We’ve all heard of Haitian foods before, but where does it originally come from?
Haiti is a Caribbean country that shares the island of Hispañola with the Dominican Republic, just east of Jamaica.
Haiti is known not only for its delicious traditional Haitian foods but also for its beautiful beaches and rich culture.
Haitian cuisine combines many influences with a distinctive fusion of Spanish, French, African, Middle Eastern, American, and Taino dishes.
Haitian food offers a truly diverse and miscellaneous culinary experience while fusing explosive flavors with modest Caribbean cooking.
Due to Haiti’s location in the middle of the Caribbean Sea, seafood forms a large part of Haitian cuisine. Haitians also enjoy many delicious plant-based dishes as vegetarian options.
Like any other Caribbean island, Haiti has its unique spices and cooking techniques that make its traditional foods rich in taste and flavor.
Looking for unforgettable treats on your next trip?
Here is our list of 20 Haitian foods that every traveler should experience when discovering this beautiful Caribbean island.
1. Makawoni au graten – Haitian Mac and Cheese
Makawoni au graten, also known as Grating De Macaroni, is not your ordinary mac & cheese.
The noodles differentiate the Haitian makawoni au graten from basic mac & cheese.
Elbow macaroni is replaced by larger pasta types such as rigatoni and penne, along with some unusual spices and flavorings such as Worcestershire sauce, mayonnaise, white pepper, and mustard.
Unlike other versions of mac & cheese, the Haitian version does not use pasteurized milk but evaporated milk.
Haitians also add bell peppers, onions, shredded chicken or ham, and sauce to flavor this excellent food.
The ingredients are normally placed in a casserole dish and sprinkled with your pick of grated cheese such as parmesan or cheddar.
Makawoni au graten is best consumed during the colder seasons as it is a typical comfort food dish.
2. Pwason Boukannen – Grilled Fish
Pwason Boukannen is a famous Haitian specialty.
This grilled fish dish’s wonderful aroma and taste promise to make you addicted.
The outer layer of the fish has an eye-catching brown color, and the specific cooking technique makes the distinctive cooking flesh cook evenly and remains soft and chewy.
The technique that makes this delicious fish dish is known as Boukan.
The Haitian would use a wooden stick and split it in two.
They place the fish in the middle of two pieces of wood, tie one end of the wood stick to hold the fish in place, and grill it with fire.
Before the fish is inserted, it is sliced and seasoned with salt, pepper, and chili.
Then a small stick is inserted through the fish, from its mouth to the tail.
Haitians recommend using cinnamon sticks to impart a unique flavor to the fish.
The fish is regularly turned, guaranteeing that it is cooked and smoked evenly until it develops a brownish coloring.
When it happens, all that is left is to serve and consume this unique Haitian specialty.
3. Poulet Aux Noix – Chicken With Cashew
In Haiti, cashews are an essential ingredient in cuisine.
Haiti is an agriculture-led country so you can find and visit many cashew farms all over the country.
Poulet Aux Noix is a Haitian dish and one of our favorite Haitian foods featuring chicken and cashews as the main ingredients.
The chicken should always be well-spiced.
Chicken pieces are typically marinated, tender and firm when steamed, pan-fried along with onions, diced tomatoes, and tomato paste, which imparts a golden-brown color to the meat.
The cashews are cooked in water for a few minutes, then drained and added to the chicken.
The aromatic dish is reserved for Sunday dinners or special occasions and is usually accompanied by rice with djon-djon or rice with green peas.
4. Soup Joumou – Haitian Squash Soup
Soup Joumou is associated with a significant period in Haiti’s history.
It was a memorial dish when Haiti was liberated from French colonial rule on January 1, 1804.
That’s why Haitian Joumou soup is traditionally served on New Year’s Day to celebrate Haiti’s Independence Day as a reminder of Haiti’s hard-won liberation from slavery and independence from France.
Apart from pumpkin or squash, the thick, flavorful joumou soup is loaded with various other vegetables, goat meat or beef, and spices such as chili peppers, thyme, fresh ginger, lemon or lime juice splash, and parsley.
You will fall in love with the tenderness and flavor of the meat after letting the soup simmer for a reasonable amount of time.
