How to make breadfruit oil down - Trinbago-style

9.11.23 | Recipe by Renz

A comforting dish, brimming with rich flavors and tradition, Oil Down is the comfort dish you need to share with your family. Dive into the heart of this dish as we explore what makes it so special.

A white bowl of breadfruit oil down served out from a pot filled.

Have you ever wondered what makes Caribbean cuisine so unique? For me, I really think it's the symphony of tastes and traditions with our foods.

You are in for a treat today as I explore the Trinibagonian version of Oil Down. This dish is like a comforting hug on a plate, a dish that brings together the vibrant spirit of the islands and the love we pour into our pots.

Oil down is a beloved staple across the Caribbean, each island offering its own interpretation of this hearty one-pot wonder. Trinidad and Tobago, our beautiful twin-island nation, has its own distinctive twist on this classic.

Today, I'm excited to share with you how we make it right here in the land of steelpan, soca, and sun-soaked beaches.

But before we dive into the heart of this recipe, let's get to know oil down a little better. I will discuss what it is, explore the delightful variations you might find across the different Caribbean islands, and, most importantly, discover the secrets to creating the Trinbagonian version of this delectable dish.

But don't worry; it's not all set in stone – there is plenty of room for personal touches and substitutions.

So, grab a seat, my friends, as we embark on a culinary adventure that'll make your taste buds sing and your heart warm.

Let's get cooking, some breadfruit oil down.

Definition of oil down

Oil down is a traditional and beloved dish from the Caribbean, particularly popular in Grenada and Trinidad and Tobago. It is actually Grenada's national dish and is a staple in their cuisine.

This delicious one-pot meal is made by simmering a combination of meat, vegetables, and starches in a rich coconut milk broth. The name "oil down" refers to the cooking process, where the ingredients are slowly cooked down in coconut milk to infuse all the flavors together. By the time the liquid is condensed, it's just some coconut oil left behind.

The result is a hearty and flavorful dish that showcases the diverse tastes of the tropical regions.

Oil down is typically made with meats like salted pigtails or beef, wedges of breadfruit, green bananas, sweet potato, and callaloo leaves. The flavors are further enhanced by the addition of spices like cloves of garlic, pimento peppers, and hot pepper sauce.

This dish is best enjoyed hot. Whether enjoyed as a comforting weeknight meal or shared during special occasions, oil down is a true taste of Caribbean cuisine.

Regional variations of oil down

Oil Down is a delicious and hearty one-pot dish that is considered a popular dish in several Caribbean countries, including Grenada and Trinidad and Tobago. While the name remains the same, the ingredients and techniques used in different regions can vary, resulting in unique and flavorful renditions of this popular dish.

Grenadian oil down is typically made with breadfruit, salted meat, coconut milk, and various spices. The breadfruit is the star ingredient and is often combined with other starchy vegetables like green bananas and sweet potatoes.

The salted meat provides a rich and savory flavor, while coconut milk adds a creamy and tropical touch. Hot peppers, cloves of garlic, and pimento peppers are commonly used to add heat and depth of flavor to the dish.

In Trinidad and Tobago, the ingredients for oil down are similar, but there may be some variations in the spices and method of preparation. The cooking process involves layering the ingredients in a pot, starting with the meat, then the breadfruit and other vegetables, and finally, coconut milk. The dish is then simmered over medium-low heat until the flavors meld together and the ingredients are tender.

For those looking for vegetarian or alternative versions of oil down, there are substitutes available for the traditional ingredients. See the substitution section below.

Traditional main ingredients for oil down

Now you're ready to embark on a culinary journey. Oil Down is a must-try dish that encapsulates the flavors of the islands. To prepare this mouthwatering delight, you'll need a treasure trove of traditional ingredients to create a flavorful and satisfying dish.

Traditionally, oil down includes the following:

Ingredients needed to make Trinidad Oil down recipe.

1. Breadfruit: The star ingredient of oil down, breadfruit is a starchy fruit that adds a unique texture and flavor to the dish. A large breadfruit is usually cut into wedges or large chunks and used as the base of the dish.

2. Salted Meat: Salt meat is a key component of oil down, providing a savory and salty flavor. Typically, salted pig tails, saltfish, smoked turkey, or salted beef are used, but you can use any type of salted meat available. These give your oil down its rich, savory essence.

