In Memory Of Karen Nicole Smith, 1972 - 2016

Trinidad Callaloo Recipe, The True Spirit Of The Islands.

trinidad callaloo (Copy)
What would Sunday lunch (the biggest meal of the week on the islands) be without a healthy serving of Callaloo, rice, stew chicken, macaroni pie and slices of fried plantains? Not to be confused with Jamaican callaloo, callaloo is an actual dish and it’s not made from the bush/plant that our Jamaican friends call callaloo. The main ingredient in our callaloo dish is the tender baby leaves of the dasheen plant (also called dasheen bush) or in my case (couldn’t find dasheen leaves) I used tender baby spinach. Living in North America means there are times when we must find substitutes for traditional ingredients used in many of our dishes as it’s hard to source the ingredients normally used.

Though the recipe I’m about to share with you is not the traditional way of making callaloo, you’ll find that it’s very tasty, similar in texture and appearance to the real deal.

You’ll Need

2 cans (400 ml) coconut milk
Water (see below for amount)
6 cloves garlic
2 lbs Spinach (baby leaves work best)
1 lb ochro (okra)
1/2 onion sliced
2 crabs (split into 2 pieces each)
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
3 sprigs of thyme
1 green habanero or scotch bonnet pepper (add any pepper you like)
1 teaspoon Goldenray butter (optional but makes a big difference)

Important: If doing this recipe gluten free please go through the entire list of ingredients to make sure they meet with your specific gluten free diet.

Before we get to the actual steps in making the callaloo I must mention that if you can’t source (like me) tender dasheen leaves, it’s important that you not use ordinary spinach leaves, but do try to get baby spinach. Not only is it tender, but it’s not as strong in flavour as normal spinach. Regular spinach may over-power the dish and you won’t achieve that wonderful taste that a good callaloo will have. I must also mention that crab meat or imitation crab will not give it the true unique savoriness as would actual crab in the shell.

Start by placing a deep pot on a medium heat and pour the 2 cans of coconut milk into it, then using one of the cans, add 2 cans of water as well (so you have 4 cans of liquid in the pot). As it comes to a boil, wash the spinach leaves and start adding to the pot. If it’s fresh harvested spinach, you may have to rinse a few times as they can have a lot of dirt/sand between the leaves.

callaloo ingredients

coconut milk for callaloo

recipe for trini callaloo

how to make trinidad callaloo

It will seem that all the spinach will not fit in the pot at the start, but as it wilts in the hot liquid you’ll have tons of room. The next step is to wash and trim the ochro (okra) by removing the stems and discarding. Then slice each one into 1 inch pieces (see pic below). Add the sliced onions, garlic, ochro and hot pepper. Leave the hot pepper whole at this point. You can also add the salt, thyme and blackpepper to the mixture.

trini callaloo

cooking callaloo

Cover the pot, bring the heat down low to a gentle simmer and allow to cook for about 1 hour or until everything is tender and starts to melt together. Be sure to stir every 15 minutes or so and check to ensure that it’s not sticking at the bottom of the pot. This will be an indication that your heat is too high.

trini callaloo recipe

Now that it’s been cooking for 1 hr, it’s time to add the crab to the pot. I usually season it a bit first with some green seasoning and allow it to marinate for about 15 minutes before adding it to the pot with the callaloo. After you’ve added the seasoned crab (seasoning is optional) allow the callaloo to cook for another 15 minutes.

seasoned crab for callaloo

The final step is to break everything down. Luckily enough I have a swizzle stick (wooden one) that someone from the islands sent for me a few years back. If you don’t have one you can use either a whisk or one of those electric puree sticks. If you are using an electric one, I suggest you pulse a few times and not use a continuous action or it will make the callaloo very foamy and it can harm the finished product.

If you’re using a whisk, simply whisk until everything is broken down into a soup like consistency. Before you whisk you can remove the pepper (remember I mentioned to put it in whole) if you’re worried about the heat content.