In December 2021, Haiti’s Joumou soup was recognized by UNESCO as an Intangible Culture Heritage of Humanity.
5. Tasso/Tassot – Fried Beef/Goat Bites
Tassot or Tasso is one of Haitian foods that many people love.
The main ingredient of this recipe is beef or goat meat and a few other components.
You will feel the crispness of the meat and the flavor of orange juice and lemon juice.
Tassot is part of what Haitians call “Fritaille,” a mix of different fritters.
Cubed meat is usually marinated in a combination of onions, spices, orange juice, and lemon juice.
It is then fried until it develops a crispy, golden exterior.
This recipe is usually served with fried plantain, mushroom rice, rice and beans, and spicy sauce known as ti malice on the side.
Tassot is typically served at parties, get-togethers, and lunchtime or dinnertime.
This flavourful dish is also sold at most Haitian restaurants.
6. Pain Patate – Sweet Potato Dessert
Are you looking for a Haitian dessert to warm you up? Pain Patate is the one you need.
Pain Patate is a very popular dessert among delicious Haitian foods.
It is prepared with sweet potato and spices, with a consistency ranging from soft to as firm as banana bread.
Pen patat, or sweet potato pudding, is a flavourful dessert traditionally served at Haitian get-togethers, parties, and wedding celebrations.
It’s also a sweet treat that’s popular to bake at home as a dish for the whole family to enjoy, either on Sundays or on special occasions.
Pen patat has a similar texture and consistency to a fruit cake; the key difference is that there is no flour in the base but sweet potato instead.
This creates a pudding with a deep brown color and a rich, sweet taste.
Pen patat is cooked with Caribbean sweet potatoes, unique for their white flesh rather than orange flesh.
Sugar, raisins, bananas, and butter are added to form the base, while spices, grated ginger, lime zest, vanilla, and a pinch of salt are added for flavor.
Some people also choose to add condensed or coconut milk.
In Haiti, this dish is generally eaten as a dessert following lunch and dinner, but it can also be enjoyed at breakfast.
7. TomTom ak Kalalou Gombo – Breadfruit With Okra
Tomtom ak Kalalou Gombo is considered a special dish in the city of Jeremie in southern Haiti, but in colonial times it was the daily dish of Haitians.
This dish is composed of boiled and crushed bread fruits served with a sauce made of seafood and okra.
Tomtom is made using mashed breadfruit, crushed black pepper, salt, okra (fresh or frozen), tomato paste, olive oil, chopped onions, and a zest of lemon.
Tomtom ak kalalou is not normally eaten on its own.
The traditional way to eat this dish is to put the mashed breadfruit in the middle of the table, the gumbo purée next to it, and have the extended family take turns digging in.
Dip the breadfruit into the gumbo sauce to season it, and finally, pop it into your mouth and enjoy the explosive flavors.
This dish is made for those who want to spend time bonding with their family.
8. Tchaka – Vegetables Stew
Tchaka is another one of the specialties of Haiti and one of our favorite Haitian foods.
A mixture of red beans, cracked corn, squash, and smoked and salted pork meat seasoned with chili pepper, garlic, citrus fruits, and other herbs (thyme, parsley, and laurel).
Tchaka is a dish that takes a day to prepare.
It must simmer for many hours for the delicious flavors to develop.
Although a bit time-consuming, the preparation of Tchaka is quite simple.
The peas and corn are cooked separately and then mixed with the pork.
The mixture is spiced to taste and left to simmer until the tchaka has the desired consistency.
Many Haitian local variations replace pork with beef, mutton, or crab.
It is not unusual to add coconut milk, which gives the stew a much creamier consistency.
Particularly nutritious, Tchaka is generally associated with a festive and family atmosphere.
The stew is served hot, preferably with pickles on the side.
9. Akasan – Haitian Shake
Akasan is a specialty found throughout Haiti.
Usually served hot or warm at breakfast accompanied by bread, it is a real treat.
But that’s not all; Akasan is also a source of vitamins.
This drink is prepared with corn (cornmeal or corn kernel that is ground with a mill), milk (as desired), and scented spices such as anise and cinnamon.
