Jamaican food is famous for its bold flavors and incredible versatility. While meats such as chicken and beef are popular in a lot of Jamaican cooking, there are as many (if not more) delicious recipes that are completely meat-free.
If you’re looking to expand your tastes and find some great vegetarian Jamaican recipes, then you’re in luck!
We’ve gathered 20 of the best vegetarian recipes from Jamaican cuisine, from brown stew to banana bread. Not only that, but we’ve also included a short FAQ section to help answer any questions you might have.
Ready to get started? Then let’s get started!
Jamaican Chickpea Curry
Jamaican food is packed full of flavorful herbs and spices. This warming curry is no different, and is the perfect meal for a cold day.
Chickpeas are used a lot in Jamaican cooking, with their high levels of protein and fiber making them as nutritious as they are delicious.
Combining chickpeas with a mix of spices like paprika, cayenne pepper, and ginger leaves this dish with a kick of heat that makes it much more complex. This can be taken even further with the inclusion of some chilis like Scotch bonnets, and some hearty veg.
It’s hard to define the main ingredient in Callaloo, as it uses different varieties of leaf vegetables depending on which ones are indigenous to the area. Traditionally, callaloo is made with amaranth, taro, or xanthosoma leaves.
Callaloo is similar to other dishes that mainly use wild greens, like collard greens or sauteed spinach.
The Jamaican twist comes in with the other ingredients. The callaloo is fried with onions, chilis, and spices to give it its signature flavor.
Jamaican Banana Fritters
Looking for something a bit sweeter? Then this is the treat for you!
This recipe is incredibly simple and only requires a few ingredients.
Simply mash up some bananas to start off with, then add some spices. Vanilla, nutmeg, and cinnamon are the best options, and you should also add some brown sugar and a pinch of salt to round it all out.
Sift in some flour and mix into a batter, and shallow fry the fritters in a pan of hot oil until they are golden brown.
Cabbage isn’t the most popular vegetable out there, and often gets overlooked. This delicious dish changes that, and shows just how great cabbage can be.
Shredded cabbage is mixed with sliced carrots, onions, and chilis before they are all fried until soft. After that, vegetable broth is added to the pan and the whole thing is left to steam for 15-20 minutes.
While steamed cabbage isn’t typically enough to be a full meal on its own, it makes a great side or can be served with rice.
Red Pea Soup
This warm and hearty soup is traditionally made with meats like beef, pork, or chicken. However, these can be easily removed from the recipe to make a completely vegan meal.
Red pea soup needs a bit of preparation before you can make it, involving soaking the peas in water overnight. But when those are finished, this soup is easy to make and mostly just needs the other ingredients to be added and mixed in.
Put in the work and you’re left with a thick and delicious soup that warms you from your head to your toes.
Bammy is a traditional Jamaican flatbread made primarily from cassava. Vegan and gluten-free, these ridiculously simple flatbreads are the perfect addition to a curry or soup, or can be given a sweeter twist and eaten as breakfast.
Making bammy involves mixing cassava flour (and a pinch of salt) with water to make a dough. This dough is then soaked in saltwater for the savory flatbread, or a mix of coconut milk and spices for a sweeter treat.
After that, the bammy is fried in hot oil or baked and served.
Jamaican Fried Dumplings
Don’t confuse these with Asian varieties of dumplings – Jamaican fried dumplings are in a league of their own.
Dense, stodgy, and slightly sweet, these balls of fried dough are perfect in a curry or stew. Also known as ‘Johnny Cakes’, Jamaican dumplings have a crisp outer layer that hides a soft and fluffy interior.
And while fresh Jamaican dumplings taste very similar to donuts, that doesn’t stop them from pairing beautifully with savory (and especially spicy) dishes.
Grilled Jerk Vegetables
Jerk sauce is one of the most iconic parts of Jamaican cuisine. It’s smoky, it’s sweet, it’s spicy – what’s not to love?
Whether you’re using a thicker jerk sauce as a glaze, or a more watery one as a marinade, one of its best uses is with grilled vegetables. From carrots to eggplant to sweet potato, it seems like there’s nothing a bit of jerk marinade won’t improve.
Jamaican Curried Stew
Stews are a staple in Jamaica, and this delicious curried stew has it all.
A mix of vegetables, legumes, and leafy greens leave this stew bursting with nutrients, while other veg like tomatoes and peppers add some thickness to the vegetable broth that makes up the base.
But while you can use countless types of veg in this stew, you can also use just as many spices.
Serve on your favorite rice or with some fresh bammy for a filling and tasty meal.
Here’s another incredibly easy dessert to make, with only a handful of ingredients. Not only that, but they are simple to put together and will be ready in just a few minutes.
Coat slices of plantain with sugar and maple syrup, and fry them on a medium heat. Flip them over once they brown and fry for another few minutes. When they cool down, you’ll be left with a sweet and sticky dessert that tastes great.
In case you couldn’t tell, some ingredients are a lot more prevalent in Jamaican food due to their presence in the local ecosystem. Bananas are one such ingredient, and are also one of the most versatile.
Banana bread is a great way to use up bananas that are at risk of going bad. Not only that, but if you skip out on the eggs in lieu of a substitute then your banana bread can be fully vegan, too.
Put a Jamaican spin on this classic with some vanilla, coconut, and a splash of rum.
