best Jamaican cookbooks for a taste of the Caribbean
I grew up on an island fronted by sandy beaches, turquoise waters, and palms – where music and spice thicken memories. Although I’m 100% South Indian (a frequently asked question on Instagram), I will always consider Jamaica to be home.
The early years of my schooling sat on Constance Spring Road. I remember the rhythm of those Kingston days – the soft pat of sunshine, afternoon showers, and cool evening winds.
More than anything, I remember the taste of my childhood. It’s hard to recreate (side note: I have yet to figure out how Devon House ice cream is made). And maybe that’s because I set my expectations high.
If you’re looking for good Jamaican cookbooks, you’re in the right place! Here are the best cookbooks for a taste of the Caribbean.
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The Real Taste Of Jamaica is my personal favorite Jamaican cookbook. That being said, it is hard to get ahold of in the states.
Enid Donaldson’s collection of 200 recipes, originally published in 1993, are authentic in style and flavor. The book showcases Jamaican home cooking at its finest – scotch bonnet-infused, artfully spiced. Many of the recipes in this book are delightfully close to the Jamaican dishes my mum makes (so I’ll stand by it).
Authentic Recipes From Jamaica, a repertoire pointing to well-loved creations by popular culinary experts, is one of the most unique Jamaican cookbooks.
It’s authentically Jamaican – just not in the way I expected. Whilst there are how-tos for a handful of familiar recipes (johnny cakes, curry lamb, ackee and saltfish), many of the dishes are novel moldings of island ingredients.
Helen Willinsky tells you everything you need to know about jerk in Jerk From Jamaica. It’s a niche Jamaican cookbook that covers three basic recipes: a rub, a seasoning, and a marinade.
What follows – a deep-dive into barbecued meats – is even more interesting. And the additional sections dedicated to sides (steamed callaloo, rice and peas, fried plantains), desserts, and drinks (sorrel, rum punch, Jamaican ginger beer) make Jerk From Jamaica one of the best Jamaican cookbooks to pick up before a summer family get-together!
I’m a curry goat, oxtail, and red snapper sort of girl. But Provisions will quickly hook you into vegetarian Caribbean cooking. The book covers a mash-up of Caribbean recipes (I love the heavy focus on Jamaica as well).
Provisions strides on innovative twists of long-time favorites. The meals listed are modern in approach, refined into a homey chic aesthetic, and have a quasi creme-de-la-creme restaurant air. With a neat set of 150 veggie-friendly recipes, this cookbook is proof that good Caribbean cooking can be done meat-free.
Ziggy Marley, Reggae artist (currently playing True To Myself while writing this portion) and son of Bob Marley, presents a healthy and wholesome family-friendly cookbook. It’s Jamaican inspired. And there’s a touch of Middle Eastern influence, stemming from his wife Orly’s roots, too.
Ziggy’s cookbook lists loads of omnivorous recipes (mostly vegetarian and pescatarian) involving gluten-free and organic ingredients. You’ll see nods to his own brand of food products. But don’t worry, Ziggy notes substitutions as well (so Marley Organics, whilst nice to have, are not needed for each of the recipes).
If you’re a fan of the show Ainsley’s Caribbean Kitchen, you’ll love the recipes listed in this accompaniment! The cookbook is just as bright and cheery as the series itself. From the vibrant plates to the spread design, Ainsley’s Caribbean Kitchen aptly reflects the upbeat tones of island life.
Both of Harriott’s parents are Jamaican-born so it’s no surprise that this cookbook includes many traditional Jamaican dishes.
P.S. This is one of the prettiest Caribbean cookbooks on this list (the photography has a very professional and polished feel).
Interwoven with quirky storytelling and personal anecdotes, Original Flava is the second Jamaican cookbook by Craig and Shaun McAnuff. The McAnuff brothers are marketing geniuses and their recipes have taken the world by storm on social media.
Since they grew up in London (and learned Jamaican cooking from their mum and nanny), the ingredients used in Original Flava are really accessible to those living outside the Caribbean (store-bought jerk seasoning? check. canned callaloo? check). And to boot, the recipes bring the same warmth and joy traditional Jamaican meals do.
While there are quite a few vegetarian-friendly Jamaican cookbooks on the market, vegan-friendly Jamaican cookbooks have remained a tough find.
Luckily, Kingston-based Yvonne McCalla Sobers’ Delicious Jamaica is chock-full of vegan recipes (it’s officially a vegetarian cookbook but contains more than a few vegan offerings). And with recipes drawn from a variety of regional influences, the book doubles as an ode to the diversity of Jamaica.
Caribbean Potluck is one of the most underrated Jamaican cookbooks. Written by sisters Suzanne & Michelle Rousseau (the same duo behind Provisions), Caribbean Potluck modernizes traditional recipes whilst keeping in tune with the flavors.
It’s bold. It’s brave. It’s fun. And it’s one of my favorite Jamaican cookbooks. What happens when you throw jerk chicken into lasagna? As you’ll learn from the dynamic and talented Rousseau siblings, only good things.
Jamaican Pantry Essentials
Unless you live in Philly, most ingredients needed for making authentic Jamaican dishes aren’t easy to come across in the United States. You’ll want to try visiting your local Caribbean or Afribbean market (and if all else fails, there’s always Amazon).
Here are pantry essentials for making the recipes in these Jamaican cookbooks:
- Scotch Bonnet (this is incredibly hard to find where I live. I usually use this sauce as a substitute)
- Coconut Milk
- Kidney Beans (usually referred to as peas)
- Curry Powder
Did you find this list of Jamaican cookbooks helpful? What are your favorite Jamaican cookbooks? Let me know in the comments below!