Caribbean and meatless? It is possible

Hi Everyone, It’s the season of Lent and, as usual, my inbox is full of requests for vegetarian and meat-free recipes. One woman wrote to me expressing her utter frustration at how difficult it is to find Caribbean vegetarian recipes. But is this true? Maybe. I know that meat is a big part of many of our dishes. I have one friend who thinks that the meal is not finished if there is no meat.

However, there are many sides to Caribbean cooking and one thing we should recognise is that not only are there parts of our food heritage that have always been strictly vegetarian (many Caribbean Hindus are vegetarian, Rastafari are often vegetarian) but also our traditional ways of eating have often included meatless meals. If you’ve been reading this column for a while, you know that I have discussed the fact that back in the day – not so far back,I’m not that old – our weekday meals were meatless and if we ate meat it was a weekend thing.

20131214cynthiaNevertheless, we have grown used to labels. The complex rules and fad diets that are constantly coming at us through the TV, radio, magazines, and of course the internet,  often include a bunch of labels that say which food is good and we can eat it, or which food is bad and we avoid at all cost. Well, you know that I don’t actually believe in good food or bad food – everything in moderation is my mantra. Still I can see that we have grown used to labels and they can be an easy way to organise the world around us. I understand. Life sometimes becomes so hectic and complex these days that from time to time we need a quick reference guide to just help us survive. In that vein, I thought that I would list some of the foods we cook and eat often, and put them into various categories so that at-a-glance, we can see what type of vegetarian food we are already eating that might become a natural part of your Lenten fare.

The lists with foods in this column are not exhaustive and are exclusively focused on the various types of vegetarian diets. Gluten-free, wheat free, macrobiotic and the latest fad diet, the Paleo diet, are not considered here. However, you will find that some of the dishes mentioned here are gluten-free, wheat-free, vegan, macrobiotic and Paleo in composition.


Types of Vegetarians


Lacto-ovo: Spaghetti with Garlic & Herbs (Photo by Cynthia Nelson)
Lacto-ovo: Spaghetti with Garlic & Herbs (Photo by Cynthia Nelson)

Pescatarian – eats fish and seafood, eggs and dairy products. Abstains from eating all meat and animal flesh.

Lacto-ovo – eats eggs and dairy products but abstains from fish, seafood, and any kind of meat or animal flesh.

Lacto – consumes dairy products such as cheese, milk, yogurt etc. but does not eat eggs, fish, seafood, or any kind of meat or animal flesh.

Vegan – eats grains, nuts, fruits, vegetables and wheat; an exclusively plant-based diet. Vegans do not eat dairy products, eggs, or any other products derived from animals.



Fried Okra & Shrimp                                                      Fried Okra & Salt Fish

Fried Pumpkin & Shrimp                                             Fried Pumpkin & Salt Fish

Fried Baigan & Shrimp                                                 Fried Baigan & Salt Fish

Fried Callaloo & Shrimp                                               Fried Callaloo & Salt Fish

Fried Squash & Shrimp                                                 Fried Squash & Salt Fish

Fried Bora & Shrimp                                                      Fried Bora & Salt Fish

Fried Karaila & Shrimp                                                  Kalounjie (karaila stuffed with shrimp)

Curried Katahar with Shrimp                                       Curried Saim with Shrimp

Fried Fish                                                                             Stewed Fish

Curried Fish                                                                     Baked Fish

Fish Kebabs                                                                     Butterfish in Butter sauce

Steamed Fish                                                                  Escovitch (Pickled fried fish)

Fried Salt Fish                                                                 Fish Cakes (fried & steamed)

Pescatarian: Stewed Fish & Pumpkin Rice (Photo by Cynthia Nelson)
Pescatarian: Stewed Fish & Pumpkin Rice (Photo by Cynthia Nelson)

Fried Smoked Herring (or other smoked fish)

Salt Fish Choka                                                              Smoked Herring/Smoked Fish Choka

Green Bananas & salt fish                                            Ackee & Salt Fish

Fried Squid                                                                      Stuffed Squid

Snapper in Coconut Milk                                            Grilled Fish

Curried Shrimp                                                               Shrimp in Coconut Milk

Shrimp Cakes (fried & steamed)                               Shrimp Fried Rice

Shrimp Chowmein                                                         Salt Fish Fried Rice

Soup with Shrimp Balls                                                Soup with Fish Balls

Mettagee (with salt fish)                                               Buljol (pickled salt fish)

Green Banana Salad                                                      Stuffed Crab (backs)


(Read the label on the noodle packet to see if it is made with eggs before using)


Fried Okra                                                                       Fried Squash

Fried Pumpkin                                                               Fried Karaila

Fried Callaloo                                                                 Fried Bora

Fried Cabbage                                                                Curried Cauliflower & Potatoes

Curried Saim                                                                   Curried Saim & Potatoes

Fried Baigan                                                                    Curried Baigan & Eddoes or


Curried Channa & Potatoes                                       Curried Potatoes

Curried Breadfruit                                                         Curried Eddoes

Fried Bora & Potatoes                                                  Pumpkin & Potato Curry

Curried Katahar                                                               Vegetable Fried Rice

Vegan: Fried Squash with Rice (Photo by Cynthia Nelson)
Vegan: Fried Squash with Rice (Photo by Cynthia Nelson)

Vegetable Chowmein                                                   Vegetable Cook-up Rice

Boil & Fry Channa                                                          Rice & Peas

Ground Provision Soup                                                 Pumpkin Soup

Breadfruit Cou-cou                                                       Cornmeal Cou-cou

Eddo soup                                                                       Doubles

Tomato Choka                                                               Coconut Choka

Baigan Choka                                                                 Potato Choka

Stuffed Okra                                                                   Stuffed peppers (with seasoned  rice)

Khichri                                                                              Potato Pizza

Fried Potatoes

Lacto: Potato, Cheese & Asparagus Loaf (Photo by Cynthia Nelson)
Lacto: Potato, Cheese & Asparagus Loaf (Photo by Cynthia Nelson)

Dhal – made with various types of dried peas/beans and combined with vegetables such as okra, tomatoes and callaloo.

Boil & Fry Ground Provisions – as a combination of separate such as plantains, cassava and sweet potatoes.

Split-pea Soup – other bean/pea-based soups



(Pasta is in this section because the dough is traditionally made with whole eggs or egg yolks. Read the label.)


Curried Eggs                                                                   Fried Plantains & Eggs

Chips & Eggs (potato)                                                 Sweet Potato Fries & Eggs

Stuffed Eggs                                                                   Frittatas (Italian one-pan egg dish)

Sautéed Pumpkin & Nested Eggs                           Pasta with Sautéed Pumpkin

Pasta with Basil Pesto                                                  Pasta with Garlic & Oil

Pasta with Marinara Sauce                                         Vegetable Lasagna

Breadfruit Salad                                                             Potato Salad

Cheese Pies                                                                     Duchess Potatoes

Sweet Potato Salad


Corn Pie (Trini-style)                                                  Corn Soup

Macaroni Pie                                                                  Cassava Pie

Breadfruit Pie                                                                 Potato Pie

Scalloped Potatoes


You may want to save these lists and pin them on your refrigerator. Add to them as you discover other recipe ideas and feel free to share them with me. Many of the dishes you can eat and serve with rice, ground provisions, roti, bakes and bread.


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