Aruba is known for its pristine beaches, turquoise waters, and vibrant culture, but that’s not all that differentiates this lovely place. The island is also a paradise for food lovers. The food of Aruba boasts diverse cuisines influenced by its history and the mix of cultures that call it home.
From fresh seafood to hearty stews and spicy snacks, Aruba’s food scene has a plethora of dishes waiting for hungry foodies. Here are some of the best food in Aruba to try on your next visit to this beautiful island.
What’s Special About Aruba Food?
Aruba, a Caribbean island located off the coast of Venezuela, has a unique culinary scene that reflects its diverse cultural influences and surrounding landscape. The island’s cuisine blends African, Spanish, Dutch, and indigenous Arawak traditions, resulting in a vibrant and flavorful food culture.
Aruba’s signature dishes include seafood, stews, and soups, often accompanied by rice, beans, and plantains. Aruban cuisine is prepared using traditional cooking methods, such as grilling and slow cooking over an open flame. The food is often served in family-style portions, with generous servings of side dishes and condiments.
Also, what makes the food of Aruba unique is its availability and affordability. You, as a tourist, will find it enjoyable as you can access a wide variety of dining options, ranging from upscale restaurants to casual beachside eateries. Local food markets and trucks also offer authentic Aruban food fare.
Most Famous Food In Aruba
Keshi Yena (Stuffed Cheese)
Keshi Yena is a beloved Aruban dish with a rich history dating back to the island’s colonial era. The dish originated when Dutch colonizers, who imported large quantities of Gouda cheese, repurposed the rinds to create a savory filling for chicken or beef. Today, Keshi Yena is a staple of Aruban cuisine, with many variations and personal touches added by each cook.
To prepare Keshi Yena, a cheese rind is filled with a flavorful mixture of chicken or beef, vegetables, and spices, then baked until the cheese is melted and bubbly. The result is a hearty and delicious meal with a unique blend of flavors and textures.
If you’re visiting Aruba, trying Keshi Yena is a must. It’s an Aruba national dish with a fascinating history and a tasty meal that will leave you feeling full.
Aruba Food – Seafood
Shrimp Di Zuwida (Shrimp Creole)
Shrimp di Zuwida is a traditional food of Aruba. It evolved from enslaved Africans brought to the Caribbean during the colonial era. The dish’s name, “Zuwida,” is derived from the Arabic word for “spice,” reflecting the flavorful blend of spices.
It is made with shrimp cooked in a rich tomato-based sauce seasoned with herbs and spices such as thyme, bay leaves, and peppers. Funchi, a cornmeal-based side dish, or rice usually accompanies the dish.
This is one of the best food in Aruba to get a taste of the gems from the surrounding ocean.
Aruba boasts the highly sought-after Caribbean Lobster, undoubtedly one of the most delicious seafood you should enjoy during your visit. This luscious crustacean is commonly boiled or grilled and accompanied by garlic butter or lemon.
Although its availability is seasonal and reliant on the fishing season, the delectable taste is well worth the anticipation. Pairing a Caribbean Lobster with a refreshing drink in Aruba makes for an unforgettable culinary experience.
The dish’s roots can be traced back to the early colonization period of the Caribbean, where the spiny lobster served as a crucial protein source for the indigenous people and was introduced to European colonizers.
Mahi-Mahi (Dolphin Fish)
Mahi-Mahi has become a culinary staple in Aruba, as it’s a beloved seafood in tropical regions. Grilling or pan-searing are common cooking methods; they are then served with various sauces or seasoning blends.
Its firm, flaky texture and mild, sweet flavor make it a versatile ingredient in numerous dishes. Originally, Mahi-Mahi was a vital food source for fishermen in the Pacific and Indian Oceans. Its popularity has since spread worldwide, both in restaurants and home kitchens.
Mahi-Mahi’s appeal lies in its fresh taste and nutritional benefits, as it’s a lean protein source, abundant in omega-3 fatty acids, and low in calories. Don’t miss the chance to savor this delicious and nutritious Aruban cuisine during your visit.
Aruba Food – Main Dishes
Ayaca (Cornmeal And Meat Tamale)
Ayaca is a traditional Aruban dish that’s often enjoyed during festive occasions. Its origins can be traced back to the indigenous tribes of the region, who used cornmeal to cook up various dishes. Ayaca is made by filling a cornmeal dough with meat, vegetables, and spices.
The tamale is then wrapped in a banana leaf and boiled or steamed until fully cooked. Ayaca is served with a side of pickled onions or hot sauce. The dish’s unique blend of flavors and textures makes it the best cuisine in Aruba.
Arros Cu Calbas (Rice With Squash)
This savory dish has a history that dates back to Aruba’s indigenous people, the Arawaks, who used squash in their meals. Arros Cu Calbas is prepared by cooking rice with pieces of squash, onion, garlic, and various seasonings such as cumin, thyme, and bay leaves.
