Caribbean cuisine is a fusion of West African, Creole, Amerindian, European, Latin American, Indian/South Asian, Middle Eastern, and Chinese. These traditions were brought from many countries when they moved to the Caribbean. In addition, the population has created styles that are unique to the region.
As a result of the colonization, the Caribbean is a fusion of multiple sources; British, Spanish, Dutch and French colonized the area and brought their respective cuisines that mixed with West African as well as Amerindian, East Asian, Arab, South Asian influences from enslaved, indentured and other laborers brought to work on the plantations.
In 1493, during the voyages of Christopher Columbus, the Spaniards introduced a variety of ingredients, including coconut, chickpeas, cilantro, eggplants, onions and garlic.
Further information: List of street food § Caribbean
Ingredients that are common in most islands' dishes are rice, plantains, beans, cassava, cilantro, bell peppers, chickpeas, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, coconut, and any of various meats that are locally available like beef, poultry, pork or fish. A characteristic seasoning for the region is a green herb-and-oil-based marinade called sofrito, which imparts a flavor profile which is quintessentially Caribbean in character. Ingredients may include garlic, onions, scotch bonnet peppers, celery, green onions, and herbs like cilantro, Mexican mint, chives, marjoram, rosemary, tarragon and thyme. This green seasoning is used for a variety of dishes like curries, stews and roasted meats.
Traditional dishes are so important to regional culture that, for example, the local version of Caribbean goat stew has been chosen as the official national dish of Montserrat and is also one of the signature dishes of St. Kitts and Nevis. Another popular dish in the Anglophone Caribbean is called "cook-up", or pelau. Ackee and saltfish is another popular dish that is unique to Jamaica. Callaloo is a dish containing leafy vegetables such as spinach and sometimes okra amongst others, widely distributed in the Caribbean, with a distinctively mixed African and indigenous character.
The variety of dessert dishes in the area also reflects the mixed origins of the recipes. In some areas, black cake, a derivative of English Christmas pudding, may be served, especially on special occasions.
Over time, food from the Caribbean has evolved into a narrative technique through which their culture has been accentuated and promoted. However, by studying Caribbean culture through a literary lens there then runs the risk of generalizing exoticist ideas about food practices from the tropics. Some food theorists argue that this depiction of Caribbean food in various forms of media contributes to the inaccurate conceptions revolving around their culinary practices, which are much more grounded in unpleasant historical events. Therefore, it can be argued that the connection between the idea of the Caribbean being the ultimate paradise and Caribbean food being exotic is based on inaccurate information.