Cooking Like a Local: Traditional Bajan Recipes to Try at Home

Cooking Like a Local: Traditional Bajan Recipes to Try at Home

Barbados, an island renowned for its pristine beaches and vibrant culture, also boasts a rich culinary heritage. Bajan cuisine, a delightful blend of African, Indian, and British influences, features bold flavors and fresh ingredients. Whether you’ve visited Barbados and want to recreate the island’s tastes at home, or you’re just looking to explore new cuisines, these traditional Bajan recipes will transport you to the Caribbean.

1. Flying Fish and Cou-Cou

Flying Fish and Cou-Cou is the national dish of Barbados. This delightful meal pairs seasoned and fried flying fish with a polenta-like side dish made from cornmeal and okra.


For the Flying Fish:
– 4 flying fish fillets (substitute with tilapia if unavailable)
– Juice of 1 lime
– Salt and pepper to taste
– 1 tsp Bajan seasoning (see recipe below)
– 1 cup flour
– Oil for frying

For the Cou-Cou:
– 1 cup cornmeal
– 1 cup okra, sliced
– 4 cups water
– 1 onion, chopped
– 1 tbsp butter
– Salt and pepper to taste


1. Prepare the Fish: Rinse the fish fillets with lime juice and water. Season with salt, pepper, and Bajan seasoning. Dredge the fillets in flour.
2. Fry the Fish: Heat oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Fry the fish until golden brown and cooked through, about 3-4 minutes per side. Set aside.
3. Make the Cou-Cou: Bring water to a boil in a large pot. Add okra and cook until tender. Remove okra from the pot and set aside. In the same pot, add the cornmeal gradually, stirring constantly to prevent lumps. Cook until thickened, about 15-20 minutes. Stir in the okra, butter, onion, salt, and pepper.
4. Serve: Plate the cou-cou and top with the fried fish. Enjoy with a squeeze of lime.

2. Bajan Seasoning

Bajan seasoning is a versatile spice blend that’s used in many Bajan dishes. It adds depth and flavor to meats, fish, and stews.

– 1 bunch fresh thyme
– 1 bunch fresh parsley
– 1 medium onion
– 6 cloves garlic
– 3-4 green onions
– 1 Scotch bonnet pepper (optional for heat)
– 1 tbsp ground allspice
– 1 tbsp ground black pepper
– 1 tbsp salt
– 1 tbsp paprika
– 1 tbsp ground nutmeg
– 2 tbsp olive oil
– 1/4 cup vinegar or lime juice


1. Blend Ingredients: Combine all ingredients in a food processor or blender. Blend until smooth.
2. Store: Transfer to a jar and store in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

3. Fish Cakes

Bajan fish cakes are a popular snack or appetizer made from salted cod and a flavorful batter.

– 1 lb salted cod, soaked overnight and flaked
– 1 cup flour
– 1 tsp baking powder
– 1 small onion, finely chopped
– 2 green onions, finely chopped
– 1 Scotch bonnet pepper, minced (optional for heat)
– 1/2 tsp thyme
– 1/2 tsp paprika
– Salt and pepper to taste
– 1 egg, beaten
– 1/2 cup water
– Oil for frying


1. Prepare the Batter: In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, onion, green onions, Scotch bonnet pepper, thyme, paprika, salt, and pepper. Add the beaten egg and water, mixing until smooth.
2. Add the Fish: Fold in the flaked salted cod.
3. Fry the Cakes: Heat oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat. Drop spoonfuls of batter into the hot oil and fry until golden brown and crisp, about 3-4 minutes per side. Drain on paper towels.
4. Serve: Serve hot with a side of spicy dipping sauce.

4. Bajan Peas and Rice

Peas and rice is a staple in Bajan cuisine, often served as a side dish with meats and fish.

– 1 cup pigeon peas (substitute with black-eyed peas if unavailable)
– 1 cup long-grain rice
– 1 small onion, chopped
– 2 cloves garlic, minced
– 1 small bell pepper, chopped
– 1 tbsp fresh thyme
– 1 tbsp Bajan seasoning
– 2 cups coconut milk
– 1 cup water
– Salt and pepper to taste


1. Cook the Peas: If using dried peas, soak overnight and cook until tender. If using canned, rinse and drain.
2. Sauté Vegetables: In a large pot, sauté the onion, garlic, and bell pepper until soft.
3. Combine Ingredients: Add the peas, rice, thyme, Bajan seasoning, coconut milk, and water. Season with salt and pepper.
4. Cook the Rice: Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer until the rice is cooked and liquid is absorbed, about 20 minutes.
5. Serve: Fluff the rice with a fork and serve hot.

5. Bajan Sweet Bread

Bajan sweet bread is a traditional coconut bread that’s often enjoyed with tea or as a dessert.

– 4 cups flour
– 2 cups grated coconut
– 1 cup sugar
– 1 cup raisins
– 1 cup butter, melted
– 1/2 cup milk
– 2 tsp baking powder
– 1/2 tsp salt
– 1 tsp ground cinnamon
– 1 tsp ground nutmeg
– 2 tsp vanilla extract
– 2 eggs, beaten


1. Preheat Oven: Preheat your oven to 350°F (175°C). Grease two loaf pans.
2. Mix Dry Ingredients: In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
3. Combine Wet Ingredients: In another bowl, mix melted butter, milk, vanilla extract, and eggs.
4. Combine Ingredients: Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, mixing until just combined. Fold in the grated coconut and raisins.
5. Bake: Divide the batter between the prepared loaf pans. Bake for 45-50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
6. Cool and Serve: Allow the bread to cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Slice and enjoy.

Bringing the flavors of Barbados into your kitchen is a delightful way to experience the island’s rich culinary heritage. These traditional Bajan recipes, from the national dish of Flying Fish and Cou-Cou to the sweet treat of Bajan Sweet Bread, offer a taste of the Caribbean that you can enjoy at home. Whether you’re reminiscing about a past trip or dreaming of future travels, cooking these dishes will transport you to the sunny shores of Barbados. So, gather your ingredients, fire up your stove, and start cooking like a local with these delicious Bajan recipes.

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