The result is a fragrant, hearty, and flavorful rice dish that is both satisfying and healthy. It’s typically served as a side dish alongside Aruban main courses such as fish or goat stew.
Webo Yenas (Stuffed Eggs)
Webo Yenas is a popular food in Aruba. The origin of this dish is unclear, but it’s believed to have been introduced by Dutch colonizers.
Hard-boiled eggs are cut in half, and the yolks are mixed with various ingredients, such as mayonnaise, mustard, onions, and spices, then stuffed back into the egg whites. If you think that sounds familiar, that’s because it resembles the classic deviled eggs.
Webo Yenas are served chilled, garnished with parsley or paprika. It’s a traditional food in Aruba that you should try for its nice blend of flavors and textures. Its creamy and tangy filling, paired with the soft-boiled egg, makes for a perfect appetizer or light snack.
Aruba Food – Light Dishes, Snacks, And Street Food
Pisca Hasa (Ayaca And Fried Fish)
Ayaca Pisca Hasa is a traditional Aruban cuisine that features fried fish served with Ayaca, a savory tamale made of cornmeal, spices, and meat. This unique dish has its roots in the indigenous population’s culinary traditions, and its recipe has been passed down through generations.
The fish is usually marinated in local spices, then fried until crispy and golden brown. It is then served with the flavorful Ayaca, which perfectly balances the texture and taste of the dish.
A taste of Ayaca Pisca Hasa comes with an embodiment of the island’s cultural and culinary heritage. Combining crispy fried fish and savory tamale is a true gastronomic experience in Aruba.
Funchi (Cornmeal Mush)
Funchi is one of the popular Aruban foods made with cornmeal mush. It was brought to the Caribbean by early African settlers. The dish is easy to prepare by combining cornmeal with water and cooking it until it thickens. It’s served as a side dish, often with stews, fish, or meat.
Funchi is an essential component of Aruban cuisine, and its popularity is attributed to its simplicity, versatility, and delicious taste. It’s also a staple food in the Caribbean region and is enjoyed by many due to its affordability and nutritional value.
If you want to experience a traditional Aruban dish, try Funchi. While simple, it has a nice texture and can make for a filling meal or side.
Pan Bati (Cornmeal Pancake)
Pan Bati is a beloved food of Aruba made from cornmeal batter. Similarly, this was another creation by the early inhabitants of Aruba, who used cornmeal as a staple food.
Today, it’s one of the popular snacks for breakfast in Aruba and is often served with various toppings such as cheese, butter, or syrup. The preparation involves mixing cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt with water or milk and then frying it until golden brown.
Pan Bati is delicious and an integral part of Aruban culture and history. If you want to immerse yourself in the island’s culture and tradition, make sure you sample Pan Bati, as it offers an authentic taste of Aruba.
Aruban Food – Soups
Sopi Mondongo (Tripe Soup)
Sopi Mondongo is a common local food in Aruba. The soup’s preparation involves cleaning and simmering beef tripe with vegetables and spices, resulting in a hearty and flavorful broth. It’s usually served with rice or cornmeal and garnished with cilantro and lime wedges.
Sopi Mondongo’s complex flavors and hearty texture make it a satisfying and filling meal. This is a popular dish in many Latin American countries; the hearty stew makes for a comforting meal.
While the inclusion of innards in this Aruban food might be weird for some, it will offer you a unique gastronomic experience that showcases the rich history and diverse cultural influences of Aruba’s cuisine.
Sopa Di Piska (Fish Soup)
Sopa di Piska is a staple dish in Aruba, reflecting the island’s fishing traditions. The soup’s history dates back to the early settlers, who created the recipe using locally caught fish and ingredients. It is prepared by simmering various fish, vegetables, and spices for hours until the flavors meld together.
Sopa di Piska is typically served hot with bread, plantains, or cornmeal dumplings. It is a must-try for seafood lovers, as it boasts a rich and satisfying taste. Its deep-seated cultural roots and unique blend of flavors make it a dish worth experiencing when you visit Aruba.
Cabrito Stoba – Goat Stew
Cabrito Stoba is a traditional Aruban stew that consists of tender chunks of goat meat cooked in a flavorful tomato-based broth with vegetables like onions, garlic, and bell peppers.
This dish originates from Aruba’s colonial period when goats were raised for milk and meat. The stew’s slow cooking process allows the meat to absorb the flavors of the vegetables and spices, resulting in a savory, tender, and hearty dish.
Cabrito Stoba is often served with Funchi (cornmeal polenta) or rice, Pan Bati (cornmeal pancake), and a refreshing drink. As one of the popular local foods in Aruba, don’t miss out when visiting.
Aruba Food – Sweets, Desserts, And Pastries
Pastechi is one of the popular Aruban desserts that is often also served as breakfast. It consists of a crispy, flaky pastry filled with various savory ingredients such as cheese, meat, or seafood. The dish is typically made by rolling out a dough mix of flour, butter, and water dough, filling it with the desired ingredients, and then baking or deep-frying it.
