Flavors of the Caribbean

While in close proximity to the United States, the Caribbean–its islands and bordering countries–are unfamiliar to many Americans. Collectively known as the West Indies, more than 7,000 islands form a grand arc that curves east and south from below Florida to the coast of Venezuela, with Central America bordering to the west. Caribbean lands are soothed by a warm and balmy climate. Plants grow in abandon–coconut, bananas, sugar cane, mango, tomatoes and peppers among them–and the sea provides brilliantly fresh seafood. Join Dole for an exploration of the flavorful cuisines and unique dishes that characterize its regional cuisines.

Select a country or flavor pairing to explore the 2016 Flavors of the Caribbean

Fruit Pairings Map

Banana and Coconut

Although bananas are basic to Caribbean cuisine, before the Civil War, the fruit was virtually unknown in the United States. Vessels plying the eastern seaboard route with bananas aboard discovered a ready market, inspiring importation on a large scale. The coconut, a noble palm that gracefully withstands hurricane winds, provides locals with a constant supply of food and drink. Coconut water is always pure in its sturdy container, and the mature nutmeat is shredded for endless uses from appetizer to dessert.

Caribbean Banana Coconut Chicken

Banana Coconut Punch

Banana Coconut Soup

Banana Curried Chutney Chicken

Banana Pina Colada

Sofrito and Beans

On Spanish-speaking islands, dozens of recipes are launched with sofrito, a flavorful blend of peppers, onions and tomatoes. Arroz con pollo, ropa vieja and all kinds of bean and vegetable dishes start with this base. In Cuba, where black beans are a specialty, they are cooked or served with rice for a hearty staple. For Cubans, one without the other is a disappointment. Dole offers a pleasing variation of beans and rice that starts with sofrito.

Tostones with Cuban Sofrito Black Bean Dip

Sofrito Moro

Black Bean Soup

Cherries and Rum

There is something magical about rum: it combats heat in the tropics and cold in the icy north. In the Caribbean, rum comes in endless varieties–light and dark–some so mellow and smooth they can be sipped neat. Every island has its favored rum drinks, usually a concoction that makes use of rum and fruit juice. For Dole, the luscious dark cherry is the fruit and juice of choice.

Bold Cherry Hemingway

Sweet Cherry Cuba Libre

Spiced Cherry Cuba Libre

Cherry Rum Cake

Black Forest Smoothie

Mango and Jerk Seasoning

The Caribbean is home to many varieties of mango. One of the world’s most popular fruits, mango offers tantalizing hints of melon, apricot and peach, but remains elusively unique. Jerk describes a native style of cooking in which meat is dry-rubbed or wet marinated with a jerk spice mix, a proprietary blend of allspice and Scotch bonnet peppers and other ingredients that allows for signature styles.

Jamaican Chicken with Pineapple Mango Couscous

Caribbean Slaw

Jerk Tilapia with Caribbean Mango Sauce

Pineapple and Chocolate

While the cacao tree flourishes in the Caribbean, sugar production figured critically in the transformation of cacao bean into chocolate. The pineapple is perhaps one of the Caribbean’s greatest fruit gift to the world. A highly esteemed native food, the pineapple also symbolized hospitality to strangers: a motif adapted by Europeans and colonial Americans. Today, we combine chocolate and pineapple into delectable desserts and beverages.

Pineapple and Chocolate Empanadas

Pineapple Chocolate Macaroons

Bunuelos with Crushed Pineapple and Chocolate Sauce

Pineapple and Spiced Chocolate Colada

Pineapple Chocolate Tropical Float

Trinity and Pork

The Spanish-speaking islands have contributed excellent pork recipes to the Caribbean cuisines. From spit-roasted suckling pigs to flavorful pork cracklings, native cooks maximize the protein’s versatility, often spicing up roasts and stews with a savory blend of onion, peppers and celery.

Dominican Roast Pork Loin

Pork Locrio

Papaya and Nutmeg

The papaya is one of the many Caribbean fruits never been seen by Europeans before Columbus’ voyage. The sweet, musky fruit can be treated like a vegetable when green, but is most popular when ripe and flavorful. Nutmeg and mace are different parts of the nut that grows on towering trees. A transplant from the Spice Islands, the nutmeg is now closely identified with Caribbean cuisine and provides a perfect compliment to papaya’s delicate sweetness.

Caribbean Creampop

Tropical Fruit Milkshake

Aquadito de Pollo y Papaya

Additional Recipe: Red Bean Moro

Apple and Ginger

Christopher Columbus was the first to compare the Caribbean islands to the Garden of Eden. In fact, most of the trees of the Caribbean bear a bounty of spectacular fruits–apples flourish in the climate–used in a variety of ways. Serendipitously, spicy, tart and sour flavors are popular around the Caribbean. Paired with apples, fresh or ground ginger adds both a subtle heat and pleasing spiciness.

Apple Sweet Potato Soup

Ginger Apple Sangria

Caribbean Green Apple Mule

Caribbean Pork Tenderloin and Apple


Apple Ginger Cider

Mandarin and Lime

The absence of citrus fruits would change the entire look and taste of Caribbean cuisine. Columbus brought the first citrus plants to the New World. By the beginning of the 16th century, the Caribbean could supply Europe with highly coveted oranges. Meanwhile, limes–fragrant and juicy–came to rival peppers in importance in Caribbean cooking, and as the chosen companion to rum.

Shrimp and Mandarin Ceviche

Mandarin Mojito

Mandarin and Toasted Coconut Fruit Salad

Mandarin Lime Flan

Caribbean Parfait

Trinity and Garlic

Creole, which has come to mean individuals of mixed descent, also applies to the spicy mix of island flavors. Early on, pungent seasoning was essential to make poor foods palatable. Today, Caribbean dishes are famous for their frequently heady combinations, beginning with sweet and hot peppers–the most important element–and incorporating garlic, onion, tomatoes, fresh spices and culinary imagination.

Flying Fish with Trinity Mojo

Cou Cou

Rice and Pigeon Peas

Banana and Allspice

Europeans arriving in the Caribbean found an unknown spice growing wild. They decided it tasted like a combination of cinnamon, nutmeg and clove and named it allspice. The versatile banana, most often peeled whole to enjoy out of hand, takes on new dimensions when incorporated into baked goods and desserts. Banana breads, cakes and sorbets–smooth, sweet and delectable–now grace menus far from their Caribbean roots.

Banana Upside Down Cake

Allspice Banana Cake

Spiced Banana Sorbet

Corn and Peppers

Columbus saw corn growing on Hispaniola, and early Spanish writers described how natives boiled it, then fried it into cakes. Not so different from contemporary dishes where corn and cornmeal are integral fritters and local tamales. Peppers-from sweet to incendiary–are favorite accompaniments.

Corn and Pepper Fritters

Corn and Pepper Rice Pie

Panamanian Tamales

Mango and Seafood

While beef and pork are featured in many Caribbean dishes, the bounty of the tropical sea takes a special place in each cuisine. Spiny lobster, shrimp, conch and endless varieties of fish are cornerstones of Caribbean cooking. In Panama, locals blend Caribbean and Latino influences to delicious effect in seafood dishes, where they use mango and coconut as sweet/savory accents.

Seafood and Mango Ceviche

Arroz con Camarones

Fish Cakes with Mango Salsa

Cocunut Shrimp with Mango Salsa

Fruit Pairings Map

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