The variety of international cuisines available to us is, well, mind-boggling. Even though traditional American favorites have a special place in our hearts (and tummies), there's something exciting and delicious about trying other cultures of cuisine.
If you like spicy, sweet, tart and savory flavors all wrapped into one dish, you should add Caribbean food to your must-try list.
We're all familiar with the most popular flavor or Caribbean cuisine, jerk seasoning, but there is so much more to love. Like the United States, the Caribbean is made up of and influenced by a slew of cultures including African, Hispanic and Indian. But no matter what the mashup of your Caribbean dish is, one thing is for sure: This food is oozing with rich, bold flavors.
Caribbean dishes are full of warm spices, such as ginger, nutmeg, allspice and cinnamon. "A traditional Caribbean-style eating pattern is loaded with seafood, legumes, roots and tubers as well as plenty of colorful fruits and vegetables," says Cordialis Msora-Kasago, RDN and founder of The African Pot Nutrition.
Whether Caribbean cuisine already has your heart or you're looking to step outside of the box and experiment, we tapped registered dietitians to share flavor-packed, nutritious Caribbean-inspired recipes that will transport you island-side at first bite.
1. Caribbean Mango Pork and Tropical Rice Plate
There are so many components to this dish, but trust us, you won't want to skimp on any of them. It starts with roasted pork that's paired with a coconut rice and topped with fresh mango, lime and avocado.
"The pork is flavored primarily with a myriad of spices, which gives it great taste without adding a lot of calories," Mia Syn, RDN and TV host of Good Food Friday says. If you're looking for a non-meat alternative, you can try subbing jackfruit which has a similar consistency and texture to pulled pork.
With the rice, coconut milk is added to give a tropical, creamy flavor. Even though coconut milk is a mainstay in Caribbean cuisine, Syn warns that it does add a lot of saturated fat, which should be enjoyed sparingly. Opt for light canned coconut milk, which usually has less than half the calories and fat than the full-fat option.
Get the Caribbean Mango Pork and Tropical Rice Plate recipe and nutrition info at Half Baked Harvest.
2. Vegan Jerk Chickpea Wings With Sweet Mango Dip
One of the most popular Caribbean dishes is, arguably, jerk chicken. Since we can all benefit from eating a little less meat, this vegan, Caribbean-inspired version is definitely worth the try.
"In addition to providing protein, chickpeas add fiber and are a source of vitamins and minerals," Msora-Kasago says. And you can expect a whopping 26 grams of protein from the can of chickpeas used in this recipe.
If you can't find scotch bonnet pepper in your local grocery store, you can swap for a habanero pepper instead. Whichever pepper you choose, you'll want to make sure it packs some heat since jerk flavor is traditionally spicy.
Get the Vegan Jerk Chickpea Wings With Sweet Mango Dip recipe and nutrition info at Rabbit and Wolves.
3. Stuffed Plantains
This dish is a spin on a veggie boat that typically calls for zucchini stuffed with meat, grains and veggies. Instead, this Caribbean-inspired dish, also known as Canoas de Platanos, uses plantains as the base.
As for the flavor of your plantain, it depends on the ripeness. The riper the plantain, the sweeter the flavor. "Plantains are rich in potassium, magnesium, fiber and vitamin C," Syn says. She also mentions that they are a starchier, less sweet cousin to bananas.
You'll also find beef, red and green bell pepper and bone broth in this recipe. The grass-fed bone broth gives the ground beef great flavor and also has anti-inflammatory benefits and is rich in omega-3s.
Get the Stuffed Plantains recipe and nutrition info at A Dash of Dolly.
4. Trinidad Callaloo Soup
Traditionally, callaloo is made with taro leaves, okra and coconut milk. Since finding taro leaves can be quite the challenge in the States, this recipe substitutes spinach in its place. This veggie-packed soup is a vegan soup that even meat-eaters will love.
Spinach is rich in vitamins A, C, K and is a good source of iron. And that addition of butternut squash is a good source of vitamin A and fiber without adding a large amount of calories.
Get the Trinidad Callaloo Soup recipe and nutrition info at Natural Fit Foodie.
5. Jamaican Escovitch Fish
Calling all seafood lovers! This low-carb meal composed of whole red snapper and tons of veggies will keep you feeling full for hours.
Red snapper is high in protein and loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D and E and amino acids. And a 3-ounce serving of red snapper contains a whopping 22 grams of protein, according to the USDA.
To make this dish more balanced, Syn suggests pairing with a grain or starchy vegetable.
Get the Jamaican Escovitch Fish recipe and nutrition info at African Bites.
6. Jerk Chicken Skewers With Mango Habanero Sauce
Making your own jerk chicken at home can be intimidating, but this easy-to-follow recipe, while not traditional, gives chicken that pop of jerk-inspired seasoning with little prep work.
As mentioned above, jerk flavor is all about the seasonings. "The heat of the habanero boosts the health content of this dish," Msora-Kasago says. "Habanero contains capsaicin, which can boost metabolism and aid in weight loss."
Plus, this recipe uses lean, boneless skinless chicken breasts — just 4 ounces pack 22 grams of protein, according to the USDA.
Get the Jerk Chicken Skewers With Mango Habanero Sauce recipe and nutrition info at Recipe Runner.