If it’s your first time cruising to the beautiful Caribbean island of Curaçao, you may be interested in learning about the unique dishes that you can find here. Food is one of the most satisfying ways to experience a new culture. Curaçao has been home to many different cultures so you’ll find quite a few traditional Dutch delicacies in Curaçao alongside an array of Afro-Caribbean, Venezuelan, and Indonesian influences creating a truly special blend of flavors. Here’s our guide to the top 10 dishes you can’t miss in Curaçao.
1. Keshi Yena
Keshi yena is widely considered the signature dish of Curaçao. This delectable creation is a perfect example of the fusion of cuisines and cultures that are steeped in Curaçao’s history. It is comprised of a large round ball of cheese, usually Edam or Gouda, which is stuffed with spiced meat (chicken, pork etc.), olives, capers, onions and tomatoes, and then baked until perfection. Yum!
A traditional Dutch bar snack, bitterballen are flavorful meatballs. The typical filling is either beef or veal, though you may sometimes find vegetarian balls filled with veggies or cheese. They are usually served with a very strong mustard for dipping and make a great snack alongside your favorite Dutch beer!
Oliebollen are essentially the Dutch version of doughnuts: deep-fried sweet dumplings covered in powdered sugar. The name literally means “oil balls,” and if you’re a fan of hot, fresh doughnuts, you’ll love this dessert in Curaçao. Though they are traditionally eaten around Christmas and New Years, it is possible to find them all year round in Curaçao.
4. Funchi or Tutu
Both funchi and tutu are dishes made of cornmeal that come from the African roots in Curaçao. The consistency resembles polenta, and it is generally served as a side dish to your meal. Both tend to be savory, but tutu has the addition of black-eyed peas to give it a little extra oomph.
Stroopwafels are another delicious Dutch sweet treat that you’ll definitely want to give a whirl while you’re shopping around in Curaçao. Often served with tea or coffee, this pastry is made up of a layer of caramel between two super-thin, wafer-like waffles. While good anytime, stroopwafels right off the iron are especially delightful. Legend has it that they were invented by a baker who got a little creative with leftovers from the bakery. However they came to be, you won’t be disappointed with the result!
Stoba is a hearty stew and is a common dish you’ll find all over the Caribbean. The Stoba you’ll find on Curaçao is often made with goat meat, though any meat and vegetable combination can be used. This dish gets its distinct flavor from the spices used so they can be very spicy. Some stews in Curaçao will also have papaya inside to add a little sweetness to the spice.
Poffertjes are yet another Dutch sweet (are you seeing a theme here yet?) that you won’t want to miss. They are essentially mini puffed pancakes that are served hot and fresh, and traditionally covered in butter and powdered sugar. These delectable little treats have their own pan to get them to the perfect size. They make a great on-the-go snack or post-meal dessert. They are quite a common beach snack on the island, so make sure to grab some while exploring Curaçao.
One thing that you won’t want to miss in Curaçao is trying out the delightfully fresh seafood. Here, you can find the popular “rauwe haring,” or raw herring. Herring is a small fish, similar to an anchovy, that is a very popular dish in the Netherlands and now in Curaçao. It is typically frozen for a few days and then heavily salted to ripen the fish. You can also find fish tacos in abundance on the island that is served in all kinds of ways with many different species of fish. If you’re more into selfish, you’ll find a variety of fresh mussels and clams throughout the island. Shrimp are also quite common and popular in many local dishes in Curaçao as well.
Arepas, a traditional Venezuelan dish, are also very popular on this Caribbean island. They are puffy corn-based patties that resemble a lighter pita bread. They are traditionally made on a clay slab and get nice and crispy on the outside while remaining soft on the inside. Then, they are cut in half and stuffed with all kinds of different ingredients, such as cheese, meat, corn, avocado or essentially anything your heart desires. In Curaçao you’ll get their own unique interpretation of this dish, influenced by the range of cuisines available and all of the wonderful fresh spices grown on the island.
10. Liqueur from Curaçao
Though not strictly a food item, it is arguably one of the most famous consumables to come out of Curaçao and a popular addition to many cocktails. A trip to the island won’t be complete without a quick taste of this local treat. While the bright blue version that has been exported is the most common form seen outside of Curaçao, the traditional way to make it is from citrus peels and lahara, a local fruit. Traditional blue liqueur from Curaçao is taken quite seriously on the island and can be of good enough quality to sip straight, like a fine whiskey or rum.
As you can see, Curaçao has a wide range of different cuisines and delicacies that will delight your senses. Thanks to the many different cultures intermingling on this island, you will find no shortage of new food to try. Make sure to check out some of these unique dishes during your cruise to Curaçao.
Note: Onboard activities, shore excursions, and dining options may vary by ship and destination.