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While the majority of Caribbean nations don’t observe the American Thanksgiving in their native islands, the diaspora residing in the United States has embraced the occasion with their unique customs. This includes festive gatherings with family and friends, where they deviate from the traditional turkey, mashed potatoes, and stuffing, opting instead for a more Caribbean-friendly spread featuring delights such as sorrel, rum-glazed ham, fritay, callaloo, pelau, and the cherished rum cakes.

Explore the top six dishes and beverages that grace the Thanksgiving dinner tables of Jamaican, Haitian, and Trinidadian communities.

Caribbean Americans Culinary Delights: Unveiling the Tastes of Jamaica, Haiti, and Trinidad


Jamaican Sorrel, also recognized as roselle, hibiscus tea, and flor de jamaica, stands out as a well-loved and invigorating beverage in Jamaica, particularly during the festive season.

What you need

  • 2 cups dried sorrel petals (hibiscus petals)
  • 1 cup white rum
  • 8-10 cups water
  • 1-2 cups granulated sugar (adjust to your sweetness preference)
  • 6-8 whole cloves
  • 1-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and sliced
  • 1-2 cinnamon sticks (optional)
  • 1 orange peel (optional)

What to do

  1. Rinse the dried sorrel petals under cold water to eliminate any debris or dirt. Ensure thorough draining.
  2. In a large pot, bring the water to a boil. Upon boiling, add the sorrel petals, ginger slices, cloves, cinnamon sticks, and orange peel (if using). Stir well, then reduce the heat to low.
  3. Simmer the mixture for about 15-20 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and allow it to cool. Strain the liquid into a large pitcher, discarding the used sorrel petals and spices.
  4. Add sugar to the strained liquid, starting with 1 cup. Stir until the sugar is completely dissolved.
  5. Introduce the rum to the pitcher and mix thoroughly.
  6. Refrigerate, serve over ice, and garnish with a slice of orange or a cinnamon stick.

Enjoy your homemade sorrel, a vibrant, deep-red beverage ideal for special occasions and cherished within Jamaican culture. Its sweet, tangy, and subtly spiced flavors make it delightful year-round.


HAITIAN KREMAS This delightful and creamy traditional Haitian holiday beverage offers a tantalizing hint of coconut and spices, reminiscent of eggnog but with a unique twist.

What You Need

  • 1 can (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 can (12 oz) evaporated milk
  • 1 can (13.5 oz) coconut milk
  • 1 can (13.5 oz) coconut cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ cup white rum
  • ½ cup dark rum
  • ¼ cup orange liqueur (optional)
  • ½ teaspoon anise extract (optional)
  • ½ teaspoon grated lime zest (optional)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • Crushed ice (for serving)

What to do

  1. In a large mixing bowl, combine the sweetened condensed milk and granulated sugar. Stir until the sugar is fully dissolved into the milk.
  2. Stir in the vanilla extract, almond extract, anise extract (if using), grated nutmeg, ground cinnamon, and lime zest (if using). Add the coconut milk and coconut cream to the mixture and stir until well combined. Add a small pinch of salt to balance the sweetness and enhance the flavors.
  3. Pour in the white rum, dark rum, and orange liqueur (if using).
  4. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2-3 hours, allowing the flavors to meld and the mixture to chill.
  5. When ready to serve, fill glasses with crushed ice and pour the Haitian Kremas over the ice.
  6. Garnish with a sprinkle of ground cinnamon. Enjoy this rich and flavorful holiday treat!


This exceptional rum-glazed jerk ham seamlessly blends the bold, smoky notes of Jamaican jerk seasoning with the luscious sweetness of a rum glaze, creating a ham that is both delicious and uniquely flavorful.

what you need

For the Jerk Ham:

  • 1 bone-in ham (8-10 pounds)
  • ½ cup Jamaican jerk seasoning
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

For the Rum Glaze:

  • 1 cup dark rum
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ cup honey
  • ¼ cup pineapple juice
  • ¼ cup orange juice
  • ¼ cup unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • Salt and black pepper, to taste

What to do

Instructions: Preparing the Ham:

  1. Preheat the oven to 325°F.
  2. Place the ham in a large roasting pan and score the surface in a crisscross pattern with a sharp knife.
  3. Mix Jamaican jerk seasoning, brown sugar, and olive oil to make a paste. Rub this jerk paste all over the ham, ensuring it gets into the scored cuts.
  4. Cover the ham with aluminum foil and roast in the preheated oven for about 15-18 minutes per pound.

Preparing the Rum Glaze:

  1. While the ham is roasting, combine the dark rum, brown sugar, honey, pineapple juice, orange juice, unsalted butter, Dijon mustard, allspice, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg in a saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat.
  2. Simmer the glaze for 10-15 minutes. Season with salt and black pepper to taste.

Glazing the Ham:

  1. About 30 minutes before the ham is done, remove it from the oven.
  2. Brush a generous amount of the rum glaze over the ham’s surface, reserving some glaze for additional basting.
  3. Return the ham to the oven, uncovered, and continue to roast. Baste the ham with the glaze every 10-15 minutes until it reaches an internal temperature of 140°F, about 30-40 minutes in total.
  4. Once done, let the ham rest for 15-20 minutes before carving.

Also Read: The Emerging Trend of Flaxseed Allergies A Growing Concern in Adults


Haitian fritay, also known as “fritaille,” stands out as a delectable and widely-loved street food in Haiti. Comprising various fried snacks and meats, it is often served alongside pikliz, a zesty pickled vegetable relish.