Ginger Loaf Cake
Another loaf, but this one is a bit less sweet. Ginger loaf, as the name suggests, uses fiery ginger root as its main ingredient. This leaves the resulting cake with a bit of heat along with its sweetness.
Ackee fruit has a mild flavor and a creamy consistency, and is used in all sorts of foods from breakfast to dessert.
Ackee can’t be imported into the USA if it’s fresh as raw and unripe ackee can be toxic.
You’ll have to buy some ready-prepared in a store or fresh from a market if you can find it.
Mix with vegetables and dumplings for a tasty meal that can be enjoyed at any time.
Rice and Pigeon Peas
Good rice can make or break a meal. Luckily, this rice is guaranteed to be a hit every time.
You can make Jamaican rice and pigeon peas in a single pot, and the rice is often cooked in seasoned coconut milk for a sweet and rich flavor.
You’re also free to substitute the pigeon peas with kidney beans depending on your preference, but either legume is perfect for the job.
Pasta isn’t the normal food you would associate with Jamaica, but this dish has become a popular and iconic part of Jamaican cooking.
While traditional Rasta Pasta features strips of jerk chicken, vegetarian alternatives can substitute the chicken for jerk veg or even skip it out entirely.
Fun fact – the colors of the ingredients are meant to represent the Jamaican flag. The yellow pasta, green vegetables, and blackened jerk veg all combine to make this iconic dish.
Rastafarians are almost entirely vegan, although some will eat small fish. Ital stew is a meal popularized by Rastafarians, so it’s to be expected that this recipe is delicious, filling, and completely meat-free.
Ital stew is made of root vegetables, herbs, and spices, which are then simmered in coconut milk. Eat it on its own or serve with a side such as bammy or dumplings to round things off.
Yellow Yam Fries
Yam fries are the perfect alternative to potato fries. They are fluffier, sweeter, and much more filling. If you’re looking to cut down on starchy carbs but don’t know where to start, look no further than these chunky fries made out of yellow yam.
You can also make them even healthier by opting for baking them in the oven instead of frying them.
As mentioned earlier, jerk marinade is a staple in Jamaican cooking. These cauliflower florets are glazed in a hot and sticky jerk sauce, while the interior maintains a nice crunch.
Instead of boiling or steaming the cauliflower, bake it so it can absorb more of the marinade and maintain its structure. Smother as much sauce as possible before serving with your main.
If you have extra marinade that needs using, this is also a quick and delicious lunch or small meal that’s low-calorie, gluten-free, and completely vegan.
Jamaican Brown Stew
Normally made with chicken, it’s easy to replace the meat with a vegetarian or vegan alternative.
Jamaican brown stew takes a bit more effort than other recipes on this list due to its high prep and cook times. However, it’s more than worth it to taste even a forkful of this rich and flavorful stew with strong umami notes.
Use browning sauce to marinate your meat alternative (whether you’re using tofu, seitan, or some other substitute), and combine it with mixed vegetables and broth. Leave it to simmer, and the stew will reduce down and be absolutely jam-packed with gorgeous flavors.
Boiled Green Bananas
Bananas once again proving their versatility, this meal can be used in a variety of different ways.
Green bananas are cooked in coconut milk with a selection of herbs and spices until it becomes creamy and thick.
Switching which spices you use can lead to several different dishes – pepper, garlic, and curry powder turn the bananas into a delicious savory side, while swapping these out for vanilla and cinnamon will transform it into a tasty sweet pudding.
Because potatoes aren’t as prevalent in Jamaica as in other countries, boiled green bananas can also be a great alternative to boiled potatoes.
Green bananas are starchy and lack the sweetness of a ripe banana. This makes them great potato replacements, as well as just plain great on their own.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are Any of These Recipes Vegan?
Plenty of these recipes can be altered to be vegan, or are completely vegan already.
Fried plantain, jerk cauliflower, and steamed cabbage are all examples of vegan recipes that don’t need any changes. If you want a more filling vegan option, why not go for ital stew or callaloo?
Alternatively, you can remove or replace non-vegan ingredients with vegan alternatives in most cases, meaning you can enjoy foods like bammy or banana bread without the risk of eating animal products.
Is Jamaican Food Spicy?
If your palate isn’t suited to too much spice, you may have an issue with some recipes on this list. The presence of native chilis like the Scotch bonnet means that a lot of Jamaican food is on the hotter end. This makes it a bit tricky to find meals that won’t set your tongue on fire.
Luckily, there are still plenty of milder options available if you can’t handle the heat. Recipes like ackee and callaloo are on the milder side of things, and most recipes can be altered to reduce the amount of spice in the dish without sacrificing too much of its flavor.
Is There a Lot of Variety in Vegetarian Jamaican Food?
There’s almost too much variety when it comes to great vegetarian Jamaican food. While meats such as chicken and lamb are incredibly popular in Jamaican cooking, these are typically optional for most dishes and are often variations on a meat-free original recipe.
The Rastafarian culture is completely vegan (in most cases), so there are plenty of vegetarian and vegan options throughout Jamaican cuisine.
There you have it – 20 of the best vegetarian Jamaican recipes out there!
These recipes are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to great vegetarian Jamaican cooking, and there are plenty more dishes to broaden your palate and fill your stomach.
So whether you’re cooking a delicious stew, adding some jerk marinade to your favorite veg, or just treating yourself to some fried plantain, there is plenty to choose from.
Now all that’s left is for you to get cooking. Bon appetite!