Grenada, known as the Spice Isle, is a vibrant Caribbean country that captivates visitors with its stunning landscapes and rich cultural heritage. But it’s the cuisine that truly steals the show. With a culinary scene influenced by African, Indian, and European flavors, Grenada food offers a delightful fusion of spices, fresh ingredients, and traditional cooking techniques.
I visited Grenada for the first time in the spring of 2023. I’d visited many other Caribbean islands before, and while there are similarities between them all, each is uniquely its own thing. Grenada food is no different! From hearty one-pot stews to mouthwatering seafood dishes, here’s a quick introduction to the world of Grenadian cuisine.
Grenada food is an explosion of flavors, combining a variety of spices and fresh local ingredients. The island’s rich volcanic soil yields bountiful harvests of fruits, vegetables, and spices, which form the basis of many dishes. From the aromatic oil down (Grenada’s national dish) to the more exotic manicou, the island’s cuisine is as diverse as it is flavorful.
Those powerful flavors stem largely from the spices used in the cuisine. The island is one of the world’s major producers of nutmeg, mace, cinnamon, cloves, and ginger, among others. All of these spices lend a unique flavor and aroma to Grenadian cuisine, making each dish a layered, complex, and unforgettable experience. These are some of my personal favorite dishes on the island!
Simply put, if you go to Grenada without trying oil down, you didn’t experience Grenada. This iconic one-pot stew is the national dish and represents the heart and soul of Grenadian cuisine. A flavorful combination of salted meat, chicken or fish, dumplings, coconut milk, turmeric, green bananas, callaloo, breadfruit, and more, oil down is a comforting and aromatic favorite among locals and tourists.
The name “oil down” refers to the process of slow-cooking the ingredients until the flavors blend together, resulting in a rich and savory stew. You can find this popular Grenada food just about anywhere on the island. That said, I highly recommend the one they prepare outdoors at True Blue Bay Boutique Hotel!
When the sun rises in Grenada, it’s time to indulge one of the island’s most traditional breakfast items, fried bake and saltfish. Bakes are a type of bread found throughout the Caribbean. Fried until golden brown and crispy on the outside, this Grenada food still remains soft and fluffy on the inside.
Accompanied by salted codfish cooked with tomatoes, onions, and herbs, this breakfast staple is a satisfying combination of flavors and textures. The bakes can also be paired with other fillings like cheese or sausage, but saltfish remains the classic choice.
Seafood lovers traveling to Grenada must dig into one of the island’s top local specialties, lambie. The local name for conch, lambie is the main ingredient in lambie souse, a conch soup containing lime juice, onions, garlic, and hot pepper.
Lambie souse is a delightful and flavorful Grenada food that showcases the freshness and succulence of the conch. Bursting with flavors, this protein-rich meal is a must-try for those seeking a taste of Grenadian coastal cuisine.
Made from the dasheen leaf, a Caribbean staple, callaloo soup is a creamy and satisfying dish that warms the soul. Local cooks boil the dasheen leaves in coconut milk, creating a velvety texture and a rich, earthy, and tropical flavors.
Callaloo is a staple in many dishes across the island. Its flavor is similar to collard greens, and pairs nicely with the delicate, tropical coconut flavor. This amazing soup usually comes as a starter, but it’s also good enough to be eaten as a meal on its own. It’s one popular Grenada food you must try!
Buss-up shut, also known as paratha roti, is a popular Trinidadian flatbread that is also popular across Grenada. Inspired by Indian parathas, this Grenada food comes shredded into pieces that resemble a tattered shirt.
First, the cooks fold the dough with shortening or butter and let it rest for several hours to create a tender, layered texture. It is then rolled out, cooked on a griddle, shredded, and served with various dishes, including curry meats, vegetables, and seafood. Buss-up shut is not only delicious but also a fascinating culinary experience that showcases the vibrant flavors of the Caribbean.
The end result is a flaky, buttery flatbread that serves as the perfect vessel for sopping up various curries and sauces and transferring it to your mouth. My buss-up shut meal was one of my favorites during my time on the island!
Grenada’s abundance of land crabs provides the perfect opportunity to savor a unique dish called crab backs. Cooks season the crabs with a blend of local spices and lime juice. Then, they place the meat back inside the shells and bake them with a layer of breadcrumbs on top.
The result is a soft and tender filling, almost like a seafood stuffing or dressing. Also popular on islands like Dominica, this fantastic dish is a favorite across Grenada. No list of great Grenada food is complete without it!
Grenadian-style curry goat is a fiery and flavorful dish that exemplifies the influence of Indian cuisine on the island. Cooks season the goat with locally grown herbs and spices before browning and slow-cooking it with onions, garlic, hot pepper, and curry powder.
Served with rice and toppings such as lime pickle, this dish offers a burst of bold flavors and a true taste of Grenadian curry. This Grenada food is one of my all-time favorite Caribbean dishes. Just don’t make the mistake of calling it “goat curry!”
Jerk dishes may be more synonymous with Jamaica than Grenada, but the flavorful spice blend is popular on the Spice Isle as well! The word “jerk” refers to the traditional cooking style that involves marinating meat in a pungent blend of spices. The blend typically includes cinnamon, cumin, paprika, allspice, nutmeg, cayenne pepper, and sugar.
The spice blend creates a smoky, spicy, and sweet flavor that permeates the skin and meat as it grills. It’s a complex blend of layered flavors, and they work spectacularly! Nearly everyone has their own specific jerk recipe, which makes each version unique and exciting.
Jerk chicken and jerk pork were two of the first Grenada foods I tried on the island. They sometimes come with a variety of delicious side dishes, such as rice, beans, plantains, sweet potatoes, and cornbread fritters. But whether you eat them alone or with other Grenada food, jerk chicken and jerk pork are a must when in Grenada.
On the more exotic side of the Grenada food spectrum is manicou, a longtime local favorite that may give your average tourist second thoughts. The name “manicou” is another word for “opossum,” a small marsupial native to the region. The meat is known for its gamy, and earthy flavor.
Typically, people in Grenada marinate the skinned manicou in a blend of aromatic herbs and spices. This blend often contains spices like thyme, garlic, and bay leaves. From there, it cooks until tender in a savory stew. The result is a rich, mouthwatering dish with unmistakable Grenada.
Another staple found throughout the Caribbean, fish cakes are as common in Grenada as hamburgers are in America. They typically consist of a flavorful mixture of fresh fish, herbs, and spices, shaped into patties and deep-fried until golden and crispy.
The result is a delightful combination of textures and flavors, with a crispy exterior and a moist, flavorful interior. This typical Grenada food is often made using traditional family recipes, so no two fish cakes are alike! They’re an amazing complement to any meal, whether it’s breakfast, lunch, or dinner!
From the iconic oil down to the exotic manicou, Grenada food offers a culinary journey like no other. The flavors, aromas, and cultural influences come together to create a vibrant and diverse food scene that truly reflects the spirit of the Spice Isle.
So, whether you’re exploring the local markets, dining at a beachside restaurant, or joining in the festivities, be sure to savor the unique and mouthwatering dishes that make Grenadian cuisine a true delight for food lovers around the world.