Pastechi is usually served as a handheld snack that’s best when freshly made. Its origin can be traced back to the Dutch colonial period when it was influenced by Indonesian and African cuisine.
The tasty and portable nature of Pastechi makes it a great on-the-go meal or snack. Make sure you pack some as you explore the different landmarks in Aruba.
Bolo Di Borracho (Rum Cake)
Bolo di Borracho is a beloved Aruban dessert, originating from the Caribbean and Latin America. Its history dates back to the 16th century when the Spanish introduced rum to the region. Bolo di Borracho is made by soaking a moist sponge cake with rum and sugar syrup.
The result is a rich and moist cake, bursting with flavors of caramel and spice. It’s served with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. You should try Bolo di Borracho in Aruba to indulge in the island’s unique culinary culture and savor the decadent taste of this traditional dessert.
Cocada (Coconut Candy)
Cocada is a sweet and flavorful treat popular in many Latin American countries, including Aruba. It’s made from grated coconut, sugar, and spices, cooked together until a thick and sticky mixture forms.
The candy is often shaped into small balls or squares and served as a dessert or snack. The origin of Cocada can be traced back to Brazil, where it was traditionally made with condensed milk and cooked over an open flame.
However, there are many variations of Cocada, each with its unique ingredients and cooking methods. If you have a sweet tooth or are a fan of coconut-based desserts, you will love this Aruban sweet. Its delightful taste and cultural significance make it a popular treat in many parts of the world.
Aruban Food – Vegetarian Dishes
Funchi Cu Hasa (Pan-Fried Cornmeal)
Funchi Cu Hasa, also known as ‘Pan-fried Cornmeal’, is a popular Aruban dish every food lover should try. Originating from the Netherlands Antilles, it’s a simple and tasty dish made from cornmeal, water, and salt, served with pan-fried breaded chicken.
The dish has a rich history and was introduced to the Caribbean by Africans, who used cornmeal as a substitute for their traditional porridge. The preparation process involves simmering the cornmeal mixture until it thickens and forms a soft dough, which is then pan-fried until it turns golden brown.
Funchi Cu Hasa is often served with a salad or sautéed vegetables, making it a complete and satisfying meal. Its unique texture and savory taste are sure to leave a lasting impression.
Aruban Pumpkin Soup
Aruban Pumpkin Soup is a beloved dish on the island, particularly during the cooler months. The soup is typically prepared by roasting fresh pumpkin and pureeing it with Caribbean spices and herbs. It’s then simmered with chicken or vegetable broth until it reaches a velvety consistency.
The soup is usually served hot with a dollop of cream and crusty bread. The history of Aruban Pumpkin Soup dates back to the island’s indigenous Arawak population, who used pumpkin in various dishes.
Aruban Pumpkin Soup has since become a cultural favorite that locals and tourists enjoy. Its delicious, comforting taste, nutritional value, and rich cultural heritage. Best of all, vegetarians can enjoy this soup as well!
Aruban Food – Drinks
Coco Loco (Coconut Cocktail)
Coco Loco is a refreshing coconut cocktail popular in tropical regions, including Aruba. The preparation involves cutting open a fresh green coconut, adding rum and other ingredients, and mixing everything to create a delicious and refreshing drink.
It’s often served in the coconut shell, with a straw, and topped with fresh fruit or a cocktail umbrella. Coco Loco is popular for its refreshing taste, coming from the perfect blend of coconut and rum.
The experience of sipping this cocktail while soaking up the sun on the beautiful beaches in Aruba is one you shouldn’t miss.
Ponche Crema (Creamy Rum)
Ponche Crema (or Creamy Rum), is a popular liqueur in many Latin American and Caribbean countries. It has a creamy texture with a rich, sweet flavor that combines milk, eggs, sugar, and rum. The origin of Ponche Crema can be traced back to Venezuela, where it was first made in the early 1900s.
Today, it’s enjoyed in many countries and served as a dessert drink during the holiday season. Ponche Crema is served chilled and can be enjoyed alone or with coffee or cocoa. Its delicious taste and unique blend of flavors make it one of the best drinks in Aruba that you should definitely try.
FLAVORS AROUND THE WORLD
Discovering The Traditional Food Of Aruba
Exploring the country’s food scene is essential to experiencing its culture.
With a focus on using fresh, locally sourced ingredients, distinct culinary methods, and shared dining experiences, Aruba foods are rich in flavor and diversity, from seafood to stews and desserts.
As you navigate through the colorful streets and bustling markets, you’ll discover many unique ingredients, spices, and dishes that reflect the island’s rich cultural heritage.
From the famous “Keshi Yena” to “Bolo di Cacho,” traditional Aruban food will take you on a culinary journey through the country’s history and traditions. Don’t hesitate to immerse yourself in the lively realm of Aruban food and relish every delectable moment.