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Food, Dining, & Drinks in St. Kitts & Nevis

Historic Diet

There are a limited number of indigenous foods in St. Kitts & Nevis, however there is enough for the earliest settlers to survive on. The black pineapple, sweet potatoes, plantains, maize (corn), cassava (yucca), bananas, coconuts, mangoes, papayas, beans, and numerous other foods were all present on the islands of the Caribbean, especially after the earliest people arrived and began growing these foods. Although these fruits and vegetables, along with others, were the base of the historic diet, the waters around the islands also provided fish and other sea life as a food source, including conch, oysters, and snapper. However, there were few land animals present.

Culinary Influences

The Arawaks were the first people to greatly influence the cuisine in St. Kitts & Nevis when they brought with them agricultural techniques and the first organized farming on the islands.

As the Europeans arrived so did greater transportation. This improvement of transportation and communication in the Caribbean led to the arrival of new foods and spices. These influences came from the Europeans as well as from the other islands and even from Africa as the slave trade brought many slaves to the islands. From Europe the addition of numerous spices, animals including cattle, and fruits like oranges and lemons arrived. The Caribbean islands brought in new spices and due to the addition of African slaves to the islands a new diet was created based on rice.

Over the past few decades, international ethnic foods have arrived in larger numbers. Today a huge number of ethnic foods can be found in grocery stores and restaurants as American, Italian, Indian, and Chinese are easily found in cities.

Staple Foods

Plantains: often a side dish or an ingredient in the main course
Rice: a common base to meals or simply a side dish

Regional Variations, Specialties, & Unique Dishes

Conkies Bear: potatoes, pumpkin, or coconut wrapped, cooked, and served in a thick corn dough
Goat Water Stew: goat and breadfruit with papaya and dumplings in a tomato stew
Pelau: usually consists of chicken, rice, pig tail, salt fish, and vegetables served with rice and beans
Stewed Salt Fish: the national dish is salted cod stewed with plantains, dumplings, coconut, and breadfruit

Dining Etiquette

Dining rules in St. Kitts & Nevis are relaxed, very relaxed so there's little need to worry about making a wrong move. However, it is still nice to understand how the local people dine and how to behave in a restaurant or the home of a local. The first rule is that dining with friends or family is meant as a social occasion so take your time and get to know your fellow diners; meals can take hours and you should not make plans that force you to leave early. This is especially true if you find your way to a beach cookout in Nevis; also at these cookouts most formality is lost to socialization so stop reading here and enjoy.

St. Kitts & Nevis is in the Caribbean and that means there is no hurry; arriving a few minutes late is never an issue, but dressing too casually can be. Try to dress in a relaxed, but slightly more formal manner than you otherwise would in St. Kitts & Nevis, although a tie or dress is a bit overboard on almost all occasions.

If eating in a local's home you will most likely be shown a seat, but don't sit until invited to do so. Meals may begin with drinks or just the food and as the guest you may be invited to take your food first. Try to eat in the continental style (knife in the right hand, fork in the left) and keep your hands within sight by resting your wrists on the edge of the table. Again, your host will likely not be offended if you eat in the incorrect manner, but do your best to follow their lead.

As you finish eating, place your fork and knife together on your plate to indicate you have finished. If eating in a restaurant, call the server over by making eye contact; don't wave or call his/her name. Most restaurants will include a service charge in the bill, but if not, add 10-15% for good service.

Celebrations & Events

The most widely celebrated holiday in St. Kitts & Nevis is Carnival, which takes place beginning at the end of November. Like Carnival in many other locations, this festival is focused on music, dancing, and partying, but is also a great time to try local foods. Everyone seems to be out celebrating during this time and if you want to try any of the local alcohols, there will be no shortage of opportunities.


St. Kitts & Nevis is fairly standard in the non-alcoholic beverage market with most international favorites available. Tea, coffee, milk, soft drinks, and juices are also accessible with local juices generally the tastiest.

If you're seeking out an alcoholic drink the options are wide, but rum is the local favorite with the domestic brands of "Belmont Estate" and "Brinley Gold" leading the way. However, the national drink is "Cane Spirits Rothschild," (or CSR) which is an alcohol distilled from sugarcane.

The tap water is generally safe to drink in St. Kitts & Nevis, however confirm this with your hotel or guesthouse, particularly during hurricane season as the water can be contaminated. If you do drink the water, many people may have trouble adjusting to the local tap water, as it will most certainly be different from what your system is used to if you are not from the region.

This page was last updated: September, 2012