25 Traditional Haitian Food And Dishes To Try

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With tropical vibes, deep blue seas and incredible people, Haiti is known for being a traveler’s paradise. Despite that, Haitian food is one of the most underrated cuisines out there. Only the people who have visited the country and tried authentic dishes appreciate the potential this cuisine has.

Haiti food differs considerably from other African dishes due to its geographical location and the influence of Creole cultures. Occupying the western third of Hispaniola island, Haiti has access to a fruitful beach, diverse wildlife and inland vegetables. This blend of unique characteristics makes the food here a must-have.

What’s Special About Haitian Food?

Haitian cuisine is the perfect representation of African street food culture. The dishes here are known for their bold use of spices like thyme, chili and different aromatics. Speaking of chili, the infamous Scotch bonnet chili is native to Haiti.

Dishes here often star this extremely spicy chili pepper but in a way that everyone can enjoy. Haitian food also highlights root vegetables like malanga (taro root) and yam that go really well with all these herbs and spices.

Deep-fried food is also a favorite in Haiti, and you can find all sorts of fried fritters, dumplings and even sweet dishes. Locals usually have them as sides, complimenting the meat dishes here.

Oh, and the fruit selection here is so diverse, including all sorts of tropical fruits like guava, mangoes and papaya. In Haiti, you’ll also find some fruits you might not have heard of before, such as soursop, breadfruit and star apple. The local cuisine incorporates a lot of these fruits in desserts. 

To top it all off, seafood is also abundant in the country. This means crab, fish and lobster dishes are popular.

Most Famous Dish In Haitian Food

Soup Joumou (Independence Day Soup)

Soup joumou is the most celebrated dish in Haitian cuisine. It is a savory soup that is a colorful representation of the history and culture of Haiti. It is traditionally served on January 1st to honor Haiti’s liberation from colonial French rule.

The primary ingredient, pumpkin, gives the soup a rich and creamy taste and vivid orange color. In addition to the pumpkin, locals add small pieces of cabbage, plantains, carrots, potatoes, pasta and meat.

The dish is served in bowls to share with neighbors. It’s typically present during get-togethers with friends or family. Locals enjoy this dish with slices of bread and dumplings.

Breakfast Items In Traditional Haiti Food

Kasav (Cassava Bread)

Kasav, or cassava bread, is a quintessential part of Haitian cuisine, showcasing the versatility of cassava root. It is commonly eaten at breakfast, during snack time, and in the evening. 

This flatbread is made by grating cassava and squeezing out its moisture to create a stiff dough. The dough is then shaped into thin rounds and cooked on a cast iron griddle until slightly charred. What emerges is a dense, chewy bread with a subtle nutty flavor from the cassava. 

The Haitian flatbread is a versatile staple often served alongside soups, stews and braised meats to soak up sauce. It can also be made into a breakfast sandwich stuffed with fried eggs, pikliz, cheese, peanut butter, or anything else you like. 

Mayi Moulen Ak Sòs Pwa Nwa (Cornmeal And Black Bean Sauce)

Mayi moulen ak sòs pwa nwa is a traditional Haitian dish that combines two essential elements of Haitian cuisine: cornmeal and black beans. Corn is a prevalent crop in Haiti. The locals use it to make a smooth, creamy, porridge-like cornmeal that serves as the base for this dish.

As for the sauce, black beans are cooked until tender and then partially mashed. Then it is seasoned with a flavorful combination of ingredients like garlic, onions, green peppers, thyme and other spices.

Bannann Peze (Fried Plantains)

Bannann peze is a Haitian food that features plantains. Smashed and deep-fried, the plantains gain a different texture that makes them super flavorful to eat.

While the basic recipe is relatively straightforward, some variations include seasoning the bannann peze with garlic. The fritters are commonly paired with other Haitian traditional dishes like pikliz and griot. It’s also a popular snack because of its crispy texture and savory flavor.  