Trinidad callaloo

Trinidad callaloo recipe

The very final step is to add the GoldenRay butter, stir it around and turn off the heat. Enjoy!

crab and callaloo

Side Note:There are many variations of cooking this classic Trinbagonian dish, but I assure you this is a great start that you can customize as you get better at preparing it.

* From the recipe above you should have enough left over to freeze and enjoy at a later time. Just pour into a freezer style bowl and it usually last a couple months in the freezer. To thaw, all you have to do is empty the contents of the bowl into a pot with a couple tablespoons of water on very low heat and allow to melt. Or stick in the microwave.

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  1. Johanna
    January 29, 2021 / 6:31 am

    I keep coming back to this recipe. It is so comforting. Thanks for having this archival space. As I get older it means more and more to me. Bless.

  2. Amanda
    December 12, 2017 / 3:44 pm

    Hi, I’ll be making this for several “healthy” men with large appetites. How many would this serve?

  3. Red
    December 4, 2017 / 4:27 pm

    I tried this at a restaurant for the first time and loved it. I looked up the recipe and found yours. Made it for dinner and it was delicious!

  4. November 30, 2017 / 5:34 am

    That looks so yummy.

  5. Danielle
    January 14, 2017 / 7:17 am

    I used your recipe to make my first callaloo. Delicious! Thanks for sharing.

  6. Gloria
    April 11, 2015 / 12:48 am

    I cooked this recipe tonite for my sweetie. He LOVED it. It reminded him of Sunday’s dinner time back in Trinidad. I enjoyed cooking it for him and it taste wonderful. This is the second way I have cooked Callaloo for him. The other recipe was Callaloo and Swiss Chard, another GREAT dish.

    Thanks Chris

  7. TriniTexan
    March 3, 2014 / 2:48 pm

    I always look forward to the description of your childhood memories surrounding food; your comments relate to my childhood as well. As to my callaloo recipe, in addition to your ingredients, I substitute chicken or vegetable stock for the water; the Maggie Flavour d Pot pig tail; and of course pumpkin gives it the ideal consistency, taste and color. I try all your dessert recipes and am commended. Great Job!

  8. Sharon
    January 21, 2014 / 10:55 am

    Do you steam the crab first before cutting in half or do you cut up blue crab while it is alive still?

  9. Winston
    November 19, 2013 / 4:34 pm

    Yow..too much coconut milk, missing some pumpkin,(in T & T you can`t make a good callaloo without pumpkin), pimento peppers, two bandania leaves and a little Maggie all purpose. Pigtail substitute is ok but crab is the real deal.

  10. E J
    July 7, 2013 / 1:28 pm

    Way too much coconut milk. I make mine exactly like J.s even including the Maggi cube adds a little flavor to it. and mainly use pigtails cause I'm allergic to seafood but salt beef is also a good choice if you don't eat pork.

    Lydia…… Golden Ray butter is a flavored margarine used in Trinidad to add flavor to certain dishes.

    First time to website love your dishes, keep up the good work. I am going to make curry king fish tomorrow 🙂

  11. J.s.
    May 6, 2013 / 6:30 pm

    Hi Chris- as for me when I do my callaloo, I use both pigtails and crabs, also I do not use so much coconut milk. But my way I use pumpkin, the frozen creamed spinach, okra, scallions thyme, garlic, onion, a little ground clove, and a small piece of golden ray. And believe me everrrrrryyyyy one loves my dish. I also use a little pimento pepper, like two or three, sometimes a little ginger. But no one taste it. And one thing I forgot, I also through in a Maggie cube. So can try it and see if you like it.

  12. I-laloo
    March 12, 2013 / 4:54 am

    To much milk. Is ah dark green ting nuh!

  13. RYAN
    February 13, 2013 / 9:57 am

    Nice Recipe…. How's about turning up the volume… by adding some grated sweet potato, half pumpkin, one large carrot, 6 pimento peppers, one hot pepper, one chieve, celery ,2 sprigs of fine theme, 2 leaves of chadon beni and two cubes of chicken stock….. also we use dasheen bush instead of baby spinach… OHHH and the most secret ingredient… 1/4 cup of grated cheese….try it you will love it….

