11 of the Very Best Foods of Trinidad and Tobago

By Melissa Ramnauth, Esq. | Experienced lawyer and Trinidadian

This post is about Foods of Trinidad and Tobago.

Introduction to Foods of Trinidad and Tobago

We have over 30 years of experience in sampling and exploring foods of Trinidad and Tobago. 

It may come as a surprise but this an island nation is not just known for its picturesque landscapes and lively carnival, but also for its rich, diverse, and mouth-watering cuisine.

The food culture here is a reflection of these Caribbean islands' history, influenced by a mix of cultures from around the globe, each adding their unique flavors to the local cuisine.

The Influence of Various Cultures on Trinidadian Cuisine

Trinidad and Tobago’s cuisine is a melting pot of flavors, with influences from East Indians, West Africans, the Middle East, Europeans and the indigenous people of the West Indies. The Creole cooking style, which is a blend of these cultures, plays a significant role in the local cuisine.

Each group brought with them their recipes, contributing to the unique culinary landscape of Trinidad and Tobago. These are enjoyed from the capital city of Port of Spain to the countryside.

Click here for a history of Trinidad and Tobago.

Here is a list of the top foods of Trinidad & Tobago:

1. Doubles

Trinidad Doubles is the most popular street food from Trinidad and Tobago. It's often eaten for breakfast, but it's available and enjoyed at any time of the day.

The dish consists of two pieces of fried flatbread, known as "bara", filled with curried chickpeas or garbanzo beans, known as "channa". The name "Doubles" originated from the fact that it's served with two pieces of bara.

Doubles are typically served wrapped in wax paper, and are meant to be eaten as soon as they're served while still hot. They are garnished with various chutneys like mango, cucumber, coconut, and tamarind, and can also be spiced up with pepper sauce. This makes them a flavorful, spicy, and satisfying snack.

The combination of soft bara, flavorful channa, and tangy chutneys create a unique taste and texture that make Doubles a beloved dish in Trinidad and Tobago, and among those who've had the chance to try it. People have their favorite doubles vendor.

2. Bake and Shark

A must-try at Maracas Bay, Bake and Shark is a local favorite. It involves a deep-fried shark fillet served in fried bread, accompanied by an array of sauces and fresh local condiments.  It's especially famous at Maracas Beach, one of the country's most beautiful beach spots.

The "bake" refers to a type of deep-fried roti, similar to a fluffy flatbread or fry bread. The "shark" is a reference to the filling - traditionally shark meat that has been marinated and deep-fried.

The preparation of Bake and Shark involves first frying the 'bake' until it's golden brown and crispy. The shark meat, usually marinated in a blend of local seasonings and spices, is then deep-fried until it's perfectly cooked.

What makes Bake and Shark truly unique is the array of condiments and toppings used. Once the bake and shark are prepared, you slice open the bread and stuff it with the fried shark. Then comes the fun part - customizing your sandwich with various toppings and sauces. This can include shredded lettuce, sliced tomatoes, coleslaw, cucumbers, pineapple, and a range of sauces like garlic sauce, tamarind sauce, cilantro (or shado beni) sauce, and hot pepper sauce.

While shark was traditionally used, due to sustainability concerns, other types of fish like kingfish or catfish are also now commonly used. Despite the change in ingredients, the name 'Bake and Shark' has stuck and the dish remains a beloved favorite among locals and tourists alike.

3. Roti

Roti, of Indian origin, is a flatbread typically served with curries and stews. There are several kinds of roti in Trinidad:

  • Dhalpuri Roti: This is a soft, thin flatbread stuffed with a mixture of ground, dhal (seasoned split peas). It is typically served as a wrap for curries and stews.
  • Paratha Roti (Buss Up Shut): Also known as "buss up shut" because it is beaten, paratha roti is a flaky, multi-layered bread. It's made by rolling the dough into a circle, coating it with oil or ghee, then folding and re-rolling it several times to create layers. After cooking, the bread is beaten to separate the layers, creating its distinctive, torn appearance.
  • Sada Roti: Sada roti is the simplest form of roti, similar to naan or pita bread. It's a plain, thick, leavened bread, usually cooked on a tawa (flat griddle) and often served with chokhas (mashed vegetables), stews, or curries.
  • Aloo Roti: A variation similar to dhalpuri, aloo roti is a flatbread filled with a spiced potato mixture. This roti is very similar to the North Indian aloo paratha.
  • Pepper Roti: This is a spicy, flavorful roti filled with cheese and hot peppers. It's more like a stuffed pastry and is a popular street food.

