Last updated on April 4th, 2022 at 10:32 pm
Aruba is one of the minor Caribbean islands, yet it has the most considerable influences contributing to its diverse cuisine. Aruban food is cuisine that is constantly evolving and draws inspiration from food all over the world. Currently, ninety-six different nationalities reside on the island, contributing to the ever-evolving Aruban food choices.
The flavor profiles and dishes the country embraces stem from a diverse group of sources. These include Colonial Spanish and Dutch foods. Additionally, Merchants, Pirates, and African Slaves added elements of their cuisine to the menu. This is only only a handful of the cultures who shaped the landscape of cooking in Aruba.
Soups and stews were stables for early Arubans because they were filling and economical, using ingredients sourced locally. Additionally, fried foods are predominantly featured.
Seafood isn’t used as much in modern cuisine because overfishing caused importing instead of using it fresh. However, Aruban cuisine relies on meats like pork and chicken.
Much like early Dutch settlers, the cuisine has large amounts of cheese. Fried gouda is an Aruban staple at parties. Keshi Yena is another cheese dish native to Aruba, slow-cooked cheese drenched in cheese with tomato sauce. Each household and restaurant has a variation for this popular dish.
Instead of bread, Arubans opt for Pan Bati (smashed or beaten bread), cooked similar to a pancake. It’s a simple recipe, using only sugar and salt as seasoning.
Street food is another part of Aruban food choices. At every vendor, you can find Pastechi, hailed the number one snack. Much like other Aruban cuisines, it’s deep-fried. Pastechi makes fantastic street food because it is a pastry carried around while looking at the sites.
Aruban cuisine is comparable to visiting multiple countries simultaneously. Although their dishes are full of Aruban flair, relying on ingredients sourced locally, their diverse integration of dishes and flavors ranging from French to Indian makes this a must for any food connoisseur who wants to take a country by bite.
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The History of Food From Aruba
Many tribes and nationalities have passed and remain in Aruba, all leaving their mark on its cuisine. Caiquetio Indians from the Arawak tribe first inhabited the island. Dishes like Pan Bati reflect one of their most grown crops, corn.
Spanish explorers were next to influence Aruban cuisine. Many traditional spices like nutmeg and cinnamon became part of Aruban cuisine after Alonso Ojeda discovered Aruba in 1499. Additionally, Aruba’s adaptation of hearty stews and soups mirrored dishes the Spanish favored.
Dutch cheese is globally recognized. And since the Dutch occupied the island in 1636, their influence inspired many Arubas eclectic menus. Keshi Yena never leaves a traditional urban menu, and street foods rely heavily on this vital ingredient.
Old Style Aruban Food and Cooking
Rooted in the cuisine of countries that occupied the island, traditional Aruban cuisine is a delicious melding of flavors and dishes worldwide. Traditional Aruban food is a variant of settlers and inhabitants of the small island. Each of these dishes is only a small sampling of the unique cuisine offered in Aruba.
Aruban’s prize stews. Stobo is one of the most popular and found in a multitude of variations. Soba with a distinct Spanish influence includes beef or pork and flavorful with chili and garlic powder and a base made from tomatoes.The key ingredients are meat, potatoes, and onions. A basket of Pan Bati accompanies this dish.
A similar variation uses Conch simmered in white wine vinegar stock. Slaves from Africa influenced another version of Soba. Traditionally it is cooked outdoors on a stove similar to a grill and uses roasted plantains and served with Fungi, Aruban polenta.
Venezualans first served Ayaca. However, Aruba adopted their version, chicken soaked in lime juice steamed in banana leaves with local fruits and nuts. The spice profile is extensive, garlic, curry, oregano, and cumin, one of Aruba’s most complex dishes, typically made for holidays like Christmas.
Aruban desserts and choices are endless. Bolo di Banana is similar to bread pudding, a mix of plantains, butter, and brown sugar. Cinnamon and allspice add flavor. The Dutch influence threaded into this dish is a large portion of sharp yellow cheese, served as a side with Aruban meals.
Aruban desserts also includes Pan Bollo, which resembles a United Kingdom bread pudding made with white bread, sugar, cinnamon, and honey. Again fruits play a large part in this dish; dried cranberries and rum-soaked raisins are delicious additions, topped with Ponche Crema.
Modern Aruban Food and Cooking
Currently, Aruba is a resort community that caters to visitors from all over the world. Throughout its culinary history, the country has melded cultures and cooking with the inhabitants and visitors of their countries. The resort industry prevalent in Aruba, and the menus are a fusion of international cuisine.
Four chefs are adding to the landscape of Aruban cuisine. These chefs each hail from different countries and add elements of their countries’ unique cuisine to Aruba’s eclectic menu.
Chef Romeo Penacino is a San Francisco native, starting his career in Argentina and the Cayman Islands. His culinary vision evokes flavors from his hometown and New York City.
