Cou Cou from Barbados: The Barbadian National Dish

Barbadian Cou Cou served with Fish and Okra

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Cou Cou is a Barbadian dish most often served with the Barbadian national food, flying fish. It slightly resembles grits or polenta, and consists of cornmeal, water, butter, spices, and okra. It is a great side dish to accompany fish and vegetables!

Cornmeal, okra, water, butter, spices… That’s all you need to make Barbadian Cou Cou. The Cou Cou is served as a side dish in Barbados, most often as an accompaniment to Flying Fish. It forms a thick porridge– think grits or polenta– and often accompanies fish and veggies as a yummy and healthy side dish!

Quite frankly, I was a bit nervous to make this Cou Cou after the whole…. Funje from Angola fiasco. I gotta tell you…. this recipe is far better.

Barbadian Cou Cou on plate

A Flying Fish Fiasco

I really wanted to make Flying Fish (the national dish of Barbados) this week to go with my Cou Cou, but, again, as I’m sure you’re familiar with by now… I live in the Midwest. And the midwest, though great in many lays, lacks in its impeccable access to Caribbean sea creatures. There was no flying fish to be found. In fact, when I called local fish markets to ask, a very typical response was “I’ve never even heard of that.” If you can find flying fish near you, leave a comment on this page, because now I’m curious as to if it’s available within the US at all.

(PS, in place of Flying Fish, I tried making Barbadian Bakes. These were phenomenal and were such a treat in our house. Click the link here to get the recipe).

When I researched recipes, I found a few that really complicated things. They said that you need to cook the cornmeal for 90 minutes in order to get the right consistency. But soon, I found and adapted a couple of recipes that quickened up the process. Instead of adding the water a little at a time, I added it all at once. From there, the mixture cooked for about 20 minutes, and it was ready! I’m proud to say that my recipe for this Cou Cou is soooo easy.

Close up of okra with Barbadian Cou Cou in the background

Testing and Serving Your Cou Cou

The best way to know of the Cou Cou is ready is the spoon test. First, the Cou Cou has to be thick enough that if you scrape it away from the sides of the pan, it stays there. Then, take the wooden spoon that you have been cooking with and stick it straight up in the middle of the Cou Cou. If the spoon does not fall over and you can remove it easily, your Cou Cou is ready to be enjoyed!

Now butter the inside of a small bowl and mould the mixture inside. Turn the bowl over onto a serving dish and let the Cou Cou drop out onto the plate. You’ll have a beautifully formed side dish ready to be enjoyed. To enjoy our Cou Cou, I also made some herb-crusted cod and a side of stove top okra and onions. This is NEVER something that I would eat on a normal day, but Barbados forced us to try new things (as these countries usually do)! And I had this meal as a leftover work lunch for three days in a row after that.

If you liked this recipe, you should also try Shandesh, a dessert cheese from Bangladesh or Muhammar, a sweet rice from Bahrain. If you make Cou Cou, take a photo and share it on Facebook and Instagram by tagging @TheForeignFork or hashtagging #TheForeignFork. Thanks for stopping by, friends! See you next week for Belarus.

Cou Cou (Barbados)

Cou Cou is a Barbadian dish most often served with the Barbadian national food, flying fish. It slightly resembles grits or polenta, and consists of cornmeal, water, butter, spices, and okra. It is a great side dish to accompany fish and vegetables! 

Course Side Dish
Cook Time 35 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes
Servings 8 servings


  • 1 cup water plus more for boiling
  • 1 cup coarse ground cornmeal
  • 4 okra pods
  • 1/2 tsp thyme
  • 1/2 tsp marjoram
  • 3 tbsp butter plus more for serving
  • 1 tsp salt plus more to taste


  1. Cut the ends off of the okra pods.

  2. Boil about 6 cups of water. Once boiling, add the okra pods and continue to boil for ten minutes. After ten minutes, remove the okra pods and reserve two cups of the boiling water. Keep the 2 cups of boiling water on the stove at a low boil. 

  3. Mix cornmeal and 1 cup cold water together. Add mixture to the two cups of boiling water. Add seasoning and mix to combine. 

  4. After four minutes, add 3 tbsp of butter. Mix until the mixture becomes stiff (about twenty or so minutes). You will know when the Cou Cou is complete when you remove it from the sides of the pan and it sticks in place. You can also do the spoon test. If you stick a wooden spoon into the middle of the Cou Cou and it does not fall over (and is fairly easy to remove), the Cou Cou is ready. 

  5. To serve, take a single serving dish and rub with melted butter. Form the Cou Cou into the dish, then turn the dish over onto the dinner plate, leaving a mound of Cou Cou! Enjoy! 

Recipe Notes

Recipe copyright The Foreign Fork. For personal or professional use only. 

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5 thoughts on “Cou Cou from Barbados: The Barbadian National Dish

    1. Hi Chantal,
      Your comment made me so happy because that is exactly what I want with this blog! I’m so happy to hear that my recipes remind you of home. Thank you for commenting!

    1. Aw that means so much! I really appreciate that! I spend a lot of time researching for my blog posts, so it means so much to me that that stands out to you

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