Caribbean Food Goes Vegan

Caribbean Food Goes Vegan 

Hi and welcome back to Ria Lives Well!

Caribbean food isn’t well known for it’s vegetarian and vegan recipes. They cater to the carnivores to the point where I feel like shouting, “I’m vegan! I exist!” While it’s easy to find a recipe for curried goat, one has greater difficulty finding a recipe for curried vegetables. But this is my culture; and there’s no way I’m giving up a hearty, Caribbean meal without a fight.

Fried dumplings and plantains with coconut rice.
Fried dumplings and plantains with coconut rice.

When I became a vegetarian in 2001, I quickly realized that my Caribbean food choices had diminished. I was forced to give up Jamaican patties until I stumbled across a restaurant that sold soy patties instead of beef–not the same. And then I became vegan. The soy patties would no longer suffice–the crust was made with butter. And my favorite food of all, potato rotis {extremely popular in Trinidad}, were taken away from me for the same reason.

I’m not complaining.

I’m vegan tweaking.

Authentic Caribbean Dinner {Vegan}:

Caribbean Rice:

  •  rice and water 
  • 1-2 tablespoons coconut milk {canned; thick top part}
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2-1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 can black beans
  • 2 bay leaves
  • all purpose seasoning {a dash}
  • garlic powder {a dash}


  • Cook rice according to package instructions. While water is boiling, add two dry bay leaves, and a generous dash of all purpose seasoning and salt. 
  • Once cooked, add coconut milk. Add salt, pepper and seasonings. Add beans.

Fried Dumplings:

  • 1 cup self rising flour 
  • 3/4 yellow onion {sliced}
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • cumin {dash}
  • garlic powder {dash}


  • Add flour to a bowl. Add 1/2 a teaspoon sea salt and a dash of garlic powder. 
  • Saute your onions on medium heat until golden {for me, that took seven minutes}. Add a generous dash of cumin. Take the skillet off the stove and let the onions cool before adding them to your flour.
  • Mix the onions into the flour and add just enough water to create a dough {for me, that was a little under 1/2 a cup–but do it in increments!}.
  • Add 1/2 an inch of oil into your skillet. Heat the oil on medium. Once it’s hot, add your dumplings and fry on both sides.


  • Cut one large plantain in half. Slice each half lengthwise until you have several slices {see image below}. 
  • Add a tablespoon {maybe more} of oil and fry three slices at a time {plantains are crazy about oil; soaks it up and needs a generous amount to fry properly}.
  • Fry for 3 minutes on both sides.

*Add raisins and unsweetened coconut to your rice, if desired. If I had either on hand, I wouldn’t hesitate to add.

Saute your onions until brown and soft.

Once they’ve cooled for a bit, add them to your self rising flour.

Make sure your plantains are sliced lengthwise. Why? Don’t know. They’re just better that way.

Fry them for roughly three minutes on each side.

So when they’re done, they look like this.

Once you’ve created your dough, shape them into small balls. Be careful about sizing. If they’re too big, they won’t cook through.

Before I made these, I called my dad to ask him exactly how one makes fried dumplings. He said to me, “Just make sure the oil is hot. Not too hot, so they’ll burn. But not too low, so they soak up all the oil.”

Very vague.

I set the stove on medium heat {the safest temperature, in my opinion} and watched until every side browned. I didn’t even time it. Yet it cooked perfectly; crispy on the outside, soft within. Just goes to show how easy fried dumplings are to make.

For the rice, I like to put a little sea salt and this herb medley to the water.

Not to mention bay leaves.

Once cooked, I add my absolute favorite ingredient: coconut milk.

Once you bring it all together and throw in some greens, what you have is a delicious Caribbean feast–gone vegan.

This is also a perfect vegan budget meal. Since I am on a budget, I couldn’t incorporate as many ingredients as I’d liked. A small serving of curried eggplant would have been great over the rice. But I worked with what I had, and the outcome was better than expected.

So sit down to your coconut rice with fried plantains and dumplings on the side. Kiss for your fingers snootily, because what you have here is an authentic Caribbean meal without any meat, fish, or dairy. Oh, the power of vegan tweakin’!

~Live Well!


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