A Jamaican callaloo recipe features tender, leafy green vegetables seasoned with tomatoes, onions, scotch bonnet pepper and often salt cod or pork. Popular as a breakfast food, callaloo often accompanies fried dumplings, boiled green bananas, and roasted breadfruit. For lunch, Jamaicans cook a callaloo recipe to serve with bread or potatoes.
Recently, these recipes have focused on making a tasty filling for vegetarian patties. In addition to being a popular morning, noon and dinner food, callaloo is amazingly beneficial to our health. Amaranth leaves, the main ingredient in Jamaican callaloo, boast a number of nutrients, including high protein, calcium, vitamins A and C, lysine, potassium, riboflavin, and folate.
The Curious Cultural History of Jamaican Callaloo
The diverse callaloo spellings and meanings throughout the Caribbean islands might confuse some about the words true meaning. Historian B.W. Higgman writes that “The history of callaloo across the Caribbean is appropriately confused and complicated, not only in terminology and etymology but also in culinary process and metaphorical weight.”
For example, in Trinidad and Grenada, callaloo refers to a velvety stew of West African origin made from taro or xanathosoma leaves, thickened with okra and seasoned with crab. Entries recorded in old Jamaican English dictionaries document a range of spellings for the word, including “calalu,” “culilu” and “caleloe.”
Popular island crooner Jimmy Buffett even sings a tribute to the dish and its melting-pot symbolism with the chorus, “Callaloo, strange calaloo/ Mysterious curious roux/ Try as you might to avoid the hoodoo/ Sooner or later we’re all in the stew.”
But for Jamaicans, the meaning of callaloo is pretty simple. As Higgman notes, they apply the term “strictly to the plant Amaranthus viridis and its steamed dish.” Browse the stalls of a Jamaican market and you’ll see abundant heaps of callaloo – the diamond shaped leaves of the amaranth plant. Take a seat at the Jamaican breakfast table, where a callaloo recipe steams or sautées the popular dark leafy greens. One thing everyone can agree upon is that callaloo is a delicious and nourishing food worth adding to your healthy lifestyle.
How to Prepare Jamaican Sautéed Callaloo at Home
Sautéed Callaloo Recipe Ingredients:
- 4 cups packed chopped callaloo.
- 2 strips thick-cut bacon, chopped.
- 5 ounces dried salt cod.
- 1 medium red onion, sliced.
- 2 scallions, sliced.
- 1 scotch bonnet pepper.
- 2 Roma tomatoes, chopped.
- 1 tsp dried thyme.
- 3 cloves garlic, minced.
- 1 tsp smoked paprika.
- 1 tbs vegetable oil.
- Salt and pepper to taste.
- Submerge the cod in water overnight in the refrigerator to remove excess salt, then drain and flake with a fork.
- Soak the callaloo leaves in water and rinse two or more times to remove any dirt.
- Crisp bacon over medium heat, then set aside.
- Add the sliced onion, scallions, tomato, garlic, whole scotch bonnet, spices and vegetable oil to the bacon grease and cook until the onions are tender.
- Stir in the callaloo and cover for about three to five minutes. The callaloo should become tender but remain green. Remove from the heat if it starts turning brown.
- When the greens are tender, add the bacon and flaked salt cod and stir gently to incorporate. Turn off the heat, and add salt and pepper to taste.
How to Prepare Jamaican Vegetarian Callaloo Patties at Home
Vegetarian Callaloo Patties Recipe Filling Ingredients:
- 1 16-ounce can callaloo.
- 1 medium onion, diced.
- 2 scallions, chopped.
- 2 tbs butter or vegetable oil.
- 1 small bell pepper, diced.
- 2 Roma tomatoes, seeded and chopped.
- 2 tsp garlic salt.
- Saute the onion, pepper, scallion, tomato, and butter or oil in a frying pan over medium heat for about 5 minutes, until the onions are soft.
- Drain the callaloo, then add it to the pan with the garlic salt. Cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Remove the filling from the heat and set aside to cool.
- 3 cups flour.
- 2 Tbs curry powder.
- ½ tsp salt.
- 2 sticks chilled unsalted butter, diced.
- 3/4 cup cold water.
- 1 Tbs vinegar.
- 1 egg.
- In the large bowl of a food processor, mix the egg, vinegar and water together until combined.
- Add the flour, curry, salt and butter and pulse until the dough is formed.
- Wrap the dough in plastic wrap, then chill for one hour.
- Preheat the oven to 375.
- Remove the dough from the refrigerator and divide it in half. Using a floured surface, roll out one portion of dough to ¼-inch thickness.
- Using a 6-inch bowl as a template, cut out circles of dough and set them on parchment paper.
- Spoon about 3 tbs of callaloo filling onto one side of each dough circle.
- Gently fold the dough in half and crimp the edges with a fork to seal. Poke a few vent holes in the top of each patty.
- Repeat process with the remaining dough.
- Place the patties on a baking sheet and cook for about 30 minutes until the pastry is golden brown.
Where Can You Try a Jamaican Callaloo Recipe?
Ackee Bamboo Jamaican Cuisine is a popular Los Angeles café that serves up breakfast and lunch specials in a casual atmosphere. You’ll be able to try Salt Cod and Callaloo off the breakfast menu, or pay a little extra to sub in callaloo for the steamed veggie side on any lunch special.
Coral Cottage Bed & Breakfast in Little Bay, Jamaica, offers an idyllic setting where you can take in lovely gazebo views while eating authentic garden-to-table Jamaican breakfasts. The owners of the venue pride themselves on their lovely gardens, where they grow callaloo and other ingredients used on their menus.
Jamaican callaloo is a delicious, nutritious and versatile dish for any time of day. Are you ready to try it? Even if you are unable to try callaloo in a restaurant in the U.S. or on the island of Jamaica itself, you can prepare this delightful green dish at home. It’s also relatively simple to prepare, as you can see with the forgiving callaloo recipes above. Try it out and let us know your variations in the comments below!