If giving us warm sandy beaches, clear blue waters, and tropical cocktails isn’t enough, we can also thank the Caribbean for introducing the world to grilling. There are several theories on how both grilling as a cooking technique and the term barbeque traveled from the tropics, landing in our backyards.
If giving us sandy beaches and tropical cocktails isn’t enough, we can thank the Caribbean for great grilling. Caribbean BBQ rubs are full of flavor, so there really is something for everyone. Likewise, Caribbean BBQ chicken can range from bright, zesty, and mild to aromatic and spicy.
Come on a journey to the islands to learn about some of our favorite Caribbean grilling recipes and tropical BBQ rubs.
Caribbean Barbeque History
There are several theories on how both grilling as a cooking technique and the term barbeque traveled from the tropics, landing in our backyards. What we know as barbeque is believed to have originated in part from the indigenous people of the Caribbean. The earliest island tribes smoked and preserved their “catch of the day” over an open flame or fire pit. Most often, they smoked whatever they caught off the coastline, including manatee. These tribes built a wooden frame, known as a buccan, over the flame. Any meat hung on the frame would be either roasted or smoked from the fire.
As French explorers entered and began hunting feral cattle and wild pigs, they adopted and modified these frames to smoke their game. Shortly, buccan became the French boucanier or buccaneer. But eventually, buccaneer became synonymous with the pirates, whether French, Spanish, Dutch, or Portuguese, who attacked trade ships and conquered tribes around the Caribbean.
Another theory on the term barbeque is that it may have originated from the Spanish phrase barba a cola, which translates to beard to tail, or the idea of using up the whole of a hunted animal. The French are said to have a similar phrase, barbe a queue.
The most accepted origin of the word barbeque, however, is that it's a Spanish derivation from the original concept of buccan. It likely originates from the Haitian term barbacoa. Spanish explorers used this term not only to refer to the method of cooking meat over a framework of sticks on an open flame but also to the cooked meat itself.
Caribbean BBQ Rub
Whether you're grilling or barbecuing, enjoy a taste of the tropics. The flavors are rich and varied, from an earthy Cuban-inspired seasoning to an herby blend from Barbados. Explore the islands from your own backyard by trying one of these Caribbean-inspired seasonings.
Jamaican Jerk Seasoning: This flavorful, traditional seasoning features allspice and scotch bonnet chile peppers, both of which are key to authentic Jamaican cuisine. While we love to make traditional jerk chicken, our Jamaican Jerk Marinade recipe can also be used for pork, shrimp, vegetables, and tofu. If you’re craving one last burger this summer, one of our favorites is the Jamaican Jerk Burgers. Also check out our Sweet Jerk BBQ Sauce for an easy way to add island flavor to any dish!
Cuban Island Spice: This seasoning blends two essential flavor elements of Cuban cuisine: sofrito and adobo. Traditionally made with fresh ingredients, the base for sofrito is an aromatic trio of chile peppers, onion, and garlic with tomato, cilantro, and parsley completing the sauce. Latin adobo spice is an all-purpose seasoning blend. Marrying these two flavors created a versatile seasoning for grilling chicken and pork cutlets (used in the Bistro Cubano, our take on a traditional Cuban sandwich). With a few simple ingredients, Juicy Cuban Island Marinade will add loads of flavor to chicken, pineapple, or zucchini. One taste and you’ll wish summer would never end.
Bajan Seasoning: We introduced this blend in 2013 after Savory’s founders, Janet and Mike Johnston, took a trip to Barbados and fell in love with the island’s traditional, all-purpose seasoning. Our version is herb-y, with hints of lime and a touch of heat from the habanero chiles. It makes a delicious marinade for grilled chicken, pork, or shrimp; top with a Bajan Pineapple BBQ sauce for some sweet heat.
Barrier Reef Caribbean Style Seasoning: The citrus flavor and heat from the pepper in this salt-free blend match the bright sun and inviting warmth of the Caribbean. We just love this blend on fish: sprinkle it over your favorite piece of fish or a skewer of shrimp, throw it on the grill, and finish with a splash of fresh squeezed lime. (Can you taste the beach yet?) For a more decadent but equally easy recipe, try our Caribbean All-Purpose Glaze over grilled salmon, vegetables, or fruit.
Caribbean BBQ Chicken
The seasonings above are a great starting point for crafting some delicious grilled Caribbean BBQ Chicken. Some of these recipes are five-alarm fiery while others are sweet and citrusy. In short, there's something for everyone when it comes to island-inspired grilling
Jerk Chicken: A Jamaican classic, this is probably the first thing that comes to mind when you think about Caribbean grilled chicken. Marinated for up to 12 hours for maximum flavor, Jerk Chicken is delicious with a side of Caribbean Coconut Rice. While our Jamaican Jerk Seasoning has a good kick, you can always choose to amp up the spicy factor, to make a hotter version, add 1/4 to 1/2 tsp. habanero to 1/2 cup seasoning.
Crispy Sweet Jerk Chicken Wings: If wings are more your speed, add island flavor with Sweet Jerk BBQ Sauce. The flavors of Jamaican Jerk Seasoning are mellowed slightly by a flavorful barbecue sauce base that has pineapple juice and orange juice for added island flavor.
Bajan Marinade: Traditionally made from fresh herbs and chiles, we were inspired by the balanced flavors of this favorite from Barbados. The marinade is bolstered by sweet-tart citrus. While your chicken is on the grill, you can reduce the marinade to make a flavorful sauce.
Caribbean Grilled Wings: These grilled chicken wings are a choose your own adventure when it comes to flavor. Use your favorite Caribbean BBQ rub to create the ultimate island feast. Your spice will pull double duty to season both the wings and to flavor a tangy dipping sauce.
For more globally inspired flavors, check out our World Flavors spices.