  14. lydia
    January 30, 2013 / 4:47 pm

    hello, chris i was just looking at the callaloo recipe. i would like to know what is goldenray butter? i leave in north carolina and i never heard of that. so please let me know. thank you.

  15. kellyann
    January 5, 2013 / 1:34 pm

    Can a pigtail be used as a substitute for the crab

  16. don
    December 26, 2012 / 5:05 am

    hello chis, nice bro…i made dis today, buh instead ah using de ponkin ah use 2 eddoes…it came out great!!! served wid bajan coo-coo and ah cucumber salad…

  17. Ikhlas
    November 28, 2012 / 2:10 pm

    Hey Chris, I have a question about making callaloo and stew chicken ahead of time. If it's just a couple of days, should I keep it in the fridge and just reheat on the stove? What's the best way to reheat the chicken so it's as close to fresh as you can get it? If you don't recommend cooking either in advance for a particular reason, let me know. I have a special someone coming to town and I wanted to surprise him 🙂

  18. warrenst
    July 3, 2012 / 5:18 pm

    hey Chris i was searching for bhaji rice cookup…..need to know how to prepare that thanks.

  19. Liddy
    May 5, 2012 / 1:11 pm

    Callaloo soup is a meal but you can make callaloo and saltfish to eat as a side dish,I live in Labrador so I can't get a lot of stuff you folk can get.

  20. AL
    March 31, 2012 / 1:07 am

    Too much coconut milk.

  21. natalie
    March 20, 2012 / 7:53 pm

    i never knew that you can make callaloo with spinige, but it looks good, it looks like the real callaloo

  22. Garth
    January 11, 2012 / 12:38 pm

    Hi Chris – can’t wait to try this out. We are having Caribbean night at our dinner club and I am making this along with Jamaican jerk marinaded pork loin (using your jerk marinade as well 🙂 )

    I have a simple question. We can’t really get crabs like you describe here in Minnesota, but we can get crab legs. What do you think about that as a substitute, and what quantity would you suggest? I suspect I would cut them into pieces to fit in the pot and then strip the crab meat out and dice it up before “swizzling” (note to self – get one of those swizzle sticks).

    Now if I could only find a source for Golden Ray here….

  23. kathy
    October 4, 2011 / 2:44 pm

    You can make a tasty callalloo without meat, just add two clove petals to Doonwati's recipe, small piece of golden ray buter,1 tsp ketchup and walla…. taste greattttttttttttttttttt

  24. Petra
    September 4, 2011 / 8:18 pm

    Thanks for the recipe, and to the person who suggested using pig tail instead of crabs. I have only tasted a little bit here and there of callaloo because I too am allergic to crabs. They've always made it with crabs at my house. 'will have to give it a try with pig tail. Is there any other meat you can use in there?

  25. Doonwati
    July 5, 2011 / 1:27 am

    Hi Chris, Nice recipes as usual, anyone who doesn't use Crab or meat can make the Callaloo without it. I'm Hindu and when we're fasting we don't use any kind of meat, Fish or Eggs and I do make Callaloo when I'm fasting, it taste very good without the Crab or meat. When I'm not fasting I make my Callaloo just as Chris's but I add a little piece of Pumpkin or Squash, Bellpepper and Carrots. Anytime I visit home (Trinidad) I always bring Dasheen Leaves, Chadon Benni, Trinidad cooking figs and Chataigne. If anyone is coming up to Toronto I ask them to bring me the same. Ok bye everyone.

  26. diane
    May 21, 2011 / 10:02 am

    Has anyone used eggplant in callaloo? I swear there was some in the dish served at the Wyndham St. Thomas and it was just delicious! Wish I had that recipe!

  27. Curtis Daivs
    August 1, 2010 / 2:13 pm

    too much milk though; it should be more green than white.

