Do you want to discover the mouth-watering desserts that Jamaica has to offer?
I don’t blame you, as Jamaicans are notorious for their ‘sweet tooth’! They are quick to craft up a variety of delicious home baked goods, just because they ‘feel for something sweet’.
Whether you are planning a trip to the island or simply want to expand your culinary horizons, we have compiled a list of 11 must-try Jamaican desserts that will make you fall in love with the island’s cuisine.
Keep reading to discover these delectable treats that will leave you craving for more.
The 11 Most Popular Jamaican Desserts
Jamaica is known for its unique and flavorful cuisine, and its desserts are no exception. If you are interested to know more about these sweet delicacies, let’s take a look at 11 must-have Jamaican desserts.
A gizzada is a sweet tart with a crisp pastry shell and a coconut filling. While it is thought to have Portuguese origins, the tart has been ‘Jamaicanized’ with the addition of island flavors such as ginger and vanilla.
Gizzadas can be found in most Jamaican supermarkets and even some corner shops. The dessert is also inexpensive, costing about $1.50 US.
Another coconut treat, drops are a staple in Jamaican culture. Made from coconuts, sugar and sometimes ginger, the treat is commonly sold at events by street vendors. Traditionally, the coconut for the drops were boiled in a pot over a wood fire until tender. Sugar and spices would then be added, until a thick syrup forms. The drops would then be placed in small clusters on banana leaves until the syrup hardens around the cooked coconut.
Coconut drops are super affordable, costing less than US $1 in most places.
In recent times, peanuts have also been used to make drops. The process is the same, once the coconut has been switched out for peanuts.
Grater Cake / Pink On Top
By now you will have realized that Jamaicans have an affinity for coconut desserts. The third item on our list is also made of coconuts and sugar with a few added spices. Whereas the previous desserts on our list were relatively simple to make, grater cakes are a little more elaborate.
The signature pink and white delicacy is made of finely shredded coconuts, white or refined sugar, flavors such as almond essence, peppermint, ginger or vanilla, and food coloring.
Tamarinds are abundant on the island, and this Jamaican dessert is basically just a homemade recipe for preserving the fruit. Traditional Jamaican tamarind balls require three main ingredients – tamarinds, sugar and rum. The latter ingredient is however optional.
The process to make tamarind balls simply requires combining the main ingredients with a large spoon, then rolling it into balls about an inch in size. Tamarind balls with rum added can last for months once properly stored in airtight glass containers.
Sweet Potato Pudding
This is one of the more elaborate Jamaican desserts on our list and possibly the one that requires the most ingredients and skill to make. As the name suggests, the base of this dessert is sweet potatoes, usually the red skinned variety that is grown on the island.
Traditionally, the sweet potatoes would be grated by hand, and mixed in with ingredients such as flour, sugar, raisins, vanilla, nutmeg and coconut milk, creating a thick mixture that is then baked for about an hour and a half. Interestingly, this dessert was customarily made over an open fire in a dutch pot.
In fact, there is a popular spot in St. Ann known as the “Pudding Man” that still serves potato puddings made using the traditional method. A slice of pudding at the location costs around $2 US.
‘Duckanoo’, ‘blue drawers’ or ‘tie-a-leaf’ – are all references to a once popular Jamaican staple that has somewhat dwindled in popularity in recent times. A treat that is generally served warm, blue drawers are made of cornmeal, a bit of grated coconut, coconut milk, and a blend of Jamaican spices that include nutmeg and vanilla. The ingredients are mixed into a thick dough, wrapped in green banana leaves and boiled until the dough is cooked.
Another staple that is generally cooked outside on a wood fire, duckanoo has its origins in West Africa. Unfortunately, duckanoo is not served in a lot of restaurants, but if you have the chance to try it, you definitely won’t regret it.
Rum is a staple in Jamaican culture, so it’s easy to understand how it has become incorporated in so many of the foods produced on the island. Rum cake is a decadent moist cake infused with the traditional Wray and Nephew rum produced in Jamaica.
Normally baked in a bundt pan that gives the shape of an oversized donut, rum cakes are popular across the island and are usually sold at airports and grocery stores. Because of the infused rum, these cakes can last quite a long time, so there’s no issue with grabbing a few at the airport to take back home with you.
Another traditional Jamaican dessert that has lost some popularity on the island is the ‘toto’. The toto is Jamaica’s version of a coconut cake. A dense cake, it is generally flavored with nutmeg, ginger and allspice. Compared to the other coconut treats on this list (coconut drops, grater cake), toto is less sweet. The treat is generally sold in bakeries and is usually affordable, with a slice costing about $1.50 US.
Plantain tart is a delectable Jamaican dessert made from ripe plantains and a buttery crust. The plantains are mashed and combined with spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg to create a creamy filling. Food coloring is then added to the filling to give it a standout reddish hue.
‘The filling is then placed into a pastry crust and baked. Once finished, the result is a scrumptious, slightly sweet tart with a hint of spice that is perfect for dessert or as a snack.
Cornmeal pudding is a classic Jamaican dessert that is enjoyed throughout the island. This delectable treat is made from a blend of cornmeal, coconut milk, spices, and brown sugar, which are combined to create a rich and creamy pudding. The mixture is then baked until it forms a golden-brown crust, giving the dessert a delightful crunch.
The flavor of the pudding is a perfect balance between sweet and spicy, with the addition of nutmeg and vanilla providing a warm and comforting aroma. Cornmeal pudding is often enjoyed as a dessert or as a sweet breakfast option, and is a favorite among locals and tourists alike.
Devon House Ice Cream
The last item on our list, though by no means the least delicious, is Devon House ice cream. This is a must have if you visit Jamaica.
Ranked as the 4th best ice cream in the world by the National Geographic Society, the treat is made at the historical Devon House property in the island’s capital Kingston. It is, however, sold all across the island at various outlets.
Devon House offers 18 award winning flavors including Blue Mountain Coffee, Coconut, Devon Stout, Mango and Rum & Raisin.