When it comes to cuisine, Haiti is small but mighty. Haitian food has the most blended, fascinating flavor base of most other countries in the world. Haitian food is a form of Creole cuisine. Haitian food is a beautiful fusion of everything from Spanish to Arabic, African to American and French cuisines.
Its flavors are absolutely bursting with its history. Haiti has bold-tasting dishes – be the dishes pan-fried, stewed, or cooked. Haitian food isn’t always spicy (although it often is when scotch bonnet peppers are added). Instead, you’ll find acidic flavors like lemon juice, deep meaty broths, and plenty of herbs like star anise and cloves.
Haitian Dish Guide: The Best Dishes in Haitian Cuisine
If you are planning a visit to Haiti, lucky you. There are so many dishes that you absolutely must try in Haitian restaurants. And if you are just looking to recreate dishes at home, you’ve come to the right place.
In this guide, we’ve carefully picked out the best Haitian food you can try at home or in Haiti. You can try classic dishes like fried plantains – crispy and enjoy them as a side or main. Or you can tuck into lesser-known dishes outside Haiti, like diri ak or Kasav. This is going to be an exciting 5 minutes. Welcome to the best of Haitian food.
1. Fried Plantains
Fried plantains are one of the ultimate Haitian dishes. For those unfamiliar with plantains, they look a lot like slices of fried banana. Plantains are larger, starchier versions of bananas and, when ripe, are much sweeter. The plant is a popular dish not just in Haiti but all around Africa, Central America, South America, Asia, and the Caribbean. You serve fried plantain as a snack or side – it is one of the most widely utilized Haitian food.
Despite the widespread enjoyment of fried plantains today, the dish has a dark history. Originally, plantains were provided as meals by white masters and slave traders, who found them a cheap way to provide food for enslaved people. Plantains grew in Asia but eventually ended up in the Caribbean and countries like Haiti because of the movement of slave traders. Keeping this solemn start to the classic Haitian dish in mind is essential, and food history is often closely interlinked to a country’s story.
2. Soup Joumou
Soup Joumou is a typical Haitian dish. In fact, it is actually so traditional that it is part of the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage List – added in 2021 and forever immortalized as a historic dish worthy of scholarly attention and respect. The soup is a national dish eaten annually on New Year’s Day to celebrate Haitian independence. During the occupation, enslaved Haitian people were forbidden from eating the French delicacy that the slave and plantation owners indulged in. So eating Soup Joumou is a poetic, poignant reversal of what was once a social norm and an example of colonial evil. It is a beautiful (and tasty) symbol of strength, celebration, revolution, and independence. And a sublime instance of Haitian cooking.
Soup Joumou is a squash or pumpkin soup. It is served hot and includes a mixture of onions, beef, ginger, lemon juice, and root vegetables; Soup Joumou is a hearty dish full of flavor. You can make it at home with this recipe.
3. Pate Kode
Everyone loves street food. And if you aren’t yet a convert, you just need to try a pate kode. Pate Kodes are called Haitian patties in English and are delectable Haitian food. Especially if you are in a rush and want to grab food on the go. Haitian patties are little pastry parcels full of yummy fillings, which can be anything from mixed vegetables to smoked herring. The filling varies stall by stall, allowing the individual vendor to add their stamp to the dish.
Haitian patties are another instance of Haitian food adapted from dishes introduced during the colonial era. ‘Pate’ is a French adaptation, and pate kode is an adaptation of little meat pies introduced by French and English colonial occupiers. The dish itself is light and crispy. While its actual flavor base varies with all the different fillings, the dish as a whole is a perfect quick bite. A lunch or brunch-style snack.
4. Diri Ak Pwa
Diri ak pwa is a must-have traditional dish on any Haitian’s table. This Haitian dish is a colonial-introduced meal of rice and beans, which is now adapted into a deeply flavorsome traditional statement dish. White rice is cooked, often mixed in with fragrant additions like coconut milk and thyme – who doesn’t love a bit of flavorsome depth to a rice dish? Pinto, black, or red beans are all commonly added to the beans. And often, chicken and bell peppers are added to the modern version. However, it is traditionally served with just rice and beans as the primary ingredients.
