With its misty mountaintops, picturesque beaches with turquoise waves, and tumbling waterfalls, Haiti is also known as the Pearl of the Caribbean.
This nation on the island of Hispañola is also known for its fabulous cuisine which is a distinctive fusion of Arabic, French, Spanish, and African cuisine.
Foodies looking for a diverse and eclectic culinary experience will instantly fall in love with Haiti’s mouth-watering dishes known for their spicy and tropical flavors.
Whether you wish to try French-inspired soups, slow-simmered stews, local puff pastries, or fish and seafood delicacies, Haitian cuisine offers something for every traveler.
What’s the most famous dish in Haiti? Which foods are prepared on Haiti’s Independence Day? What is the national dish in Haiti? To answer these questions and more, here is our list of the most popular foods to try in Haiti.
1. Soup Joumou
This traditional Haitian dish is associated with an important period in the country’s history. The thing is that Soup Joumou was served as a commemorative dish when the country was liberated from the France colony on January 1, 1804.
Nowadays, this hearty soup is traditionally served on Haiti’s Independence Day (New Year’s Day). Having a bowl of Soup Joumou on January 1st in Haiti is a culinary event and a not-to-be-missed celebration of freedom.
Also known as Haitian squash soup, Soup Joumou is made with veggies, squash purée, beef, and potatoes. The tenderness and the flavor of the beef is spectacular. An interesting fact is that UNESCO recognized Soup Joumou as an Intangible Culture Heritage of Humanity in 2021.
2. Poulet aux noix
Next on our list of the best Haitian dishes is Poulet aux noix, a local Haitian dish traditionally prepared for Sunday lunch. Also known as poul ak nwa, this northern Haiti delicacy centers around cashews and chicken.
The chicken is well-spiced and pan-fried until golden brown. As for the nuts, local chefs boil raw cashews for a few minutes alongside onions, tomatoes, and peppers. Once the cashews are cooked, they are drained and added to the meat. Poulet aux noix is typically served with rice
You will find this popular Haitian dish in and around the town of Cap-Haïtien.
3. Tonmtonm Ak Sòs Kalalou
There is no shortage of mouthwatering dishes in Haitian cuisine and Tonmtonm Ak Sòs Kalalou is one of them. Tonmtonm Ak Sòs Kalalou is basically mashed breadfruit with gumbo sauce.
Originating from the province of Jeremie which is located in the south of the country, this traditional Haitian dish is beloved by locals and tourists alike. The main ingredient is breadfruit. As for the gumbo sauce, it is made from an okra base.
A variety of seafood and red meats is added to the gumbo sauce giving it a savory and rich taste. This typical Haitian dish can be also combined with sweet potatoes.
Legim is, without a doubt, one of the most popular Haitian stews. We should mention that this dish has many variations. The typical version of Legim includes a variety of veggies ranging from carrots, cabbage, and eggplant to watercress, green beans, and chayote squash.
These vegetables are cooked together with the meat (beef) for a long time. Once meat becomes tender, everything gets mashed together.
Haitians usually prepare this amazing stew on the weekends for the entire family. What about the sides? Legim is served with either cornmeal or rice.
5. Lambi An Sos Kreyol
For those who don’t know, conch is an oversized sea snail that is native to the coasts of the Bahamas, the Florida Keys, the Caribbean, and Bermuda. Like most seafood, conch has a unique flavor.
This marine snail doesn’t have a strong taste, but it’s quite salty. It is quite common to find conch as an ingredient in the cuisines in the region.
One of the dishes where you will find conch in Haiti is Lambi An Sos Kreyol. This mouthwatering slow-cooked conch stew is absolutely brilliant. Cooked in tomato sauce together with herbs, onion, and garlic, Lambi An Sos Kreyol is typically served over hot rice.
We have to admit that it takes a while to shell all of these sea snails, but it is definitely worth every single bite that you will experience.
Almost every Haitian restaurant serves this delicious tart relish which consists of fermented vegetables.
You will need veggies like carrots, onions, cucumbers, shallots, spicy peppers, and shredded cabbage to make Pikliz. Put all of these vegetables into a jar of vinegar together with some garlic and let it rest for a while before serving it as a side dish.
