Whether you’re in the Bahamas for the balmy climate or the gorgeous beaches, eating well is going to be at the top of your agenda. Luckily, the Bahamas has plenty to offer when it comes to healthy vegan and vegetarian fare, provided that you know where to look. Bahamian cuisine is often heavily influenced by the food of the American South, which with its sticky marinades, deep-fried delicacies, and huge portions of rice and staple flavours, make it perfect for adapting to vegetarian and vegan diets.
It is easy enough to find food at roadside shacks and on the beach as well as restaurants and bars. If you’ve ever done a foodie tour of the Caribbean you will know that as well as being influenced by the American South, a lot of the Bahamian traditions and food have also influenced other countries.
One of the best things about Bahamian cuisine is that the staple flavours are all vegan and vegetarian-friendly. This means that it is relatively easy to adapt most dishes to suit vegetarian and vegan diets. Although many of the Bahamian flavours are typical of the Caribbean nations, the particular ingredients used in Bahamian food create a distinct flavour that can only be found on these islands.
Rum-based drinks are hugely popular in the Bahamas, but it also features quite heavily in the cooking as well. From rum soaked guava duff desserts to the world-famous Tortuga rum cake, the addition of this alcoholic ingredient makes for a potent and distinctive Bahamian flavour.
The dried fruit of the Pimenta dioica plant, allspice is added to everything from simple fries to guava duff. Traditionally, the fruit is picked when they are green and unripe and then dried in the heat of the Bahamian sun. The resulting flavour is sweet and spicy, perfect for Bahamian cooking.
Abundant on the islands, coconut is found is almost all Bahamian cuisine. Often, pigeon peas come in cans of coconut milk, so it is possible to experience this sweet flavour in savoury dishes as well as desserts.
Limes are grown and exported from the Bahamas, so it is no surprise that they are abundantly found in the cuisine. From sticky marinades to sweet puddings, limes find their way into almost all dishes. The refreshing lime switcha lemonade is a simple drink made from limes, sugar, and water and goes beautifully with most meals.
What to eat
Fried plantains are simply delicious, and they do not need to have anything added to them during the cooking process, so they are perfect vegan snacks. The sweet nectar of the vegetable caramelises as it is fried, resulting in a very moreish texture and taste.
A staple of Caribbean cooking, rice n’ peas is often found as a side dish for many Bahamian meals. The peas are pigeon peas, a filling legume that is expertly blended with rice, tomatoes, coconut, onions and spices. It is so tasty that you might just want to have this as your main meal every day! Just make sure to check that it has no salt pork in it.
Almost all Bahamian meals are accompanied by hearty helpings of potato salad and coleslaw, so look out for these on the menus, though be warned that they are often sprinkled with a large pinch of sugar!
Don’t forget to try the traditional Bahamian Johnny Cake. More like a dense cornbread, this cake can be served with jam as a breakfast treat, or alongside savoury dishes such as stews and soups.
Where to go
There are a few vegan and vegetarian options at places such as Rum Runners Bar in Newport, the Bob Marley resort and Sharkeez. There are plenty of places to stay on the islands, and with such a huge variety it is more likely than not that you will find something to suit you. Having said that, it is always worth checking vegetarian and vegan options with your resort before you go. Usually, resorts are happy to accommodate wherever possible, so just be sure to do your homework on the dishes they offer and their policies on menus.
While eating vegan and vegetarian might be slightly challenging in the Bahamas, the staple ingredients mean that it is entirely possible. Prepare for your trip in advance by checking out menus of restaurants that you would like to visit and calling in advance to ensure that they are able to accommodate your needs.
However you decide to spend your vacation in the Bahamas, one thing is for sure – you will probably come home with a whole new food obsession! Enjoy!