Diri ak pwa is a staple Haitian dish often found as a family meal. It is a good option if you want to recreate dishes at home, and it is filling when providing food for masses at family gatherings and celebrations. You can add scotch bonnet peppers for an added kick. Cloves, onions, and garlic are a must.
5. Pen Patat
Pen Patat is one of the best places to start when you want to enjoy eating Haitian food. Why? Because this is a traditional dessert, and 90% of us can readily admit to having a sweet tooth. Pen Patat is a unique dessert created from sweet potatoes. The sweet potatoes are typically grated and combined into a concoction of mashed banana, fresh ginger, coconut milk, and spices like cinnamon. Using what many consider a savory ingredient sounds unusual, but the result is delicious. It tastes much like a ginger cake. Anyone with a sweet tooth needs to try Pen Patat.
While the history of this Haitian food is relatively unknown, you’ll find it everywhere when visiting Haiti. And despite being a dish that most Haitian cooks have their own adaptation recipe for, it is an adventurous dish to recreate at home.
Pikliz is a love-it-or-hate-it type of Haitian dish. Get ready for a spicy, tangy assault on the sense; pikliz is a type of pickled slaw resembling a hybrid between kimchi and a ramped-up coleslaw version. The dish is a mixture of shredded onions, cabbage, and carrots – all pickled in white vinegar and lime juice. While it is more of a side addition to meat dishes or fried rice, pikliz is such a bold creation that we had to add it to this list. This is your best Haitian dish if you want to try something with a solid flavor base.
Fermented dishes are becoming more and more praised from a health perspective, especially with the rise in gut health research. And as for the history of pikliz, it is believed that the French colonizers introduced the Haitian cooking method of pickling. While the African and indigenous Tano influences are to thank for using strong, spicy flavors.
7. Diri Shela, Poul Fri
It feels like every country has got its version of fried chicken. In Haiti, diri shela poul fri is the ultimate fried chicken dish – a tasty, lime-coated fried chicken served with white rice. Poul fri is a classic Haitian food and an excellent dish for daily protein intake. The taste is unrivaled, too, since the chicken is drenched in lime, vinegar, and a special marinade. Poul fri is usually marinated in garlic, scotch bonnet pepper, cloves, and thyme. Everyone has their own secret adaptation, though, and you get some less common additions like leeks and other citrus types.
Fried chicken in Haiti is age-old. You can try the dish when visiting or use the Haitian version as a twist on your usual fried chicken recipe. Serve the chicken alongside white rice for the traditional dish, giving it the full title of diri shela Poul Fri.
Fresco is another sweet treat from Haiti. A fresco is just a cup of shaved ice intensely flavored with your choice of flavor base. Taking a step back from main dishes like fried rice and fried pork meals is a great option instead of tackling a smaller Haitian dish. Preparing a fresco is a breeze; add flavored syrup over shaved ice. The ice is usually topped with roasted peanuts as a traditional touch. We recommend embracing the original recipe and copying this element. A fresco is the perfect Haitian food on a hot day.
Historically, fresco is sold as street food, with vendors pushing fresco carts through the streets of Haiti selling their dishes. The vendor grates the ice until it is only delicate flakes, adding a syrup like lemon, grenadine, or anisette. Think of it as a more refreshing alternative to ice cream.
Marinad is a version of fritters – deep-fried and crispy after being quickly cooked in hot oil. Inside is a soft, savory filling. Outside is a thin, crispy shell of batter. The actual filling is not one singular choice. It can be anything from chicken to fish. Instead, the marinade is the defining factor of this Haitian dish, and great pride and time are taken to create the perfect batter. Herbs are often mixed with flour and water, giving the Marinad an extra kick.
Haitian Marinad is a quick dish to make once you’ve perfected the batter and deep-frying technique. The dish is sometimes eaten as a snack and popular for special occasions like first communions. The taste of Marinad dishes varies depending on the filling, but it is an iconic dish within Haitian cuisine.