3. Coconut Milk: A creamy and tropical addition, coconut milk is used to bring richness to the dish. You will need a few cups of coconut milk to create the desired consistency.

4. Vegetables: In addition to breadfruit, oil down often includes other vegetables such as green bananas, sweet potatoes, carrots, and even pumpkin. These add variety and color to the dish.

5. Spices: Garlic, hot peppers, pimento peppers, black pepper, green seasoning, and other spices are used to add heat and depth of flavor to the oil down. (Adjust the quantity according to your preference.

These ingredients can be customized to suit your taste and dietary preferences, allowing you to create a unique version of this beloved Caribbean dish.

Preparing the recipe

Now, onto the main event! Prepare to be transported to the islands as we walk you through the steps of creating a memorable Oil Down:

1. Prep the Ingredients: Peel and cut the breadfruit and green banana into chunks. Place them in a large bowl, cover with water, and set aside till ready for use. Finely chop up your seasonings.

Cut up breadfruit and green banana soaking in water.

2. Cook the Salted Meat: There are two ways to get your salted meat ready. You can boil the meats together, covered in water, till tender to reduce the saltiness. Or place them in your Instant Pot, covered with water for 20 minutes. Discard most of the water but save 1/2 cup of the liquid for later use.

Salted meat for oil down being put to pressure and de salt.

3. Build the Layers: In a large pot, on medium heat, add a bit of coconut oil and saute your onion, garlic, and scallion until the onion is opaque. Add in the meats and saute for another 2 - 3 minutes. Add the cubed breadfruit, along with the green figs and cassava, to the pot and combine.

Salted meat being sauted with fresh herbs then covered with the bread fruit and green banana.

4. Add coconut milk: Pour your cups coconut milk over the layers until they are covered along with 1/2 cup of the hot water used to boil the salted meat.

Layering of coconut milk and fresh herbs over salted meat.

5. Simmer: Add in the rest of the ingredients: chadon beni, celery, all-purpose seasoning, carrots, scotch bonnet pepper, and green seasoning. Cover the pot and bring everything to a rolling boil. Then lower to a simmer until the breadfruit is tender and has absorbed the flavors (usually around 30-40 minutes). I don't like my oil down with too much liquid so I like it to be thick and the liquid coating my provisions.

Oil down simmered down where the coconut milk is coating the meats and provisions.

6. Serve Dish out this fragrant masterpiece onto plates, making sure each serving contains a bit of every layer. Garnish with a sprinkle of fresh herbs like fresh thyme or additional hot peppers for an extra kick.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are a few important things to note so that you can enjoy this dish and make it your own.

Serving suggestions for oil down

Oil Down is a communal dish meant to be enjoyed with family and friends. Serve it up with a side of pickled vegetables or a fresh salad for a balanced meal.  But while it is a complete meal on its own, you can also serve it with a side of rice, or bread if you prefer a heartier option. The choice is yours!

Substitutions ingredients for oil down

Now that we've got our treasure map, let's explore some alternative ingredients that can be substituted for those traditional ingredients.

Dumplings: Not really a common ingredient but you can make some small round ones and add them to the dish. These delightful morsels are optional but highly recommended.

Breadfruit Alternatives: Depending on where you live breadfruit might be difficult to find. If that's the case you can still make some oil down. Just use green bananas, with yams and cassava or pumpkin or even plantain as the key ingredient. They will provide a similar starchy texture as the breadfruit does. 

Salted meat substitutes: Any other salt meat. I've used smoked turkey and salt beef. I know some people who use salted fish. They all offer a smoky, salty flavor. Or if you aren't a meat eater, you can omit the meat totally or try with some tofu or tempeh for a vegetarian twist.

Coconut milk options: Canned coconut milk which is widely available and convenient or coconut cream which is a richer, creamier option for a luxurious Oil Down.

Seasoning variations: Use ground spices if fresh ones are not available. Adjust the amount of hot peppers to suit your spice tolerance. 

Additionally, vegetable oil or coconut oil can be used as a substitute for the excess salt and fat found in traditional oil-down recipes.

With these substitutions in your back pocket, you're ready to set sail for a delicious adventure!


So there you have it, the secrets to making a mouthwatering Oil Down – the Caribbean way.

It's a dish that brings people together, creating memories and smiles around the table.

Now, go forth and cook up some island magic in your own kitchen!

And here are some more one-pot meals: