Jamaica is getting a lot of attention, and it’s all thanks to the traditional Jamaican breakfast, which is not only sumptuous, but also the healthy choice.
The term “Jamaican breakfast” is commonly used to refer to a wide range of Jamaican dishes. So it should come as no surprise that the Jamaican breakfast you ate last week at a friend’s party is different from what you’re having someplace else.
However, the term can also be used to refer to the breakfast dish, ackee and saltfish. This is, by far, the most common among many Jamaican breakfast dishes. Ackee and saltfish is a tasty dish that many find irresistible. Chances are, you’ll always want more of this dish. But there are still others, like callaloo, cornmeal porridge, and Johnnycake.
For an elaborate meal, a Jamaican themed breakfast is the way to go. The good thing about these breakfast dishes is that a lot of them pair really well together when you want something elaborate. Though, if you want a simple meal, they can also come in handy.
Getting Started with Jamaican Dishes
Breakfast can get really boring really fast. That’s because today’s breakfast is a repeat of yesterday’s breakfast, which was also a repeat. The story, however, is not the same in Jamaica—not in the country with so many breakfast ideas to pick from. For a more exciting breakfast, get yourself started with these beloved Jamaican breakfast foods:
Ackee and Saltfish
If this was a numbered list, this one would be number 1. Why? Because it’s the only dish that’s practically synonymous with the term Jamaican breakfast. And also, because it’s considered the country’s national dish. Ackee is a seasonal fruit found in Jamaica, so eating this dish all year round wouldn’t really be possible—you would have to pay extra in times it was not in season.
The fresh version of this fruit is not available in the US. In the US, you can only find ackee soaked in brine and then canned. This canned product is deemed fit for consumption by the United States Food and Drug Administration.
The dish starts off with boiling the ackee (if fresh) and saltfish. The prepared ackee and saltfish (de-boned and broken into smaller pieces) is then sautéed along with other ingredients, like chilies, tomatoes, onions, pimento, garlic, and black pepper. Everything is stirred together and served. It’s usually spicy, and it’s quite easy to make, especially if you’re using canned ackee.
This sautéed mix of a slightly-sweet, nutty ackee with saltfish (which could be bacalao, pollock, or codfish) is usually served best with fried dumplings. It can be accompanied by a cup of hot chocolate or tea. Having started with this typical Jamaican breakfast, you can then pick from the others below, in no particular order.
Never heard of the vegetable, callaloo? What about collard greens? Collard greens and callaloo are actually the same, are the main ingredient for this dish. The callaloo leaves are shredded into large sizes and steamed with onions, tomatoes, scallions, and garlic.
The dish is seasoned with thyme and paprika, and occasionally, meat like bacon or chicken, which is cut into very tiny portions. If you don’t want the meat, you can always leave it out. Trust me, you won’t be losing out on much. It’s preferable to use fresh callaloo when making this, but if you can’t find that, canned callaloo works almost as well. Just make sure the vegetables are not overcooked.
Callaloo is somewhat like a sauce in the sense that you will need to pair it with something. Pan-fried, ripe plantains, boiled plantains, or hardo bread are good options for you. However, you could stretch out the use of callaloo by eating it with boiled rice. Boil your rice with salt and add a good helping of callaloo, then enjoy.
We love corn (or maize), and we love it even more when we think about all the amazing foods we can get from it. Cornmeal is processed from corn, and this process is so simple that you could even do it yourself in your kitchen. Cornmeal is different from corn flour, but for this particular dish, you can use either—just keep in mind that the texture won’t be the same.
Best served hot, it’s a good heart-healthy meal that everyone can enjoy, including a baby (7 to 8 months and above). Making it can get a little tricky—I’ve been tricked way too many times—but once you figure out that thick consistency, sweetened and spiced with vanilla, sugar, milk, cinnamon, and nutmeg—you’ll be glad you tried it out. Sweetening totally depends on you… It’s better to use your preferred sweetener.
To avoid messing it up, try this: After mixing your cornmeal with warm water until smooth and free of lumps, pour the mixture into a pot of boiling water over heat, stirring to avoid lumps until the desired consistency is achieved. Then, reduce the heat and add your sweeteners. Stir again and remove it from the heat.
While you can enjoy this porridge on its own, it could also work fine as a side dish. However, there are other types of porridge available, too. There’s the hominy porridge, green banana porridge, green plantain porridge, oats porridge, rice porridge, and breadfruit porridge. These are good, healthy Jamaican breakfast options to try. As for me, I’d do anything for a well-sweetened bowl of cornmeal porridge any time of the day.
Johnnycake, or fried dumplings, is another typical Jamaican breakfast that can spice up your breakfast menu. The dumplings are fluffy and can even be eaten along with ackee and saltfish.
You can additionally serve Johnny cakes with salt or pickled mackerel that has been sautéed with tomatoes, onions, garlic, and thyme. Other options for fried dumplings include steamed cabbage sautéed with saltfish, fried egg, and fry-up tin mackerel.
