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Traditional Jamaican Sunday Dinner
What Do Jamaicans Eat On Sundays?

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jamaican_rice_and_peas_cooked_on_stoveTraditional Jamaican Sunday Dinner - Jamaican Rice and Peas

by Venesha Johnson | Associate Writer

‘Sunday Dinner’ is a staple in families all across the world. It’s the one time of the week when families get together and have a relaxing dinner, talk and have some well-needed time together.

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It’s no different here in Jamaica, and just like other cultures, there are staple dishes had at every Sunday dinner. The UK has a roast dinner, what do we have on our plates for Sunday Dinner in Jamaica?

Just before we get into what we eat, let’s look at the other factors of the traditional Jamaican Sunday Dinner. Outside of what is prepared, the other aspect of Sunday Dinner is the time. Sunday Dinner is usually around 3 PM. Nowadays things have changed a bit, so it may even be a bit later. But in times past, dinners served after 5 PM on a Sunday were treated as a grave sin.

While it was never that serious, it sure does feel like it. While I grew up in an Adventist home, I never had to do this, but I know most families that worshipped on Sundays would prepare most or all of their Sunday Dinner before they headed to church.

So, what do we have for Sunday dinner?

Unless you are vegetarian, Sunday Dinner in most cases has at least 1 chicken dish, usually fried chicken. Fried chicken in Jamaica is very simple, with no butter milk or anything extra. Homestyle or “fry and cook down” as we like to call it, is also popular for Sunday dinner as well.

Most homes, once they can afford it, would have two proteins. The choices vary it could be curry goat, escovitch fish, brown stew turkey neck and many other options.

Side Dishes:

I don’t think we can consider rice and peas a side dish when it comes to Sunday dinner as it truly is an integral part of the whole operation. Rice and peas, a staple of Jamaican cuisine, combine fluffy rice with creamy coconut milk and kidney beans, seasoned with garlic, thyme, and escallions (green onions). When done right, you can have rice and peas just by itself. No protein or even gravy is required...it’s that good.

The other important side is the veggies. Your plate will be incomplete without it. For us Jamaicans, our go-to is what we call mix veg. It’s simply a cocktail of shredded veggies, mainly carrots and cabbage maybe some diced tomatoes, cucumbers and lettuce. You can dress it or not, that is up to you, but for me, a simple vinaigrette of lime juice, vinegar, honey and or sugar does the trick.

Other popular sides for Sunday dinner include fried ripe plantain or potato salad.

Drinks

Next is the drink. If I had to name one thing as the official Sunday Dinner drink of Jamaicans, it would be carrot juice or punch, check out these recipes so you can see the difference between the two.

The Jamaican soursop juice would be a close second. However, any naturally blended and homemade fruit or vegetable drink is a good choice. But in a bit of a rush, lemonade never disappoints.

Desserts:

As for desserts, not every family makes their own. Some families will bake puddings on a Saturday evening and (hopefully) there will be some left over for Sunday. But in truth, even when I have made desserts, there is one thing that we still all crave.

The true highlight of a Sunday evening is a cup of your favourite ice cream after a delicious dinner. Even as an adult, my Sunday evening feels lacking if I don’t have a cup of ice cream at the end.

Some families, especially big ones, purchase a box of ice cream while others wait for “Creamie” (the ice cream man), to pass by. A last resort is to walk to the nearest shop to get your treat. Either way, it is a most looked forward to part of the evening.

But this doesn’t mean there aren’t yummy desserts to try if you’d like! If you are looking for dessert options you would like to make on your own, check out our E-book, Jamaican Sweet Treats, for the recipes of some of our best and most favourite Jamaican desserts.

If you are vegetarian, don’t feel left out, we have something for you too. Ital stew is a go-to for the Rastafarian community and vegans. It is a hearty vegetable stew made with pumpkin, carrots, cabbage, and okra, cooked in coconut milk and flavoured with aromatic herbs and spices. Ackee (without the saltfish) and veggie chunks are another great and popular option as well.

So if you are looking to switch things up, wherever you are from, for this upcoming Sunday dinner, why not give ours a try? Your family and friends will love it!

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References & Sources For Traditional Jamaican Sunday Dinner

  1. Johnson, V. (no date) What is typical Jamaican food?, My-Island-Jamaica. Available at: https://www.my-island-jamaica.com/what_is_typical_jamaican_food.html (Accessed: 18 May 2024).
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