Culinary Styles of the US Virgin Islands

Photo credit: © Valery Bareta |

Virgin Islands vacationers will find a seemingly endless number of incredible and unique specialty dishes. Before you jump right in and start ordering, however, you may want to take a little time to learn the names of some of the islands' favorite foods.

The easiest place to start is with the sea. Seafood, and especially fish, is a top choice for diners in the Virgin Islands - and for good reason. Whitefish, known by colorful names such as "ole wife" and "doctors," are one way to go, or take a taste of "porgies and grunts," yellowtail, kingfish, lobster, wahoo, grouper, mahi-mahi, tuna, and bonito. On the British Virgin Islands, lobster lovers will delight on Anegada lobster, which is said to be the Caribbean's best. Whelks and conch are two other seafood delicacies popular in the British Virgin Islands. Whelks resemble escargot, and conch is served in many different forms including soup, salad, and as a main dish. Salt fish and rice is a popular low-cost dish, with plenty of seasonings to spice up its plain-sounding name.

Okra, often spelled ochroe here, is a staple to many island meals. It is often served seasoned and fried as the side vegetable, but it is also a component to several other island mainstays. Take a taste of accra, a dish made with fried okra and black-eyed peas. Or try the unusual sounding fungi, composed of okra and cornmeal and often served alongside seafood dishes. Okra is also found in the popular island stew kallaloo (or callaloo), which is made with meat, seafood, and local ingredients and spices.

Souse is an old-time dish...


Soups here are often sweetened, and may even include fruits. Red bean soup is made with pork or ham, seasonings, and tomatoes, and is sweetened to taste. Tannia is a soup made from a starchy root of the same name with elephant-ear-shaped leaves, meat, and local seasonings and ingredients. Souse is an old-time dish made from the feet, head, and tongue of a pig in a lime flavored sauce.

Johnnycakes, deep-fried unleavened bread, are another popular dish, especially among the U.S. Virgin Islands. Another bread dish found mainly in the British islands is roti, an East Indian flat bread stuffed with meat and vegetables. Pate is a similar dish featuring pita bread stuffed with meat and vegetables and then baked or grilled.

Of course, no meal is complete without something to wash it down. The Virgin Islands offer up a few local concoctions, including Cruzan Rum, which is made in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Many rum drinks are popular, with local recipes usually featuring fruit juices from the island. Mauby is another popular alcoholic beverage made from ginger, yeast, herbs, and the bark of the mauby tree. Ginger beer, bush tea, soursop juice, and sea-moss cooler provide liquid refreshment with a little less kick.

To close out a meal of local dishes, try some local desserts, beginning with fresh fruits. Homemade ice cream is another local specialty, or take a taste of sweet potato pie. Dumplings made with fruits are also served as dessert dishes. Rum cake and bread pudding are also popular.

There are a number of food preparation methods that take place in order to create these delicious eats, but one that visitors should definitely be on the look out for is the Coal Pot.  This is a style of prep that combines the slow cooking of a Dutch Oven with the smoky flavor of a barbecue grill, bringing unique flavor and tenderness to each item made in this manner.  For generations, it was the main means of cooking throughout the Caribbean, and some restaurants still find it to be a great way to cook their meats.  

With so many islands working together to create the diverse array of culinary offerings, the number of eateries available to you can become overwhelming.  Our Restaurant Directory can help narrow down your choices when you search for food by cuisine style.  You also have the options of choosing restaurants by name when you click here

If you know where you will be staying, or if you are interested in learning more about a few of the islands accommodations, search for it in A to Z: Hotels in Detail.  When you pull up the accommodations you'd like to read about, a listing of restaurants in the surrounding area will be presented to you along with detailed information about the hotel and any restaurants that happen to be on site.  Finally, if you want to know which hotels have restaurants on property, check out Best Hotels for Dining Options.

You're sure to find something new and different when exploring the culinary side of these tasty tropical islands.


Help us improve! We welcome your corrections and suggestions.