A Sailor’s Favorite: Jamaican Meat Patties

It’s Friday the 13th, when all true pirates fear the Curse of the Muertos Moon! Jolly Roger sought the ultimate form of revenge for Amo Dorsi, making him undead by casting a spell all over the Caribbean! He cursed the moon so that any pirate caught in its rays would instantly turn into the undead! This is Friday the 13th, the Curse of the Dead Moon! Watch out Pirates, when the moon shines your best friends may decide to turn on you!

So we Galley Pirates look skeptically at each other …and turn our thoughts to Caribbean cooking.

Hands down (or hands too busy), nothing beats Jamaican Meat Patties for cruising. Made under way or before departure, they can be frozen and re-heated, eaten hot or cold. They’re the perfect one-handed meal (while the other hand holds on) that are filling, flavorful and spicy.

on chart table

Our first introduction to Caribbean Meat Patties was in the Bahamas, aboard SV Skookum. The pastry was sweet-spicy,  unlike “traditional” Jamaican Meat Pies. The sweet pastry was an added treat! And so begins this recipe:

For the pastry

4 cups flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon curry powder
1/2 cup of butter, chilled
1/2 cup vegetable shortening or lard
1/2 cup very cold water
2 teaspoons spiced rum (optional)

Egg wash: 1 egg and a tablespoon of water for sealing the pies

Meat filling

1 onion, chopped
4-5 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil (or vegetable oil)
1.5-2 lbs ground beef
1 or 2 Scotch Bonnet Peppers (habañeros)
2  teaspoons each: paprika, allspice, curry powder, thyme, white pepper
2 teaspoons salt (or to taste)
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup bread crumbs
3-5 green onions (scallions), chopped
2 tablespoons parsley, chopped

Makes around 16 patties

mixing crumbles
For the pastry: cut the chilled butter and shortening into the flour until it resembles course gravel or peas. (to reduce the ingredients, all butter (1 cup) or all shortening works too. There are as many recipes for this pastry as there are Caribbean cooks) Add the salt, sugar, and curry powder until well blended. Slowly add chilled water (and spiced rum if you’re using) in increments as you knead to a soft dough.

dough balls

Knead with your hands until a smooth, springy ball of dough forms, about 3 minutes. Separate into two balls, cover each with plastic wrap and chill while you make the meat filling.

onions and garlic

Next, prepare the sauce: chop the onion. Mince the garlic cloves.

Habañeros (or Scotch Bonnets, as they’re know in Jamaica) are one of the hottest peppers you’ll find. They have a unique Caribbean flavor that’s hard to mimic with jalapeños or serranos.  One way to cook with Scotch Bonnets is to leave them whole so they are easy to find and pull out of the sauce after cooking. Poke a large hole in the pepper(s) so the hot flavor escapes into the meat sauce, but the seeds stay inside the pepper. Today is going to be a mild, one-pepper day.

Light your galley stove burner and sauté the onions and garlic in the olive oil (or vegetable oil) in a large pan. Add the ground beef and sauté until lightly browned. Add the Scotch Bonnet(s), spices, salt and water. Let cook over low heat for 10 minutes. Add the bread crumbs and cook 5 minutes longer.

adding scallions

Turn off your burner, then stir in the scallions and parsley. Adjust seasonings as needed. Let cool while you roll out the pastry.


There’s a better chance you have a bottle on board than a rolling pin. Large wine bottles work great. The advantage to using a bottle is that it can be chilled ahead of time which makes rolling  the dough much easier. And if the bottle is filled with a liquid (for instance, chilled Sauvignon Blanc ) it stays cold while you roll out all the dough. You’ll just need to wipe the bottle off before serving to guests. (however, sipping from a well floured bottle with no guests around is perfectly acceptable)


Roll the pastry on a large floured flat surface until about 1/8th thin. As tempting as it is, the chart table is not recommended for this, as the Captain will no doubt scream at you. Today we are on Night Town, a J42 which comes with its own built-in cutting board that …are you ready for this?… doubles as a seat. Yes! it forms a little chair in the galley so you can have a seat in heavy seas and never leave your post at the stove. Those sailors think of everything.

Cut with something round, about 6″ in diameter. Rolling the dough and cutting the rounds will need to be repeated several times.

Preheat your over to 400 degrees.


Mix the egg and water to form an egg wash. This is your edible Elmers that helps seal the pastry together. Next, assemble the pies. Place a heaping spoonful of filling in the middle of the pastry, being careful not to get too close to the edges. Brush some egg wash around the edges with a brush, the back of a spoon or your fingers.


Fold the pastry over and press the edges with a fork. Set on a non-greased baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap until all the patties are made.

in the oven

Place the tray of patties in the pre-heated 400 degree oven. Keep an eye on the temperature. Some ovens creep higher and higher, some have a hard time reaching 400 degrees.

hot out of the oven

Bake for 35-45 minutes, or until golden and bubbling from the seams. Let rest for a few minutes before serving.

on chart table 2

Jamaican Meat Patties are great “grab ‘n go” meals under way. But today is a leisurely one, with refreshing sides of watermelon and avocado that cool the Jamaican spices.

Leisurely, that is…until the sun goes down and the Moon Rays come out on this Friday the 13th… Bwaaahahaha…

Galley Pirates, Cooking for Cruising and Living Aboard, want to thank you for joining us on this new and delicious journey! We would love to hear about some of your Caribbean sailing meals or any culinary provisioning ideas that come to mind. Follow us and you’ll receive notification of at least one new recipe every Friday morning.

Fair winds.

The Galley Pirates



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