Also known as stamp n’ go, or as dip n’ fall back, fritters are actually a snack that serves either as a side dish or as the main dish. Fritters are fried to a golden brown color, made primarily of flour, salted cod, onions, scallions, and peppers.
Other Jamaican breakfast ideas to try out include curried chicken, conch soup, salted mackerel with boiled plantain, or bass in escovitch sauce—another popular breakfast.
Jamaican Breakfast Recipes
First of all, a typical Jamaican breakfast is super easy to prepare. Basically, it’s what you wish your breakfast was—fast, easy to make, and delicious yet nutritious.
To make ackee and saltfish, you’ll need the following ingredients:
- Half a pound of saltfish
- 1 canned ackee
- 1 large tomato, chopped
- 1 tablespoon of tomato paste (optional)
- 1 bell pepper (green or red), chopped
- 1 medium-sized onion, chopped
- 1 scotch bonnet, finely chopped (optional)
- 2 sprigs of thyme
- ½ teaspoon of paprika
- 1 teaspoon of black pepper
- 4 tablespoons of coconut oil or any oil of your choice (you can use butter as well)
- 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
- 3 scallions, chopped
- Bacon, chopped (optional)
- First, desalt your salted codfish (saltfish) by soaking it overnight. Let it soak for at least 8 hours. If you’re able to monitor this process, you can change the water once or twice.
- Boil the saltfish for about 15 to 20 minutes, or until the saltfish is tender. Next, drain off the water and remove the fish from the pot. Drop them into a bowl and allow them to cool. De-bone, skin, and flake the fish with a fork before setting aside.
- Chop your onion, tomato, bell pepper, scallions, garlic, and scotch bonnet.
- Place a pan over medium heat, and add the coconut oil. Allow it to melt if it is in a semisolid state.
- Now add the chopped onions and garlic, scallions, bell pepper, and bacon (if using). Sauté for 3 minutes, then add the tomato paste and stir gently for another 2 minutes.
- Add the scotch bonnet, paprika, and thyme, leaving everything for two or three minutes.
- Add the tomato and saltfish. Sauté for about 8 more minutes. Drain your ackee from the can and pour it into the center of the frying pan. Stir lightly, or else your ackee might break apart or become mushy.
- Allow this to cook while covered, for 3 to 5 minutes. Remove the pan from heat and sprinkle everything with black pepper.
- Serve along with a side dish like fried dumplings, boiled plantain, yam slices, bread, or Irish potatoes.
This ackee and saltfish recipe will serve 3 to 4 people. If you’re using fresh ackee fruit, the steps for preparing the ackee are different. And never eat ackee when the pods aren’t opened yet—it’s poisonous.
Cabbage and saltfish is a variation of ackee and saltfish. The only significant difference between both dishes is the substitution of ackee with cabbage. Every other step is the same.
Another traditional Jamaican breakfast recipe to try out is callaloo. To make callaloo, you’ll need:
- 1 pound of callaloo, leaves washed and cut up.
- 1 tablespoon of diced bell pepper.
- 1 scotch bonnet pepper, chopped.
- 1 teaspoon of black pepper.
- 1 tablespoon of margarine or butter.
- 1 medium-sized onion, chopped.
- A pinch of salt to taste.
- Place margarine or butter in a saucepan and allow it to melt. Then, add the chopped onion, bell pepper, and scotch bonnet. Sauté for a few minutes.
- Add the chopped callaloo leaves and stir it all together.
- Place the lid on the saucepan and allow the leaves to cook.
- Once the leaves are tender enough, reduce the heat and sprinkle with pepper and salt.
- Serve and enjoy with a side dish of your choice.
What to Pair Jamaican Breakfast With
For a themed Jamaican Christmas breakfast, you will need an elaborate breakfast plan. Of course, there will be ackee and saltfish as the main dish, along with tons of side dishes.
Since most of these breakfast ideas so far aren’t exactly rich in meat, you’ll want to add some meat dishes (assuming you’re not vegetarian). Side dishes like curried chicken—chicken bathed in curry and coconut milk—are a good place to start. For seafood, you can make a spicy conch soup.
Apart from side dishes, you should also pair these typical Jamaican breakfast ideas with a tropical drink, and there are a lot of options for that. Without a drink, the breakfast menu isn’t complete. The options are:
- Brand beverages like Milo, Horlicks, Vita-cup, Ovaltine, and Caafi (a dark roast coffee). A hot cup of chocolate is perfect for any of the Jamaican breakfast options, especially ackee and saltfish.
- A perfectly-made cup of black tea. You can take it with or without milk and sugar.
- Mint tea is another good option. However, this is usually taken with Johnnycake or fried dumplings.
- Other herbal teas include cerasee, cinnamon-leaf tea, soursop-leaf tea, and of course, green tea.
When it comes to breakfast ideas, Jamaica has proved itself worthy by having really amazing food for us all. And, the best thing is that almost all of the ingredients needed to make these dishes are ingredients we’re already familiar with.
So stop worrying about how unexciting breakfast is, and spice up your breakfast menu with a few variations of the Jamaican breakfast. Trust me, you’re not going to regret this decision. Enjoy your breakfast!!!