If you eat a vegetarian diet, your first few times ordering at a Caribbean restaurant may be a little difficult. Since you probably won't recognize the names of a lot of dishes, it's not always clear which ones contain meat and which ones do not. Of course, you can ask the server, but this can get cumbersome, too. Thankfully, there are plenty of Caribbean dishes that are traditionally vegetarian. Once you know your options, ordering is a lot easier. Here are some top vegetarian options to look for on a Caribbean restaurant menu.
This is a traditional Dominican dish made from mashed plantains. Plantains are similar to a really starchy banana. Mangu is typically eaten for breakfast in the Dominican Republic, but it can make a nice, light dinner option, too. The plantains are usually flavored with salt, onions, and sometimes cheese, so they take on a savory flavor.
Gallo pinto is the Costa Rican version of beans and rice. It's a great choice for vegetarians since it provides so much protein. Usually, black beans are used, although some Caribbean restaurants in the U.S. add lentils, too. The beans and rice are seasoned with bell peppers and also with Scotch bonnets — a hot pepper that's popular throughout Caribbean cuisine.
This dish hails from Trinidad, and it has become quite popular in Caribbean restaurants. Made with tomatoes, onions, and a variety of peppers, it is almost like a cooked salsa. Some restaurants use it as a topping for various roasted meats, but you can typically also order it separately, as a dip. They may serve some bread or shreds of roti to dip in the choka. This makes for a fun appetizer that you can share with your fellow diners, vegetarians and meat-eaters alike.
Callaloo is a green vegetable similar to spinach. It grows throughout the Caribbean but is really popular in Jamaica. Traditionally, it is stewed down with onions, garlic, and Scotch bonnet peppers. It is often served with cod fish, but you should be able to order it on its own, instead. Jamaican callaloo alone may not be filling enough for a meal, but it's great to pair with some gallo pinto or mangu.
Hopefully, this article has given you a better idea of which Caribbean dishes tend to be vegetarian. The next time you visit a Caribbean restaurant, you can order with confidence.