Grilled snapper with coleslaw and baked mac n' cheese from Sunset Cafe.
As a small archipelago
, it’s no surprise that seafood is the cuisine that’s done best in the Turks and Caicos. Our restaurants offer a great range of local and international styles of fish, conch, and lobster dishes.
Of the islands in the Turks and Caicos, Providenciales has by far the greatest selection of restaurants to choose from, which offer widely varying ambiances and interesting and creative cooking styles.
The Turks and Caicos has three basic types of local seafood widely available: conch, fish, and lobster.
Queen conch is probably the quintessential seafood in the Turks and Caicos, and there are not many destinations in the world where it can be found on menus. Conch is often prepared in a salad, fried as ‘fritters’ or ‘cracked conch’, or serves as a foundation for soup.
Fresh fish is a staple in the Turks and Caicos, and common catches include several types of snapper, Nassau grouper and other types of grouper or hind fish, and tuna, mahi-mahi, wahoo, and mackerel. Traditionally, the offshore and pelagic fish weren’t pursued much, yet are more common today as some of the sport fishing charters bring in their catch. Of the local fish, Nassau grouper is one of the most desirable.
Caribbean spiny lobsters caught on a beach BBQ boat cruise with Talbot's Adventures.
The Caribbean spiny lobster (sometimes called crayfish or crawlfish here) is a general favorite with locals and visitors. The Turks and Caicos
fishing season for lobster, which is typically open from August to April. From about May to July, you won’t be able to get lobster in restaurants.
Beyond conch, fish, and lobster, there isn’t much else that’s commonly collected. Occasionally, turtle,
shark, and small mollusks such as the
West Indian top shell are eaten, yet such practices are becoming uncommon.
Imported fish is a bit of a contentious issue, and is actually just as common in restaurants as fresh local seafood is. In some cases, there’s no confusion, as products such as salmon, sea bass, oysters, clams, and shrimp simply can’t be harvested anywhere near our tropical nation. However, unscrupulous establishments sometime attempt to pass off imported fish as local, with the most common scenario being tilapia species marketed as grouper.
Once you’ve had real Turks and Caicos grouper, it’s easy to tell the difference, as tilapia will often be a very consistent fillet with mild flavor and white and flakey meat, whereas local grouper usually isn’t as consistent in shape, has a much clearer and fresher taste, often has a discernible cut that clearly show it came from a mid-sized fish, and in many cases is cooked with the skin still on. Most snapper is cooked whole, so there’s no mistaking a local fish!
Many of the gourmet restaurants on Providenciales and at the Grace Bay resorts feature a menu of both local and imported seafood, and the seafood that’s brought into the Turks and Caicos is usually brought in refrigerated directly from the United States.
Turks and Caicos Cuisine Seafood
Steamed fish, peas n' rice, and coleslaw. Locally-caught snapper will almost always be served as a whole fish. If you get a fillet, it's likely imported!
What is a traditional Turks and Caicos seafood dish? It’s actually a difficult question to answer, as the day to day fare in the Turks and Caicos has historically been directly impacted by contact to other nations, and as imports varied over time, so did the food.
Available imports defined the cuisine. Before reliable trade, seafood was often complimented with grits made from locally-raised maize, okra, or beans. Later on, rice was imported and became a staple, and eventually cooking oils, sugar, and produce were obtainable. Tastes and cooking styles in our islands were influenced by nearby Caribbean countries as time went on, including the Bahamas, Haiti, Jamaica, and the Dominican Republic.
Today, dishes that would be considered to be authentic Turks and Caicos would include conch, fish, and lobster stews, soups, and souse, conch or lobster salad, and fish or lobster that’s grilled, blackened, steamed, poached, or fried, often with sides that may include grits, peas n’ rice, coleslaw, fried plantains, or baked mac n’ cheese.
The fine dining restaurants in the Turks and Caicos offer a delectable array of seafood dishes, which may incorporate either local or imported products, and restaurants often have their own specialties, interpretations, and fusions. Coco Bistro and Bay Bistro have their famous rare seared tuna, Seven restaurant and Caicos Café offer excellent grilled lobster tail, and Mango Reef and Coyaba are well-known for their grouper.