If you are vegan, you might have been struggling with this guide. But struggle no further; Lalo is a delicious vegan-friendly stew made from jute leaves and spinach. It is a warming, nutritious Haitian dish of protein, iron, and vitamins. The most traditional (and flavorsome) way of cooking lalo is by sautéing onions and garlic before adding a broth with extras like lemon juice, tomato paste, and peppers. Of course, crab or beef are great options for those who aren’t vegan and are looking for some meat alternatives to do this dish.
Taste-wise, jute leaves are slightly bitter, but the stew creates a well-rounded flavor. Lalo is absolutely delicious with rice, even for the fussiest eaters. Jute leaves are a traditional part of Ewedu soup – a staple Nigerian dish- and this Haitian food has a heavy African influence.
11. Sos Pwa Nan
Sos pwa nan is one of the most traditional Haitian dishes; picture a thick red or black bean sauce with floating dumplings. The use of beans makes this Haitian food one of the most high in protein meal choices, and often, coconut milk is added to the bean puree for a sweetened taste. Expect extra taste additions like garlic and herbs, too. Sos pwa nan is one of the most flavorsome options in this guide. The dumplings are a fun addition to the dish as well.
Consider a few popular modern twists if you fancy jazzing this dish while keeping it traditional. You can add ground beef as a side, white rice, and even pikliz.
12. Ze Bouyi Fig
Ze Bouyi fig me is one of the tastiest Haitian dishes if you want a breakfast option. It isn’t something you’ll find in Haitian restaurants or homes. More common amongst street vendors. It simply consists of a boiled egg served alongside banana figs. They can be eaten together or separately; the egg is often offered with hot sauce.
Ze Bouyi fig me is quick and easy. The perfect breakfast on the go. It is worth trying at home; you should try it if you visit Haiti. The dish’s history is unknown but dead-popular, so it is an accepted part of Haiti’s cuisine.
Tchaka is a fascinating dish in Creole cuisine linked to Haitian Voodoo. The stew dish is used as an offering for the religion’s Ioa. Therefore, Tchaka is heavily associated with celebrations and religious festivals. The stew consists of cornmeal, beans, pumpkin, and pork meat. The meat is usually smoked, which adds a dynamic flavor to the dish, and Tchaka is typically heavily salted. Ioa is a spirit in Haitian Vodou, and Tchaka is used to honor the Ioa of harvest and agriculture – fitting given its ingredients.
Kasav is one of the most commonplace Haitian dishes. It is simply a type of bread. It looks like a blend between a pancake and flatbread. The most poignant thing that distinguishes Kasav from other bread in Haiti is that it uses manioc flour. Manioc flour is famous for its neutral taste and high adaptability in recipes. You can use it for almost anything. The fact that this dish uses manioc flour also means that Kasavs are gluten-free – a definite win for those with intolerances when visiting Haiti.
This dish dates back to the indigenous pre-colonial times, and Kasavs are easily prepared over open fires or stoves in modern times. Trying a Kasav is a must, and the recipe is pretty easy to replicate at home.
15. Bouyon Bef
Bouyon Bef is a hearty stew and one of many stews that have a place in this guide. So what makes this Haitian food so special? Firstly, it has specific ingredients. It is a beef stew derived from the French verb bouillir – which means to boil. Bouyon Bef is a delicious stew to sample. It has a really rigid framework in terms of recipes and cooking techniques. As well as beef, it traditionally includes leafy greens and root vegetables. It has a strong, flavorsome taste, with an overwhelming meaty flavor base from the stock and beef.
For some reason, Bouyon Bef is associated with being a Saturday dish, although nobody really knows why. It is a staple dish within Haitian cuisine and dates back to the colonial era.
16. Fried Red Snapper
Fried fish is massively popular throughout the Caribbean region. However, Haitian cuisine has a delicious twist on the general fried red snapper recipe. In the Haitian recipe, an emphasis on citrus is made, with plenty of lime juice. You can also find herbs like thyme and cloves – hallmark stamps of a Haitian dish. Red snapper is a mild-tasting fish with a slightly sweet edge. It is famously low in saturated fat and sodium, making it a healthy Haitian dish. The fish is fried amongst all the herbs at high heat to keep the skin crisp and the meat succulent.
