Jamaican Fried Dough ~ Festival

This Jamaican fried dough, known as festival, is essentially slightly sweet cornmeal fritters that are perfect alongside jerk-seasoned meats.

Jamaican fried dough on a skewer over a large pot of oil.

Slightly sweet and very moreish fried dumplings, called festival, from Jamaica, these are traditionally served with jerk meats. [Editor’s Note: The term “moreish” means, quite literally, something that’s so darn good, it makes you want more. Keep in mind, there are about as many different approaches to festival as there are home cooks who make them, so this version may be slightly more or less sweet than what you’ve had in the past, and it may have a slightly different proportion of cornmeal to flour. These subtle differences are common. Feel free to use the recipe as a blueprint, making it once and tweaking accordingly in the future if the festival of your memories is slightly different.]–Virginia Burke

Jamaican Fried Dough | Festival

  • Quick Glance
  • (8)
  • 20 M
  • 40 M
  • Makes 12
4.6/5 - 8 reviews
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Mix the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt in a bowl. Add just enough cold water to make a stiff dough.

Flour your hands well and knead the dough on a lightly floured surface for just a minute or so. Divide the dough into 12 portions. Roll each portion into a small cigar or sausage shape that’s somewhat tapered at the ends.

Pour enough oil into a skillet to reach about 1 inch deep. Heat the oil over medium-high heat until shimmering but not smoking (about 350°F | 176°C).

Carefully slide a few of the dumplings into the oil, being careful not to crowd the skillet. Fry, turning as necessary, until golden brown on each side, adjusting the heat if necessary, about 8 minutes total. Transfer to paper towels to drain. Repeat with the remaining fritters. Eat ’em hot. Originally published December 19, 2011.

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Recipe Testers' Tips

I really enjoyed these fritters, and they were a snap to make. I needed a half cup of water to bring the dough together, and they came out crisp on the outside but dense and soft on the inside. They’re quite plain, making them a great accompaniment to strongly flavored jerk chicken — keep some sauce aside for dipping. Don’t try to use a knife and fork on them — better to use your fingers!


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  1. Pretty much novice at fried foods and I have a big family so I doubled the recipe and added more sugar, cause we like it sweet. They were really dense, but when I asked my kids, they gave it 2 thumbs up. I will definitely make this again when I make Jerk chicken.

    1. I’m so pleased you gave this a try, Kate, and that your kids loved it so much! Thanks so much for taking the time to let us know.

  2. Totally agree with Mandy. Too much cornmeal. It should be about a quarter cup to a half cup cornmeal to one cup of flour. In addition you need to add a teaspoon butter and spices such as mixed spice, vanilla, cinnamon about a 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon of each.

  3. This recipe is okay, but did not result in the taste and texture of a traditional Jamaican ‘festival’.

    The ratio of ingredients is off: too much cornmeal, and not enough sugar/vanilla/spice maybe?

    Otherwise thank you for providing your take 😊

  4. I’m a Jamaican. That’s almost the exact recipe I grew up using except we use 2tsp baking powder, 1 egg or a tablespoon of butter, cold milk or cold water is fine. Let sit for some time before frying. Came out perfect each time.

    1. Magnificent, Nicola! Love the similarities and appreciate you sharing your version. It’s hard to not like Jamaican fried dough but as you imply some are better than others. Looking forward to trying your tweaks!

  5. I’m a Jamaican and I LOVE festival! They always make it with fried fish. When I go to Jamaica I always eat it. But I never heard about a dip, but if there’s one I would like to try it.

  6. Based on comments, reduced the cornmeal a bit and doubled the sugar. Great recipe, seems authentic to me! Made 12 of the size I normally get, maybe 3 inches long.

  7. Sorry, but this recipe has a lot of problems. First of all this does not make 12 festivals unless your festivals are tiny (they are typically about 5-6 inches long and 2-3 inches wide). These were way more dense and doughy and not sweet enough. Also, there is absolutely no way that it only takes half a cup of water to bring the dough together. I used 1.5 cups. That’s a big oversight to not include that measurement in your recipe (at least an estimate!). I’m also pretty sure that these are better deep fried, but it would be nice to hear from a Jamaican cook to know for sure. Didn’t like this recipe at all, sorry.

