Haitian cuisine

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Haitian cuisine consists of cooking traditions and practices from Haiti. It originates from several culinary styles from the various historical ethnic groups that populate the western portion of the island of Hispaniola, namely the French, African, the Taíno natives, Spanish and Middle Eastern influence.[1] Haitian cuisine, comparable to that of creole or criollo (Spanish for creole) cooking and similar to the rest of the Latin Caribbean, (the French and the Spanish-speaking countries of the Antilles), differs in several ways from its regional counterparts. While the cuisine is unpretentious and simple, the flavors are bold and spicy that demonstrate a primary influence of African culinary aesthetic, paired with a very French sophistication[2] with notable derivatives coming from native Taíno and Spanish techniques. Though similar to other cooking styles in the region, it carries a uniqueness native only to the country and an appeal to many visitors to the island. Haitians use vegetables, meats, rice or corn meal extensively and peppers and similar herbs are often used for strengthening flavor. Dishes tend to be seasoned liberally. In the country, however many businesses of foreign origin have been established introducing several foreign cuisines into the mainstream culture. Years of adaptation have led to these cuisines (e.g. Levantine from Arab Migration to Haiti) merging with Haitian cuisine.[3]


Pre-colonial cuisine[edit]

Haiti was one of many Caribbean islands inhabited by the Taíno Indians, speakers of an Arawakan language called Taino. The barbecue (or BBQ), originated in Haiti. The word "barbecue" derives from the word barabicu, found in the language of the Taíno people of Caribbean and the Timucua of Florida,[4] and entered European languages in the form barbacoa. Specifically, the Oxford English Dictionary translates the word as a "framework of sticks set upon posts".[5][6] Gonzalo Fernández De Oviedo y Valdés, a Spanish explorer, was the first to use the word "barbecoa" in print in Spain in 1526 in the Diccionario de la Lengua Española (2nd Edition) of the Real Academia Española.[7] After Columbus landed in the Americas in 1492, the Spaniards had seemed to have found native Haitians roasting animal meat over a grill consisting of a wooden framework resting on sticks and a fire made underneath, that flames and smoke would rise and envelop the animal meat, giving it a certain flavor. Strangely enough, the same framework was used as a means of protection against the wild that may attack during middle of the night while at sleep.[8][9] The barbecue not only survived in the Haitian cuisine, but was introduced to many different parts of the world and has numerous regional variations.

Colonial cuisine[edit]

Christopher Columbus landed at Môle Saint-Nicolas on 5 December 1492, and claimed the island he named La Isla Espanola (later named Hispaniola) for Spain. The Spanish established sugar plantations and made the natives to work as slaves, however the harsh conditions and infectious diseases brought over by the Spanish sailors nearly wiped out the indigenous population by 1520 as the natives lacked immunity to these new diseases, forcing the Spaniards to import slaves from Africa to work these plantations instead.[10][11][12] The Africans introduced okra (also called gumbo; edible pods), ackee (red and yellow fruit), taro (an edible root), pigeon peas (seeds of an African shrub), and various spices to the diet. In 1659, the French had established themselves on the western portion of the islands of Hispaniola and Tortuga by the way of buccaneers. The Treaty of Ryswick of 1697, allowed the French to acquire the western portion of the island from the Spanish they had neglected. By the 1700s, the French had situated its control comfortably, successfully cultivating sugarcane, coffee, cotton, and cocoa from the African slave labor. When the Haitian Revolution ended and the people of Haiti won their independence in 1804 and established the world's first black republic, thousands of refugees from the revolution, both whites and free people of color (affranchis or gens de couleur libres), fled to New Orleans, often bringing African slaves with them doubling the city's population.[13] They also introduced such Haitian specialties as the red beans and rice and mirliton (or called chayote; a pear-shaped vegetable) to the Louisiana Creole cuisine.[14]

Since independence from France, the French influence has remained evident in the Haitian society, not only in the usage of the language but in the contributions to the cuisine. French cheeses, breads and desserts are still common foods found at local stores and markets.[15]

Popular ingredients[edit]

A cross section of cassava
Avocado fruit (cv. 'Fuerte'); left: whole, right: in section

Popular foods[edit]

Manje Ayisien (Haitian food), is often lumped together with other Caribbean islands as "Caribbean cuisine," however it maintains an independently unique flavor.[16] It involves the extensive use of herbs, and somewhat unlike Cuban cooking, the liberal use of peppers. A typical dish would probably be a plate of diri kole ak pwa (rice and beans), which is white rice with red kidney or pinto beans glazed with a marinade as a sauce and topped off with red snapper, tomatoes and onions. Dishes vary by regions. The dish can be accompanied by bouillon, similar to sancocho in some neighboring Latin American countries. Bouillon is a hearty stew consisting of various spices, potatoes, tomatoes, and meats such as goat or beef.