Boris Druschkowitch started his career in Austria. In 2001, he left his native country to shape the face of Aruban cuisine. His culinary palette matches Aruba’s traditional cuisine well because he favors spices and fruits featured prominently in Aruban cuisine.
Joyce De Cuba-Husken brings an ideal chef to make traditional Aruban food modern. She is from the Netherlands and favors traditional spices like Garlic and Cumin. Additionally, her flavor profile leans towards texture and bold exploration of unique combinations.
Italian Chef Vittorio Muscariello will add another dimension to Aruban food. He prefers the flavors of Tuscany, which would fuse naturally with Aruban cuisine.
Auburn food, by nature, is ever-changing and decisively international. The new chefs will never change the landscape of food or erase the traditional dishes. Yet, the face of modern Aruban food is an extension of its history ever-evolving and incorporating flavors from diverse cultures.
25 Great Aruban Food Choices With Recipes
1. Keshi Yena – Aruban Dishes
You’re sure to swoon for this easy keshi yena recipe, a traditional Dutch Caribbean dish featuring melted Edam cheese and spiced ground beef or chicken. Popular in Aruba and Curacao, it makes a deliciously satisfying main course for company or a weekday meal.
2. Tutu Recipe – Aruba Style Polenta – Aruban Food
Tutu Recipe – Aruba Style Polenta is an enriched version often made for holidays and special occasions. With bacon and beans, it is a protein packed version that can serve as a meal on its own!
So yes, people live there and work there and raise families there. We have our own language, culture and cuisine. What I present here are not the foods you will get at the hotels that people represent as Aruban cuisine. I promise you no one at home is making Coconut Shrimp with flaked coconut!
3. Frekedel Fish Cakes – Aruban Recipes
I have to tell you I’m pretty excited to share an Aruban fish cake called Frekedel with Creole Sauce. It’s part of this month’s Food of the World celebration.
The Creole sauce is a little bit different. Anyone who’s seen Emeril Lagasse cook knows all about “the Trinity” of celery, onion and bell pepper in Creole cooking.
4. Dutch Split Pea soup- Aruban style – Aruban Cuisine
5. Aruban Cala recipe / Blackeyed peas fritters – Aruban Food and Recipes
Calas, an old New Orleans tradition and popular in Aruba, is a breakfast fritter mixed with cooked rice, flour, sugar, and spices, and then deep-fried. According to “The Dictionary of American Food & Drink,” the word Calas was first printed in 1880, and comes from one or more African languages, such as the Nupe word kárá, or “fried cake.”
6. Aruban-style Grilled Swordfish – Aruban Dishes
This Aruban-style grilled swordfish was amazing and light. The swordfish was marinated with a combination of lime and pineapple juice, and a hint of Tabasco! Because of the marinade, it really felt quite tropical and perfect for reminiscing on my time in Aruba. The swordfish was flakey, but I only wish I had a grill. I had to pan sear it because my apartment complex is lacking one. And who doesn’t enjoy grilled pineapple!
7. Panlevi: Aruba Sponge Cookies – Aruban Desserts
Mmm don’t those look great?! You know what’s really awesome, though, these cookies mix up and bake real simple. Texture wise, it’s not your normal cookie – crispy outside, but semi spongey inside. I can’t really tell you how mine compare to others though, since there are only 2 other online recipes for Panlevi and they are exactly the same as the one I used, and have no pictures!
8. Aloha Protein Balls – Aruban Food
These Aloha Protein Balls are packed with texture, bright flavor, and protein. They’re great for breakfast or an after-workout snack. And a bonus for me is, with every bite, I’m gazing out on the warm turquoise waters of Aruba.
9. Aruba Breeze Recipe – Aruban Recipes
This recipe for Aruba Breeze, by Christie Churchman, is from The Churchman Family Cookbook, one of the cookbooks created at FamilyCookbookProject.com. We’ll help you start your own personal cookbook! It’s easy and fun. Click here to start your own cookbook!
10. Aruban Keshi Yena w Stuffed Cheese – Aruban Cuisine
Succulent pieces of stewed beef swimming in a spiced creole sauce with prunes, cashews, and olives all smothered with Dutch cheese. What more could one ask for on these bitterly cold Winter evenings? This is the ultimate bowl of Dutch Caribbean-inspired comfort food.
11. Aruban Ceviche – Aruban Dishes
I love ceviche but I’ve always been a little scared to make it. I mean, come on… raw fish? There are some things you just don’t mess with. However when Deb and I went to Aruba we stayed at the Riu and they had a ceviche bar. There were 8 different kinds of fish (including octopus, scallops, and squid) to choose from and they pulled it together right there for you.