These different types of roti form an integral part of Trinidadian cuisine, each offering a unique taste and texture that complements a variety of dishes. Whether you're enjoying a hearty stew, a spicy curry, or simply some mashed vegetables, there's a type of roti that's the perfect accompaniment.

4. Pelau

Trini Pelau is a traditional one-pot dish from Trinidad and Tobago. It's a savory combination of meat, rice, and pigeon peas, all cooked together with various seasonings, making it a staple in Trinidadian cuisine.

The meat in a Pelau can vary but most commonly includes chicken, beef, or pigtail. The meat is first browned with "burnt sugar," which gives the dish its distinctive dark color and unique flavor. This process, also known as "stewing down" the meat, is an essential step in making Pelau.

Along with the meat and burnt sugar, other key ingredients typically include rice, pigeon peas (a type of legume common in Caribbean cooking), and coconut milk. The dish may also contain vegetables like carrots or bell peppers.

Pelau is delicately seasoned with "Caribbean green seasoning," a blend of herbs and spices that often includes ingredients like garlic, onion, scallions, thyme, cilantro, and hot peppers.

This dish is traditionally made on weekends and for get-togethers in Trinidad, making it a beloved part of social gatherings and family meals. It's a hearty, comforting dish that encapsulates the rich flavors and culinary traditions of Trinidad and Tobago.

5. Aloo Pie

Similar to a samosa, Aloo Pie is a deep-fried pastry filled with spiced aloo (or "potatoes"). It's often served with chutney and is also a very popular street food. Aloo pies are a great option for breakfast or if you are in a rush because it is easy to eat. 

6. Saheena

Trini Saheena is a popular snack and street food in Trinidad and Tobago with roots in Indian cuisine. It's essentially a fried fritter, often made from dasheen leaves (also known as taro or spinach), flour or ground split peas, spices, and seasonings.

The preparation of Saheena involves coating the dasheen leaves with a spiced batter made from ground split peas or flour, then rolling and cutting them into smaller pieces before deep frying. The result is a crispy, flavorful fritter that's enjoyed as a snack or appetizer.

One variation of Saheena is the roll-up Saheena, where the dasheen leaves are coated with the batter, rolled up, sliced, and then fried.

Saheena is particularly popular during the festival of Divali, but it's enjoyed year-round as a tasty treat. It's a wonderful representation of the fusion of Indian and Caribbean flavors found in Trinidadian cuisine

7. Pholourie

Trini Pholourie is a popular snack and street food in Trinidad and Tobago. Originating from Indian cuisine, it has become a beloved part of Trinidadian culinary culture. Pholourie is essentially a deep-fried fritter, made from a batter of flour and split pea flour.

The batter is spiced with ingredients such as onions, garlic, cumin, hot peppers, curry, and cilantro. The preparation involves frying spoonfuls of the batter in hot oil until they turn golden brown. Pholourie is typically served with a sauce or chutney for dipping.

Common choices include tamarind chutney, mango chutney, or cucumber chutney. Despite its simple ingredients, pholourie is cherished for its unique texture and flavor. It's a common sight at street food stalls throughout Trinidad and Tobago, and it's also often made at home for a quick and tasty treat.

8. Macaroni Pie

Trini Macaroni Pie is a traditional dish from Trinidad and Tobago, often described as a Caribbean version of macaroni and cheese. This comfort food is a staple in the Trini cuisine and is especially popular during holidays.

The dish consists of elbow macaroni combined with a mixture of cheeses, typically including sharp or extra sharp cheddar and mozzarella. The pasta and cheese are mixed with various other ingredients, like eggs and evaporated milk, which help to bind the pie together and give it a creamy texture.

What sets Trini Macaroni Pie apart from the typical mac and cheese is its unique blend of seasonings. Quintessential Trinidadian seasonings like thyme, Scotch bonnet pepper, onions, and garlic are often used, giving the dish a flavorful twist.

The macaroni mixture is then baked in the oven until it's firm and the top is nicely browned. Unlike American mac and cheese, there's no need to make a cheese sauce with a roux. The result is a savory pie that's rich in flavor and wonderfully satisfying.

This Caribbean comfort food is similar to American baked macaroni and cheese but has its own unique taste and texture due to the specific ingredients and preparation method. It's a crowd-pleasing dish that's especially popular in Trinidad during the holidays, and it can serve as a side dish or a main course.

9. Corn Soup

Trinidad Corn Soup is a popular street food in Trinidad and Tobago, known for its rich flavor and hearty ingredients.

This soup is typically made with fresh corn kernels, split peas, and dumplings, creating a flavorful and filling dish. Some variations of the recipe also include other vegetables like kabocha or butternut squash, potatoes, and carrots.

