Curaçao’s cuisine is a delicious blend of African, Dutch, Spanish, and Portuguese influences. Curaçao is known for its seafood, and there are many fantastic restaurants that serve fresh fish and lobster.
The island is also home to some great Dutch bakeries where you can find mouth-watering pastries and breads.
If you’re looking for the best food in Curaçao, here are 10 of the most delicious dishes you absolutely must try!
Patat Oorlog (Dutch War Fries)
The seemingly simple dish of french fries known as Patat oorlog is made extraordinary by its unique ingredients. Chopped raw onion, mayonnaise, and peanut sauce (also referred to as pinda) are added to create the potato war-like mixture that gets its namesake from the fried potato’s prevalence in both Dutch and Curaçaoan cultures.
This mixture of ingredients is served in a cone-shaped container and accompanied by a refreshing drink. You can enjoy this battle of flavors with plenty of spicy chili at several different locations.
Simply fry the potatoes in small pieces and add room-temperature mayonnaise. Add peanut sauce next, then chili sauce with soy sauce. Finally, season to taste with your favorite liquid condiment.
Keshi Yena (Stuffed Cheese Casserole)
Kashi Yena can be considered the national dish of Curaçao. It originated during times of slavery when captive Africans used leftover Gouda or Edam cheese rinds left by their masters. They would stuff the rinds with chicken, raisins, and other ingredients before baking them until the flavors blended together.
This stuffed cheese used to be wrapped in banana leaves and then put in the oven, but methods have changed. Nowadays there are several ways to prepare it, but the most popular is the one with chicken and vegetables as the main ingredients.
The key to a great flavor, as any good chef will tell you, is balance. In the case of this dish, it’s between the creaminess of the cheese and the pickles. It’s usually served with rice, green beans, fried plantain, and a sauce made from mashed tomatoes, paprika, and tomato sauce.
This dish is particularly great because you can tailor it to your liking. So, whether you want to add different spices or vegetables, go ahead!
Karni Stoba (Curaçaoan Beef Stew)
Karni Stoba is a Curaçao stew prepared with chopped beef marinated with garlic and pepper, to which peppers, tomatoes, onions, cumin, soy sauce and nutmeg are added. This dish, an island favorite, is simmered until the consistency of the stew becomes thick and the meat softens. It is usually served with white rice and garnished with a sprig of cilantro.
In this dish, frequently requested by visitors, the mixture of its spicy, thick and acidic properties stands out, making it a delight. Then, a couple of minutes before the end of cooking, pieces of papaya and potatoes are added. All that remains is to enjoy one of the tastiest meals in Curaçao.
This beef stew can be found anywhere on the island, from small food outlets to the most luxurious restaurants.
Stamppot (Dutch Mashed Potatoes)
Stamppot is a dish originally from the Netherlands that has been very popular in Curaçao, partly due to the number of Dutch people living on the island, who have preserved their culinary customs.
It is basically mashed potatoes, served with various cooked or raw vegetables such as sauerkraut, kale, endive, as well as butter and milk for its preparation. This dish is usually accompanied by bacon, blood sausage, and fried eggs, however, there are those who prefer horse meat.
It is a delicious dish, but simple at the same time. This simplicity allows you to add the vegetables of your choice. In this way, you can create several versions of stamppot.
This dish, which in the Netherlands is preferably eaten in winter, is not one of the most sophisticated and that is due to its origin. For years, stamppot was associated with people of low economic means. It was the Dutch peasants who often consumed it to replenish their energy after intense work.
Nowadays, thanks to the fame of this dish, its presence is constant in various food outlets.
Rauwe Haring (Raw Herring)
Rauwe haring again is a typical dish of Dutch cuisine, and very popular in Curaçao. It is a small fish that abounds in the North and East Sea, near Denmark, where it is fished between the months of May and July.
It is usually strange for visitors to eat raw fish unless it is sushi. However, the fish is subjected to intense cold before consumption, then salt is added and, for two days, it is exposed to the sun.
To be sure of the excellent condition of the fish, it must have a soft texture, its smell and taste must be fresh and salty with an excellent percentage of fat that exceeds 15%.
The Dutch, with more than 600 years of consuming rauwe haring, definitely know what they are talking about. In Curaçao it is served with onions and pickles on a paper plate. To eat it, the best method is to take it by the tail, dip it in the onion sauce and then let it slide into the mouth with the head tilted back.
If you prefer, it is also served cut into small pieces and placed on a slice of bread.
Stroopwafel (Dutch Syrup Waffles)
Stroopwafel is a waffle type cookie, with a circular shape from Holland. It consists of two cookies with caramel syrup between them. It is the street food par excellence in the Netherlands, very popular in Curaçao.
Stroopwafel, which was originated by a baker in Gouda, Amsterdam, at the end of the 18th century, is usually accompanied by coffee or tea. It is a tradition to place the cookie on top of the cup for a few minutes so that the steam softens it.
