Escape to the Caribbean With These Vegan Recipes

rasta pasta
Photo: Matthew Benson
These meat-free, dairy-free, and egg-free authentic island dishes will make you feel like you're dining on a sun-soaked beach.

We don't know about you, but the cold weather always has us wishing we could jet off to a warm, tropical island. Get the feel of a Caribbean vacation without splurging on travel fare with some vegan versions of authentic island recipes from the expanded second edition of Taymer Mason's book, Caribbean Vegan. In it, African, French, Asian, and Spanish influences combine with the local flavors of Barbados, Saint Lucia, Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, and more for incredibly delicious cuisine. Make your very own island paradise from the comfort of your kitchen with these rich (and healthy!) dishes.

Caribbean Sushi with Tamarind “Eel" Sauce

This recipe puts classic Caribbean flavors - okra, plantains, ackee - and puts into these delightful little sushi rolls. Experiment all you like - changing ingredients around can create exciting flavors and new memories.

vegan sushi

What You'll Need

Serves 4

Sushi

  • 5 nori sheets
  • 1 cup cooked and chilled sushi rice
  • 2 tablespoons neutral-flavored oil
  • Half a 19-ounce can Jamaican ackee, drained and patted dry
  • 2 teaspoons Jamaican Jerk Seasoning (recipe follows)
  • 5 okras pods, sliced lengthwise in two strips
  • ½ red bell pepper, cut into 10 slices
  • ½ christophene (chayote), cut into 10 thin strips
  • 1 firm ripe plantain, boiled and cut into 10 strips
  • 1 avocado, cut into 10 slices, optional
  • 1 small carrot, cut in 10 thin strips

Tamarind “Eel" Sauce

  • ¼ cup mirin
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons tamarind paste
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon sriracha sauce
  • ½ teaspoon minced garlic

Garnishes

  • Wasabi paste
  • Pickled ginger
  • Pomegranate seeds
  • Toasted coconut flakes


Directions

Step 1: To make the sushi rolls, place a sheet of nori on a sushi mat and spoon about one fifth of the rice on top. Set aside.

Step 2: Heat the oil in a small pan over medium heat. Add the ackee and jerk paste, and cook gently for 3 minutes. Note that the ackee is very delicate and will turn into mush with too much manipulation. Let the mixture cool for a few minutes.

Step 3: To make the rolls be creative, the key is to mix and match veggies and not overpack them with rice. You have 10 slices of each vegetable, so use 2 slices per roll. Arrange 2 pieces each of okra, bell pepper, christophene, plantain, and optional avocado lengthwise along the longer side facing you. Spoon on one fifth of the cooled jerk-ackee mixture and start rolling the sushi, pushing it away from you and slightly compressing the roll as it gets more complete. Do not roll the sushi too loose or the fillings will fall out! Place the completed roll on the plate and repeat this process with the other four nori sheets. Chill completed rolls for a minimum of 30 minutes.

Step 4: To make the “eel" sauce, combine the mirin, soy sauce, tamarind paste, sugar, sriracha, and garlic in a small saucepan and bring the mixture to boil over medium-heat, stirring occasionally. Cook for 8 to 10 minutes, until slightly thick.

Step 5: To serve, cut the sushi just before serving to ensure the freshest bite. Cut each roll into 6 pieces with a wet sharp knife. Arrange a platter with cut rolls, with the end pieces cut face up. Drizzle with the “eel" sauce and add the garnishes; you can bottle the eel sauce in a squeezable bottle with a thin nozzle to make the drizzling easier.

Jamaican Jerk Seasoning

What You'll Need

Makes 2 ½ cups

  • 25-30 green onions
  • 1 thick 3 ½ x 1-inch piece of fresh ginger
  • 1 or 2 Scotch bonnet or habanero peppers (seeded if you prefer less spicy)
  • 5 garlic cloves
  • 2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
  • ½ cup canola oil or another neutral-flavored oil
  • ½ cup soy sauce
  • ½ cup tomato sauce
  • 1/3 cup fresh orange juice
  • 1/3 cup distilled white vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 ½ teaspoons pink or sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 ½ teaspoons ground cloves
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 ½ teaspoons ground allspice
  • 1 ½ teaspoons ground nutmeg
  • ¼ to ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon or cassia


Directions

Step 1: Put the green onions, ginger, Scotch bonnets, garlic, and thyme in a food processor and process for 30 seconds. Add the oil, soy sauce, tomato sauce, orange juice, vinegar, lime juice, brown sugar, salt, cloves, allspice, nutmeg, and cinnamon and process until medium smooth.

Step 2: Transfer to a clean jar, seal, and refrigerate. This seasoning blend will keep for as long as 1 year in the fridge.

Island Burgers

This deliciously spicy burger is perfect on your favorite bun and with fries or sweet potato fries on the side. And the pineapple barbecue sauce topping is an absolute delight!

burger

What You'll Need

Makes 4 burgers

  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1 cup textured vegetable protein (TVP) granules
  • 2 slices whole-grain bread, toasted
  • 1 carrot, grated
  • 4 green onions (green part only), finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh basil, or 1 teaspoon dried
  • 1 tablespoon chopped mild chile peppers, such as Hungarian wax pepper, optional
  • 2 large garlic cloves, pressed
  • ½ Scotch bonnet or habanero pepper
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon Bajan Seasoning
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons vegan Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon Angostura bitters
  • 1 teaspoon American-style prepared mustard
  • 3 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons vital wheat gluten, optional
  • 2 tablespoons fine bread crumbs
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • ¼ teaspoon ground allspice
  • ½ teaspoon mild paprika
  • ½ teaspoon pink or sea salt
  • Neutral-flavored oil, for cooking
  • 4 buns, split
  • 4 lettuce leaves


Directions

Step 1: To make the burger patties, pour the boiling water over the TVP, stir, and cover. Let the TVP hydrate for 5 to 10 minutes. Gently squeeze out the excess water, but don't squeeze too hard or the final mixture will be too dry.

Step 2: Put the toasted bread in a food processor and pulse to form coarse crumbs. Add the TVP, carrot, green onions, basil, optional mild chiles, garlic, and Scotch bonnet and pulse for a few seconds, until the mixture is chopped fairly fine.

Step 3: Transfer the mixture to a bowl. Add the ketchup, Bajan Seasoning, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, bitters, mustard, flour, optional vital wheat gluten, fine bread crumbs, cornstarch, allspice, paprika, and salt. Mix well. With floured hands, divide the mixture into 4 equal portions and shape into burger patties.

Step 4: To cook the burgers, heat a bit of oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Fry the burger patties for about 4 minutes on each side, until cooked through in the middle. You can also bake them (see Island Tip).

Step 5: To assemble the burgers, place a lettuce leaf and burger patty on each bottom bun half. Top with optional sauce and the top bun half.

Island Tips

You can bake the patties instead of frying. Just put them in a 350°F oven for 20 to 22 minutes, turning once halfway during the cooking process.

To freeze the patties, layer them between sheets of waxed paper and place in a freezer bag. Thaw them before cooking. If the thawed patties are too wet and crumbly, add a little flour and bread crumbs and reshape them before cooking.

If you haven't made any Pineapple Barbecue Sauce but want to use some on your burger, here's a quick shortcut: Puree 2 rings of canned pineapple and 2 tablespoons of pineapple juice, then stir in 1 cup of store-bought barbecue sauce.

Classic Barbadian Sweet Potato Pie

This sweet potato dish is traditionally served on Sundays or on special occasions. The topping is stunning: pineapple slices and cherries—you have to love that. Serve with special onion gravy for a true treat.

sweet potato pie

What You'll Need

Serves 2

  • 1 pound, 6 ounces white- or yellow-fleshed sweet potatoes, coarsely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons vegan margarine
  • ½ cup pineapple juice
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon or cassia
  • Pink or sea salt
  • 2 pineapple slices
  • 2 cherries
  • 2 teaspoons granulated sugar


Directions

Step 1: Cook the sweet potatoes in boiling salted water until tender.

Step 2: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease two 8-ounce ramekins.

Step 3: Drain the sweet potatoes, add the margarine, pineapple juice, and cinnamon, and mash until smooth. Season with salt to taste.

Step 4: Transfer to the prepared ramekins. Top each pie with a pineapple slice and a cherry and sprinkle with sugar. Broil for about 5 minutes, until lightly browned. Serve warm.

Onion Gravy

What You'll Need

Makes 1 cup

  • 1 tablespoon vegan margarine or olive oil
  • 1 medium-large onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 tomato, thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, pressed
  • 1 teaspoon fresh marjoram minced, or a scant ½ teaspoon dried
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme minced, or ¼ teaspoon dried
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon adobo seasoning
  • ¼ teaspoon mild paprika
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons ketchup
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • ¼ teaspoon Caribbean Caramel (you can omit this if you don't care about the brown color.)
  • ¼ teaspoon cornstarch
  • ½ teaspoon American-style prepared mustard


Directions

Step 1: Heat the margarine in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, tomato, and garlic and sauté for 3 to 5 minutes, until the onion is slightly tender.

Step 2: Add the marjoram, thyme, onion powder, adobo seasoning, and paprika, then stir in the water. Cook for another 5 minutes, then stir in the ketchup, soy sauce, Caribbean Caramel, cornstarch mixed with 1 tablespoon of water, and the mustard.

Step 3: Simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes, until the sauce starts to get slightly thick. Serve hot.

