Jamaican Ackee and Saltfish (Vegan Version)
If you are not familiar with ackees… it is actually a fruit that grows on a tree. The yellow flesh is soft and buttery when cooked and it has a sort of non-descript but nonetheless delicious flavour. Ackee and Saltfish is Jamaica’s national dish.
You will almost always be introduced to it as a breakfast item if you ever visit Jamaica on holiday. Jamaicans, however, have it with any meal of the day. I’ve even seen it served with crackers as fancy nibbles as appetizers at a party.
I must add a bit of a warning here that ackees can be poisonous if they the pods have not been allowed to open naturally on their own. So do be careful that you are having it from a reputable person or establishment.
Apart from that, some people have an allergic reaction after eating or being in contact with ackees. Antihistamines do help with the symptoms. If you have a severe allergic reaction, then ackee is not for you. You must get medical attention and avoid ackees at all cost.
Recently, we have been asked quite a lot about Jamaican dishes and whether some of them can be made vegan. After giving it some thought, I do remember that at kids’ camp once, one of the cooks made ackee and saltfish with mushrooms instead of saltfish. The look of the dish was exactly the same, and the taste was also very good.
In Jamaica when you want to make Ackee and saltfish but have no saltfish, the average person would just leave it out. After all, the sauteed vegetables give the dish a lovely flavour.
We also worked with a brand on developing some recipes and one brief was that we do two vegan variations of ackee and saltfish. Knowing us and our experience and love of experimenting with food, we came up with two winning recipes after much trial and error and several cans of the ackees.
We found that shitake mushrooms worked best as they didn’t have as much moisture as other mushrooms, and also it was well-liked for its meaty texture.
The second favourite in the dish was the one with black olives. The salty taste was definitely there and the colour did add to the presentation of the dish.
Our ancestors would be proud of the changes we have made without spoiling the taste of the dish. I can imagine them eating and merrymaking especially a Christmas meal or other celebration. Do you think they would find any fault? Honestly, I don’t think so.
Ackees grow well in the Caribbean and it is not uncommon to see ackee trees in the back, front, or side garden. Here in the UK we rely on the canned variety.
So here, we present you with the recipe for the vegan variation of Jamaican ackee and saltfish. It is definitely a winner, so enjoy.
1 can Ackee
1 tsp dried thyme or 2 sprigs fresh thyme
½ tsp black pepper
3 plum tomatoes, chopped
1 large onion cut into rings
⅓ scotch bonnet pepper or 1 tsp scotch bonnet sauce
⅓ red bell pepper, cut into strips
⅓ yellow bell pepper, cut into strips
⅓ green bell pepper, cut into strips
3 garlic cloves, crushed or 1 tsp garlic paste
200g mushrooms or black olives (chopped)
5 tbsp vegetable oil
- Open can of ackee and drain in a colander.
- Prepare the vegetables (as above)
- In a large frying pan, heat the oil. Saute the peppers, onion, tomatoes, and garlic for about 2 minutes. Stir, then add the mushrooms and or olives. Add a sprinkle of black pepper. Cook for a further 2 – 3 minutes.
- Add the drained ackee. Stir gently to prevent the ackee from becoming mushy. Cook for a further 2 minutes. Sprinkle the thyme during the last minute of cooking. Serve hot with your choice of accompaniment like boiled or fried dumplings, boiled green bananas, bread or breadfruit.
Other Jamaican dishes to try
Have you ever tried the delicacy? Would you like to? If you have, let us know what you think.
On Amazon, you can actually get 6 large cans of the Ackee for £33!