Traditionally, this Haitian side dish is served with everything from fried pork and fried beef to fried plantains and fish. The thing is that the acidity of this side dish pairs perfectly with any fried dish.
No list of the best Haitian dishes would be complete without mentioning Griot. It is the national dish of Haiti and is served in many restaurants across the country.
So, what is Griot? This beloved Haitian dish consists of pork shoulder cubes which are seasoned with citrus and slowly cooked in a spicy/sweet marinade of lime, lemon juice, orange, chili peppers, and onions. After simmering the pork cubes in the sauce, the meat is fried until it becomes super crispy.
There was a time when meat was super expensive in Haiti. Therefore, Griot was prepared on special occasions such as Christmas, Easter, and Good Friday.
Griot is typically eaten together with vegetables, salad, or spicy pikliz.
When locals are in a hurry but want to grab a snack, they usually go for Fritays.
A favorite dish among Haitians, these small pieces of pork are sold all over Haiti in both restaurants and roadside food stalls.
How to make fritays? It is quite simple. Fritays are small pieces of marinated pork, grilled, and served with fried plantains and some hot sauce.
The pork is marinated with ingredients like grated malanga, garlic, scallions, and pepper.
Fritays is basically a Haitian street food and the locals cook it almost on every occasion.
Next on our list is Benyen, Haitian banana fritters. Also known as Beignets de Carnaval, this casual banana-based dessert is made during the Haitian Carnival which is a large national celebration that is held over several days every year.
Travelers will also find this sweet snack sold by street food vendors throughout the country. The good news is that it is the most affordable dessert ever. Expect to pay less than a dollar for Benyen.
Making Benyen is quite easy. Instead of having flour as the base, Haitians use ripe bananas to prepare Beignets de Carnaval. Infused with flavor enhancers like rum and vanilla, Benyen is fried and placed on a paper toweled plate.
Benyen can be eaten for breakfast, lunch, and even dinner.
10. Diri ak djon djon
If you are a fan of rice dishes, Diri ak djon djon is something you should definitely try when visiting Haiti. An authentic Haitian meal made for holidays and other celebrations, Diri ak djon djon is an extra-filling and delicious rice dish.
The first step is to soak the local special kind of black mushrooms called “djondjon”. Once the mushrooms form a black liquid, they need to be cooked with rice. Add lime beans, carrots, shrimp, and chicken to the cooked black rice to complete the dish.
Instead of beans, the locals sometimes use fresh peas when making diri ak djon djon. It is also common to replace shrimp with fish.
11. Makawoni Au Graten
This Haitian dish has its roots in Italian cuisine. Also known as Grating De Macaroni, Makawoni Au Graten is similar to mac & cheese. What’s the difference between the classic mac & cheese and the Haitian version?
In Haiti, evaporated milk is used instead of pasteurized milk when preparing Makawoni Au Graten. Also, Haitian Makawoni doesn’t include macaroni and uses pasta types like rigatoni. Some of the other ingredients for Makawoni Au Graten include ham, bell peppers, onions, mustard, and Worchester sauce.
Place all of the mentioned ingredients in a casserole dish and add parmesan or cheddar. Some local chefs in Haiti add things like shredded chicken. This typical comfort dish is usually served during the winter season.
12. Ragou (Pork or Beef Ragout)
In the mood for a rich meat-based stew when visiting Haiti? Try the local Haitian pork or beef ragou which is made from cow or pig foot. The meat is cooked together with ingredients like sweet peppers, onions, and carrots.
Seasoning of the Ragou is very important. Haitians typically use spices like chilli powder, lime juice, salt, pepper, and parsley to get that perfect balance of flavors that is needed when making Ragou.
This traditional Haitian dish is served with white rice.
13. Haitian Patty
If you are searching for an authentic Haitian pastry comfort dish, look no further than the traditional Haitian Patty. These local delicacies revolve around puff pastry shaped into small squares.
You’ll have plenty of choice of fillings such as pork, chicken, cabbage, hot dogs, eggs, and smoked herring. When it comes to stuffing these patties, the possibilities are endless. Feel free to put whatever you want in the Haitian patty.
The Haitian patties also pair perfectly with fillings like fish, rice, and beans. This typical Haitian meal is typically served at celebrations, holidays, and other special events.
Travelers can also score Haitian patties from the local street vendors in Haiti where these small square delicacies are made-to-order.
14. Tassot kabrit
Foodies looking for a goat dish should definitely try the Haitian Tassot kabrit. Also known as Tasso, this Haitian dis is beloved among locals and tourists alike. The main ingredient here is goat meat which is marinade in lemons and orange juice.
After a few hours, the meat is pan-fried until it becomes super crispy. In addition to the flavorful goat meat, you will feel the sweet notes from the orange and lemon juice when enjoying this authentic Haitian food delicacy. Tassot kabrit is served with spicy sauce and sides like fried plantain, beans, and rice.
Where can I try this? The good news is that Tassot kabrit is popular all over the world and you can easily find it in grocery shops in Africa and the US. If you are in Haiti, both street food vendors and high-end dining establishments have Tassot kabrit on their food menus.
15. Bouillon Soup
One of the most popular soup dishes in Haiti, bouillon soup is something you would want to enjoy in winter. This hearty soup is made with a variety of veggies and meats.
There is bouyon poule that is made with chicken, and Bouyon beef, prepared with cow meat.
Some of the other ingredients needed when making this slightly thick soup include yams, kelp, cabbage, plantains, potatoes, scotch bonnet peppers, and celery.
The soup is served extremely hot alongside fillings like potato and sweet plantains. This Haitian soup can be also served with small dumplings.
16. Paso Boukannen
Fish lovers should definitely try the famous Haitian specialty called Paso Boukannen. For those who don’t know, the local chefs in Haiti sometimes use a traditional technique when cooking fish, known as “boukan”.
The thing is that most locals living outside the capital city didn’t have access to ovens. Therefore, they thought of splitting a large piece of wood in two. One piece is tied to hold the fish in place, while the other is left open so that you can put the fish between these two pieces of wood.
This fish is slowly cooked, giving it a distinctive smoky flavor in the end. Paso Boukannen is usually served with fried plantains.
17. Pen Patat
Also known as the sweet potato pudding, Pen Patat is similar to your average fruit cake. Instead of flour, the local chefs in Haiti use Caribbean sweet potatoes instead.
This wholesome Haitian dessert is typically offered at gatherings like parties and wedding celebrations. You can also make it as a dessert for Sunday lunch family gatherings.
To form the base for this delicious dessert, you will need sweet potatoes, sugar, butter, bananas, and raisins. For flavor, it is best to use vanilla, lime zest, and grated ginger. You can even add some condensed milk. This brown-colored pudding has a rich sweet taste.
18. Diri Shela, Poul Fri
Last on our list of the best Haitian food is the iconic chicken dish with rice called Diri Shela, Poul Fri. Diri shela is a type of rice, while Poul Fri is chicken coated with spices, herbs, and lemon juice. You will find this typical Haitian dish at weddings, business lunches, communions, and other events.
How do I make Diri Shela, Poul Fri? Take the marinated chicken and let it sizzle for a few minutes in a frying pan together with some chopped onions. As for the rice part of the dish, you should fry epis and beans in a pan and add water. As soon as the water starts to boil, throw in diri shela (rice) into the mixture and cook until ready.
Diri Shela, Poul Fri is eaten with sides like pikliz and fried plantains.
With a vast array of different influences, Haitian cuisine is largely based on Creole and French cooking styles.
From traditional Haitian dishes and foods from the neighboring Caribbean countries to meals from Arabic, French, Spanish, and African cuisines, there is so much to choose from when dining in Haiti.
Some of the staple ingredients in Haitian cuisine include rice, corn, millet, yams, and beans. You will also find plenty of meat and seafood dishes in Haiti.
Craving something sweet? Haiti’s Caribbean climate allows tropical fruits such as avocado, orange, mango, coconut, guava, and pineapples to grow in abundance.