If you’re ever fortunate enough to attend a big, family-style dinner in The Bahamas, make sure you show up hungry! Bahamians love to cook, and they’re great at it. Traditionally, Bahamian families like to enjoy Sunday dinners together, which often consist of a number of home-cooked side dishes served with a main course of cracked conch, pork chops, or baked ham or chicken. One of the most popular side dishes in The Bahamas is macaroni and cheese.
If you grew up eating American-style macaroni and cheese, the Bahamian version will look a bit different. In The Bahamas, it’s prepared as a casserole-style dish, cut into cheesy squares that hold their shape when served (picture a serving of lasagne). Every bite is cheesy, creamy, and completely decadent! With the addition of herbs, spices, and veggies like chopped onions and peppers, Bahamian-style macaroni and cheese has a unique flavor that’s sure to please.
It’s believed that Bahamian-style macaroni and cheese was introduced when English colonists arrived in the mid-late 1700s. Bahamians adapted the recipe to suit their environment. For example, when fresh dairy was hard to obtain in The Bahamas, canned evaporated milk was used as an alternative to fresh milk. Today, evaporated milk is a crucial ingredient in creating this creamy dish.
We love this recipe for Bahamian Macaroni & Cheese, shared by Tru Bahamian Food Tours. In fact, Bahamian mac & cheese is one of the dishes served during the Bites of Nassau Food & Cultural Walking Tour! For your next Sunday dinner at home, surprise and delight your guests with a taste of The Bahamas.
Bahamian-Style Mac & Cheese
• 1 lb uncooked elbow macaroni
• ½ cup butter
• 32 oz. shredded cheddar cheese
• ½ large green bell pepper, diced
• ½ large white onion, diced
• 4 eggs
• black pepper
• 2 pinches salt
• 2 teaspoons paprika
• 1 habanero pepper, diced (optional, if you like heat)
• 12 oz. evaporated milk
1. Add 2 pinches of salt to a large pot of water. Bring water to a boil and add uncooked macaroni. Boil until tender.
2. Strain macaroni and return to pot. Add butter and stir until butter is melted.
3. Slowly stir in most of the cheese evenly. Reserve 8 ounces for topping.
4. Add paprika, black pepper, onion, bell pepper, and ½ of a finely-diced habanero (if using). Stir well until cheese is melted and blended.
5. Beat eggs lightly and stir into mixture.
6. Slowly add evaporated milk, pouring about half a cup at a time. Stir well and spread the mixture evenly in a large prepared baking pan, about 13” x 9”.
7. Top with remaining cheese and cover loosely with foil.
8. Bake at 375°F for 1 hour or until top is a golden color.
9. Allow macaroni to cool for 45-50 minutes until room temperature before serving. Cut into squares to serve.