A vacation in the Turks & Caicos islands is a must for sun seekers and vacationers looking to try something out of the norm. The islands are famous for their world-class beaches and opportunities to island hop. Many people who visit the Turks & Caicos islands fall in love with their beauty, the friendliness of the people, and the endless unique food options available from restaurants, bistros, resorts, and even roadside stops.
Whether or not you’re a foodie, you may desire to just land on an island and taste the best of what the Turks & Caicos islands have to offer, but you will do well to know before you go, the things you absolutely must try while there. As such, we’ve compiled a list of the 15 most popular things to eat and drink when in the Turks & Caicos islands!
Picture: Grace Bay, the best place to get a seafood lunch in Turks & Caicos!
Before we even get to the food, let’s talk a little about the Turks & Caicos islands. This tropical archipelago can be found to the east of The Bahamas. It’s just about a 40-minute plane trip to get there from Miami, and this makes it a top choice for travelers from that part of the US, or those using Miami as a hub.
Like most other Caribbean islands, Turks & Caicos has a consistently warm temperature throughout the year. The islands lie within the Atlantic Ocean, and the fact that they’re surrounded by water means there’s a healthy fishing culture there, which is something seafood lovers can delight in!
Food in the Turks and Caicos Islands is influenced by several cultures and traditions including that of the native Taíno people who were the first known inhabitants of the islands. As it stands today, food in the islands has contributions from the Lucayan, African, Jamaican, Hispaniolan and Bahamian cultures, which just means you can expect a super flavorful holiday.
Boiled fish and grits are popular breakfast dishes, but some people on the island eat this at any time of day. These items are usually served separately – a super-hot bowl of boiled fish, with a portion of grits alongside. This dish is believed to be energizing, and the fish is normally cooked with potatoes and lots of spices. Usually flakey white fish is at the heart of this meal, with a little lime dabbled over top to add to the flavor.
Alternatively, Johnny cake is served with boiled fish, but this combination will usually be seen around lunchtime. The Johnny cake recipe is said to go all the way back to the indigenous natives, but the recipe is simple and all you need is cornmeal, salt, and water. These 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 on their own.
If you’ve always wanted to try conch but have never found an opportunity, you’re in the right place. In the Turks & Caicos islands chances are your conch seeking aspirations will be fulfilled as there are a variety of ways to cook this giant sea snail, including making salad or flitters. To make this dish you’ll need to chop and prepare conch meat by seasoning it with chopped vegetables and other ingredients. Flour, egg, milk and other seasonings are incorporated into a batter that is later fried in hot oil. The result is crispy and delicious!
Insider tip: Do you want to drink unlimited cocktails and eat unlimited gourmet food at 21 restaurants - for free? Guests of beachfront all-inclusive resort Beaches Turks & Caicos can enjoy unlimited free drinks and food all day, every day!
Still in the seafood category, the crab and rice dish of Turks & Caicos is a must try. The blue crab, which is found in most of the islands in this territory is cooked to perfection for this dish which is considered a “comfort food” by some natives. As you dig into this meal, you’ll notice how the savory crab flavor blends into every grain of rice, and you’ll know right away why it’s an island favorite. You can get crab and rice at most local restaurants.
Since not many crops fare well in the arid climate of the islands, maize has over the years become a staple in Turks & Caicos. To make hominy grits, and even breadcake, maize is dried and processed; the result of this process is known as hominy. Whether in the form of Johnny cake or grits, this is a great choice to pair with seafood and other dishes.
In the seas around many of the islands of the Caribbean, the lionfish has increased in population. The Turks & Caicos islands are no exception. This is not good news for the islands, as the lionfish is a predatory fish not native to the Caribbean Sea. As such, authorities in the islands in order to protect marine life have encouraged chefs to incorporate lionfish into their menus. Cooking the fish requires precise preparation, but it’s quite tasty when prepared well. Plus, you can indulge knowing you’re helping to restore the balance of the Caribbean marine ecosystem.
Conch ceviche is a bit of an acquired taste, but made well this may end up being one of the best dishes you have while in the islands. ‘Cooked’ in citrus juice, conch ceviche is tossed about 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.
There’s an open and closed lobster season in the Turks & Caicos (open season August to March annually), and if you’re lucky to be on island during the open season, be sure to indulge in some fresh lobster, preferably in a garlic lemon butter sauce. Grilled lobster tail is typically the main attraction at local restaurants, and you’ll enjoy how meaty and flavorful this item is.
If you’re looking for a locally made hot sauce you can enjoy on the island and take home with you, PeppaJoy Hot Sauce is a great pick. Scotch bonnet peppers are the main ingredient in this concoction, and you’ll be able to get a bottle in most supermarkets or shops in Providenciales. There are three varieties in this brand: Wild Wheeland, the hot Blue Hills Breeze, and the Deadly Ghost – all of these were created by Delano Handfield.
Taste what may possibly be the freshest snapper you’ve ever had while in the islands. Almost reaching the popularity levels of local conch, snapper is available at most local restaurants and is typically served whole, grilled, and in a tasty homemade sauce. If you’re having a hard time figuring out what you want to eat during your vacation, know that you simply can hardly go wrong with some freshly grilled snapper!
Grace Bay is usually the name associated with one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, but the area is also popular with fishermen scoping 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.
Insider tip: Beaches Turks & Caicos is located on Grace Bay beach and has plenty of seafood options for guests including their inhouse ‘Neptune’s Mediterranean Seafood Restaurant’, ‘Schooners Seafood Grill’, ‘Barefoot by the Sea’ and more. These are only three of the 21 gourmet restaurants available at the resort! The best part? It’s all included in your stay!
Blackened or jerk meat and fish are very popular in the Turks & Caicos islands. Meat or fish is usually marinated with a combination of herbs and spices for the jerk process, and in some cases the dry rub method is used. With the blackening method, the meat or fish is often dipped first in melted butter, then coated with herbs and spices, before being cooked in a hot pan. Either option will leave you satisfied, especially when it’s done right.
Every culture has their own rice-based dish, and for Turks & Caicos it is “Peas and Rice”, a dish so popular that you’re likely to see it as a side dish incorporated into many seafood or chicken meals. Various types of beans or peas are used in this recipe, including kidney beans, black-eyed peas, yellow split peas, and even pigeon peas. Long grain rice is usually the go-to, and the rice is seasoned with spices like thyme, pepper and garlic. Coconut milk is also used, which adds to the unique taste of this island favorite.
Food in Turks & Caicos doesn’t get a lot tastier than coconut conch chowder. This is a meal you can sit down to after a day out in the sun, enjoying the best of what the island has to offer. You’ll be able to wind down and really take in the laid-back ambiance of the island as you enjoy this creamy chowder made with coconut milk, conch meat, vegetables and lots of spices!
“Reminiscent of calamari”, as described by some who have tried cracked conch, this dish is a great choice if you’re a conch lover, or just want to try it out for the first time. Making cracked conch involves a tenderization process of the meat, breading, and deep frying. Da Conch Shack in Providenciales is a good place to have a nice cracked conch meal while in the Turks & Caicos Islands.
Insider tip: If you want to try more popular conch dishes while in the islands, ask about steamed or stewed conch, it will be worth your while.
Finding authentic Turks & Caicos food won’t be hard just as long as you don’t completely exclude the less populated islands like North Caicos, Middle Caicos, Salt Cay, and South Caicos from your vacation experience 一 the island culture tends to be thicker in these parts, as there are less outside influences than more populated areas. We hope this list guides you in the right direction, and that your vacation in the Turks & Caicos islands is fulfilling, in more ways than one.