The soup starts with a base of sautéed onions, garlic, celery, and herbs, often including hot pepper for a spicy kick. The vegetables and corn are then added to the pot, along with broth and sometimes coconut milk for extra creaminess.

The soup is simmered until the ingredients are tender and the flavors are well combined. The end result is a savory, satisfying soup that's enjoyed year-round, but is particularly comforting on cooler days.

In addition to being a popular dish in Trinidad and Tobago, Trinidad Corn Soup is also enjoyed by people around the world who appreciate Caribbean cuisine.

10. Green Seasoning

Trinidad Green Seasoning, also known as Trini Green Seasoning or Caribbean Green Seasoning, is a blend of herbs and other aromatics that is a quintessential element of Trini dishes.

The ingredients can vary slightly depending on personal preference and regional variations, but commonly include scallions or green onions, chadon beni, cilantro, parsley, garlic, and often culantro (a herb with a flavor similar to cilantro, but more intense).

Other ingredients can include lime juice, ginger, and hot peppers like Scotch Bonnet. Some versions also incorporate olive oil, lemon juice, or a small onion.

This flavorful sauce is used as a marinade for meat, poultry, and fish, as well as a condiment or sauce in many dishes.

11. Curry Chicken

Trini curry chicken is a main dish. It consists of chicken pieces that are first seasoned with a mixture of fresh herbs and spices.

Green seasoning, discussed above, is often a main ingredient in the marinating phase. The curry powder, geera (ground cumin), and onions are usually cooked first on a high heat. Some recipes also include a special duck and goat curry powder, which adds an additional depth of flavor.

The seasoned chicken is then cooked in the curry base. 

In addition to the chicken and curry, the dish often includes aloo (potatoes), adding substance and nutritional value to the meal.

Trini Curry Chicken is typically served with roti or rice, making it a hearty and satisfying dish. The combination of the tender, flavorful chicken with the rich, spicy curry sauce makes this dish a beloved favorite in Trinidadian cuisine.

The result is a dish that's bursting with flavor, with the curry providing a warm, spicy kick, and the green seasoning giving it a fresh, herbaceous note. It's a comforting, hearty meal that's perfect for any time of the year.

Conclusion to Foods of Trinidad and Tobago

Trinidad is filled with many other flavorful foods. For example, coconut bake, coconut chutney, black pudding, pomme cythere, curry crab, black cake, potato salad, stew chicken and more. Feel free to try these. The above list is however the top 11 of the very best foods of Trinidad and Tobago based on our lifelong experience.

Remember that the use of hot peppers is always recommended but not required. 

The cuisine of Trinidad and Tobago is a flavorful journey that reflects its rich cultural diversity. From street food stalls to high-end restaurants, there's a culinary adventure waiting at every corner in this island nation.

FAQs for Foods of Trinidad and Tobago

Q: What is the traditional food in Trinidad and Tobago?

A: Traditional foods in Trinidad and Tobago are a blend of African, Indian, Chinese, European, and Middle Eastern influences. This includes dishes like Roti, Doubles, Bake and Shark, Pelau, Trini Macaroni Pie, and Curry Chicken.

Q: What is the national dish of Trinidad and Tobago?

A: The national dish of Trinidad and Tobago is Callaloo, a creamy and spicy side dish made from dasheen (taro) leaves, okra, crab or pigtail, pumpkin, and coconut milk, seasoned with thyme, onions, and peppers.

Q: What is "Doubles" in Trinidadian cuisine?

A: Doubles is a popular street food in Trinidad and Tobago. It's a sandwich made with two pieces of fried flatbread, filled with curried chickpeas, and often topped with mango, cucumber, coconut, and tamarind chutneys.

Q: What is Trini Macaroni Pie?

A: Trini Macaroni Pie is a Caribbean version of macaroni and cheese. It's made with elbow macaroni, a mixture of cheeses, and seasoned with ingredients like thyme, Scotch bonnet pepper, onions, and garlic.

Q: What is Trini Curry Chicken?

A: Trini Curry Chicken is a flavorful dish where chicken is seasoned with a blend of fresh herbs and spices, and then cooked in a curry base. It's typically served with roti or rice.

Q: What desserts are popular in Trinidad and Tobago?

A: Popular desserts include Sweet Bread (a coconut bread), Coconut Roll (or "Rolls"), Guava Cheese, Sugar Cake, and Cassava Pone.

Q: What drinks are traditional in Trinidad and Tobago?

A: Traditional drinks include Mauby, a bitter-sweet drink made from the bark of the Mauby tree, Sorrel, a drink made from the sepals of the Roselle plant, and various types of rum, as Trinidad and Tobago is known for its rum production.

This post was about Foods of Trinidad and Tobago.

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