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Origins of Haitian Cuisine

By March 12, 2021Food

Haitian cuisine is inspired by its location, climate, and history. Haiti occupies the western third of the island of Hispaniola, located in the Caribbean (the Dominican Republic occupies the eastern two thirds). According to Food in Every Country, crops like avocados, coffee, cocoa beans, coconuts, oranges, limes, and mango grow in the wild.

The site goes on to report that throughout its history, several foreign countries colonized and gained control of Haiti, introducing food and ideas from their native lands, which greatly affected the food Haitians ate. The Taino Natives, France, Spain, and the continent of Africa have all played significant roles in shaping the cuisine.

As early as 5000 BC, hunter gatherers inhabited the island. They cultivated a wide range of fruits and vegetables, including guavas, corn, papayas, and sweet potatoes. In 1492, Christopher Columbus landed on the island and claimed it for the Spanish, who almost wiped out the native population with disease and forced labor by the early sixteenth century. The Spanish then began importing African slaves to the island, which was then called La Isla Espanola. These Africans introduced okra, taro (edible root), and various spices to the island. (They later introduced rice and beans as well.)

By the eighteenth century, the French had taken control of the Haitian part of the Island, which the Taino had called Ayiti. They continued using slaves to produce sugarcane, coffee, and cocoa. Haitians won their independence from France in 1804, but French culture still influences their cuisine. You can still find French cheeses and desserts in many local markets today.

When it comes to today, Haiti’s main food influences include French and Creole culture. Their use of strong spices distinguishes them from other Caribbean islands. Many dishes come from a pesto base, and others from a foundation of green onions, thyme, parsley, peppers, and garlic. Starchy foods are among the most common staples. Riz et pois (rice and beans) are the national dish. Djon-djon, or black rice and beans, are a native staple. Locally grown Haitian mushrooms are used to dye the rice black, and the mushrooms as well as lima beans top the rice. Calalou, another main dish, is composed of crab meat, salted pork, spinach, onion, okra, and peppers. Pork is popular, though usually fried for flavor. Conch meat is popular around the coast. For dessert, pain patate is popular. This pudding is made with sweet potato, fig, and banana pudding.

As a result of European and African influences, many Haitians practice Catholicism and Voodoo, a mixture of Christianity and African animism (belief in spirits and nature). For Catholic Haitians, important holidays (such as Christmas and Easter) are marked by celebration dinners. Fried pork, pikliz (pickled carrots and cabbage), fried plantains, Haitian bread, and pineapple nog are common Christmas staples. National holidays, regardless of belief, are also popular. On All Souls’ Day (Day of the Dead), loved ones who have passed away are honored and celebrated with food and drink. Pumpkin soup is eaten for lunch on Sundays; it is also eaten on New Year’s Day for good luck.

At Bon Appetit Haitian Restaurant, you can enjoy an impressive array of Haitian cuisine. In fact, our mission is to provide you with such an exceptional experience, you will return time and time again. The culinary team at Bon Appetit Haitian Restaurant is talented, experienced, and dedicated to providing superior authentic Haitian dining. Our food will transport you to the world of fine Haitian dining with one bite! When you dine with us, you’re guaranteed an unforgettable dining experience. Take a trip to Haiti without stepping foot on a plane.


“Haiti.” Food in Every Country. Unknown date. http://www.foodbycountry.com/Germany-to-Japan/Haiti.html