Rice is occasionally eaten with beans alone, but more often than not, some sort of meat completes the dish. Bean purée or (sos pwa) is often poured on top of white rice. The traditional Haitian sos pwa is less thick than the Cuban's black bean soup. Black beans is usually the beans of choice, followed by red beans and white beans. Chicken (poul) is frequently eaten, the same goes for goat meat (kabrit) and beef (bèf). Chicken is often boiled in a marinade consisting of lemon juice, sour orange, scotch bonnet pepper, garlic and other seasonings and subsequently fried until crispy.

Legim is a thick vegetable stew consisting of a mashed mixture of eggplant, cabbage, chayote, spinach, watercress and other vegetables depending on availability and the cook's preference. It is flavored with epis, onions, garlic, and tomato paste, and generally cooked with beef or crab. Legim is most often served with rice, but may also be served with other starches, including mayi moulen (a savory cornmeal porridge similar to polenta or grits), petit mil (cooked millet), or blé (wheat).

Other starches commonly eaten include yam, patat (neither of which should be confused with the North American sweet potato), potato, and breadfruit. These are frequently eaten with a thin sauce consisting of tomato paste, onions, spices, and dried fish.

Tchaka is a hearty stew consisting of hominy, beans, joumou (pumpkin), and meat (often pork). Tchaka is eaten by people and also used as an offering to the loa in Vodou.

Spaghetti is most often served in Haiti as a breakfast dish and is cooked with hot dog, dried herring, and spices, served with ketchup and sometimes raw watercress.

Haitian Patties

One of the country's best known appetizers is the Haitian patty (pate), which are made with round beef, salted cod (bacalao), smoked herring (food), chicken, and ground turkey surrounded by a crispy or flaky crust. Other snacks include crispy, spicy fried Malanga fritters called accra (Haitian Creole: akra), bananes pesées, and marinad (fried savory dough balls). For a complete meal, they may be served with griyo (fried pork) or other fried meat. These foods are served with a spicy slaw called pikliz which consists of cabbage, carrot, vinegar, scotch bonnet pepper, and spices. Fried foods, collectively known as fritay, are sold widely on the streets.

Regional dishes[edit]

Regional dishes also exist throughout Haiti. In the area around Jérémie, on Haiti's southwest tip, people eat a dish called tonmtonm, which is steamed breadfruit (lam veritab) mashed in a pilon, and is very similar to West African Fufu. Tonmtonm is swallowed without chewing, using a slippery sauce made of okra (Haitian Creole: kalalou), cooked with meat, fish, crab, and savory spices. Another regional dish is poul ak nwa (chicken with cashew nuts), which is from the north of the country, in the area around Cap-Haïtien.

Waves of migration have also influenced Haitian cuisine. For example, immigrants from Lebanon and Syria brought kibbeh, which has been adopted into Haitian cuisine.

The flavor base of much Haitian cooking is epis, a combination sauce made from cooked peppers, garlic, and herbs, particularly green onions, thyme, and parsley. It is used as a basic condiment for rice and beans and is also used in stews and soups.

Increasingly, imported Maggi bouillon cubes are used by Haitian cooks.[17] This is indicative of the growing availability of imported, often artificial and inexpensive, foods, such as Tampico beverages.

Beverages & drinks[edit]


Main article: Prestige (beer)

Beer is one of several common alcoholic beverages consumed in Haiti, often drunk at festivals, parties, and occasionally downed with a meal. The most widely drank brand of beer in Haiti is Prestige, a nationally popular mild lager with a light and crisp yet mildly sweet taste with a vague yet strong flavor reminiscent of several American-style beers. Prestige is brewed by Brasserie Nationale d'Haiti (owned by Heineken).[18]


Main article: Rhum agricole

Haiti is known internationally for its rum and it is extremely popular among its inhabitants. The most well-known company in the country is the world-renowned Rhum Barbancourt; one of the nation's finest and most famous exports by international standards. It is arguably the country's most popular alcoholic beverage. It is unique in that the distilleries use sugarcane juice directly instead of molasses like other types of rum, hence the added "h" in rhum to differentiate. The rum is marketed in approximately 20 countries and uses a process of distillation similar to the process used to produce cognac.[19]


Clairin (Haitian Creole: kleren) is a distilled spirit made from cane sugar, that undergoes the same distillation process as rhum, although less refined, and raw.[20] It is sometimes referred to as a white rhum because of the similar qualities.[21][22][23] It is considered to be a cheaper option than standard rhum in Haiti and as a result it is consumed more. It is also used in Vodou rituals.[20][24]


