Ackee & Saltfish: Cooking with Jamaica’s Most Controversial Fruit

‘Rona has forced me re-evaluate the purpose of Adventures from Elle, the kind of content I want to produce and how I want to engage with my small but vibrant community going forward. I started this blog in December 2016 to inspire and show others, mainly locals, how to explore my beautiful island home of Jamaica on a budget. Traveling off-the-beaten-path in Jamaica and writing about those experiences has grown my love and appreciation of Jamaica and our culture, introduced me to a loving positive community of local, regional and international bloggers, given me some memorable experiences I wouldn’t have had otherwise, grown my confidence, nurtured my creativity and developed into a hobby I thoroughly enjoy.

Three years later, my life is different. I renewed my passport, and can afford to travel overseas perhaps annually or biennially like I did to Trinidad and Tobago last December. My blog has changed too– I have four blog posts about a country other than my own and I will continue to document my overseas adventures in the future here too. More than half of my readers are now non-Jamaican, so my blog now serves not only as inspiration and valuable travel information, but also as some of my readers’ only exposure to Jamaican culture. Thus, I have to create content which is not just applicable for Jamaicans. There are common everyday things my Jamaican readers may not care to read about but it will appeal to others. I want my blog to become a treasure trove of all things Jamaica, our natural beauty, food and way of life, in addition to the overseas experiences I will also share from time to time. I also wanted to share more of my life, my personal experiences and opinions on my blog– somehow I felt as if despite writing more often than I did in the past, I was doing less of that. I’m doing away with trying to stick with a schedule too. You’ll see me when you see me, but I’ll try to make that often. Most importantly, I don’t ever want blogging to feel like “work.”

Anyway, for those reasons, I’m here to talk about the Jamaican national dish of ackee and saltfish today. Last week a friend shared a picture of his lunch with me consisting of ackee and saltfish with boiled food (yam, dumplings etc.). The green eyed monster paid a visit as I stared at the picture for a few seconds longer than I cared to let him know. I realized I hadn’t had ackee in months, let alone ackee and saltfish. I don’t see any ackee trees or ackees selling in Mandeville, and it’s not on the menu of the restaurants I know. I longed for this delicious misunderstood fruit unique to Jamaica, I thought of how the saltfish I had in my fridge for a month would be the perfect accompaniment then shrugged and moved on with life. Then this happened!

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A coworker of mine went home last weekend to visit her family in rural St. Andrew. She came back with a huge bag of the stuff and made my day by offering me a little over a dozen. I couldn’t wait to come home to make my ackee and saltfish, and I decided I’d write a whole blog post to savour the memory and share this interesting controversial DELICIOUS fruit and dish with you all.

Ackee, a small misunderstood red pear-shaped fruit which splits when ripe to reveal 3 yellow arils with black shiny seeds.

The unripened fruit, its seeds and arils contain the hypoglycin A and B toxins. These two molecules are converted in the body to a potent poison which depletes blood glucose levels to the point of hypoglycemia, causing a condition called known in medical literature as “Jamaican vomiting sickness” and even coma and death. However, I’ve scarcely heard of anyone coming down with these symptoms or even dying from ackee poisoning. Why? Every Jamaican knows never to pick the unripened fruit and how to safely prepare the ripe ones.

Funny enough, we call ackee a fruit yet it requires cooking, and its nutrient composition is mostly fats. In fact, the US FDA lists ackee under fats and oils as a food group.

Nutritional value of ackee Content of a 100g serving of Ackee ...

It’s safe to say that ackee is easily the world’s most controversial fruit!

Here is my step-by-step pictorial on how to safely prepare ackee and Jamaica’s national dish. You need not fear the ackee!

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Ripe ackee fruit
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An ackee pod opened to expose the yellow arils and black seeds
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Ackee removed from the pod
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Gently twist and remove the poisonous seed
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This red thing inside the aril has to go. It’s poisonous too. Sometimes you may need a knife to help remove it but it’s usually easy to get out.
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The red thing removed
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Keep going…
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..Until you are on your last fruit. (Yes I sat on my kitchen floor doing this)
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Fill a large pot with water, and add your ackees to boil until soft but not mushy. I like adding some garlic cloves to the water for flavour.
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Discard the water in which you boiled the ackee. Do NOT boil any other food along with your ackee, and do not reuse the water.. It’s filled with whatever hypoglycin the ripe fruit had remaining.
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Simultaneously prepare your saltfish. I try to soak overnight then boil to remove most of the salt, then run cool water over it, scale, then flake and fillet.
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I didn’t soak my saltfish overnight, so I left the flaked saltfish in some water to remove the excess remaining salt until I was ready to make the ackee & saltfish.
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Here I have some onions caramelizing in soybean oil.
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Add your saltfish then your ackee and some seasonings e.g. thyme, and simmer for a few minutes

Ackee goes well with nearly everything! Disclaimer: We usually add more than onions and thyme but that’s all the seasoning I had at home, folks! It also calls for diced tomatoes, sweet pepper, scotch bonnet pepper and even black pepper, but I had to use cayenne pepper instead as a poor substitute.

Wrap Up

I hope you enjoyed this pictorial. I may do it again someday to continue sharing more of home with you. Thanks for stopping by, and stay safe!

‘Til next time, walk good! 👣

P.s. I’m only three clicks away from ONE THOUSAND WordPress subscribers so if you’re reading this and have a WordPress account, don’t forget to hit follow. 🙂 Also, check out amazingackee.com for dozens of other ways to enjoy this lovely fruit.


Until the next blog, catch Elle on Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram.

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Rochelle | Adventuresfromelle

Adventures from Elle is a blog for locals & visitors who want to experience the best of Jamaica, one adventure at a time. Also a budget travel blog, Adventures from Elle is written by Rochelle Knight, a junior doctor who began this blog as a student & wants to see the world, starting with her own country. She frequents off-the-beaten-path waterfalls, beaches and places with interesting history. Join her in Jamaica!

38 thoughts on “Ackee & Saltfish: Cooking with Jamaica’s Most Controversial Fruit

  1. Elle, your article on preparing Ackees was really well written. Thanks for the tips. I do have one question which I can’t seem to find any comments on. “If Ackees fall off the tree when still closed but then open naturally on the ground, are they safe to be used?”

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow didn’t know that ackee had that much prep to it.

    Fun fact I’ve tried ackee once and didn’t like it. Never tried it again. Can’t even blame it being from a can because it came from Jamaica. And what’s weird is that I like a lot of Jamaican dishes, including salt fish. Just not ackee

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Ackee and saltfish is one of my prefered dishes, when I feel “homesick”. But we can’t get fresh ackee here, so I use canned fruits. With this pictorial I feel well equiped to make ackee and saltfish from scratch, if we are next time in Jamaica. And if I should have any questions, I will call you 😁 Thank you so much!

    Liked by 1 person

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