A Guide to Callaloo in Caribbean Cuisine

Differing Takes on Callaloo Depending on the Caribbean Country

Callaloo. Callaloo by Shiv CC BY 2.0

Callaloo is the name used in the Caribbean to refer to the large green leaves of the taro, dasheen, tannia, amaranth, or yautia root. The Caribbean country you are in, determines which vegetable is used as "callaloo." In most preparations, it is cooked as you would prepare turnip or collard greens.

In the U.S., it is often difficult to get the leafy green readily, so it is common to use spinach as a substitute.

Also, callaloo can go by the name bhajgee (bah-gee).

Callaloo refers to a vegetable, and it is the name of a very popular soup-like stew made in Trinidad and Tobago. Trinidadians, Grenadians, and Dominicans primarily use taro or dasheen bush for callaloo, although Dominicans also use water spinach. Jamaicans, Belizeans, and Guyanese use amaranth. The callaloo made in Jamaica is different from the callaloo made in Trinidad and Tobago, Grenada, the Virgin Islands, and Guadeloupe.

Callaloo as a Vegetable

In a large country such as Guyana, callaloo gets complicated because the country boasts a variety of this leafy greens which are collectively referred to as callaloo. For example, Chinese bok choy can sometimes be marked and sold as a type of callaloo.

Many markets and supermarkets sell the callaloo already picked from its stalks and bagged in 1-pound packages.

In large open-air markets such as those in Trinidad and Tobago and Guyana, callaloo is sold on the stalks and in bundles.

Each bundle consists of anywhere from four to six stalks of callaloo. 

You will need to purchase four to six bundles to yield 1 pound of callaloo once the leaves are removed from the stalks.

Often callaloo is cooked down and eaten as a side dish or a sauce with many meals.

Callaloo as Soup or Stew

It is believed callaloo stew is native to the slaves and emigrants from West Africa.

Now, most countries in the Caribbean have their own versions of a callaloo soup or stew, incorporating indigenous vegetables into the pot. For example, Dominica is very famous for its crab and callaloo soup.

Other versions of callaloo include coconut milk, okra, yams, chiles, lime juice, and some type of protein including crab, beef, pork, fish, seafood like crab and bacalao or salt fish.

The resulting thick, chunky soup is often served with fried or sticky dumplings like spinners (a type of Caribbean dumpling), easy flour dumplings, or cornmeal dumplings.

Callaloo Is Good for You

Like other leafy green vegetables, callaloo leaves are packed with nutritional benefits. The leaves contain large amounts of vitamins A, B, and C and are high in fiber, iron, and calcium. While fresh leaves provide the most nutritional bang for your buck, canned callaloo still has great nutritional benefits.

How to Purchase Callaloo in the States

Fresh callaloo can be purchased online from several outlets. It also is grown in many parts of the southern United States and can be found in some grocery stores and farmer's markets.

If you have a green thumb and live in a temperate to hot climate, you can try growing your own callaloo from seeds.