Cornmeal Coo Coo Recipe

6.10.20 | Recipe by Renz
A classic Caribbean dish. This is the Caribbean polenta version with an abundance of flavor. If you trying to find a cornmeal dish with a little difference, this is the one.
Whole image of coo coo out of the dish

Side dishes are just as important as our meat dishes. And we do not forget to bring the flavor with them either.

This delicious dish is called coo coo (or cou cou) and is basically a cooked cornmeal dish. It's well flavored with coconut milk, okra, and vegetables, creating the perfect side dish. cornmeal, okra, pumpkin all folded together to make the perfect creamy dish.

This recipe is really easy. And like a lot of dishes that are wholly Caribbean, each island has its varying method of creating.


What is coo coo?

As I mentioned it's a cornmeal-based dish.

It pulls on the African heritage of the Caribbean islands. It is the Caribbean polenta.

This dish was introduced to the Caribbean islands by African slaves.

Called coo coo, or cou cou by the Winward islands, and also known as fungi by the Leeward Islands.

It consists of cornmeal and okra as the main base. Some of the most inexpensive ingredients they could find at that time.

Over time it has been fancied up a bit and can now include pumpkin and mixed vegetables and they all are steamed down and mixed together with coconut milk, to create a smooth pie-like dish.

It is a simple dish that is made off of a great combination of flavors.

Oh and don't forget to use your wooden spoon to mix.

Actually, coo coo was made using what is called a “coo coo stick” which looked like a cricket bat. I always use a bamboo spoon to make my coo coo.


Coconut milk in a cup, cornmeal in a bowl and a bowl of mixed vegetables

The requirements are quite simple ingredients to make this delicious recipe. Mostly your pantry basics. As I mentioned this dish was introduced to us using the most readily available and inexpensive ingredients.

  • Coconut milk
  • Water - you will need both room temperature water and hot water
  • Okra/Ochro
  • Salt
  • Black pepper
  • Cornmeal
  • Peas and carrots (optional)
  • Cubed pumpkin (optional)
  • Butter

How to make coo coo

Here is the perfect, no fail coo coo recipe.

Making coo coo calls for a little patience and some strength, but it is a pretty easy process.

Using fresh ingredients, as usual, is the best thing. Fresh pumpkin, okra, and even coconut milk if you can.

Adding mixed vegetables is optional.

Some islands do not make it with okra. When that happens it's most often called fungi or fengi.

To me, without okra creates a different texture dish.

We need to get the okra, pumpkin, tender prior to adding the cornmeal. So we get those things boiling in the coconut milk on medium heat to start.

Coconut milk in a pot boiling with okra

Once they are tender and the okra pink in color, we take it off the stove so that we can add the cornmeal.

Add the cornmeal in batches. Make sure that with each batch, you are mixing it in to smooth till the next set is added. It's easier to get a smooth texture this way.

After the cornmeal is incorporated, adding a little hot water and putting it back on the stove to steam really helps to bind it all together.

cooked coo coo in a dish setting

Once the mixture is smooth and starts to form into a thick texture, it's time to transfer to a well-greased dish so that it can be pressed down into the shape of whatever dish you're using.

Once you get the cornmeal mixture into your dish, add a little butter on the top to help smoothen it out.

Leave it for a little, then we are ready to slice And ready to slather with some meat and its gravy.

What goes well with coo coo?

Coo coo is most popularly paired with some sort of fish dish.

It can be fried flying fish or even stewed fish This combination is so ideal that it is the national dish of Barbados: Coo coo and flying fish.

It is also great paired with some callaloo. In Trinidad and Tobago, there is no coo coo unless callaloo is included on the side too.

I like mine to be covered with some form of gravy be it with some stewed fish, some tomato sauce from my fried fish, or gravy from seafood creole.

coo coo with some seafood creole on a plate


* I prefer to use fine-grain cornmeal for this. It makes it easier for the cornmeal to cook and gives a smoother texture. A brand I love is parma rosa. Iberia is another good brand.

* After adding the cornmeal to the seasoned milk mixture, adding some hot water in for it to steam really helps in setting the mixture. The cornmeal needs to cook and steam, so adding hot water around the edges gives it the time to steam and not burn. It makes it easier to smoothen out too.

* You have to whisk fast for this. If you want to have a nice smooth mixture, whisk as quickly as you can.

Storage and reheating

Coo coo uses coconut milk, something I take no chances with as it relates to spoiling. If by the next day I have leftovers I wrap them in plastic wrap then place them in Ziploc bags and place them in my freezer.

To reheat, I use the microwave.

If reheating from the freezer, I put it in the fridge overnight to defrost then I just get it to room temperature first, then heat in 45-second increments till warmed through.

If heating from the fridge, I just pop it in the microwave and heat in 45-second increments till warmed through.


Coo coo out of the dish sliced so you can see the inside

And if you think this is an amazing Caribbean side dish, make sure you check out these amazing ones:

This post is now a part of the 2021 Black History Virtual Potluck. A collaborative menu of recipes contributed by 40+black bloggers from around the globe in honor of Black History Month. See a sampling of some of the amazing participant recipes down below.

Check out some of the other recipes in the potluck!!