Uncover the Intriguing Facts about Green Figs and Saltfish: St Lucia’s National Dish

Last updated on May 30th, 2024 at 11:14 am

Green Figs and Saltfish, a dish that’s as intriguing as its name. This culinary delight is the national dish of St Lucia, an island nation in the Caribbean. It’s a simple yet flavorful combination of green bananas (figs) and salted codfish.

The dish is deeply rooted in St. Lucian culture. Its history, preparation process, and variations across the island reflect the rich heritage of this tropical paradise.

Our team at Remitly created this guide as part of our series that celebrates the traditional foods of our global customers. Let’s dive in.

The History of Green Figs and Saltfish in St Lucia

Green Figs and Saltfish has been a staple in St. Lucian households for centuries, representing the island’s cultural and culinary heritage. This dish combines the abundant local green bananas, known as ‘figs,’ with flavorful salted fish.

The use of green bananas dates back to pre-colonial times, when indigenous people cultivated them on fertile volcanic soil.

Salted cod became part of the diet during colonial times. Imported from North Atlantic countries like Norway and Canada, it was preserved with salt to withstand long sea voyages. Over time, these two ingredients were combined to create what we now know as Green Figs and Saltfish.

Its sustained popularity is not only due to its interplay of textures and flavors but also because of the availability and affordability of its ingredients, making it a nutritious and accessible choice for numerous households.

Ingredients Used in Green Figs and Saltfish

The main ingredients are green bananas and salted cod. But there’s more to this dish than just figs and fish. A medley of other components adds depth to its flavor profile.

Onions, bell peppers, garlic, thyme—these are often used for sautéing the fish. Some cooks add tomatoes for a bit of tanginess while others prefer hot peppers for a spicy kick. Each ingredient plays its part in creating a harmonious blend of flavors that make Green Figs and Saltfish so loved.

Recipe for Green Figs and Saltfish

This recipe serves four people. It’s a simple, straightforward way to prepare this traditional St Lucian dish at home.


  • 8 green bananas
  • 1 pound of salted cod
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 bell pepper, diced
  • A handful of fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 tomatoes, chopped (optional)
  • Hot peppers to taste (optional)
  • Oil for sautéing


  1. Start by soaking the salted cod in water overnight, or boil it for about an hour to remove excess salt.
  2. While the fish is soaking or boiling, peel the green bananas and put them in a pot of boiling water. Cook until they’re tender but not mushy—about 20 minutes.
  3. Drain the bananas and set them aside.
  4. Rinse the soaked or boiled fish under cold water, then flake it into small pieces.
  5. Heat oil in a pan over medium heat and sauté onions, garlic, bell pepper, and thyme until they’re soft.
  6. Add the flaked fish to the pan along with tomatoes and hot peppers if using. Sauté everything together until well combined.
  7. Finally, add cooked bananas to the pan and gently mix them with other ingredients, ensuring they don’t break apart too much.
  8. Serve hot as is or with a side salad.

The Cooking Process of Green Figs and Saltfish

Preparing this dish involves several steps, but none are too complicated for even novice cooks to handle. First is boiling the green bananas until they’re tender but not mushy—a delicate balance that requires careful attention.

Meanwhile, the salted cod needs soaking or boiling to remove excess saltiness before it’s sautéed with the other ingredients. Once everything is cooked to perfection, the bananas and fish are combined, resulting in a dish that’s both hearty and satisfying.

Variations of the Dish Across St Lucia

While Green Figs and Saltfish is a national favorite, its preparation varies across St Lucia. In some parts of the island, coconut milk is added for a creamy twist. Others might include local vegetables like christophene or dasheen leaves.

These variations reflect the diversity of St Lucian cuisine. They show how each community adds its unique touch to this beloved dish while staying true to its essence.

How Green Figs and Saltfish Reflects St Lucian Identity

Green Figs and Saltfish isn’t just food—it’s a symbol of St Lucian identity. It tells a story of resilience, creativity, and cultural fusion that mirrors the island’s history.

Green bananas show indigenous agricultural practices, while salted cod represents colonial influences. The way these elements come together in one dish speaks volumes about St Lucia’s ability to adapt and innovate over time.

Occasions for Serving Green Figs and Saltfish

This dish isn’t reserved for special occasions—it’s enjoyed any day of the week. However, it holds a place of honor during national celebrations like Independence Day, when locals pay tribute to their heritage through food.

Whether it’s served at family gatherings or community events, Green Figs and Saltfish brings people together. It’s more than just sustenance—a shared experience that strengthens social bonds.

Comparisons with Similar Dishes from Other Countries

Green Figs and Saltfish shares similarities with dishes from other Caribbean nations—acknowledging common culinary traditions within this region. For instance, Jamaica has “Ackee & Saltfish”, where ackee fruit replaces green bananas.

However, each country puts its spin on these dishes—making them distinct yet interconnected pieces of Caribbean cuisine. This diversity is a testament to the region’s rich cultural tapestry.

Personal Stories Related to Green Figs and Saltfish

Every St Lucian has a story about Green Figs and Saltfish. For some, it’s memories of watching their grandmother prepare it in the kitchen. For others, enjoying this dish after a long day at work is the comfort of enjoying it.

These personal narratives add another layer to the significance of Green Figs and Saltfish. They show how food can evoke emotions, trigger memories, and connect us to our roots—making every bite an intimate journey through time and space.

The Broader Cuisine of St Lucia

St Lucian cuisine is a vibrant blend of indigenous Carib influences mixed with African, East Indian, and French flavors—reflecting its diverse cultural history.

Staple Foods

Root vegetables like yams, dasheen (taro), and sweet potatoes are staples in St Lucian diet along with rice and peas—a common pairing across Caribbean cuisines.


Being an island nation, seafood is a significant part of St Lucian cuisine. Fresh fish, lobster, conch—these are often grilled, stewed, or curried and served with local vegetables.

Fruits and Vegetables

St Lucia’s tropical climate allows for various fruits and vegetables to thrive. Mangoes, pineapples, guavas, coconuts—they’re used in everything from salads to desserts.


Spices play a crucial role in St Lucian cooking. Nutmeg, cinnamon, bay leaves—these are commonly used along with hot peppers that add heat to many dishes.

Traditional Dishes

Apart from Green Figs and Saltfish, other traditional dishes include Bouyon—a hearty stew made with meat (usually chicken or pork), root vegetables and dumplings; Accra—a fried fish cake; Lambi—a spicy conch dish; and Cocoa Tea—a warm beverage made with local cocoa.

St Lucian cuisine is as diverse as its people. It’s a culinary journey that takes you through different cultures while offering unique flavors at every turn.

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