Making your own recipes is a fun affordable way to use up leftover veggies, or what’s on sale at the farmers’ market. Base meals around cheap staples like pasta or rice (take your own container to the zero waste shop, but eat rice up quickly, as it’s a food poison hazard, if left too long). Eating plant-based recipes is good for animal welfare, the planet and your health. It’s also a good way to replace tasteless and expensive plastic-wrapped ready-meals from the supermarket. Vegetable Lo Mein with Tofu (Short Girl, Tall Order) is a blend of crispy tofu, noodles and fresh veggies, cooked in a simple tasty stir-fry sauce.
Use palm-oil-free vegan butter. Keep these recipes away from pets due to toxic ingredients (garlic, onion, leeks, chives, mushrooms, grapes, nuts, avocado, dried fruits, nutmeg, fresh dough, green potatoes/onions, chocolate, caffeine, alcohol, jackfruit and xylitol).
The Caribbean is a tropical paradise, consisting of several islands, and beautiful blue seas, with coral sands. Sitting on the Atlantic Ocean, the main islands of Jamaica and Cuba (just 100 miles from Florida) are surrounded by thousands of other islands, and the oceans contain almost 10% of the world’s coral reefs, at risk due to climate change (the Mesoamerican Barrier Beef is the world’s largest, after Australia’s Great Barrier Reef). However, most of the islands are uninhabitated with more birds, mammals and turtles than people. The seas also contain a good portion of the world’s whales.
Caribbean food tends to be a fusion of foods, due to being near to several other areas, and also the past history of settlers and tragic slavery. So you’ll find foods influenced by French, Portuguese and African cuisine, especially. Popular staple ingredients are rice, plantains (like large savoury bananas), yams, cassava, sweet potatoes and sofrito (a spicy herb marinade) and jerk seasoning. Okra and ackee (see below, it could kill you if prepared wrong!) are also popular. Desserts tend to focus around pineapple and rum!
Is Ackee Safe to Eat?
If it’s fresh, most surely not. If using ackee (a fruit), always use tinned (the fresh version can kill you – yikes!) Ackee is one of the world’s most dangerous foods if it’s fresh, and many people get ill or die each year, from eating it. So what is it, and why do vegans get interested in it?
The fruit has a sad history, as it’s not native to Jamaica – it was brought there on ships from African slaves. But if eaten before fully ripe, people can get ‘Jamaican vomiting sickness’, which is why it’s rarely exported fresh, and nearly always sold in tins. Even when ripe, the seed remains toxic. So for worrying types, just go for canned. Related to lychees and longan fruit, it’s also popular in China.
So what does ackee taste of? One description online is of ‘garden peas, slightly sweet’. Others say it’s mild and nutty, with a buttery flavour. It does however have the texture of scrambled egg (oily and mild), just don’t expect it to taste the same.
Plant-Based Caribbean Recipes
- Jerk Tempeh Bowl (So Vegan) is made in a shallow dish to marinate, served with vegan coleslaw or BBQ sauce. You make the marinade yourself or buy storebought for an easier version. Use tamari instead of soy sauce, to make this recipe gluten-free. Many of these recipes are replicating meat and fish, so keep away from pets, due to toxic ingredients (onion, garlic, mushrooms, soy etc).
- Vegan Banana Blossom Fish (The Veg Space) uses the ingredient that is popular for vegan options at London fish and chip shops. This ‘fish’ is made from flaky marinated banana blossom, which is cooked in a light beer batter. Serve with chips, vinegar and tartar sauce.
- Caribbean Bangers & Mash are served with a homemade plantain potato mash.
- Jerk BBQ Cauliflower ‘Chicken’ Wings are ideal with chips, for a quick alternative to a Friday night takeaway.
Plant-Based Caribbean Desserts
Pina Colada Smoothie (Short Girl, Tall Order) is sweetened with dates or maple syrup. An ideal healthy breakfast.
Pina Colada Popsicles (Addicted to Dates) only need 4 ingredients. Perfect for hot summer days.