17. Bonbon Siwo
Bonbon Siwo is irresistible, so don’t leave this one off your must-try list. This Haitian food is one of the tastiest dessert options within the cuisine, and it is essentially Haitian gingerbread. The cake is served in little brownie-like slices. It uses fresh ginger, dark sugarcane syrup, and plenty of spices to give the cake an identifiable kick to the taste buds. Occasionally, Haitian cooks may choose to add coconut milk as well for some extra sweetness.
Legim is a traditional Haitian stew. The only requisite ingredient for this dish is that it demands some vegetables. The recipe has no specific vegetables, but Legim usually includes chayote squash and cabbage. Other vegetables may include carrots, bell peppers, and onions. A good thing about this Haitian dish is that it’s flexible enough to tailor to different dietary requirements – you can add meat (usually beef), fish or keep things vegetarian.
Legim is traditionally served alongside white rice or red beans. You’ll find it on many Haitian tables, and it is popular for its healthiness, nutritional value, and filling consistency. Stews are massively popular in Haitian cuisine, and Legim stews are popular because of their flexibility. Often, Legim is used as a seasonal variation dish.
Ragou is a classic Haitian food – a meaty, hearty stew with chunky-cut ingredients and minimal broth. Ragou’s main ingredients are typically pork meat or beef. However, if you feel adventurous, you can try cow foot ragou. The actual ingredients are flexible depending on individual recipes. Instead, it is the cooking process that makes Ragou special. The meat is marinated for hours in a mixture of fresh spices and scotch bonnet peppers. The result is a fragrant, filling dish.
Many people claim Griyo as a national dish of Haiti as well. It is so delicious that we won’t disagree with this. Griyo is braised pork meat that is first braised and then fried to create a succulent final dish. The pork meat is usually washed in orange juice before cooking in rural areas of Haiti, where fresh water is less available.
Historically, Griyo was seen as a high-class dish, super exclusive because of the high-quality meat. The dish originated in West Africa, introduced to Haiti in its colonial period.
21. Tonmtonm Ak Sos Kalalou
Tonmtonm ak sos Kalalou is one of the most complex-sounding Haitian foods. Don’t panic, though; it is also known as mashed breadfruit with gumbo sauce. This classic food in Haitian cuisine is one of the most interesting Haitian dishes you can try. The dish is believed to trace back to the town of Jeremie, yet it has been eaten since colonial times thanks to the prevalence of breadfruit and gombo. Tonmtonm ak sos Kalalou is a brightly colored dish consisting of a potato-like mound of breadfruit, which tastes much like a sweeter potato version. The dish sits in gumbo sauce – a spicy sauce with plenty of tomatoes, onion, and meats like seafood.
If you can try just one dish in Haiti, we suggest making it this one. Tonmtonm ak sos Kalalou is one of Haitian cuisine’s most complex and delicious meals. And breadfruit is an interesting ingredient you may not otherwise get to try.
Already salivating at the thought of all of this tasty Haitian food? We don’t blame you. Haitian cuisine will impress, whether you tuck into fried pork with a spicy sauce or a soup with root vegetables and chicken. The diverse flavor base and creole cooking style make Haitian food some of the world’s most exciting.
And Haitian cuisine is, on the whole, extremely healthy. Yes, there are a lot of fried foods, but the food quality outweighs this slightly unhealthier cooking preference. Haiti serves many meat dishes that are heavily protein – including ingredients like ground turkey or ground beef. Haitian food uses loads of vegetables, too, like lima beans, green beans, bell peppers, and cabbage. Haitian cuisine is so balanced. It really ticks off all the flavors and gets the taste just right.
We hope you enjoy your Haitian dining experience. You’ll love the taste and flavors. Haitian cuisine is worth catching a flight and booking a holiday for, so if you are tempted to try Haitian food outside your home, we vote to do that.