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Caribbean Spices & Seasonings

Grilled jerk chicken on plate with fruit garnishes

Bold, aromatic, and sometimes spicy. The Caribbean spices in our World Flavors spices include Latin favorites like all-purpose sazon, well known island flavors like Jamaican Jerk Seasoning, and bright flavors like lemon garlic. Shrimp and fish are common (obviously) but Caribbean dishes also include pork, chicken, and even goat. And don’t forget about side dishes like fried plantains, rice, beans, and so much more. Hungry yet? We are!

What are the main Caribbean spices?

If you’re looking for some spices that are commonly used in both Caribbean and Latin flavors, start with the basics. Salt, garlic, cumin, coriander, and Mexican oregano (it has a different flavor than the Mediterranean variety, with earthy and minty notes).

Barbecue, by some accounts, may have originated in the Caribbean. There's so much to delve into with these flavors and recipes that we gave them their own Caribbean BBQ article.

What seasoning blend is common in the Caribbean?

There definitely isn’t one single Caribbean spice. Each island and cultural cuisine has their own unique combinations. Our seasonings are influenced by authentic flavor and often involve many trials and versions (and some super fun research trips) before we find the perfect blend. Here are some of our favorite common Caribbean seasonings and island flavors.

Jamaican Jerk Seasoning – This Jamaican spice might be the most well-known Caribbean seasoning. (So well known that in addition to our seasoning, it inspired a Sweet Jerk Barbecue Sauce!) It is a balance of flavors and ingredients that excite all your tastebuds: onion, herbs, salt and pepper, sweet spices. We found that the two secret ingredients for authentic flavor are allspice and scotch bonnet chiles. Savory Spice co-founders Mike and Janet Johnston went on a quest to explore this distinctive Jamaican spice.

Bajan Seasoning – Not all Caribbean seasonings are spicy though. Hailing from Barbados, traditional Bajan is actually a paste. Like some of our other seasonings, we’ve used a saucy inspiration to create a dry spice mix. Unlike Jamaican Jerk Seasoning, Bajan Seasoning isn’t particularly hot, although it does have a bit of a chile kick. It’s loaded with citrus and herbs, making it versatile and a sort of all-purpose seasoning for the locals.

Siesta Key Spanish Sazon – Sazon is commonly used in a variety of cuisines. It literally translates to ‘seasoning’ so it’s incredibly easy to use. You can sprinkle it on a finished dish or add it during the cooking process. With garlic and onion as the base flavors, it can also act as a foundation for other spices.

Cuban Island Spice – Here’s where we stray a bit from the traditional island spice and rely instead on culinary influence. Our Cuban-inspired draws inspiration from sofrito.  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. Perfecting a dry version created a versatile seasoning blend that can be used on nearly any protein or vegetable.

How do you marinate chicken in the Caribbean?

All marinades come down to a few basic components: oil, acid, spice. Yup, it's really as simple as that. Switch up these three ingredients and you can modify the flavors of the marinade. To get you started, here are a few Caribbean marinades.

Pro Tip: While you're cooking your protein, put the marinade in a saucepan. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer to make a flavorful sauce to complement your protein.

Hands holding a bowl of jerk marinade

Jamaican Jerk Marinade recipe 

6-9 Tbsp. Jamaican Jerk Seasoning
6 Tbsp. orange juice
6 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
4 Tbsp. lime juice
3 Tbsp. soy sauce
3 Tbsp. olive oil
Combine all ingredients and use to marinate your favorite protein for up to 12 hours.

Bajan Marinade recipe 

6 Tbsp. Bajan Seasoning
3/4 cup grapefruit juice
4 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
4 Tbsp. lime juice
3 Tbsp. grapeseed or canola oil
Combine all ingredients and use to marinate your favorite protein for up to 12 hours.

Juicy Cuban Island Marinade recipe  

3 Tbsp. orange juice
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. Teriyaki or soy sauce
2 Tbsp. Cuban Island Spice
Combine all ingredients and use to marinate your favorite protein for at least 30 min. or up to overnight. 

Rack of bbq ribs with hand dipping spoon into sauce

More Caribbean Recipes

Slow Cooked Caribbean Spiced Ribs
These Caribbean island ribs are flavored with Jamaican Jerk, tangy tamarind, sweet apricot preserves; all of which combine to saucy create layers of flavor.

Caribbean Grilled Fish Tacos with Lime Crema
These tacos focus on simple, fresh flavors: grilled fish, a drizzle of lime crema, and sprinkled cheese, cilantro, and veggies are all the components you need! These tacos work well with chicken or shrimp and any of our Caribbean-inspired blends, like Jamaican Jerk Seasoning or Bajan Seasoning .

Bajan Seafood Hush Puppies
These crispy bites of fried dough have flakes of fish throughout. An island spin on a southern favorite, these are mild and delectable. If you like things extra spicy, try our fiery Bajan Hot Pepper Sauce.

Bistro Cubano
This is our twist on a traditional Cuban sandwich. It's a great way to get to know our Cuban Island Spice as that flavors both the chicken and pork that make up the meat of the sandwich.

Slow Cooker Cuban Island Pork
This easy slow cooker recipe is perfect for cool nights when you need a taste of the islands. It's also a great summer recipe to use for tacos or tostadas. Serve over rice with a dollop of sour cream and fresh chopped cilantro. Makes a great filling for tacos and burritos or a topping for nachos or tostadas.

...and we didn't even touch on Mexican and other Latin American spices! To explore them, check out our World Flavors section.

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