Haitian cuisine

Haitian cuisine
Haitian cuisine.

Haitian cuisine originates from several culinary styles from the various historical ethnic groups that populated the western portion of the island of Hispaniola, namely the French, African, and the Taíno Amerindians.



Haitian is similar to the rest of the Latin-Caribbean (the French and the Spanish-speaking countries of the Antilles) however it differs in several ways from its regional counterparts. Its primary influence derives from French and African cuisine, with notable derivatives from native Taíno and Spanish culinary techniques. Though similar to other cooking styles in the region, it carries a uniqueness native only to the country and an appeal to many visitors to the island. Haitians use vegetables and meats extensively and peppers and similar herbs are often used for strengthening flavor. Dishes tend to be seasoned liberally and consequently Haitian cuisine tends to be moderately spicy, not mild and not too hot. In the country, however, many businesses of foreign origin have been established introducing several foreign cuisines into the mainstream culture. Years of adaptation have led to these cuisines (e.g.: Levantine from Arab migration to Haiti) merging with Haitian cuisine.

Manje Kreyòl

"Manje Kreyòl" (Haitian food) is the equivalent of criollo cooking (criollo meaning "creole") in other countries. This encompasses most of what is regularly cooked in Haiti, involving the extensive use of herbs, and somewhat unlike Cuban cooking, the liberal use of peppers. A typical dish would probably be a plate of diri kole ak pwa (rice stuck has pea), which is brown rice with red kidney or pinto beans glazed with a marinade as a sauce and topped off with red snapper, tomatoes and onions. The dish can be accompanied by bouillon (bouyon), known as sancocho in some neighboring countries. Bouillon is a hearty stew consisting of various spices, potatoes, tomatoes, and meats such as goat or beef.

Rice is occasionally eaten with beans alone, but more often than not, some sort of meat completes the dish. Chicken (poul) is frequently eaten, the same goes for goat meat (kabrit) and beef (bèf). Chicken is often boiled in a marinade consisting of lemon juice, sour orange, scotch bonnet pepper, garlic and other seasonings and subsequently fried until crispy.

Legim is a thick vegetable stew consisting of a mashed mixture of eggplant, cabbage, chayote, spinach, watercress and other vegetables depending on availability and the cook's preference. It is flavored with epis, onions, garlic, and tomato pasted, and generally cooked with beef and/or crab. Legim is most often served with rice, but may also be served with other starches, including mayi moulen (a savory cornmeal porridge similar to polenta or grits), pitimi (cooked millet), or ble (wheat groats).

Other starches commonly eaten include yam, patat (neither of which should be confused with the North American sweet potato), potato, and breadfruit. These are frequently eaten with a thin sauce consisting of tomato paste, onions, spices, and dried fish.

Tchaka is a hearty stew consisting of hominy, beans, joumou (pumpkin), and meat (often pork). Tchaka is eaten by people and also used as an offering to the lwa in Vodou.

Spaghetti is most often served in Haiti as a breakfast dish and is cooked with hot dog, dried herring, and spices, and served with ketchup and sometimes raw watercress.

One of the country's best known appetizers are Pate, which are meat or salted cod patties surrounded by a crispy or flaky crust. Other snacks include akra (crispy, spicy fried malanga fritters), banann pese and marinad (fried savory dough balls). For a complete meal, they may be served with griyo (fried pork) or other fried meat. These foods are served with a spicy slaw called pikliz which consists of cabbage, carrot, vinegar, scotch bonnet pepper, and spices. Fried foods, collectively known as fritay, are sold widely on the streets.

Regional dishes also exist throughout Haiti. In the area around Jérémie, on Haiti's southwest tip, people eat a dish called tonmtonm, which is steamed breadfruit (lam veritab) mashed in a pilon, and is very similar to West African fufu. Tonmtonm is swallowed without chewing, using a slippery sauce made of okra (kalalou in Haitian Creole) cooked with meat, fish, crab, and savory spices. Another regional dish is poul ak nwa (chicken with cashew nuts), which is from the north of the country, in the area around Cap-Haïtien.

Waves of migration have also influenced Haitian cuisine. For example, immigrants from Lebanon and Syria brought kibbeh, which has been adopted into Haitian cuisine.