Some people prefer the stroopwafel softer or crunchier, so it is necessary to adapt the baking machine to suit the taste of each person. However, it is advisable not to toast them too much because they break as soon as you spread the syrup on them.
The syrup should be barely visible between the layers of the cookies, according to the original recipe. It is advisable not to put too much of this filling because it is very sticky and sweet.
In Curaçao you can find these delicious cookies even in supermarkets, but if you want them freshly made, there are several cafes where they prepare them according to your taste.
Oliebollen (Dutch Doughnuts)
Oliebollen, considered the predecessor of the doughnut, are sweet, fried balls sprinkled with powdered sugar. Historians believe that Dutch settlers brought this snack to America where it served as inspiration for the later creation of the doughnut.
For the preparation of this kind of fritter, it is necessary to have: yeast, milk, eggs, flour, and salt as basic ingredients. It also has currants, sultanas, and chopped apples.
The dough must have its characteristic shape, for this purpose an ice cream spoon or two spoons are used, then they are gently dipped in hot oil and fried until it is well cooked before covering it with powdered sugar.
In both the Netherlands and Curaçao it is customary to make them for consumption on New Year’s Eve.
Its origin is related to a legend in which it is said that many years ago, oliebollen were prepared to calm the goddess Perchta and her demons who flew over the winter skies to violently attack anyone in their path.
Perchta, with her sword, tried to cut open the belly of her victims, but it slipped from their bodies thanks to the grease of the oil balls.
Kibbeling (Deep Fried Battered Fish)
Kibbeling is one of Holland’s favorite dishes. It is fish, usually cod, breaded and fried and served with different sauces, lemon juice and mayonnaise.
For its preparation, the fish is cut into pieces, sprinkled with various spices, dipped in a kind of batter made with beer and then fried.
The origins of this dish date back to the 20th century, although it is difficult to establish a precise date. The person responsible, apparently, was a fisherman who came up with the idea of breading cod leftovers and then frying them.
From then on, this meal became one of the most popular dishes in Holland, to the point that any type of fish was used for its preparation.
Nowadays, cod, haddock, blue whiting, hake, and even black cod are used. This dish can also be served as an appetizer or main course in restaurants, and diners accompany it with tartar sauce mixed with mayonnaise or garlic sauce.
In Curaçao, in addition to all kinds of Dutch delicacies, they also serve rolls with Kibbeling.
Poffertjes (Dutch Mini Pancakes)
Poffertjes are crepes characterized by their small size. This typical Dutch food is prepared with buckwheat and yeast. Experts in culinary history place the origin of these mini pancakes in the early 18th century. At that time, their shape resembled that of a somewhat puffy ball.
Others point out that poffertjes were used in the weekly communion of the Dutch church and that they originated from there. Later, at the time of the French Revolution, changes were made to the recipe, specifically to the buckwheat used to make the famous cakes.
The sellers saw a great opportunity when they noticed that the parishioners were soon seduced by these little pancakes, so it did not take long to market them.
Their name, poffertjes, comes from the fact that they puffed up noticeably during the cooking process, which was carried out in a frying pan of the time, which was made of cast iron.
Nowadays these tiny pancakes are very common at various festivities such as birthdays or weddings. They are placed on a cardboard plate, spread with butter and sprinkled with powdered sugar.
In Curaçao they are very popular. They can be found freshly made in various restaurants on the island. It is one of the most traditional snacks, both in the Netherlands and on the island.
Speculaas (Dutch Spiced Cookies)
Speculaas are cookies whose popularity has transcended the boundaries of the Netherlands, reaching places such as New Zealand, Australia and the United States, among many others. They are usually marketed as Dutch Windmill cookies.
A mixture of spices called speculaaskruiden (gingerbread spices) is used in their preparation. This mixture contains cloves, mace, ginger and cinnamon. Cardamom, pepper, anise seeds and nutmeg are usually added. Some of these seeds only became part of the recipe book after the Dutch East India Company imported them to Europe.
Formerly, these cookies were traditionally served on December 5 and 6 as part of the Sinterklaas (Saint Nicholas) celebration. However, nowadays they are consumed at any time of the year. In fact, in Curaçao they are enjoyed daily as they can be found in almost any store.
These cookies are as diverse in their shapes as in the number of flavors to enjoy. Some are filled with almond butter among many other flavors. There are large pieces called speculaasbrokken, which are the most striking.
The combination of the diverse ethnic groups that inhabit Curaçao is perhaps the key to the success of its cuisine. The heritage of the Dutch, Arawaks, Venezuelans, Antilleans and Africans is evident in all aspects of Curaçao’s culture and its food, which, along with its architecture, is one of its great attractions. The idea is to enjoy some of the dishes described above, under the shade of one of the emblematic iconic buildings of the island.