Pain Patate (Sweet Potato Pudding)

While its literal translation is “sweet potato bread,” pain patate is more like a baked pudding. This popular Haitian food combines the sweetness of ripe sweet potatoes with the warmth of spices. The pudding is rich and fruity, thanks to the addition of coconut milk, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla extract, a banana and sometimes raisins.

Pain Patate emerges from the oven with delicious hints of spice throughout. It is often topped with a sprinkling of cinnamon, grated nutmeg, or whipped cream.

Akasan (Cornmeal Drink)

Akasan is a popular breakfast beverage in Haitian cuisine. It’s a creamy and slightly thickened drink that provides a hearty and delicious start to the day. Some liken its consistency to that of a shake, smoothie or pudding.

Made by boiling water with cornmeal, cinnamon, and evaporated milk, it is sweetened with sugar and vanilla for a rich flavor. The mixture is carefully stirred to achieve a smooth consistency. Akasan can be served warm, giving it a soothing quality, or cold for a refreshing option.

Meat Dishes In Traditional Haiti Food

Griot (Fried Pork)

Considered Haiti’s national dish, griot primarily revolves around marinated and fried pork chunks, typically shoulder meat. The marinade includes ingredients such as sour orange or lime juice, Scotch bonnet peppers, garlic, onions, thyme and other spices.

The marinated pork is both tangy and spicy, and it goes hand-in-hand with the crispy and savory elements of the dish. Locals enjoy it with pikliz, fried plantains and rice, but it can also be served as a stand-alone dish.

Poul Nan Sòs (Chicken In Sauce)

Poul nan sòs is known for its rich and flavorful chicken simmered in a savory sauce. The sauce is prepared using a variety of ingredients, including tomatoes, onions, bell peppers, garlic, thyme and parsley. Scotch bonnet peppers or chiles are added for a touch of heat.

It’s a common and beloved dish for family gatherings and special occasions. The best way to enjoy this dish is with fragrant white rice, which helps balance the spice.

Lambi (Conch Stew)

Conch is a type of sea snail you find on the coasts of Haiti, and the locals make this amazing stew with it. This seafood delicacy is widely enjoyed in Haitian cuisine for its distinctive flavor and the various ways it can be prepared.

The conch meat is typically tough and needs to be tenderized before cooking. Lambi is known for its unique and slightly chewy texture, reminiscent of other shellfish. The conch flavor is mild so it absorbs the taste of the seasonings and sauce. It is particularly delicious served with rice or boiled plantains.

Sòs Vyann Kabrit (Goat Stew)

Sòs vyann kabrit features goat meat, typically cut into bite-sized pieces. The sauce is filled with the sweetness of tomato paste, the pungency of garlic and onions, and the heat of habanero peppers. 

While the core preparation method remains consistent, variations in the seasonings and spices can create unique flavor profiles for sòs vyann kabrit. For example, some vendors include additional vegetables such as okra for added depth of flavor.

Vegetarian/Vegan Dishes In Traditional Haiti Food

Akra (Malanga Fritters)

Akra is made from grated malanga (taro) root blended with herbs and spices. It’s shaped into small fritters and deep-fried until they turn golden brown. The fritters are crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, creating a delightful contrast in texture.

The dish has a mildly spicy and savory taste because of seasonings like garlic, scallions and peppers. There is also a subtle earthy flavor from the malanga (taro) root.

Locals also enjoy akra as an appetizer or side dish. They also like to dip the warm fritters in their favorite sauce.

Legim (Mixed Vegetable Stew)

A traditional Haitian dish, legim is a hearty, vegetable-based stew known for its robust and savory flavors. Locals add a wide variety of vegetables to this stew that often include eggplant, chayote, cabbage and carrots.

The combination of various vegetables and seasonings creates a depth of flavor. Thyme and parsley add an aromatic quality. Scotch bonnet peppers provide a pleasant heat that enhances the stew’s overall taste.

