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Gluten Free Jamaican Food
What Jamaican Dishes Are Gluten-Friendly

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ackee_and_saltfish.jpgGluten Free Jamaican Food - Ackee and Saltfish

by Venesha Johnson | Associate Writer

Food… it’s a big part of any vacation and one of the many reasons Jamaica is a top choice for many visitors. But, how do you travel to an island like Jamaica when you have food intolerances, specifically gluten? Well, it’s easy! We have so many traditional gluten-free food options, that you probably won’t feel like you are missing out on anything.

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If you aren't sure what all this gluten talk is about, let me break it down as best as possible. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. It acts as a binding agent, giving dough its elasticity and contributing to the chewy texture of bread and many of our favourite baked goods. While most people can digest gluten without issues, some may experience adverse reactions.

For those with celiac disease, which is an autoimmune disorder, consuming gluten triggers an immune response that damages the lining of the small intestine. This can lead to a range of symptoms, including abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhoea, and fatigue. Even for those without celiac disease, gluten sensitivity or intolerance can cause similar symptoms, albeit less severe.

For individuals with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, eliminating gluten from their diet is essential for maintaining good health. But even for those without gluten-related issues, there are potential benefits to reducing gluten consumption.

Some people report feeling more energetic, experiencing less bloating and digestive discomfort, and even shedding excess pounds after cutting out gluten. However, it's important to note that gluten-free does not automatically equate to healthier, as many gluten-free products are heavily processed and may lack essential nutrients.

What are the basic signs of gluten intolerance:

  1. Digestive issues such as bloating, gas, diarrhoea, or constipation
  2. Fatigue and weakness
  3. Joint pain and inflammation
  4. Headaches
  5. Skin problems like eczema or dermatitis herpetiformis
  6. Mood swings or depression

If based on these you suspect that you may have gluten intolerance, it's essential to consult with a healthcare professional for proper diagnosis and management.

As I mentioned earlier, our cuisine is renowned for its bold flavours and diverse ingredients, many of which naturally lend themselves to gluten-free preparations. Here are some popular Jamaican foods and meals that are naturally gluten-free or can be easily modified, so you don’t have to worry about what to eat when you get here.

Gluten Free Jamaican Food Options

  1. Jerk Chicken: This iconic Jamaican dish features chicken marinated in a spicy blend of Scotch bonnet peppers, allspice, thyme, and other herbs and spices. Traditionally grilled over pimento wood, jerk chicken is naturally gluten-free and bursting with flavour.

  2. Curried Goat: Tender goat meat simmered in a fragrant curry sauce, this hearty dish is a staple of Jamaican cuisine. It is made with gluten-free spices and pairs perfectly with white rice which is also gluten-free.

  3. Ackee and Saltfish: This is our national dish, it is a delightful combination of salted codfish, ackee fruit, onions, tomatoes, and spices. Try it with boiled green bananas, or roast breadfruit for gluten-free breakfast or lunch option.

  4. Rice and Peas: This is our signature side dish. It’s a delicious fragrant dish of rice cooked in coconut milk with kidney beans, aromatic herbs, and spices. It can be had with just about any of our main protein dishes.

  5. Escovitch Fish: This is my favourite way to have fish! It is lightly fried fish (often snapper or sliced trout) topped with a vibrant medley of pickled vegetables, including carrots, onions, and Scotch bonnet peppers.

  6. Bammy: Pair your escovitch fish with some crispy Bammy for a scrumptious gluten-free Jamaican meal, for lunch or dinner. Bammy is a traditional Jamaican flatbread made from cassava (yuca) flour, it can be fried, baked, or grilled until golden brown and crispy, then served alongside fish, meat, or vegetables for a satisfying meal.

  7. Oxtail: Slow-cooked until tender and infused with rich flavours, oxtail stew is a beloved Jamaican comfort food. Made with succulent oxtail pieces simmered in a savoury gravy with carrots, potatoes, and aromatic herbs and spices, this hearty dish is naturally gluten-free and perfect for warming up on a chilly evening.

  8. Rundown: This is a traditional Jamaican stew made with fish (often mackerel or saltfish), coconut milk, tomatoes, onions, and peppers, rundwon is a flavorful and satisfying dish. Simmered until thick and creamy, this gluten-free stew is typically served with boiled green bananas, dumplings, or rice for a hearty meal.

  9. Pepper Shrimp: Fiery and flavorful, pepper shrimp is a spicy Jamaican delicacy that packs a punch. Fresh shrimp are marinated in a fiery blend of Scotch bonnet peppers, garlic, and spices, then sautéed until tender and fragrant. Served with rice or fried plantains, this gluten-free dish is a favourite among seafood lovers.

  10. Cornmeal Porridge: A comforting breakfast staple, cornmeal porridge is made from finely ground cornmeal cooked with coconut milk, spices, and sweeteners such as condensed milk or sugar. Creamy and nourishing, this gluten-free porridge is often enjoyed with a sprinkle of cinnamon or nutmeg for added flavour.

This is just the start of all the amazing gluten-free dishes you can have in Jamaica. So no need to worry, you have a plethora of options.

With that being said, did I convince you to plan that trip to Jamaica? If yes, check out our E-book, Jamaica on A Budget, for tips and tricks on how to plan a budget-friendly vacation in Jamaica, then book with us through our partner, Stay22 for major savings.

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References & Sources For Gluten Free Jamaican Food

  1. Clarke, D. (no date) Coeliac on vacation – how to eat gluten-free in Jamaica, My-Island-Jamaica. Available at: https://www.my-island-jamaica.com/coeliac-on-vacation-how-to-eat-gluten-free-in-jamaica.html (Accessed: 18 May 2024).
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