SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic – Most visitors to Dominican Republic know the country for its white-sand beaches, crystal clear turquoise waters and ample opportunities for relaxation and play at the waterfront. But Dominican Republic is also a prime destination for foodies, offering varied, mouthwatering cuisine that includes fresh seafood, savory meats and inventive dishes that promise to entice even the most particular palates.
“Our country offers more than just stunning views and water sports; it’s also a gastronomical hub with cuisine sure to please every taste,” said Magaly Toribio, Marketing Advisor for the Dominican Republic Ministry of Tourism. “Tourists will be in awe of the variety of unique, flavorful dishes available in all corners of Dominican Republic. They are guaranteed to find the perfect dish to suit their mood.”
Fresh Seafood, Direct From the Source
One can’t fully experience the best of Dominican Republic cuisine without sampling the country’s fresh, succulent seafood, caught daily by fishermen along the coasts.
On the country’s north coast, visitors are invited to sample a fusion of domestic and international flavors, thanks in part to the large number of international tourists and expats that flock to Puerto Plata and surrounding cities for world-class surfing and water sports. Pulpo al ajillo—garlic octopus—is a popular dish in the region, made with fresh octopus, onion, garlic, olive oil, lemon, tomato, parsley and salt to taste. The dish is full of fresh ingredients and flavors that work together in harmony for a delectable culinary experience.
The calm waters surrounding the southwest coast are home to many types of fish including the cero mackerel, mahi-mahi and snapper. Lobster, shrimp and crab are also popular delicacies found throughout the country. Seafood lovers won’t want to miss succulent fresh-caught crab, shrimp served in rich coconut sauce or steaming hot boiled lobster. Fried fish served with traditional tostones—twice fried green plantains —is another popular dish found along the coasts.
Signature Dishes and Savory Meats and Treats
The most iconic dish in Dominican Republic is la bandera, meaning “the flag” in Spanish. This quintessential Dominican dish is made with rice, beans, fried bananas and stewed meat such as chicken, beef or pork. It comes served with a lettuce, tomato and cabbage salad and can easily be found throughout the country.
Tirao, a type of stew, is made with roughly chopped vegetables and large chunks of meat over a fire. There is no exact science to the art of the tirao—ingredients are not measured precisely but come together to create a rich, flavorful meal. This dish is especially popular in the waterfront town of San Pedro de Macorís, along with domplines, made with flour, butter, olive oil, water and salt to taste. Domplines, though plain on their own, are brought to life when served with coconut or tomato sauce.
For carnivores, many coastal restaurants serve an array of fine meats. Cacerola de chivo, a dish made with goat, spices and vegetables, is especially popular. Goat dishes can be found throughout the country cooked in sauces that range from mild to spicy, but are most common in the northwest province of Montecristi, an area well known for its goat recipes.
Yaniqueques, the Spanish-language interpretation of “Johnny Cakes,” are ubiquitous at the country’s beaches. Yaniquques are made with flour, baking powder, oil, salt and water. The mixture is kneaded and left to rest for an hour before being deep fried. The yaniqueque is one of the most common foods sold by vendors dotted along beaches throughout coastal areas, particularly on the northeast coast in the Samaná Peninsula. Samaná is also known for its irresistible foods made with coconut—not only in desserts but also in rice, fish, sauces and meats.
Another coastal specialty is maicena de plátano—a paste made with bananas that are roasted and then mashed to the consistency of cornmeal. Maicena de plátano is most commonly produced near the southwest coastal city of Barahona and can have a unique flavor by adding milk or cream.
Just west of Punta Cana on Dominican Republic’s east coast, the town of Higüey is famous for its dairy products, especially its famous queso, a fresh, firm cheese that comes in the form of a dense, moist ball.
Located in Dominican Republic’s mountain region, the areas of Constanza and Jarabacoa offer a signature chicken and rabbit paella. Paella is a rice-based dish that’s cooked in a large shallow pan and is bursting with flavor.
Also popular in the cool mountainous climate is sancocho, a national hot soup consisting of multiple varieties of meat and tubers—vegetables composed of starches or carbohydrates— like yuca, plantains and pumpkin. Like many Dominican dishes, this soup is best served alongside rice. For dessert, the mountain areas are known for wild berry and peach jam.