Kalalou (Okra Stew)

Kalalou is a staple in Haitian cuisine. It’s basically the country’s take on the meat and okra stew. The savory and nutritious dish is also often referred to as Haitian gumbo. 

This hearty dish combines tender, green okra pods and meat, such as crab, shrimp, or beef. Some variations include vegetables like carrots, bell peppers, and watercress.

The sauce is what makes this Haitian food so good. It’s a blend of tomato paste, a habanero pepper, and some local spices that take the flavor profile to the next level. This savory and nutritious okra stew is often served over rice.

Tchaka (Pork, Bean and Corn Stew)

Tchaka is a thick, rustic stew. The heart of this dish are three ingredients: salted or smoked pork, corn, and beans. These are cooked separately and then mixed together with garlic, chili peppers, lime and herbs to create a richly seasoned dish. 

Many local versions replace pork with mutton, beef or crab. Some Haitians also add coconut milk, squash, yam or malanga for more creaminess. 

Traditionally, it takes a long time to prepare tchaka, so it is reserved for special or festive occasions. The stew can be served over rice or with a starchy side of plantains. 

Seafood Dishes In Traditional Haiti Food

Kribich Nan Sos (Haitian Shrimp In Creole Sauce) 

Kribich nan sos is a beloved Haitian dish which exemplifies the rich culinary traditions of the Caribbean island. This enticing recipe features shrimp (kribich) cooked in a vibrant, spicy sauce.

The sauce base is made from tomatoes, onions, garlic, and a blend of aromatic herbs and spices. Bell peppers and sometimes a hint of lime juice add freshness and zest. The sauce is typically thick and flavorful, clinging to the succulently cooked shrimp. 

This Haitian shrimp dish is commonly served with rice or root vegetables. Haitians enjoy this hearty and satisfying meal in both casual and festive settings.

Pwason Boukannen (Grilled Fish)

Pwason Boukannen, a popular dish in Haiti, translates to “Grilled Fish” in English. This flavorful preparation involves marinating fish, often red snapper, in a mixture of onion, spices, lime juice, and herbs. 

The fish is then grilled to perfection over an open flame. This smoking technique is called “boukan” in Haiti. It infuses the fish with a wonderfully smoky, aromatic flavor. 

The dish is usually served with rice or fried plantains. A side of pikliz is also common to provide some heat and acidity to the smoky fish, which results in incredible layers of flavor.

Djon Djon (Seafood Black Rice)

Djon Djon is a cherished dish in Haitian cuisine. It features a unique and flavorful preparation of black rice with a distinct twist. The dish gets its name from dried black mushrooms (djon djon), which imparts an earthy and aromatic essence to the rice. 

The mushroom and rice pair is typically combined with seafood like crab or shrimp. The dish is further enriched with spices, herbs, and sometimes coconut milk to create a savory and complex flavor profile. 

The result is a hearty, highly seasoned rice dish that showcases both Haiti’s affinity for seafood and the creativity of its cuisine. It is a popular everyday meal, but it is also served at celebrations and festivals. 

Traditional Street Food Haitian Dishes

Tasso Kabrit (Spicy Fried Goat Meat)

The star of tasso kabrit is the goat meat cut into bite-sized pieces and then soaked in a spicy marinade. This marinade features a combination of ingredients like garlic, Scotch bonnet peppers, thyme and various aromatic seasonings.

Once marinated, the meat is deep-fried until it achieves a crispy and golden-brown exterior, while maintaining its tenderness inside. The frying process really locks in the flavors of the spices, and  as soon as you take a bite, it’s like a flavor bomb.

Pikliz (Spicy Pickled Vegetables)

Pikliz is more than just a condiment; it holds cultural significance in Haitian cuisine. The primary components of pikliz include an assortment of vegetables, vinegar and a blend of seasonings. 

The typical vegetables used in pikliz are cabbage, carrots, bell peppers (often both green and red) and onions. The addition of Scotch bonnet peppers gives pikliz its signature spiciness. 

Beyond its culinary role, pikliz represents the spirit of Haitian hospitality and sharing. Locals make it in huge batches to share with family and friends. This creates connections and fosters a sense of community.

Kibi (Spiced Ground Meat Balls)

Kibi is a popular Haitian snack with Middle Eastern roots. The flavorful, protein-rich treat is traditionally made from bulgur wheat, minced meat (usually beef or lamb), and a medley of spices like cumin and allspice. 

These ingredients are mixed together, formed into torpedo-shaped balls or patties, and then fried until golden brown. This makes kibi crispy on the outside and tender inside. The dish is often served with spicy dipping sauces and is a beloved street food, enjoyed at gatherings and festive occasions in Haiti.

Pate Kode (Savory Pastry)

Pate kode is a hand-sized, savory pastry that is typically golden-brown. It is characterized by a slightly crispy outer crust. They are so popular, it’s likely you’ll see them in the hands of every Haitian you see walking down the street.

The dish comes with different fillings like ground meat, seafood and vegetables. Make sure you try them all.

Desserts In Haitian Food

Du Riz Au Lait (Rice Pudding)

Du riz au lait is a rice pudding that’s the star of all Haitian desserts. It is primarily made from simple ingredients, making it an accessible dessert for many households. The key components include milk, sugar and vanilla extract.

The vanilla extract enhances the overall taste, and any additional spices or flavorings, such as cinnamon or nutmeg, contribute both to its delightful taste and aroma. Locals use either evaporated or condensed milk. The addition of the latter makes the pudding richer and creamier. 

Gateau De Manioc (Cassava Cake) 

Gateau de manioc is a mouthwatering dessert that blends the sweetness of cassava and a tropical flavor. The main ingredient is cassava, a starchy root vegetable grated to create a delicate, grainy texture. 

This Haitian food is prepared by mixing grated cassava with coconut milk, sugar and a hint of vanilla extract. This mixture is then baked until golden brown, after which the moist and dense dessert is ready to eat. Locals mostly serve the cassava cake in square and slice shapes.

Blanc Manger (Coconut Custard)

The name of this Haitian dish reflects its characteristic pale appearance. Blanc mange has a smooth, creamy texture and a sweet, delicate flavor. Some sugar provides a mild sweetness, while the gelatin helps give it the desired pudding-like consistency.

Haitians make it with coconut milk and top it with fresh fruit. Garnishes, such as fruit, caramel or a berry sauce, not only enhance the flavor but also add visual appeal.

Dous Makòs (Layered Fudge)

This traditional dessert is the Haitian version of fudge. Some have described it as looking like a flag consisting of three colored and flavored layers. The most popular flavors are vanilla and chocolate, and a touch of red food coloring creates the dous makòs’ distinctive pink stripe. 

It is dense and sweet. Some variations add coconut milk, which imparts a subtle coconut flavor to the dish that further enhances its taste.

FLAVORS AROUND THE WORLD

Discovering Traditional Foods In Haiti

There are some cool facts about Haiti, like how it was the first independent Black republic or that its locals still practice voodoo. However, only a few people have explored the cuisine in addition to the landmarks in Haiti.

The food variety here is second to none. Seafood, fresh fruits, deep-fried goodness: You name it, and the place has a dish for you. Haiti has a rich street food culture, too. You’ll find tons of vendors selling these local delicacies. But perhaps what makes this place the most special is the people. Haitians are incredibly hospitable and will welcome you with bright garlands. The next time you visit, indulge in Haitian food with the friendly locals for an unforgettable trip.


PIN THESE TRADITIONAL HAITIAN FOOD FOR LATER!

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Welcome To NomadsUnveiled
This is Rax. For over a decade, I have traveled to over 60 countries - from a budget backpacker to a business traveler, expat and then a digital nomad. You can find insights and perspectives from myself and other world travelers that will inspire your journey of discovery.

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