  28. Jeanne
    July 22, 2010 / 6:35 pm

    I'm allergic to crab, can i use another meat

    • Dawn
      July 22, 2010 / 9:39 pm

      My Mom always used pig tail. Assuming you eat meat that would be a good choice. I'd boil it first (with 2 rinses in fresh water) to remove most of the salt and cook the meat through.

  29. Candy
    July 6, 2010 / 9:27 pm

    hi i have an extremely simple recipe that never fails… first get one roll bush (it is dasheen that is in a rolled form), 8 ocroes, 3 cloves garlic, one medium onion, 4 pimentos, half pumpkin, chieve, celery and 3 leaves of theme, one pack coconut milk. Put one teaspoon oil in a pot(wait until it gets hot) add onion then garlic, saute, then add remaining ingredients. When dasheen bush is added last, put one cup water and one cup coconut milk. cover and allow to cook down for 20 mins (medium heat). add additional water if desired. when pumpkin is soft and crushed to the touch, callaloo is ready to be blended (blender is easist)

    • July 14, 2010 / 8:08 pm

      Thanks for sharing.. sounds easy enough to follow.

      happy cooking


    • carissa mohammed
      October 13, 2012 / 11:10 pm

      I cook my callaloo the same way…one difference…I add a carrot, cut in thin rings. I use electric hand blender instead of swizzle stick as I love it blended finer than traditional callaloo.

    • June 17, 2010 / 2:40 am

      So how did it turn out for you?

  30. Fred
    April 25, 2010 / 5:44 pm

    the tip about using the baby spinach was the best,I tried it and was almost like the real thing..thnx again…

    • June 17, 2010 / 2:39 am

      yea.. at first I used the normal spinach and found it very bitter and hard to break down into a good consistency. Now it's baby spinach all the way.

  31. April 12, 2010 / 5:26 pm

    There is nothing quite like a plate of rice with calalloo and stewed chicken!

    • April 18, 2010 / 12:04 am

      ENT! Gosh, i wish I had some now oui!

  32. Laurena
    January 4, 2010 / 8:59 am

    I really appreciate the time you take to post these recipes (with pictures) and the fact that u give more than just the basic steps..Most of my meals that I have made have been from following your instructions on this site…All the meals came out fantastic…I would just like to say thankyou!!!

    • April 18, 2010 / 12:04 am

      Thanks for stopping by Laurena and leaving your comments. be sure to keep coming back and trying more recipes. Your support is appreciated.

  33. Chris De La Rosa
    December 19, 2009 / 9:26 pm

    Dawn.. appreciated 🙂 Happy Holidays.

  34. Dawn
    December 19, 2009 / 4:54 pm

    Hi Chris. Next time I go to the Caribbean store I’d be happy to pick up some Dasheen Bush and ship to you in Canada. It would be my gift to you for the hard work you do on this site and for re-introducing me to the wonders of Caribbean cooking! JLMK. Happy holidays!

  35. Chris De La Rosa
    December 18, 2009 / 1:13 pm

    Dawn, thanks for taking the time to comment. If only I could get some fresh dasheen leaves. I did see some at a local “chinee” store, but they looked tough and bruised. I’m in the hunt for a nice bread fruit to cook on boxing day – big gala at my house for my moms bday.

  36. Dawn
    December 16, 2009 / 9:10 pm

    Nice recipe. Haven’t made callaloo in a while but this recipe might entice me to. Luckily here near DC where I live, we do get real dasheen bush (in fact, I was at the caribbean market yesterday and should have grabbed some – instead I got sorrel, pommecythere, and pig tails and breadfruit – for oil down). Unfortunately, here in DC we do not get good trini crabs. I envy you that 😉

    • Catherine
      April 8, 2011 / 4:03 pm

      @Dawn –

      Where do you get dasheen in DC? I'm in the area and have never found it. Btw, a potential source for blue crabs are some of the Asian markets…I can occasionally find them cleaned and in the chiller case….


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