12. Creamy Limoncello from Maria’s in Aruba (double batch) – Aruban Food
I had my first sneaky sip of limoncello when I was sweet 18 and traveling around Naples, Sorrento, and the Amalfi Coast with my school class. My girls and I managed to get out of the campground and hitched a ride to town, where we had a little pizza feast with some local boys at a tiny hole-in-the-wall restaurant.
13. Pork And Chicken Hallacas – Aruban Recipes
Have you ever received an delicious Christmas or New Year’s Eve present wrapped in plantain leaves? These hallacas caraqueñas are a traditionally served on Christmas and New Year’s Eve in Venezuela. Variations of this dish are also popular in Colombia, Ecuador, Cuba and the ABC islands—Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao.
14. Funchi Fries – Aruban Cuisine
Funchi fries are delicious fries made from a boiled cornmeal mush that’s cooled, moulded and cut into chunks. Oven baked with a crispy golden outside with a gooey creamy interior perfect for some dipping sauce.
I’m pleased to share a recipe that is from the Dutch Caribbean, a part of the Caribbean that I feel is over looked. If you’re looking for a side or appetiser with a difference when this recipe is you. It’s cheap and cheerful and inspired by the tiny ABC islands (Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao).
15. Papaya-Habanero Hot Sauce Recipe – Aruban Dishes
This Caribbean pepper is famous for being the hottest chile pepper in the world. They come in a variety of shapes and colors (yellow, orange, green, red, chocolate). Not only are they extremely hot, but they also have a unique, distinctively fruity flavor. It is the key ingredient in the popular Jamaican Jerk sauce.
16. Empanada/Stuffed Meat Bread/Pastechi – Aruban Food
An empanada is a stuffed bread or pastry baked or fried in many countries in Spain and Latin America. The name comes from the Spanish verb empanar, meaning to wrap or coat in bread. This version of empanada is very popular on the islands of Curacao, Aruba, and Bonaire.
17. Dulce de Leche Coconut Chocolate Chip Bars – Aruban Dessert
If you’re the type of person who complains about desserts being too sweet or too rich, stop reading now because these bars are both.
Dulce de leche is similar in texture and thickness to thick homemade caramel sauce, but rather than being made from butter, brown sugar, and cream like caramel sauce, it’s made by cooking sweetened condensed milk. It’s caramely, sweet, rich, and smooth.
18. Pannenkoek (Dutch Pancake) – Aruban Recipes
The Dutch pancake, Pannenkoek, is a thin pancake that can be served sweet or savory. There are so many ways to enjoy this easy treat for breakfast or a fun snack!
A pannenkoek (plural pannenkoeken and pannekoek in Old Dutch) is a pancake that comes from the Netherlands. They are typically large, whole-pan size and are much thinner than a traditional American pancake (but not quite as thin as a French crepe).
19. Classic Aruba Creole Sauce – Aruban Cuisine
This classic Creole sauce is made with canned tomatoes, celery, colorful bell peppers, onions, and garlic, along with seasonings and herbs that make it extra flavorful. This sauce is delicious spooned over shrimp and grits, fried eggplant, or chicken breasts.
20. The Aruban Reuben – Aruban Dishes
The reuben is truly a classic…and for good reason. The usual components are: corned beef, Swiss, sauerkraut, and Russian dressing—always on rye bread—and it’s typically pressed or grilled. The original sandwich is said to have been created back in the early 1900s!
21. Arroz con Pollo – Aruban Food
22. Cool Island Soup – Aruban Recipes
Cool island soup, as its name suggests, is a chilled fruit soup and an ideal refreshment for hot summer days. It consists of pineapple, cantaloupe, papaya, apricot, sparkling water, and fresh lime juice. It is recommended to cool the combination of puréed ingredients for at least four hours before serving.
Garnished with fresh mint leaves, sweet and cold, it is the locals’ favorite, consumed widely throughout the island.
23. Fried Plantain – Aruban Cuisine
Fried plantain is a popular food in Aruba, mainly served as a side to an array of dishes. A rich sweetness enhances a salty harvest from the ocean, so it’s the perfect accompaniment to seafood feasts. It’s so tasty, though, that you can order it as a main dish to thoroughly enjoy the crispy, caramelized flavor.
24. Cabrito Stoba – Aruban Dishes
When you’re really hungry, you can’t go wrong with local favorite, cabrito stoba. It’s an Aruban goat stew in a tomato-based gravy, served with hearty potatoes, onions, garlic, hot pepper, nutmeg, and sometimes a hint of curry. If you don’t like goat, there’s a beef stew called carni stoba, which is a great alternative.
25. Sopi Mondongo – Aruban Food
If you feel like you need a bit of a health kick after enjoying the cocktails on deck last night, order a bowl of sopi mondongo. It’s a traditional tripe or bone marrow soup known for its nourishing qualities, served with bell peppers, potatoes, West Indian pumpkin, celery, and more for a serious nutrient boost.
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