The Caribbean’s Best Hand Pies

Caribbean Best Hand Pies
Photo Courtesy Aruba Tourism Authority

by Brooke Morton

Throughout the Caribbean, flaky hand pies stuffed with meat dot the culinary landscape. They’re meat patties in Jamaica, pates in the U.S. Virgin Islands, pastelitos in the Dominican Republic, and pastechis in Aruba. Regardless of what you call them, the meat pies of our southern neighbors all owe roots to the colonial era when the Caribbean’s African population was first introduced to Cornish pasties. And today, the varieties are endless. Whether you like yours hot or prefer something a little sweeter, here’s the skinny on the unofficial roadside snack of the Caribbean.

Known as meat patties here, the Jamaican variety is the spiciest of the Caribbean, with dialed-up heat thanks to the liberal use of Scotch bonnet peppers. Look for the characteristically yellow dough, colored with turmeric, curry, egg yolks, or even food coloring.

Spicy-Nice Bakery, Brown’s Town
Not far from Discovery Bay, this family-owned bakery turns out meat patties wrapped in a flaky pastry that’s much like a croissant. No matter which filling you choose (vegetable, chicken, or beef), the juicy beef stock base, made in the style of chili and spiked with Scotch bonnets, keeps the patties moist.
22 Main St., Brown’s Town, Jamaica; 876-917-9644

Juici Patties, Clarendon
It might be a chain, but Juici Patties all started with this location in Clarendon. And their version is so beloved among locals that it’s branched into 62 locations across every major Jamaican city. Each outpost has a modern, fast-food restaurant feel, but continues to source ingredients from farmers in the vicinity of the restaurant. As for what you’ll get: Don’t expect a lot of meat inside these beef patties—that’s the Jamaican style. Instead, the filling is largely onions and Scotch bonnet peppers, sautéed then pureed.
22 Main Street, May Pen, Clarendon, Jamaica; 876-986-4507

Miss Sonia’s, Negril
Miss Sonia made a name for herself by offering more filling options than any other establishment—ackee (the national fruit of Jamaica), goat, lobster, shrimp, crab, plus the expected chicken and beef — and for keeping her methods simple. Thirty years in, she (and her grandson Brian) still heavily dusts her patties in flour before dropping them in a pot of oil heated over a wood fire. Plus, there’s a certain charm to pulling up one of the plastic chairs in the outdoor seating area. To find her, look for the hand-painted sign that proudly proclaims “Great Tasting Patties” just opposite Negril’s seven-mile stretch of beaches. Or ask a cab driver to take you—everyone knows Miss Sonia.
Norman Manley Blvd., Negril, Jamaica; 876-296-5068

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