Full of gorgeous pink sandy beaches and sun-warmed waters, the Bahamas is known for its scenic beauty and year-round tropical weather. It’s also a great place for anyone who loves food, thanks to powerful flavors and tasty dishes. There’s a wide variety of shellfish, seafood, fresh fruit, and traditional sides — some you’ll see around the Caribbean; others are unique to the Bahamas. Some of the most famous dishes are based around conch (pronounced “konk”), which is the chewy, textured meat from a sea snail. But there’s so much more. Give your taste buds a whirl with these traditional dishes featuring conch, rum, and other key ingredients native to the islands.
1. Johnny cake
If you’re looking for something a tad sweet, grab a piece of Johnny cake. Its simple flavoring comes from a handful of ingredients: flour, milk, butter, sugar, and baking powder. Best served in wedge-shaped pieces straight from the oven, this dense bread is usually eaten as a snack or side dish. It’s believed to have been created by indigenous people of North America and came to the Bahamas during the mid-Atlantic slave trade.
2. Conch salad
No trip to the Bahamas is complete without a taste of conch, the Bahamian staple that’s used in a number of dishes. One of the best known is conch salad, which is an acidic dish made with diced conch meat and chopped green pepper, onion, and tomato that’s tossed with a marinade of fresh lime, lemon, and orange juice. The colorful dish is a refreshing treat on a hot day — especially when you sprinkle with salt and pepper, sit back, and let the citrus explosion dominate your taste buds.
3. Chicken souse
Chicken souse is a hearty soup made with a medley of onions, bell peppers, potatoes, carrots, celery, and fresh lime juice. Chicken is commonly added, but don’t be afraid to try other variations with pig’s feet or sheep’s tongue. Add some hot pepper to spice it up or enjoy the clear broth in its simplicity. The combination of simmering ingredients evokes an aroma that’ll have you reaching for a bowl (or two) before the veggies are even tender.
4. Guava duff
The Bahamas is home to various appealing exotic fruits, but guavas are the most loved. Guava duff is a spongy cake made with diced guava fruit and dough that’s rolled to create a spiral of guava in the center before being cooked. It’s then served with a coating of sweet butter rum sauce. It’s tedious and complex to make, but the end result will have you licking your fingers clean.
5. Rum cake
Much of the world’s best rum is produced in the Caribbean, so it’s no surprise that the spirit takes the spotlight in many recipes. Dense and buttery, rum cake is made with traditional baking ingredients like flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, sugar, unsalted butter, buttermilk, vegetable oil, vanilla extract, and eggs. Once the bundt cake cools, a flavorful thick butter rum sauce is drizzled over the cake. It’s a crowd pleaser perfect for any occasion. The official rum cake of the Bahamas comes from Nassau’s Bahamas Rum Cake Factory, which uses a signature Ole Nassau Bahamian Rum.
6. Pigeon peas and rice
Grab a fork and dive into a mound of pigeon peas and rice, a signature side dish that goes with virtually everything. The name says all that you need to know as the dish is based around rice and pigeon peas, which is a legume originally from India. Other ingredients include tomatoes, onions, tomato paste, salted pork, and a perfect mix of spices. All the ingredients work together to produce a browned, flavorful pot.
7. Goombay Smash
The Goombay Smash is a simple cocktail made with the soda Goombay Punch, which is made and canned in the Bahamas and isn’t widely available off the islands. The 1960s invention of this ubiquitous drink is attributed to Emily Cooper of Miss Emily’s Blue Bee Bar in Green Turtle Cay. While the original recipe is top secret, variations aren’t too hard to come by. The cocktail is made with pineapple juice, orange juice, Cointreau, and amber and coconut rum then topped with Myers’s rum and bitters. The drink is garnished with the fruit of your choice.
8. Conch fritters
Gird your arteries because conch fritters are a must-try. This deep-fried goodie is a ball of conch meat, onion, green pepper, celery, and garlic mixed with numerous seasonings. Fried until it’s golden brown, this delicacy is all the rage in all its greasy glory. Dunk your fritters into a dipping sauce made of ketchup, lime, juice, and mayonnaise.