Rasta Pasta

This is pasta with tender jerk-seasoned walnut balls and a creamy coconut curry sauce is really good for a Caribbean-themed dinner party. While it is not a traditional dish, it has an authentic flavor profile.

rasta pasta

What You'll Need

Serves 4

Walnut Balls

  • 3 tablespoons olive or coconut oil, for sautéing
  • 2 cups chopped button mushrooms
  • 2 small onions, sliced
  • 1 cup walnut halves, soaked in 3 cups of water for at least 30 minutes
  • 5 garlic cloves crushed
  • 3 dates, pitted
  • 3 tablespoons nutritional yeast flakes
  • 1 tablespoon Bragg Liquid Aminos
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 tablespoon flax meal, soaked in 2 tablespoons of hot water for 3 minutes
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • ¼ cup plus two tablespoons oat flour
  • ¼ cup (23 g) fine bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons Jamaican Jerk Seasoning (see recipe under Caribbean Sushi)
  • 2 teaspoons seasoning salt
  • 1/2 cup neutral oil, for frying

Sauce

  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 1 tablespoon Thai curry paste, any color, or Madras curry powder
  • One 14-ounce can coconut milk
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, pressed
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce or Bragg Liquid Aminos
  • 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • Pink or sea salt, to taste

Pasta

  • 4 tablespoons olive or coconut oil, for sautéing
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • ½ yellow bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • ½ green bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • One 1-pound package linguini, cooked al dente according to package directions


Directions

Step 1: To make the walnut balls, heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and onions and sauté until the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes.

Step 2: Transfer the mixture to a food processor. Add the drained walnuts, garlic, dates, nutritional yeast, liquid aminos, thyme, flax meal mixed with hot water, curry powder, smoked paprika, and black pepper. Pulse until the nuts have been chopped fine but you still have texture.

Step 3: Transfer the mixture to a medium bowl and add the oat flour, bread crumbs, jerk seasoning, and seasoning salt. Form the mixture into twenty 1.5-inch (3.8 cm) balls.

Step 4: Preheat the oven to 350˚F and line a baking sheet with a silicone mat or parchment paper.

Step 5: Heat the neutral oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Fry the walnut balls, until a thin brown crust is formed, 5 minutes.

Step 6: Transfer the balls to the baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes, or until the form an outer brown crust.

Step 7: Meanwhile, make the sauce. Heat the oil in a medium-sized pot heat. Add the curry and heat through, about 1 minute. Add the coconut milk, onion, garlic, soy sauce, cilantro, allspice, sugar, and onion powder and stir to combine. Taste and adjust for salt. Bring to a boil and stir until the mixture is fairly creamy.

Step 8: To finish the pasta, heat olive oil in a wok over high heat. Sauté the bell peppers until slightly tender, about 2 minutes. Add the pasta and heat through, tossing to combine, about 4 minutes. Add the sauce, to taste, and top with the walnut balls.

Step 9: To serve, layer the balls over pasta and top off with sauce.

Island Tip

The walnut balls can be formed into burgers. Coat them with oat flour and shallow fry over medium-high heat.

Rum Cake

There are two common rum cakes in the Caribbean. One, called “black cake," is made during Christmas holidays and for weddings using rum-soaked fruit. This one is the other - it's made like a regular cake and has a buttered rum glaze.

rum cake

What You'll Need

Serves 8

  • ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons dark rum, preferably Mount Gay
  • ¼ cup white rum, or additional dark rum
  • 2 tablespoons falernum (see Island Tips)
  • ½ cup raisins
  • ½ cup vegan margarine
  • ½ cup vegetable shortening
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons warm water
  • 1 tablespoon Ener-G egg replacer
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence, or ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon pink or sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup nondairy milk
  • 1 tablespoon molasses

Rum Glaze

  • ¼ cup vegan margarine
  • ¼ cup water
  • 3 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence, or ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¼ cup dark rum, preferably Mount Gay


Directions

Step 1: To make the cake, pour ¼ cup of the dark rum, the white rum, and the falernum over the raisins and let them soak overnight in a covered container.

Step 2: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 9 × 3-inch Bundt pan.

Step 3: Cream the margarine and shortening with the sugar until fluffy using an electric mixer. Whisk the water and egg replacer together, then add to the sugar mixture, along with the vanilla essence. Stir until evenly incorporated. Add the flour, cinnamon, salt, baking powder, and baking soda and mix until just incorporated.

Step 4: Stir the vinegar into the milk, then mix into the batter. Fold in the raisins and their liquid, the molasses, and the remaining 2 tablespoons of dark rum.

Step 5: Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until brown and the top of the cake springs back when gently pressed.

Step 6: Meanwhile, make the glaze. Combine the margarine, water, brown sugar, and vanilla essence in a small saucepan over low heat. Cook, stirring frequently, until the sugar has dissolved. Turn off the heat and stir in the rum. 7 Glaze the cake as it cools. Let cool completely before serving.

Island Tips

Falernum is a flavored syrup from the West Indies. It is full of tropical flavors, including lime, ginger, and almond. Look for it in well-stocked liquor stores. For a stunning presentation, toss slivered almonds with sugar over medium heat for a few seconds and decorate the cake.


To buy this cookbook, click here.

caribbean vegan

Recipes and images from Caribbean Vegan: Meat-Free, Egg-Free, Dairy-Free, Authentic Island Cuisine for Every Occasion, Expanded Second Edition © Taymer Mason, 2016. Reprinted by permission of the publisher, The Experiment. Available wherever books are sold.