Barbados National Dish: The Ultimate Guide to Cou Cou

Cou Cou is the Barbados National Dish, a Caribbean island country known for its stunning beaches and rich cultural heritage. This unique and flavorful dish is a staple of Barbadian cuisine, and its origins can be traced back to West Africa.

In this article, we’ll explore everything you need to know about Cou Cou, from its history and cultural significance to its ingredients and preparation. We’ll also provide some tips for making the perfect Cou Cou and answer some frequently asked questions about this beloved dish.

History and Cultural Significance of Barbados National Dish

Cou Cou has a long and fascinating history that is closely tied to the cultural heritage of Barbados. This dish is believed to have originated in West Africa, where a similar dish made with cornmeal or cassava flour is still popular today.

When African slaves were brought to the Caribbean in the 17th and 18th centuries, they brought with them their own culinary traditions, including the use of okra as a thickening agent in stews and soups. Over time, these traditions merged with the local ingredients and cooking techniques of the Caribbean, giving rise to new dishes like Cou Cou.

Today, Cou Cou is an important part of Barbadian culture and cuisine, and is often served at special occasions like weddings and festivals. It is also a popular everyday dish that can be found in homes and restaurants throughout the country.

Ingredients of Cou Cou

The ingredients of Cou Cou are simple but flavorful, and reflect the influence of African and Caribbean culinary traditions. The main ingredients are:

  • Cornmeal
  • Okra
  • Water
  • Salt
  • Butter or Margarine

Some variations of Cou Cou may also include additional ingredients like herbs, spices, or other vegetables.

Preparation of Cou Cou

Preparing Cou Cou requires some patience and skill, but the end result is well worth the effort. Here’s a step-by-step guide to making Cou Cou:

  • Begin by heating a pot of water over medium heat. Add salt to taste.
  • While the water is heating up, prepare the okra by washing and chopping it into small pieces.
  • Once the water is boiling, add the okra to the pot and let it simmer for about 10 minutes, or until it becomes slimy and thick.
  • Remove the okra from the pot and use a blender or food processor to puree it until it becomes smooth.
  • Return the okra puree to the pot and bring it back to a simmer.
  • Slowly add the cornmeal to the pot, stirring constantly to prevent lumps from forming.
  • Continue stirring until the mixture becomes thick and sticky, similar to polenta or grits.
  • Add the butter or margarine to the pot and stir until it is fully incorporated.
  • Remove the pot from the heat and let the Cou Cou cool for a few minutes before serving.

Tips for Making the Perfect Cou Cou

Making the perfect Cou Cou takes practice, but these tips can help you get started:

  • Use fresh okra for the best texture and flavor.
  • Stir the Cou Cou constantly to prevent lumps from forming.
  • Add the cornmeal slowly to the pot, a little bit at a time, to prevent clumps from forming.
  • Use butter or margarine for a richer flavor.

How to Serve Cou Cou

Cou Cou is a versatile dish that can be served in a variety of ways. Here are some of the most popular serving suggestions:

With flying fish: This is the traditional way to serve Cou Cou in Barbados. Flying fish is a type of fish that is native to the Caribbean and is often served grilled or fried. Cou Cou and flying fish is a popular dish that is often served on national holidays and special occasions.

With meat or fish stew: Cou Cou is also delicious when served with a rich and flavorful meat or fish stew. The thick and creamy texture of the Cou Cou pairs perfectly with the savory and spicy flavors of the stew.

On its own: Cou Cou can also be served as a standalone dish, similar to polenta or grits. It is a delicious and comforting dish that is perfect for a cozy night in.

Variations of Barbados National Dish

There are many different variations of Cou Cou, each with its own unique flavor and texture. Some of the most popular variations include:

Pumpkin Cou Cou: This variation adds pureed pumpkin to the mix, giving the Cou Cou a slightly sweet and nutty flavor.

Coconut Cou Cou: Coconut milk is added to the Cou Cou mixture, giving it a rich and creamy flavor.

Corn and Okra Cou Cou: This variation adds fresh corn kernels to the mix, giving the Cou Cou a sweet and crunchy texture.

Where to Try Barbados National Dish

If you’re visiting Barbados, there are many places where you can try authentic Cou Cou. Some of the best places to try Cou Cou in Barbados include:

Oistins Fish Fry: This weekly event is a must-visit for foodies in Barbados. You can try Cou Cou and flying fish, as well as other delicious local dishes.

Brown Sugar Restaurant: This restaurant specializes in traditional Bajan cuisine, including Cou Cou and other local favorites.

Fisherman’s Pub: This casual beachfront restaurant serves up delicious Cou Cou and other fresh seafood dishes.

Frequently Asked Questions about Cou Cou

  • Is Cou Cou gluten-free?

Yes, Cou Cou is gluten-free, as it is made from cornmeal and okra.

  • What does Cou Cou taste like?

Cou Cou has a mild and slightly sweet flavor, with a creamy and smooth texture.

  • Is Cou Cou healthy?

Yes, Cou Cou is a healthy and nutritious dish that is rich in fiber, vitamins, and minerals.

  • What is flying fish?

Flying fish is a type of fish that is native to the Caribbean. It is often served grilled or fried and is a popular accompaniment to Cou Cou.

  • Can I make Cou Cou in advance?

Yes, you can make Cou Cou in advance and reheat it when you’re ready to serve. Just be sure to stir it well before reheating to prevent lumps from forming.


In conclusion, Cou Cou is a delicious and nutritious dish that is an important part of Barbadian culture and cuisine. Whether you’re trying it for the first time or are a seasoned Cou Cou connoisseur, this versatile and flavorful dish is sure to delight you.


  • “Barbados National Dish.” National Dish of Barbados, 2021,
  • “Cou-Cou and Flying Fish.” Caribbean Pot, 2021,
  • “Cou Cou Recipe.” Immaculate Bites, 2021,

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