Finding truly authentic Turks and Caicos food is easy when you go just a little off the beaten track to less popular locations in Providenciales, and in the surrounding islands of North Caicos, Middle Caicos, Salt Cay, and South Caicos where there are less outside culinary influences.
Local foods throughout the Turks and Caicos Islands has been heavily determined by a variety of cultures, and consist of a delicious mix of flavors which stem from the Taíno people (who were the first known inhabitants of the islands) together with a blend from Lucayan, African, Jamaican, Hispaniolan and Bahamian culinary influences too.
As you can well imagine, freshly caught seafood is always high up on the menu!
BOLIED FISH AND GRITS
A popular breakfast dish although some locals eat this at any time of day – boiled fish and grits is quite often served separately with a hot bowl of boiled fish, together with a portion of grits.
Locals believe this dish to be energizing, and the fish is typically cooked with potatoes and lots of spices. Often flaky white fish is at the heart of this meal and accompanied with a little lime on top to add extra flavor.
Johnny cake is served with boiled fish and is usually eaten around lunchtime. The recipe is simple and made from cornmeal, salt, and water and is believed to go all the way back to the indigenous natives. The ingredients are worked into a batter which is then separated into smaller pieces and cooked in a skillet with hot oil. Sometimes people make sandwiches with Johnny cakes or eat them just on their own.
Conch fritters are an absolute must try when visiting the Turks and Caicos Islands, especially if you’ve always wanted to try conch but have never had the opportunity.
There are a variety of ways to cooking this giant sea snail, including making salad or fritters. This dish is made by chopping and preparing the conch meat and seasoning it with diced vegetables and other ingredients. Flour, egg, milk and other seasonings are incorporated into a batter which is then fried in hot oil.
CRAB AND RICE
Blue crab and rice is considered by many locals as ‘comfort food’ which is found widely throughout the Turks and Caicos. The delightfully light crab flavor blends beautifully with the rice, and is available at most local restaurants.
Maize has become a staple in Turks & Caicos over the years, especially as not many crops fare particularly well in the dry climate of the islands. Hominy grits is made when an even breadcake maize is dried and processed with the result known as hominy. Whether in the form of Johnny cake or grits, this is a wonderful choice to accompany seafood and other dishes.
Over recent years, the lionfish has increased in population in the seas around many of the Caribbean islands. The Turks & Caicos Islands is no different and this is not good news, as the lionfish is a predatory fish not native to the Caribbean Sea. As a result and in order to protect marine life, the local authorities have encouraged chefs to include lionfish into their menus.
Cooking the fish requires particular preparation, and is tasty when prepared properly. Plus, you can be happy knowing you’re helping to rebalance of the Caribbean aquatic ecosystem.
CONCH CEVICHE (CONCH SALAD)
Made well, conch ceviche may end up being one of the best dishes you have while in the islands. ‘Cooked’ in citrus juice, conch ceviche is tossed in a mixture that also includes sweet peppers, tomato, red onion, cilantro, salt and sometimes scotch bonnet peppers, pineapple, avocado, and other ingredients. Some people squeeze in some fresh orange juice, which adds to the zeal of this Caribbean treat and well worth a try.
The open lobster season in the Turks and Caicos is from August to March each year, and if you’re lucky enough to be on island during the open season, freshly caught lobster is a must, and if possible in a garlic lemon butter sauce. Grilled lobster tail is normally on the menu at local restaurants and is a real treat.
PEPPAJOY HOT SAUCE
If you’re looking for a locally made hot sauce you can enjoy on the island and also take home with you, you can’t go wrong with PeppaJoy Hot Sauce. The main ingredient is Scotch bonnet peppers, and you’ll be able to find a bottle in most supermarkets or shops in Providenciales. Delano Handfield created three varieties in this brand: Wild Wheeland, the hot Blue Hills Breeze, and the Deadly Ghost.
World famous Grace Bay is associated with being one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, but this stunning location is also popular with fishermen searching for grouper fish.
When they’re lucky enough to make a good catch, you’ll find it on a local barbeque grill. If not grilled, grouper is likely to be fried, poached, or stuffed. Though it isn’t as popular as snapper or conch, you can find grouper on most restaurant menus, best served with a light sauce, alongside vegetables or over rice.