These ingredients make akasan a very rich drink.
Unlike traditional shakes, this shake starts by cooking corn flour.
In Haiti, many vendors sell the pre-made shake, but most make it home.
The drink can be served warm but is usually chilled and served as a refreshing drink.
10. Diri Ak Pwa – Haitian Rice And Beans
Diri ak Pwa, also known as Diri Kole Ak Pwa, is a traditional dish of Haitian cuisine and one of the most popular Haitian foods.
This recipe was born a long time ago and is associated with the colonization period in Haiti.
Rice will combine with many different beans such as kidney beans, pinto, black beans, and many more.
This incredible dish will add a lot of starch, vitamins B, iron, and protein to your body.
Diri shela is a type of rice that comes from the northern region of Artibonite, and this particular combination is very much a favorite of Haitians of all ages.
Diri shela with fried chicken is a celebratory dish typically eaten at parties, get-togethers, weddings, and everything in between.
It’s likely to be found at any celebration in Haiti, no matter the occasion.
It’s also eaten on Sundays, after church.
To prepare the rice, epis and beans are first fried in a pan before water is added.
Once both have boiled, the rice is added to the mixture, and everything is cooked together.
At parties or on special occasions, fried plantains, pikliz – a spicy vegetable relish – and salad are also served with this beloved Haitian dish.
11. Dous Makos – Haitian Fudge
If you are looking for a version of fudge for dessert, you should consider Haitian Dous Makos.
Dous Makos is a variety of vanilla fudge that originated in Petit-Goave, Haiti.
The sweet usually contains three signature stripes: a light-colored vanilla layer, a chocolate layer, and a red layer made with food coloring.
You can enjoy Haitian fudge in the streets of Petit-Goave, among other flavorful Haitian foods.
Fernand Macos of Petit-Goave invented this mouthwatering dessert recipe in 1939, which many consider the Haitian version of the Hershey family.
12. Pate Kòde – Haitian Patties
Pate Kòde is a Haitian Street delicacy that is easy to make and delicious.
Pate Kòde might be your new favorite if you are looking for new comfort food among all the other delicious Haitian foods.
These crispy patties are not your usual side dishes.
The natural flavor from the fillings is complemented by added ingredients such as onions, parsley, and garlic.
Pate Kòde is an inexpensive Haitian street comfort food.
You can always find it from many street vendors in Haiti.
The possibilities are endless when filling these patties, such as hot dogs and eggs, smoked herring and eggs, chicken and cabbage, etc., and the possibilities for fillings for these patties are endless.
13. Haitian Marinade – Haitian Chicken Fritters
There’s a famous Haitian saying, “pa gen kominyon san marinad,” which in English means “it’s not a proper Haitian communion celebration if Haitian chicken fritters aren’t being served!”
Haitian chicken fritters are an appetizer made from shredded cooked chicken, scallions, garlic, pepper, and herbs, fried to golden perfection.
While traditionally a celebratory dish, Marinade fritters can also be bought from street vendors throughout Haiti.
The fritters are incredibly inexpensive, with five marinad fritters costing just 5 Haitian Gourdes (less than the US $0.50), making them one of the must-try Haitian foods.
14. Tablet Noix – Cashew Ginger Brittle
Since cashews are an essential ingredient in cuisine, it appears in many different recipes in Haiti, and Tablet Nwa is one of them.
The treat combines cane sugar, cashew nuts, and ginger.
You will fall in love with the enticing sweetness of this dish immediately.
This Haitian dessert is famous in many parts of Haiti.
You can buy it at vendors on the streets of Port-au-Prince and Les Cayes.
However, it is a specialty of the town of Cavaillon because it was initially invented there.
There are many other variations with sesame seeds, peanuts, and almonds.
15. Legim – Vegetable stew
Legim is among the most popular Haitian foods.
It is a vegetable stew made from a wide variety of vegetables, including watercress, green beans, eggplant, chayote squash, cabbage, carrots, and so on!
Heavily influenced by African cooking traditions, legim is a famous Haitian dish with many variations in the spices and ingredients.