Crémas, also spelled Crémasse (Haitian Creole: kremas), is a sweet and creamy alcoholic beverage native to Haiti. The beverage is made primarily from creamed coconut, sweetened condensed or evaporated milk, and rum. The rum used is usually dark; however, white rum is used frequently as well. Various other spices are added for additional flavoring such as cinnamon, nutmeg, anise, as well as miscellaneous ingredients such as the widely used vanilla extract or raisins. Recipes vary from person to person with a few differences in ingredients here and there. However the overall look and taste is the same. The beverage possesses a creamy consistency similar to a thick milkshake and varies from off-white to beige in color. The drink is popular in Haiti and is served regularly at social events and during the holidays. It is usually consumed along with a sweet pastry of some sort. The drink is often served cold however it can be served at room temperature. The beverage has become recently marketed in Haiti as well as the United States. One of the popular brands is Dorobe. It is similar to Puerto Rican Coquito.[25]


Main article: Soft drinks of Haiti

Due to its tropical climate, juice is a mainstay in Haiti. Juices from many fruits are commonly made and can be found everywhere. Guava juice, grapefruit juice, mango juice, along with the juices of many citrus fruits (orange, granadilla, passion fruit, etc.) are popular. Juice is the de facto beverage because of its variety of flavors, easy production, and widespread accessibility.[26] Malta H is also a popular non-alcoholic drink consisting of unfermented barley with molasses added for flavor. Fruit champagne flavored Cola Couronne, is arguably the number one liked soda by the Haitian community as it is a stapled beverage for them in Haiti and abroad since 1924.[27] Cola Lacaye has also become part of the Haitian experience and is also well liked. It is available in banana, fruit cola and fruit champagne flavors. In more urban areas of the nation, the people also enjoy Americanized drinks such as an array of soft drinks, from Coca-Cola and PepsiCo. Milkshakes (or milkchèyk) are also drunk regularly. Haitians also enjoy sweet, strong coffee. Rebo is one coffee brand that is considered to be the best.[28] Haitian coffee is a classic Caribbean in every sense—chocolatey sweet with mellow citrus highlights.[29]


Many types of desserts are eaten in Haiti ranging from the mild to sweet. Sugarcane is used frequently in the making of these desserts however granulated sugar is also used often. One very popular dessert is a shaved ice called fresco which can be whipped up quickly. Fresco is similar to an Italian Ice, however it consists primarily of fruit syrup. The syrup is moderately thick and very sweet. It is frequently sold by street vendors. The sweet smell of this candy-like snack often attracts honeybees; a common sight on the streets. Pain patate (Haitian Creole: Pen patat) is a soft sweet bread made using cinnamon, evaporated milk, and sweet potato. It is usually served cold from the refrigerator but it can also be eaten at room temperature. Akasan is a thick corn milkshake with a consistency similar to that of labouille (Haitian Creole: labouyi), a popular porridge made from corn. It is made using many of the same ingredients as pain patate consisting of evaporated milk, sugar, and corn flour.[30]

List of Haitian dishes and sides[edit]

