From spicy rice dishes to perfectly seasoned oxtail and mouth-watering Ethiopian chicken stew—these tasty dishes will warm your spirits.
Toronto is home to a rich diversity of African and Caribbean populations and with that comes really really good food.
Follow your nose to Eglinton West and Little Jamaica, and you’ll see jerk chicken smoking on a steel drum, or to The Danforth where you’ll get pulled by the aromas of the multi-layered spice blends from Little Ethiopia.
In Toronto, you can find the most authentic traditional stews and dishes from around the world that make eating in the city my favourite adventure. In the cooler months, my go-to dishes are warm, flavourful comfort foods that keep me satiated throughout the day.
Try a new spice, head out to a new restaurant, and maybe even eat with your hands. I promise you will be surprised by how tasty and rewarding this experience will be.
Here are six dishes from the African and Caribbean diaspora that you can enjoy here in Toronto’s diverse restaurant scene. These comfort foods are bound to become some of your new favourite eats.
An oldie but a goodie, it’s hard to imagine living in Toronto and not hearing about this deliciously tender, fall-off-the-bone oxtail stew.
Dripping in a rich gravy packed with flavour, it makes for a heartwarming meal any time of the year, but it’s especially comforting in the cooler months. This dish takes quite a bit of time and expertise to make well, so when you get a plate of oxtail be sure to savour every bite!
Toronto has no shortage of excellent Caribbean restaurants that serve oxtail, but my favourite of them is Simone’s Caribbean Restaurant.
Steps away from Pape and Danforth, from the moment you step foot into Simone’s, you’re greeted with bright, vibrant colours of summer and aromas that’ll make you salivate. It has a warm, welcoming, bright atmosphere and prides itself on authenticity.
What to order: Order the oxtail dinner with rice and peas, extra gravy (a must) and coleslaw plus fried plantain and some of Simone’s special housemade hot sauce. Feeling extra hungry? Add a side festival or go for something sweet, like the Jamaican banana fritters.
There’s stew, and then there’s doro wot. This is no ordinary stew, it holds a special place in Ethiopian culture—so much so that it’s the national dish of Ethiopia.
Usually reserved for special occasions, doro wot which translates to chicken stew, is slow-cooked for several hours and requires a lengthy process of onion caramelization plus lots of Berbere spice and boiled eggs. It’s made with a rich clarified butter infused with special spices unique to the region that elevates the flavour of any dish it’s cooked in.
Fortunately, you don’t have to wait for a special celebration to try doro wot! This coveted dish is a mainstay on the menu of any authentic Ethiopian or Eritrean restaurant.
Personally, I love the doro wot at Rendezvous on The Danforth. This restaurant offers delicious eats in a cozy atmosphere packed with Ethiopian cultural art and staples.
What to order: I recommend the doro wot with aib, a soft house-made cheese that resembles feta. It comes served on a bed of injera, a spongy flatbread that you will use to collect and grab the stew. If you’re dining in, you must follow it up with traditional spiced tea with a splash of milk.
Comforting, sweet, hearty and flavourful, what better way to start your day than with a bowl of heartwarming porridge? If you ever have the opportunity to have Caribbean porridge, you’ll understand why it is so loved across the islands.
One of my favourite porridges is Jamaican almond porridge. It consists of almond nuts, nutmeg, and cinnamon cooked in a mélange of the most flavourful kinds of milk: coconut milk, condensed milk, and evaporated milk.
Rich, thick, creamy and super warm, this porridge can be enjoyed any time of the day. My favourite place to get this and any porridge is Souperlicious.
They specialize in Jamaican soups and porridge with a wide variety of flavours including banana, peanut, and corn but be warned, this hot spot usually has a line out the door. Those who know, know it is that good.
See also: 10 Local Picks for Comfort Food in Toronto
What to order: Grab the almond porridge with fried dumplings or other Jamaican pastries like coconut drops on the side if you have a sweet tooth like me. A great pairing to this porridge is some nourishing fresh smoothies or Caribbean classic drinks like sorrel.
This traditional Ghanaian dish is a carb lover’s dream. Waakye consists of a delicious and unique spread of flavourful rice and black-eyed peas cooked with dried red sorghum leaves that give it its rich colour alongside a variety of toppings & sides.
The accompaniments can include everything from stew, or shitto (a Ghanaian pepper sauce that is flavoured with dried fish), spaghetti, garri (dried cassava), kelewele (spicy fried ripe plantains) and boiled egg. It is also often paired with a protein like fried fish.
It’s a lot! But each condiment and addition makes for a loaded rice dish with a delicious and complex blend of flavours and textures in each bite. My favourite spot for a waakye feast is African Chop Bar, a friendly takeout restaurant in North York.
What to order: Waakye is a filling meal on its own, but I recommend grabbing a side of sobolo, a spiced hibiscus tea made with fresh pineapple and boflot (a fried dough, similar to a beignet) for a sweet end to a tasty meal.
Across the Caribbean, there’s a wide range of tasty soups and stews but one that stands out for me because of its unique taste and texture is Haitian legume.
This dish is not your average stew. Instead, it is super thick and consists of a well-balanced mixture of stewed beef cooked with cabbage, chayote squash, eggplant, greens and a variation of other root vegetables depending on where you go.
The way in which this stew is cooked down leads to a more concentrated flavour and deliciousness in every bite. A great place to grab legume is Rhum Corner, a cozy and laidback restaurant on Dundas West that serves Haitian fare and strong cocktails.
What to order: If you’re dining in, get the legume plate which comes with sauce pois (a creamy black bean and coconut sauce) and white jasmine rice alongside some popular Haitian snacks like banane frites (twice-fried plantains) and pikliz (a spicy pickled slaw). Don’t leave without trying one of Rhum Corner’s cocktails or Caribbean sodas on the side.
A staple at Caribbean carnivals and fetes, corn soup is a comfort dish that can bring on the carnival vibes all year round.
Corn soup has many different ingredients depending on who’s making it, but some staple components include warm island spices and ingredients like thyme and scotch bonnet pepper, large pieces of corn on the cob, and lots of vegetables in a flavour-packed yellow broth.
My favourite part is the spinners, the chewy dumplings in the soup that absorb all the delicious flavours. This corn soup hits the spot and warms you up without being too heavy.
One of my favourite places to grab corn soup is Shola Vegan, a takeout shop which serves a mashup of Caribbean vegan cuisine alongside East African vegan dishes and ingredients. I love that you can pop in for a meal to-go and shop for hard-to-find Afro-Caribbean staples too.
What to order: Pick up a cup of corn soup and one of Shola’s vegan thali plates if you’re hungry! It includes everything from jerk soy to curry chickpeas and rice. Want to feel like you’re on the islands? Grab a freshly cut coconut for a refreshing drink to enjoy alongside their famous corn soup!