Dominican Street Food
Wherever I go in the world, I always find myself chasing great street food. There’s something about it that’s so appealing.
When I’m in a new place, I want to know what the construction workers eat for breakfast, or what the busy office worker grabs on her way into work. Or where people go to score a speedy cigarette-break snack.
I like to absorb the bustle and flow of routine, and hopefully understand a little better what it’s like to live there.
Food is central to cultures all around the world, it holds pride of place in social gatherings, traditions, and rituals.
Since tourists are not usually invited into the private homes of local families, a great option to get a feel for the local food scene is street food.
Part of the magic is that street vendors’ customers become walking advertisements. Here in the Dominican, I see locals swirling around a stand with empanadas in hand, and that’s it. I must have one.
I also love eating with my hands. For me, there’s a special satisfaction at being handed a fried piece of deliciousness, all wrapped up in a napkin.
Plus, I’m a sucker for instant, no-wait food (gimme gimme!).
Here are some foods commonly sold on the street to look out for on your Dominican adventure:
Empanadas are my go-to Dominican street snack. I love watching the owner bundle up packages of chicken and cheese, and throw them into the pan to sizzle and seal shut.
There are a couple of local men in Cabarete who wander along the beach every day selling empanadas out of a large plastic box. They cost around 25-30 pesos each and are surprisingly filling snacks.
Great after a session out on the water, empanadas are an absolute must-try for your vacation.
Chicharron is a local delicacy and beloved by Dominicans. It is pork rinds or pork scratchings, basically fried pig skin, but don’t be put off by that thought.
Chicharron is crunchy, salty, meaty: it really hits that savoury snack spot.
You’ll see a lot of pork sold on the street in general. It’s not uncommon when driving out of townto see whole roasted pigs on a spit by the roadside.
I was once on a cross-country guagua and the lady in charge stopped the bus to fill her plate with what looked like the most amazing street pork.
I watched, drooling along with the rest of the bus, as the man carved the meat right in front of us for her. I only wish I’d been bold enough to ask for a plate of my own!
Quipes or kipes are little fried balls made of meat and bulgur wheat. They are herby, delicious and actually very filling.
Speaking of filling, they are usually made with beef, but you can find chicken, pork and vegetable quipes as well.
The recipe for these tasty treats was originally brought to the Dominican by middle eastern migrants in the 1800s, chiefly from Lebanon.
Kibbeh, Lebanese bulgur-based fried treats, were adopted into the Dominican cook’s repertoire and are now beloved all over the country.
Pulling over for a cheeky roadside quipe on a long journey is simply dreamy.
Yaniqueques are crispy, flaky, deep-fried dough. They are round and flat, and come in lots of different sizes. The biggest look a bit like crunchy thin vinyl records, while little ones served with breakfast can be the size of a tea saucer.
The name is a Dominicanisation of Johnnycakes, which are cornmeal flatbreads traditionally eaten everywhere on the East Coast of North America.
They’re kind of like eating an empanada without the filling.
Yaniqueques are delicious.
On this tropical island, exotic fruits literally grow on trees.
Fruits like mango, papaya, pineapple, passion fruit, banana, starfruit, limoncillo, and coconut are abundant in the Dominican Republic. They soak up all that sunshine and taste like heaven.
Fruit stands offer the most natural street food for you to sample. Look out for fruterias and vendors on the beach.
One common beach fruit snack are limoncillos. You can buy a little bunch for very little money, around 15-30 pesos.
Limoncillos are little green balls that you squeeze or bite to pop open. You put the little fleshy ball in your mouth and scrape the fruit off the pip with your teeth.
It’s quite entertaining to watch your friends’ faces as they focus on eating their limoncillo!
It’s hard to justify not trying coconut on your Caribbean vacation. They are everywhere.
You don’t have to look far at all in Cabarete to find someone to slice the top off a coconut for you.
Sip the water straight, chip off the white flesh. It’s a beachy delight.
If you seek it out, you will find much more Dominican street food to tickle your taste buds and ignite your sense of adventure. This list is just to get you started on your journey.
Remember to exercise your common sense and avoid eating anything that looks too dodgy. So, raw meat that has been sitting in the sun for hours and is covered in flies? Maybe not.
Good luck, street food wanderer!