Double Fried Plantain
Bowl of Soup Joumou & Bread
  • Bouillon (mildly thick meat and vegetable soup)
  • Goat meat[citation needed]
  • Cassave or Kasav (flatbread made out of dried, processed bitter cassava, sometimes flavored with sweetened coconut.[31]
  • Chocolat des Cayes or Chokola La Kaye (homemade cocoa)
  • Doukounou (sweet cornmeal pudding)
  • Du riz blanche a sause pois noir or Diri blan ak sos pwa nwa (White rice and black bean sauce)
  • Du riz djon djon or Diri ak djon djon (Rice in black mushroom sauce)
  • Du riz a légume or Diri ak legim (Rice with Legumes)
  • Du riz a pois or Diri ak pwa (Rice and beans)
  • Du riz a pois rouges or Diri ak pwa wouj (Rice and red beans)
  • Du riz a sauce pois or Diri ak sos pwa (Rice with bean sauce)
  • Griot (seasoned fried pork with scallions and peppers in a bitter orange sauce)[32]
  • Macaroni au Gratin (macaroni and cheese)
  • Pain Haïtien (Haitian Bread)
  • Pate or Haitian patty (A very popular savory snack made with a delicate puff pastry stuffed with ground beef, salted cod (bacalao), smoked herring, chicken, and ground turkey topped with spices for a bold and spicy unique flavor)[33]
  • Picklese or Pikliz (a slaw-like condiment made with spicy pickled cabbage, onion, carrot, and Scotch bonnet peppers)[34]
  • Salade de Betteraves (Beet salad)
  • Sauce Ti-Malice or Sos Ti-Malice (a spicy tangy sauce usually served over Griot or Cabrit)
  • Soup Joumou (pumpkin soup)
  • Tassot et bananes pesées or Taso ak bannann peze (Fried Goat and fried plantains)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Women and Children's Tribulation In Haiti. Retrieved 6 March 2014. 
  2. ^ "What is a Haitian Patty?". Retrieved 6 March 2014. 
  3. ^ Women and Children's Tribulation In Haiti. Retrieved 6 March 2014. 
  4. ^ The Great American Barbecue and Grilling Manual by Smoky Hale. Abacus Publishing, 2000. ISBN 0-936171-03-0.
  5. ^ "The History of Barbecue in the South: The Etymology of Barbecue". American Studies at the University of Virginia. Retrieved 2014-10-13. 
  6. ^ O'Connell, Joe. "Oxford English Dictionary and Barbecue". Oxford English Dictionary. Retrieved 2014-10-13. 
  7. ^ Goldwyn, Meathead. "The Story Of Barbecue". Retrieved 2014-10-13. 
  8. ^ "Barbecue, a Haitian Tradition". Retrieved 2014-10-13. 
  9. ^ "Cultural Information: Haiti". Retrieved 2014-10-13. 
  10. ^ "What Became of the Taíno?". Smithsonian. October 2011. 
  11. ^ David A. Koplow (2004). Smallpox: The Fight to Eradicate a Global Scourge. University of California Press. ISBN 978-0-520-24220-3. Retrieved 15 August 2012. 
  12. ^ "Food In Haiti". Retrieved 28 October 2014. 
  13. ^ "Haitian Immigration: 18th & 19th Centuries", In Motion: African American Migration Experience, New York Public Library, accessed 18 June 2015
  14. ^ "Food In Haiti". Retrieved 28 October 2014. 
  15. ^ "Food In Haiti". Retrieved 28 October 2014. 
  16. ^ "Food In Haiti". Retrieved 28 October 2014. 
  17. ^ Albala, Ken (2011). "Food Cultures of the World Encyclopedia [4 volumes]: [Four Volumes]". p. 66. Retrieved 3 November 2014. 
  18. ^ Women and Children's Tribulation In Haiti. Retrieved 6 March 2014. 
  19. ^ Women and Children's Tribulation In Haiti. Retrieved 6 March 2014. 
  20. ^ a b Hall, Michael R. (2012). "Historical Dictionary of Haiti". p. 64. ISBN 9780810878105. Retrieved 12 June 2015. 
  21. ^ Ménager, Mona Cassion (2005). "Fine Haitian Cuisine". p. 392. ISBN 158432256X. Retrieved 12 June 2015. 
  22. ^ Paris, Barry (2000). "Song of Haiti: The Lives of Dr. Larimer and Gwen Mellon at Albert Schweitzer Hospital of Deschapelles". p. 116. ISBN 1891620134. Retrieved 12 June 2015. 
  23. ^ Gold, Herbert (2004). "Haiti: Best Nightmare on Earth". p. 40. ISBN 9780765807335. Retrieved 12 June 2015. 
  24. ^ Fick, Carolyn A. (1990). "The Making of Haiti: The Saint Domingue Revolution from Below". p. 285. ISBN 0870496581. Retrieved 12 June 2015. 
  25. ^ Women and Children's Tribulation In Haiti. Retrieved 6 March 2014. 
  26. ^ Women and Children's Tribulation In Haiti. Retrieved 6 March 2014. 
  27. ^ "Taste Of The Caribbean: Cola Couronne, Haiti’s #1 Soft Drink". Retrieved 13 February 2014. 
  28. ^ Women and Children's Tribulation In Haiti. Retrieved 6 March 2014. 
  29. ^ Nicaise, Molly. "History of Haitian Coffee". 
  30. ^ Women and Children's Tribulation In Haiti. Retrieved 6 March 2014. 
  31. ^ Ménager, Mona Cassion. "Fine Haitian Cuisine". p. 89. Retrieved October 21, 2014. 
  32. ^ Clark, Melissa, ed. (6 March 2015). "Haitian Griot Is a Postcard From the Caribbean". Retrieved 20 March 2015. 
  33. ^ "A Taste of Haiti". Retrieved 4 April 2014. 
  34. ^ Clark, Melissa, ed. (6 March 2015). "Haitian Griot Is a Postcard From the Caribbean". Retrieved 20 March 2015. 

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