Legim typically consists of a mix of vegetables cooked with meat (usually goat meat or beef) and then mashed together.
It can also contain fish instead of meat or be prepared with vegetables only for a vegetarian option.
Legim stew is traditionally prepared on Saturdays and is often served with cornmeal, white rice, or diri kolé (rice and red beans), also known as national rice.
16. Kalalou – Haitian Gumbo
If you go to Haiti, trying Kalalou Gumbo is a must.
This recipe is a typical dish of the town of Jeremie in the South of Haiti.
This flavorful meal came initially from Ethiopia.
When served with rice, Kalalou’s broth will leave a memorable impression in your mind with its rich flavor and thick texture.
You will love this savory dish’s tenderness, and deliciousness of the different meat combinations used to make it.
Packed with flavors of blue crab, fresh okra, djon-djon, and a mix of regular and salt-cured pork feet, this stew usually takes a long time to prepare.
One spoonful of this complex yet simple dish will make you fall in love with the mix of flavors.
17. Poule En Sauce – Haitian Stewed Chicken
Your popular Haitian foods list will be complete after adding Poule En Sauce.
This stewed chicken was born in France and arrived in Haiti during the colonial expansion of the European empires.
In French, it is recognized as a famous national dish.
Poule en Sauce (Haitian Stewed Chicken) is a traditional recipe rich and full of unique flavors cooked using different methods.
It is typically served with a side of rice.
18. Benyen – Haitian Banana Fritters
Benyen, also known as Beignets de Carnaval, or simply Haitian banana fritters, is one of the beloved Haitian foods.
Just the smell of them will make you crave them instantly.
The Haitian Carnival is a huge national celebration held over several days yearly in the run-up to Mardi Gras.
Attending the Carnival is a time for families and friends to gather to enjoy the festivities.
Along with other popular Haitian foods associated with the Haitian Carnival, this delicious banana-based dessert plays a big part in how Haitians celebrate this particular time of year.
Street vendors can also sell Benyen throughout the country, and you can buy these little treats at such low cost (three for 10 Haitian Gourdes, which is less than a US dollar!).
These treats are incredibly diverse and can be eaten for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.
The fritters combine bananas with flour, sugar, baking soda, and water.
The mixture is flavored with cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, and a dash of salt.
Once mixed, the batter is spooned into sizzling hot oil to fry, and once the fritters are golden and crispy, they’re sprinkled with sugar and served hot.
19. Fresco – Haitian Shaved Ice
A cup of Fresco will cool you down if you go to Haiti on hot summer days.
Haitian shaved ice was, and still is, a widely adored and popular Haitian treat, especially for kids on a hot summer afternoon.
Haitian shaved ice includes two simple ingredients: ice and thick, sweet syrup.
The most commonly used syrup is grenadine, which can be served with a syrup of any color or flavor.
When it is your turn, the vendor asks what flavor you want after scooping the shaved ice into a cup.
20. Mayi Moulen – Haitian Cornmeal
Mayi moulen is a quick and simple meal that can be eaten at any time of day.
It is every bit as essential to Haitian cuisine as rice is.
Mayi moulen is traditionally the go-to meal for Haitian households when time is of the essence.
It is a cornmeal dish cooked in heavily salted water with leeks.
It is typically served with avocado slices and a squeeze of lemon juice.
In Haitian Creole, mayi moulen means ground corn.
The creamy texture of yellow cornmeal cooked in water is pleasant and goes well with many toppings like vegetables such as beans or avocado, dried fish, or meat and sauce.
Mayi moulen is also accompanied by salted herring flavored with chili and called mori or black bean sauce, the sòs pwa nwa.
Haitian Food Summary
We’re sure you can now agree that the Haitian people’s rich culture and warmth strongly come through in Haitian foods.
Grounded in native Caribbean cooking, with a wide array of influences intertwined, Haitian dishes mark celebrations, bring joy, and help fuel a nation of active, passionate, and hard-working people.
Any trip to Haiti is not complete without trying some, if not all, of the 20 traditional Haitian foods mentioned.
So make sure to keep our list at hand so you can try authentic, delicious food from restaurants and street vendors on your next trip to Haiti.