What you need

  • 1 pound goat meat or pork, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • ½ pound shrimp
  • ½ pound malanga (taro root or coco), peeled and thinly sliced
  • ½ pound sweet potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
  • ½ pound eggplant, sliced into rounds
  • ½ pound plantains, sliced into rounds
  • ½ pound yam, peeled and thinly sliced
  • ½ cup flour
  • ½ cup cornmeal
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • Cooking oil for frying

What to do

  1. In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, cornmeal, salt, and ground black pepper.
  2. Toss various sliced vegetables, meat, and shrimp in the flour mixture to coat evenly.
  3. Heat cooking oil in a deep skillet or pot to around 350°F. Carefully fry the coated vegetables, meat, and shrimp in batches until golden brown and crispy (approximately 4-6 minutes per batch).
  4. Use a slotted spoon to remove the fried items and drain them on paper towels.
  5. Serve and enjoy this flavorful Haitian street food!


Trinidadian Callaloo is a delectable and traditional Caribbean dish brimming with nutritious greens. Crafted with dasheen (taro) leaves or spinach, coconut milk, and an array of seasonings, it delivers a delightful culinary experience.

What you need

  • 1 pound dasheen leaves (also known as taro leaves) or spinach, washed and chopped
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 scotch bonnet pepper, minced (adjust to your heat preference)
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • ½ cup okra, sliced (optional, but traditional)
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon salt (adjust to taste)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 tablespoon fresh chives, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped

What to do

  1. Heat vegetable oil in a large pot or deep pan over medium heat. Sauté onions and garlic until translucent and fragrant.
  2. Stir in scotch bonnet pepper, black pepper, and fresh thyme. Adjust spice level by removing seeds and membrane from the scotch bonnet pepper if desired.
  3. Add dasheen leaves or spinach to the pot. Incorporate coconut milk and stir to coat the leaves. Include optional okra at this stage.
  4. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover the pot, and let the Callaloo simmer for 15-20 minutes or until the leaves are tender.
  5. Season with salt to taste, then stir in fresh chives and parsley for a burst of fresh flavor.
  6. Serve your Callaloo hot, accompanied by rice, chicken, and pigeon peas. Relish this Trinidadian classic, featuring a rich, creamy coconut essence and a medley of aromatic spices—a taste of the Caribbean in the comfort of your home.


Chicken Pelau stands as the quintessential dish for the island of Trinidad, often prepared for grand family gatherings. This delectable one-pot meal perfectly melds savory Caribbean flavors.

What you need

  • 2 ½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 1-2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 cups parboiled rice
  • ¾ cup coarsely chopped onion
  • ¾ cup coarsely chopped red bell pepper
  • 2 cups fresh or canned pigeon peas
  • 2 cups canned coconut milk
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • Salt and ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 whole Scotch bonnet pepper, uncut

What to do

  1. In a large bowl, combine chicken, 1 sprig of thyme, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, garlic, salt, and black pepper. Marinate for 1-2 hours or overnight.
  2. Heat oil in a large, deep pot over medium heat.
  3. Once the oil is hot, add sugar and let it caramelize to a dark brown for about two minutes in an even layer.
  4. Add the marinated chicken thighs to the pot and stir gently to coat with the sugar. Cook for 8-10 minutes.
  5. Add the rice and stir thoroughly to coat with flavor.
  6. Stir in the onions, sweet peppers, pigeon peas, green onion, and remaining sprigs of thyme. Stir for five minutes.
  7. Add the coconut milk and chicken stock, seasoning with additional salt and pepper to taste. Add the whole Scotch bonnet pepper, cover the pot, and bring to a boil for 10 minutes.
  8. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for about 25 minutes, or until all the liquid has been absorbed. Enjoy!


Indulge in the richness of Caribbean flavors with this authentic Jamaican rum cake—a true delicacy perfect for special occasions or a delightful taste of Jamaica at any moment.

What you need

For the Cake:

  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ cups mixed dried fruits (raisins, currants, prunes, and cherries)
  • 1 cup dark rum (Jamaican rum is preferred)
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • ½ cup molasses
  • ¼ cup browning sauce (available in Caribbean markets)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon ground allspice
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon salt

For the Rum Glaze:

  • ½ cup dark rum
  • ¼ cup water
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup unsalted butter

What to do

  1. Start by soaking the mixed dried fruits in the dark rum for at least 24 hours. Preheat your oven to 325°F. Grease and flour a Bundt cake pan or a traditional Jamaican cake pan.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, cream together the softened butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy.
  3. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Then stir in the vanilla and almond extracts.
  4. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, allspice, nutmeg, and salt.
  5. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the butter and sugar mixture, alternating with the molasses and browning sauce. Start and finish with the dry ingredients. Mix until just combined.
  6. Stir in the soaked dried fruits, along with any remaining rum in the bowl, until evenly distributed throughout the batter.
  7. Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and smooth the top. Bake for about an hour, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, and the cake is golden brown and firm to the touch.
  8. While the cake is baking, prepare the rum glaze. In a saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. Stir in the water and sugar, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for about 5 minutes until the syrup thickens slightly. Remove the syrup from the heat and stir in the dark rum.
  9. When the cake is done, place it on a wire rack to cool. While the cake is still warm, use a skewer to poke holes all over the surface of the cake. Slowly drizzle the warm rum glaze over the cake, allowing it to soak in.
  10. Allow the cake to cool completely before serving, savoring each bite of this delightful Jamaican classic. Embrace the warmth of the Caribbean with every slice, making every occasion a celebration!
Explore a symphony of flavors with these six tempting recipes! Share your culinary triumphs and thoughts in the comments section. Bon appétit!
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