Pina Colada Ice Cream (Addicted to Dates) has just 6 ingredients including coconut milk, pineapple and a hint of dark rum.
Pineapple Coconut Pannacotta Tart (Addicted to Dates) features layers of coconut pudding on a tangy pineapple curd jelly, topped on a shortbread crust.
Vegan Rum & Raisin Ice Cream (Addicted to Dates) is a luxurious vanilla ice-cream, studded with boozy dried fruits.
Vegan Rum Cake (Crumbs & Caramel) is rich and soaked in a buttery rum sauce. Simple yet an ideal dessert for special occasions. Takes you back to the 70s!
Plant-Based Caribbean Recipe Books
Natural Flava is a fun book of quick & easy plant-based Caribbean recipes. This vibrant book is packed with 100 easy recipes that are filling and flava-ful! Caribbean food relies on fresh fruit and veg (from plantain to pineapple) and is often naturally vegan, due to the Rastifarian Ital diet. Recipes include:
- Caribbean Bangers & Mash
- Jerk Cauliflower Wings
- Potato & Chickpea Curry with Roti
- Fried Cauliflower Burger
- Jerk Mushroom Wraps
- Plantain Hummus
- Red Pea Soup
- Ackee & Cabbage with Fried Dumplings
- Coconut Pancakes
- Immune-Boosting Ital Smoothies
- Plantain Cookies
- Spicy Sweet Potatoes with Chickpea Mayo
Craig and Shaun McAnuff were raised in London of Jamaican descent. They are bringing Caribbean food to the modern kitchen, their simple recipes proving very popular.
Rachel Ama’s Vegan Eats is by London chef Rachel Ama, who combines recipes influenced by her African and Caribbean roots. Never bland or boring, many dishes are one-pot and all the dishes are simply and can be prepped ahead, alongside a banging playlist. Enjoy:
- Cinnamon French Toast with Strawberries
- Caribbean Channa (above)
- Chickpea Sweet Potato Falafel
- Peanut Rice & Veg Stir-Fry
- Caribbean Fritters
- Plantain Burger
- Tabbouleh Salad
- Carrot Cake Waffles with Cashew Frosting
- Griddled Cinnamon Pineapples with Salted Caramel
- Layered Pavlova with Coconut Cream
Rachel Ama is a former KFC addict who went vegan age 23, and has not looked back since. She has a legion of fans on her YouTube channel, where she presents simple, affordable and delicious recipes and is the author of two best-selling vegan cookbooks.
- Vegan Fish Tacos
- Cassava Pancakes
- Herbed Sada Roti
- Jerk ‘Sausages
- Trinidadian Doubles
- Bajan Booster Shake
- Rasta Pasta!
- Plantain Wellington
- Caribbean Sushi
- Moringa Bread
- Ginger-Kissed Jam-Filled Beignets
- Rummy Rum & Raisin Ice Cream
Also check out the author’s other book Caribbean Smoothies. This has recipes using tropical fruits like pineapple lemongrass, mango, passion fruit and pina colada.
Abuela’s Plant-Based Kitchen is a fusion book of Latin and Caribbean recipes, inspired by the author’s family. Karla hails from Puerto Rico and is now a holistic health coach, so you can be sure the recipes are good for you. Paired with personal stories, recipes include:
- Garbanzo Stew with Plantain Balls
- Papaya & Tomato Salad
- Cuban-style Picadillo
- Flan de Coco
The Zero Waste Caribbean Grocery
Cocoa Spice Cake with Crystallised Ginger from Afro-Vegan
Yams and sweet potatoes are easy to find, though you may have to find a specialty store for plantains. Bananas are sold everywhere, farm shops are good as they don’t have to cover the organic ones in plastic, to avoid cross-contamination (as everything is organic). Try to find ones shipped by sea, rather than air. And you can use the inner peel to polish your shoes!
Tropical fruits are not local (unless you are fortunate enough to live in the Caribbean). But good for a treat. Avocados are also used a lot, so look for ones grown on local farms, to avoid migratory bee-keeping (the bees die at harvest time with big agro-chemical companies).