, pour the cooked vegetables, the squash puree and cooking liquid into the pot that cooked the meat.
7. Add parsley, thyme, and broken spaghetti (or substitute with macaroni).
8. Let it all cook, until tender.
9. Combine meat into soup. Serve hot.
6 lemons, freshly-squeezed
1 cup of sugar
a pinch of salt
1 tsp of vanilla extract
ice cubes as needed
2. Mix all of the ingredients into a large pitcher
3. Decorate with a slice of orange or lime
4. Enjoy this refreshing drink of limonade
1 large banana, peeled and cut in 1 inch pieces
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup seedless raisins
1 tsp grated ginger
1/4 tspn salt
12 oz evaporated milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp grated nutmeg
1 tsp ground cinnamon
Rind of 1 lemon, grated
1 1/2 cups coconut cream
3 tsp butter
1/2 cup of Crisco shortening (I only used 1/4)
2. Cut the sweet potatoes into 1 in cubes then grate them using a blender.
3. Place them into a mixing bowl. Peel and mash the banana into the sweet potatoes.
4. Add the remaining ingredients. Mixed all until well blended.
5. Transfer onto a pot and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a spoon for about 30-35 minutes until brown.
6. Place in a baking pan and bake for 1.5 hours or until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
1 tsp of parsley
1 tsp of garlic powder
1 tsp of thyme
1/2 tsp of rosemary
1 tsp of Adobo® seasoning salt
2. Wash thoroughly with the lime and/or sour orange juice.
3. Season well with Adobo seasoning salt, rosemary, thyme, parsley, garlic powder, pepper and let it marinate for 4 hours. For best results, refrigerate overnight.
4. In a saucepan, cover meat with water and boil over medium-high heat until water evaporates.
5. Stirring occasionally, continue to cook until meat is tender.
6. Remove the meat and set aside.
7. In a skillet, heat oil and fry each side to brown evenly.
8. Serve hot with bannann peze and diri kole. yummy!
water as needed
1 cup of oil
1 (14 oz.) bag of fresh lima beans
1/2 tsp of rosemary
1/2 tsp of black pepper
2 Maggi® chicken bouillon cubes
1 tsp of parseley
1 tsp of Adobo® seasoning salt
1 tablespoon of garlic powder
6 cups of rice
1 tablespoon of butter
2. Bring to a rolling boil, then let cool for a few minutes.
3. Pour the liquid into a separate bowl using a strainer lined with a cheesecloth or paper towel. (This method is to remove any excess particles.) Discard the mushrooms. Reserve the liquid.
4. Heat oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat.
5. Combine the beans, spices, and seasonings. Simmer for about 5 minutes.
6. Pour in the reserved liquid and rice over high heat, uncovered.
7. Add butter and stir occasionally until water has evaporated.
8. Cover over low heat for 30 mins.
1 plantain, peeled
salt, to taste
2. In a skillet, heat oil and brown each side over medium-high heat.
3. Using a wooden plantain press (or the back of a plate and a cutting board), flatten the plantain pieces.
4. Dip fried plantain disc into a salt water to avoid the plantains from becoming too brown or oxidized.
5. Fry the plantains again onto the heated skillet with oil.
6. Blot on a paper towel to remove excess oil.
7. Salt to taste. Serve hot.
4 tbsp of lime juice
2 cups of vinegar
1/2 onion, chopped
2 scallions, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
2 cups of cabbage, shredded
2 cups of carrot, shredded
3 tsp of sweetpeas
2 whole shallots, chopped
2 fresh sprigs of thyme
salt, a dash
black pepper, a dash
2. Stir then pour into a large jar.
3. Add vinegar until filled to capacity.
4. Keep refrigerated for 3-4 days for best flavoring.
2lbs of fresh beets
2 tbsp of fresh parsley
½ cup of melted butter
½ cup of mayonnaise
½ tsp of ground pepper
1 tsp of salt
2. Cut the beet stems about 1 inch from the top to preserve its color.
3. In a separate pot, add water and ½ tsp of salt. Boil the beets for approximately one hour or until tender.
4. In a mixing bowl, peel and chop the carrots and potatoes into half inch chunks.
5. Peel and dice the beets then add to the mixing bowl.
6. Drizzle melted butter over the salad.
7. Combine fresh parsley, ground pepper, mayonnaise and stir.
8. Serve hot or cold.