    1. Hi Mary Beth, I’m so sorry you didn’t like the recipe. A few things: festivals vary in size; I’ve seem some 4 long by 1 1/2 inches wide, some larger, but there’s no hard and fast rule). And festivals are supposed to be dense. As far as sweetness, I agree with you, and you can add more sugar. As far as water, but the recipe doesn’t specify an amount because your dry ingredients will determine that. (I think the mistake here in the cookbook is to say make a “soft dough.”) And these are fried! If these are made into 12 festivals, there’s plenty of room in the oil for them to be deep-fried.

      That being said, my job is to supply you with a great recipe, and I failed. So take a look at this recipe and video I found for traditional festivals. There are similarities between this recipe and ours. And perhaps you might like it more. Let me know what you think if you make it. Best.

    2. Just made these. I used about a tablespoon less cornmeal than the recipe suggests. They were great!! I agree that if you want large festivals, 12 is a stretch, but the baking powder makes them rise so I had about 9. Oh! And my dough was very soft.

    1. tammy, thanks for pointing this out to me. It’s all-purpose flour. (A tip: When you see flour plus a leavener, such as baking powder or baking soda, it’s all-purpose flour.) All recipes on the site use all-purpose, unless otherwise noted. But I will change this for future readers.

    1. Hi Clark, I can honestly say that I’ve had no experience working with acorn flour. My sources tell me that it can be used in place of all purpose flour so now I’m curious. Please report back, we would love to hear of your results.

    1. Hi Bri, are you thinking of a mango salsa? I sometimes see that served alongside jerk chicken in a restaurant. More often than not though, it is usually just a piece of chicken and a bag of festival from a roadside jerk shack.

  8. What is a good dipping sauce to compliment the festival? I’ve looked and can’t find a solid recipe, can you help?

    1. Hi Jo, we usually eat our festival alongside another dish like jerk chicken as the festival helps to tone down the heat a bit. You could reserve a bit of the marinade from this recipe as a dipping sauce.

  9. Enjoyed this recipe…made ackee and salt fish and added these to the breakfast for my wife and daughter today.

    1. Oooh, Mark, can I come eat with you? I love ackee and salt fish! It’s one of my favorites.

  10. The ratio of flour to cornmeal is a bit off. You should only be using half the amount of cornmeal at most, otherwise the dough will be far too dense.

    1. Hi Cory, the amounts do vary from recipe to recipe. It can be a 1:1 ratio, as in this recipe, or I’ve seen as little as 1 ½ cups flour to 3 tablespoons of cornmeal. This recipe is so easy to put together that you can vary amounts until you find the perfect proportions for your festival.

    2. Cory, the festival recipe in Jamaica is mainly about the cornmeal, that is what separates it from our fried dumplings so the proportion is perfect.

      1. Hello:

        There are different festival mix for festival served with fish and festival served with jerked meats. The batter for festival with fish usually has less cornmeal, producing a lighter fluffier festival. Think of fish & festival at Hellshire in St. Catherine, Jamaica. This is the home of festival.

        The ones at the jerk spots are denser, more crunchy because of the cornmeal. Fish is more delicate than jerked meats so the lighter batter works.
        I prefer less cornmeal to flour.

  11. Hiya, I recently went to a Caribbean friends BBQ and she served these yummy treats with some jerk chicken: I was craving them so much at home that I used this recipe to make some as soon as I got back home but mine came out quite hard on the outside and not soft on the outside like my friends. Any tips? Am I using the wrong flour or leaving them in too long? Any ideas?

    1. Hi Jo, it sounds like the festivals may have cooked a little too long, or the oil may be a tad too hot. Next time you might want to check your oil temperature with a deep fat thermometer- it should hover around 350. Let me know if you are still having problems- I have a very willing tester who would love it if I made some festival, and some jerk chicken, and Jamaican patties…..

    1. Hi Danielle, it should be fine to use whole-wheat flour. I’ve seen the festival made with both white and whole-wheat.

        1. Hey Rob, I would love some festival! My favorite jerk shop in Cayman just closed and I desperately need a festival fix. To answer your question, baking powder and baking soda are different.

    1. Hi DB,

      Yes, the sweet festival are a perfect counterpoint to a spicy fish dish. They serve them at the hot bar at my local grocery store, along with fried plantains and callaloo. So good!


    2. They came out a bit too cornmealy for me and not soft. I think next time I will adjust recipe and replace some of the cornmeal with flour, add more baking powder, and more sugar. (I like them with a hint of sweetness.)

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