The flavor base of much Haitian cooking is epis, a combination sauce made from cooked peppers, garlic, and herbs, particularly green onions, thyme, and parsley. It is used as a basic condiment for rice and beans and is also used in stews and soups.

Increasingly, imported Maggi bouillon cubes are used by Haitian cooks. This is indicative of the growing availability of imported, often artificial and inexpensive, foods, such as Tampico beverages.



Beer is one of several common alcoholic beverages consumed in Haiti, often drank at festivals, parties, and occasionally downed with a meal. The most widely drank brand of beer in Haiti is Prestige, a nationally popular mild lager with a taste similar to many commercialized beers such as Budweiser and Miller Light. The beer has a light and crisp yet mildly sweet taste with a vague yet strong flavor reminiscent of several American-style beers. Prestige is brewed by Brasserie Nationale d'Haiti.


Haiti makes rum. The most known company in the country is the world-renowned Rhum Barbancourt; one of the nation's most famous exports and by international standards, the country's most popular alcoholic beverage. It is unique in that the distilleries use sugarcane juice directly instead of molasses like other types of rum. The rum is marketed in approximately 20 countries and uses a process of distillation similar to the process used to produce cognac. The liquory creamed drink called crémas is also drunk in Haiti. It is a popular beverage usually consumed as part of dessert or simply by itself.It has a sweet like flavor that you can taste.


Clairin or kleren is another popular drink; it is equivalent to moonshine and is distilled from molasses, it is distilled twice sometimes to have a higher proof of alcohol. It is widely popular and small distilleries can be found throughout the countryside. Clairin is at least 100 to 120 proof. Double distilled, it can easily be 150 to 190 proof. Clairin may be more popular than Rum because it is much cheaper and less labour intensive to make.


Due to its tropical climate, juice is a mainstay in Haiti. Juices from many fruits are commonly made and can be found everywhere. Guava juice, grapefruit juice, mango juice, along with the juices of many citrus fruits (oranges, granadilla, passion fruit etc.). Juice is the de facto beverage because of its variety of flavors, easy production, and widespread accessibility. Malta is also a popular non-alcoholic drink consisting of unfermented barley with molasses added for flavor. In more urban areas of the nation, the people enjoy Americanized drinks such as an array of soft drinks, in which Coca Cola dominates all other local soft drinks. Milkshakes are also drunk regularly.


Many types of desserts are eaten in Haiti ranging from the mild to sweet. Sugarcane is used frequently in the making of these desserts however granulated sugar is also used often. One very popular dessert is fresco which can be whipped up quickly. Fresco is a similar to an Italian Ice, however it consists primarily of fruit syrup. The syrup is moderately thick and very sweet. It is frequently sold by street vendors. The sweet smell of this candy-like snack often attracts honeybees and a common sight on the streets is a hurried vendor handing out frescos surrounded by swirls of bees. Pen Patat is a soft sweetbread made using cinnamon, evaporated milk, and sweet potato. It is usually served cold from the refrigerator but it can be eaten at room temperature. Akasan is a thick corn milkshake with a consistency similar to that of labouille (in Creole, "labouyi") (a popular porridge made from corn). It is made using many of the same ingredients as Pen patat consisting of evaporated milk, sugar, and corn flour.

List of some Haitian dishes

  • Du riz a pois or Diri ak Pwa Rice and beans
  • Du riz a poulet or Diri ak Poule (Rice with Chicken)
  • Du riz a légumes or Diri ak Légumes (Rice with vegetables, a stew consisting of eggplant, carrots, spinach, and beef)
  • Du riz a sauce-pois or Diri ak Sos Pwa (Rice with bean sauce)
  • Du riz blanche a sause-pois noir or Diri Blan ak Sos Pwa Noir (White rice and black bean sauce)
  • Du riz djon djon or Diri ak djon djon (Rice in black mushroom sauce)
  • Mais Moulu or Mayi Moulen Cornmeal
  • Tassot et Banane Pesé or Tasso et Banane Pézé (Fried Goat and Plantains)
  • Cabrit or Kabrit (goat meat)
  • Griot (seasoned Fried Pork with scallions and peppers in a bitter orange sauce)
  • Chocolat des Cayes or Chokolat La Kaye (homemade cocoa)
  • Soup Joumou (squash soup)
  • Pikliz or Picklese (very spicy vinegar based coleslaw)

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