It would be unoriginal to start this post off by saying Trini Christmas is the best.
But, it really is! The food, the music, the lime, the vibes, they are all full of joy.
Below, you will find the most popular Trinidad Christmas food we love.
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What do Trinidadians eat for Christmas?
Christmas favorites in Trinidad and Tobago include oven baked ham, pork, turkey, and chicken; Christmas festive rice, macaroni pie, stewed beans, pastelles, hops bread and chow chow. Fruit cake and coconut sweet bread are common Christmas cakes enjoyed alongside a glass of sorrel, ponche de creme, ginger beer, homemade wine or Peardrax.
Let’s explore in more detail.
Trinidad Christmas food: meat
There are a couple parang songs about Christmas ham from the 1990s like Marcia Miranda’s with lyrics like “neighbour, oye, yo, yoy, bring out de ham” and Susan Macio’s “I give him bread and ham together with a pastelle.“
Ham and hops are a classic Trini Christmas meal with some chow chow.
Find my hops bread recipe here and be sure to check out Natasha’s ham video on Youtube.
Keeping with the song theme, Scrunter’s Piece Ah Pork is another popular Christmas parang song. I’ve never actually made pork before, so I’ll refer you to this Foodie Nation’s roasted pork recipe below. Garlic pork and pepper pork are also favorites.
Turkey is another great meat option, though there are a lot less songs about it for some reason.
The turkey I enjoy is often brined overnight or for 24 hours in a salt-sugar solution containing fresh herbs like chadon beni, thyme, garlic and more. After that, it is rinsed, patted dry and rubbed with oil or butter that has been heavily seasoned with fresh Caribbean seasonings, garlic, rosemary, pepper and more. The turkey can be stuffed with your favorites including fresh herbs and spices or garlic can be pushed into the flesh. Using a flavor injector (get on Amazon) is another option for imparting flavor.
The turkey is covered and baked based on its size. It can be basted occasionally and, in the last half hour, the drippings are drained (and used to baste the bird) and cooked uncovered to perfection.
Chrisal did a wonderful turkey video for eatahfood. She skipped brining and used a flavor injector. Check that out:
Although chicken is one of the most commonly made meats in T&T, it is still a great option for Trini Christmas.
Stew chicken is a delicious side dish for the Christmas table. It is made by caramelizing brown sugar before adding chicken pieces that have been seasoned with Caribbean green seasoning and pepper. The chicken is cooked until it is dry and then water is added and cooked down to a gravy. Check out my stew chicken recipe here.
Other chicken options for Christmas could be fried chicken, fry-bake chicken, BBQ chicken or oven roasted whole chicken. Here’s my butterflied baked chicken recipe with rosemary.
Trinidad Christmas food: sides
Typical Sunday lunch side dishes are often made for Christmas. These include fried rice, chow mein noodles, chunky vegetables, macaroni pie, corn pie, lasagna, potato salad, coleslaw, stewed red beans, stewed lentils, callaloo, and fresh salad.
I have lots of these recipes on the blog already and I’ve linked to them above.
Sometimes, fried rice is replaced by a more festive rice dish we call Christmas rice on the islands. And then there are our beloved pastelles that are especially made around Christmas time.
When it comes to Trini Christmas rice, it is all about the colors. The rice is made in a similar way to fried rice but soy sauce and browning are often omitted. Bright colored veggies especially green and red ones like bell peppers and lots of herbs are used along with crunchy and sweet additions like slivered almonds, walnuts, raisins and cranberries.
I use red jasmine rice in my fried rice recipe and you can definitely use that for your own Christmas rice.
Taste of Trini has a unique spin on traditional Christmas rice using beet root and matcha powders to color her rice. It’s quite interesting, so check her video out below:
Pastelles are synonymous with Trini Christmas. Pastelles are made by pressing cornmeal dough onto pliable banana leaves. Seasoned ground meat or vegetables with raisins and olives are placed in the center of the pressed dough, which is folded over to make a rectangular pie. Pastelles are then wrapped in banana leaves, tied and steamed.
Ms. Merlene did a wonderful job explaining the joys of pastelles and pastelle making in this Propa Eats video.
Paime is made in a similar way to pastelles and is also widely enjoyed around Christmas time. JennaG explains how she makes her paime here.
Baking is a big part of the Trinbago Christmas scene. Common favorites like sponge cake, chocolate cake, carrot cake, pineapple upside down cake, and cheesecake are all found on the Christmas snack table. Here’s my sponge cake recipe for you:
But, Trini black cake is most often made for Christmas. I have been soaking my fruits for about six months in blackberry wine and dark rum. Every year, around November-December, I use them all out making lots of cakes for family and friends.
Sweet bread is another favorite for Christmas.
Trini black cake (fruit cake)
As I mentioned, Trini black cake or fruit cake is made with fruits like raisins, prunes, cherries, and mixed peel that have been soaked in alcohol like cherry brandy, rum, or wine. Browning made with caramelized sugar is used to color the cake and give it that very dark brown to almost black color. Or skip making browning and get it on Amazon.
After the cake is done, holes are poked into it and alcohol is poured on to “soak” the cake and make it a delicious, boozy sweet treat.
Or check out this video on my own Youtube channel that shows you how I make Trini fruit cake.
Sweet bread is a sweet, tasty loaf made with grated coconut, raisins and candied mixed peel. Using red and green mixed peels add a festive element to the dessert. I have an eggless coconut sweet bread on this blog. It is less cake-like and crumbles a bit more, but it is so tasty and that coconut flavor really comes through. Check the recipe out.
Trinidad Christmas Drinks
Trini Christmas songs also pay homage to the drinks enjoyed most for Christmas like sorrel, ponche de creme and ginger beer.
Peardrax is an English pear-flavored soft drink that was popular in the ’60s and ’70s but then later fell out of favor and was discontinued in the UK. Funny enough, Peardrax stayed popular in T&T and became an integral part of Trini Christmas. I’ve found the taste and fizziness have changed over the years and so the drink is no longer as popular as before. But, funny enough, it’s listed on Amazon.
Sorrel is made with the sepals of roselle, a type of hibiscus. The sepals are brewed with spices like cinnamon, clove, ginger, orange peel, star anise and more and left overnight to steep. Then the sepals are strained out resulting in a spiced, ruby-red drink that has a tart, cranberry-like flavor. Sweeten to your liking and maybe add a little rum if you choose.
That’s Caribbean Christmas in a glass right there.
I have a recipe on my Youtube channel for making sorrel. Be sure to check that out. Oh and you can also make sorrel jam, jelly and more. Check out these sorrel recipes.
Ponche de creme
Ponche de creme is another Trini Christmas classic. It is made by whisking together eggs, carnation milk, condensed milk, white rum, bitters, citrus peel and spices like nutmeg. The drink is strained and placed in a sterilized bottle and refrigerated.
The drink is similar to eggnog but there is far more flavor in ponche de creme. Check out Andrea’s video for making the drink:
Ginger beer is another classic drink in Trinidad and Tobago. It is made with ginger, citrus, zest and spices and left to ferment for a day or so. After the fermentation process, it is strained, sweetened, sometimes spiked with rum and served cold.
Here’s Andrea again explaining how she makes her ginger beer here:
So that’s some of what Trinidadians eat for Christmas. Have I missed anything? Leave a comment and let me know what you’ve tried before and what I should add to this list.