I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the costs of healing (some personal/emotional and some financial), and of following diets like the AIP. Here are some of my AIP Caribbean Kitchen staples that are affordable, nutritious and delicious.
Eating an AIP diet can be expensive.
Organic produce, grass-fed meats, sustainable, wild-caught seafood, and speciality items like tigernut flour are undoubtedly more expensive than conventional products. That, coupled with the real issue of food deserts and food insecurity for so many Black and Indigenous People of Color, in particular, means that there are real barriers to eating well and following diets like the AIP.
When I first began following the AIP, I noticed myself gravitating to many of the foods I ate growing up in the Caribbean – foods like cassava, plantains, white sweet potatoes, coconut, and fresh fish. Though these were once staples in my diet, they hadn’t been for a long time since living in North America.
While this is not a comprehensive post about eating AIP on a budget (see some great posts like that here and here), I wanted to share some of the most affordable ingredients in my kitchen. These foods are not only affordable and AIP compliant, but central to Caribbean cooking, and often incredibly nutrient dense. You will notice that many of my recipes include these ingredients.
Here are some of these ingredients that I always have on hand in my AIP Caribbean kitchen:
Salted Cod Fish
This is usually sold in packages as dry fillets, sometimes boned and other times de-boned. It is affordable and delicious once you go through the necessary boiling of it to remove excess salt.
Where to find? You can usually find salted cod in the frozen section of major grocery stores. You might also check a Caribbean store/market if you have one in a nearby city. Alternatively, speciality Portuguese, Spanish and/or Italian stores might have this.
I love using both green and yellow plantains in my recipes. Fried yellow plantains are a ubiquitous Caribbean dish. Green plantains can be blended and baked and have a very neutral flavour. Check out my recipe for AIP Hand Rolled Pasta that uses green plantain in this way.
Where to find? You should be able to find these in most major grocery stores in the produce section near bananas.
Green bananas (also known as Green Figs in Trinidad) are simple unripe bananas. Rather than eating them as fruits, we eat these in the Caribbean as a side dish. You can do the same on the AIP diet. Simply wash, peel and boil them and serve alongside your mains as a starchy side. Alternatively, use green bananas as you do green plantains in a savory dish. Since they aren’t sweet at all in their green state, they are a wonderful resistant starch and base for things like these AIP Beef Patties.
Where to find? These are unripe bananas so anywhere you’d buy bananas! You want to pick those showing absolutely no signs of ripening – no yellow at all.
These leafy greens are nutritional powerhouses! Heart-shaped dasheen leaves are rich in potassium, fibre and Vitamin C. They are often used in Caribbean cooking. Where to find? You might check a Caribbean store/market if you have one in a nearby city.
Okras are full of vitamin C and widely used in Caribbean cooking. They are AIP compliant, affordable and can be used as a vegetable side dish and or in soups like my AIP Trinidadian Callaloo
White Sweet Potatoes or Japanese Sweet Potatoes
White sweet potatoes are red-skinned with a white/yellowish inside. Like the sweet potatoes I grew up with in Trinidad, their texture is a bit starchier and more crumbly than the orange sweet potatoes more common in North America. Japanese sweet potatoes specifically the Murasaki variety have a deep purple skin and white flesh that is creamy and delicious. Both are a staples in my AIP kitchen and cooking because their flavour is slightly less sweet than orange sweet potatoes. I love using them in savoury dishes like my AIP Stuffed Sweet Potato Cakes.
Where to find them? In Toronto Caribbean sweet potatoes are available in Caribbean food stores and some major supermarkets. Depending on where you live and what season it is, your local farmers’ market might also carry them. Japanese sweet potatoes are available at major grocery stores and other speciality stores like Trader Joe’s and I’ve seen them at No Frills and Whole Foods in Toronto.
Orange Sweet Potatoes
Though I use these less frequently than white sweet potatoes in my recipes, these are widely available and can be used in both sweet and savory recipes like my AIP Sweet Potato Gnocchi.
While cassava flour, the dried and processed form of cassava is often very expensive, cassava as a root vegetable is not. I buy mine pre cut and frozen in my local Caribbean store. You can also commonly find cassava in local markets, or major grocery stores. I love having boiled cassava as a side, using it in baked goods and/or eating it fried as wedges.
Dried Unsweetened Coconut
Dried, unsweetened coconut flakes and/or shredded coconut is great for adding texture to AIP baking and recipes. I love adding these to my smoothies to thicken them. They are also a great topping for smoothie bowls, and a wonderful snack roasted with sea salt and/or cinnamon.
I use coconut milk in at least 50% of my recipes. Very infrequently is it the predominant flavour, but instead, I turn to it as a base for making things creamy or adding moisture. I recommend full fat, additive free coconut milk. Making your own coconut milk is the most cost effective and a great way to ensure you aren’t getting any additives in there. To do so, simply use dried, unsweetened coconut flakes or shredded coconut and water in a high powered blender.
Other affordable, AIP compliant ingredients that are staples in my Caribbean kitchen include:
- coconut oil
- pumpkin/butternut squash
- fresh herbs – especially green onions, chives, cilantro and thyme
- other white fish including wild caught cod, sole and haddock
I hope this post gave you some new ideas of what you can include in your AIP pantry/kitchen. Each of these ingredients can be used in a variety of ways to create super flavorful, delicious and healing AIP meals without costing a fortune.
What are your favorite, affordable and nutritious AIP ingredients?