A Taste of T&T: The Ultimate Beginners Guide to Trinidadian Cuisine
Like the people, the culture, and the music, Trinidadian cuisine is as dynamic as it is diverse.
The Twin Isle of Trinidad and Tobago is famous for its diverse culture, people, and of course, food.
With dashes and sprinkles of culture and spice from almost every continent, Trinidadian cuisine features cooking styles and flavors from India, China, Venezuela, Britain, the USA, various parts of West Africa, and those developed by pre-Columbian Amerindians. From breakfast to street foods and everything in between, Trinidadian food isn’t just something you eat; it’s an experience. To find out what classic Trini foods are worth trying, see our list of the best flavors of Trinidadian cuisine.
Like other Caribbean islands, dinner tables across Trinidad get set with mouthwatering meat and plant-based dishes daily.
True Caribbean natives know Trinidadian cuisine starts with the king of flavor, curry, reigning supreme in dishes like duck, chicken, mutton, crab, shrimp, fish, chickpeas (channa), and lentils (dhal). But did you know that Trinidadian food also involves stewing, roasting, and frying many different types of meats and vegetables with other spices like geera and amchar?
That’s right! Other crowd favorites include ‘oil down’ made with breadfruit and coconut milk, saltfish buljol, classic callaloo, baigan choka, BBQ pig’s tail, black pudding, roasted, steamed, or fried fish dishes, fried rice, Chinese-style chicken as well as many Syrian/Lebanese dishes. Trinidadian cuisine also consists of several one-pot meals, like Pelau, a seasoned rice and chicken dish made with authentic Trini spices and ingredients.
These and other tasty entrees are served with traditional Trini side dishes.
Like blue oceans and white sands, every mouth-watering Trinidadian meal comes with a perfectly paired side dish to awaken your gastronomic senses.
If curry is king, roti is queen. Together they create a force of flavor that you'll be eating by the forkful! Rotis like sada, paratha (buss up shut), and dhalpuri are perfect complements to curries, pumpkin, and mango. Other classic side dishes include fried bake, cornmeal coo coo, boiled or roasted ground provisions, dumplings, aloo (Irish potatoes), fried plantains, white rice, rice and peas, breadfruit, or various baked savory ‘pies’ like macaroni, corn and potato pie.
Caribbean households are known for cooking soups all year-long, and Trinidad is no different. The most popular is corn soup. This savory bowl of goodness consists of sweet corn, pumpkin, split peas, carrots, and many other classic Trini flavors like chadon beni and scotch bonnet pepper (or Trinidad Scorpion if you’re brave enough).
Others include cow heel soup, ox-tail, and fish broth. There are ceviche-like dishes such as souse, a traditional dish of either chicken feet or pig’s trotters with cucumbers marinated in lime juice, onion, and peppers. That last bit might not make you want to grab a spoon, but you just wait until the heavenly scent of spices and seasonings hits you. Then, you might just grab two!
But, how about we take this list to the streets?
Street Foods and Snacks
Every country has its own street food culture, and among those famous in Trinidad and Tobago are doubles. This tasty bite comprises two baras (pieces of fried dough) filled with channa (curried chickpeas) and topped with sauces like pepper sauce, cilantro sauce, tamarind sauce, or chutney. Other go-to foods for tourists and natives alike are fried beef or aloo pies.
These long fried dough pockets get stuffed with different fillings and topped with various sauces. Saheena, another excellent pick, is a popular Divali dish made with dasheen leaves, yellow split pea flour, turmeric, and different spices. You can also find other foods like Pholourie, Pineapple Chow, Bake and Shark, and Trini gyros on street corners and in shops across the island.
Yet, we can’t forget to mention Trinidad's extensive list of snacks and nibbles. Bites like Sunshine Snacks’ nuts and potato chips, Holiday’s collection of cheesy snacks, Bermudez’s cookies and biscuits, Kiss Cakes’ mini cupcakes, Paula’s preserved fruits, and Charles’ chocolates are perfect for the on-the-go snack. And the sweet treats don’t stop there!
In Trinidad, sweets are a delicacy made with some of the finest ingredients found on the island. Local treats include cassava or coconut pone, stewed guavas, paw paw balls, tamarind balls, bene balls, toolum, sugar or nut cakes, and brown sugar fudge. Soursop ice cream is another confection made with ripe soursops, a few splashes of bitters, and other top-secret ingredients.
Nevertheless, as many Trini dishes are tied to religious heritage, foods like Sawine, traditionally prepared on Eid ul Fitr and Goolab jamoon, a festive treat especially popular during Diwali, are also crowd favorites.
Yet, besides the tasty food, Trinidad cuisine also boasts many drinks.
Beverages like fruity sodas, malt drinks, shandies, fruit juices, sorrel, mauby, and peanut, channa (chickpea), or sea moss punch all head the lineup. Coconut water is a popular drink too. Trinidad and Tobago also has several rum shops all over the island, serving local favorites like ponche-de-crème, puncheon rum, and homemade wines from local fruits.
Of course, Bitters like the ones made by the House of Angostura are also a big hit. At the same time, other beverages like Nestle’s Milo and Peanut Punch are top picks for children and adults. Trini manufacturers also produce various premium coffees and teas for enjoying hot or cold. While drinks may pair well with meals, classic Trini sauces and condiments also play their part in making Trinidian cuisine as iconic as it is.
Sweet, spicy, and savory sauces and condiments take center stage on tables across Trinidad to add an extra oomph to popular dishes. Quintessential flavors like tamarind and pepper are perfect for adding atop doubles, using as dipping sauces for Pholourie, or pairing with various bakes and pies.
Faves like Matouk's Garlic Sauce, Mudda N Law Sweet & Spicy Tamarind Sauce, Bertie's Pimento Pepper Sauce, and Hillos’ Pepper Beni complement meats and vegetables as dips, toppings, or even marinades. Trinidadian cuisine also consists of various jams, jellies, and chutneys, perfect for adding a little pizzazz to your tapas meal.
Like the people, the culture, and the music, Trinidadian cuisine is as dynamic as it is diverse. It brings together a melting pot of flavors that perfectly reflect the spirit of the 868! Which of these dishes or flavors is your favorite? Tell us in the comments below which recipe you would like us to drop so you can make some iconic Trinidadian cuisine.
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