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What Foods Did Pirates Eat? – 2 Pirate Party Recipes

“Now and then we had a hope that if we lived and were good, God would permit us to be pirates.” – Mark Twain, Life on the Mississippi.

Ahoy, maties.

So, why Pirates? Short Story: Recently I discovered that the way I cook is the way Pirates ate.

When I googled, what foods did Pirates eat, my food fit perfectly. This post is about Pirate food and gives you two Pirate Party Food Ideas that you can serve at your next Scalawag Soiree.

What Foods Did Pirates Eat?

Pirates at sea had dried beans, dried grains, herbs and spices, plus dried, salted and smoked meats. Water did not last long so they drank beer, wine and rum.

The Golden Age of Pirates was 1650-1725, when Privateers were on the stealthy hunt for any ship carrying booty, be it Spanish gold and silver being transported from the New World, or any merchant ship with tools, tons of sugar, or chocolate bound for the New World. Their food on the ships? … meat, cheese, eggs, fish, vegetables, fruits, nuts, bread, hard tack, dried beans, spices, and not surprisingly beer, wine and rum. Salted, smoked, dried, pickled and fermented foods always stayed fresher longer on stretches at sea.

Pirates started their voyages with chickens, goats, cows and enjoyed fresh eggs and milk… as long as there was food for them.. then there was meat. Fresh meat went into soups and stews with whatever might be in the larder. If the food was going bad, cooks just added more spices so the food would be palatable. Some meat and fish were preserved by drying, salting and smoking into bacon, jerky, etc. And because their water became brackish in those wooden barrels after a few weeks at sea, Pirates drank easy-to-preserve alcohol.

It was a fine day when they raided the Captain’s quarters of a plundered ship and absconded with everything from chocolate, brandy, whiskey, cheese, olive oil, figs, dates, etc. In ports of call, they ate whatever was the local fare.

My style emerged from first preparing the complex and highly spiced Mexican, Tex-Mex, and Southwest US foods, then on to my favorite Cajun/Creole cuisine… arguably, the quintessential cuisine of the Caribbean. Today’s comfort food recipes are made from ingredients from in and around the Caribbean.

Pirate Party Recipes – Salmagundi and Caribbean Pirate Stew

These two dishes are perfect Pirate Party Recipes. They are easy to prepare and serve and they are healthy, varied enough to suit everyone… delicious, aromatic, appealing, appetizing, and healthy. Serve with dinner rolls and various spicy mustards and/or baguettes and butter.

Salmagundi is a Pirate Salad still being served around the Caribbean and both sides of the Atlantic. It’s essentially a cold plate of the same ingredients as mentioned above, topped with vinegar and oil* or lemon juice and oil**.

Pirate Stew is prepared from the list of food above. All these ingredients could have easily been found in the larders on Pirate ships in the Caribbean in 1695***.

Salmadundi

Salmagundi – Pirate Salad. An excellent Pirate party recipe. A mixed plate of fresh meats, eggs, veg and fruit, along with pickled, smoked, salted and fermented foods.

To start off your Pirate Party serve the following in separate serving dishes or on themed trays (meat and cheese, fruit and veg, etc.) in your Salmagundi area. Allow Scalawags to forage at will for appetizer, salad, snack, and dessert.

Meat & Cheese

  • Ham – cubed
  • Cold shrimp – marinated then sauteed in lemon & oil drizzle**
  • Pickled herring
  • Boiled eggs – halved
  • Various cheeses cubed – smoked gouda, smoked provolone, sharp cheddar, gorgonzola, mozzarella

Fruit & Veg

  • Pineapple chunks
  • Cherries
  • Strawberries
  • Grapes
  • Green olives
  • Black olives
  • Gherkins
  • Pickled beets
  • Green onions
  • Cherry Tomatoes
  • Celery sticks
  • Carrot sticks
  • Hericot vert, whole
  • Red radishes – topped and halved
  • White radishes – topped
  • Juliened bell pepper mix – red, green, yellow, orange
  • Fresh whole hot peppers – jalepeno, serrano, caribe
  • Fresh salad greens

Garnish

  • Fresh orange and lemon slices
  • Lemon wedges
  • Red wine vinager dressing*
  • Lemon and oil drizzle**

Dessert

  • Walnuts
  • Mixed nuts
  • Raisins
  • Chocolate chunks/chips

*Red Wine Salad Dressing – Whisk together 2 parts red wine vinegar, 3 parts olive oil, with pinches of pink Himalayan salt, black pepper, dried mustard, and basil leaves to taste.

**Lemon & Oil Drizzle – Whisk together 1 part fresh lemon juice, 3 parts olive oil, a pinch of basil leaves, salt & black pepper.

Caribbean Pirate Stew

This is a unique Caribbean Pirate Stew. It could have been made at sea with foods onboard a ship at sea. It is robust, sweet, savory, rich in flavor, textures, and tastes. Fill their bellies and it will warm the hearts of the meanest and scurviest Scalawags.

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs Chuck Roast –  cut into 1” cubes
  • 1 tsp allspice
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp dried savory
  • 1 tsp dried marjoram
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 3 tsp pink Himalayan salt
  • 3 tsp freshly ground or crushed black pepper
  • 6 T (Tablespoon) coconut flour
  • ¼ C bacon drippings or coconut oil
  • 2 large yellow onions – thinly sliced
  • 3 large carrots – ¼ C diced, rest in 1” chunks
  • 1 C celery – ¼ C diced, rest in 1” chunks
  • 2 turnips – peeled, ¼ C diced, rest in 1” chunks
  • 2 rutabagas – peeled, ¼ C diced, rest in 1” chunks
  • 3 T garlic – minced fine
  • 2 Bay Leaves
  • 1/2 C flaked coconut
  • 1-2 C Beef Broth/ Beef Stock/Beef Bone Broth
  • 1 C Red Wine
  • 4 potatoes – red, white, or gold (not Russett)– cut into 1” chunks

Caribbean Pirate Stew – Perfect Pirate Party Recipe

Procedure

  1. Combine the 10 spices in a small bowl. Season the beef chunks with 2 T of the spice mixture. Mince the garlic and let it sit in the open air for at least 10 minutes.
  2. Dredge the meat in the coconut flour (or shake them both in a resealable bag).
  3. Heat bacon drippings/coconut oil in a 4-quart Dutch Oven over medium-high heat. Add the meat in batches and brown on all sides. Don’t crowd the browning meat, crowding the pan will create a soggy ‘steamed’ result, and the meat will not brown. Also, be careful not to burn the flour, so keep stirring the meat.
  4. Remove the meat from the pan, keeping at least 2 T oil (add more oil, if necessary). Reduce the heat to medium and add ½ C onions, ¼ C of each veg (carrots, celery, turnips, and rutabagas) and cover to steam the veg in their own moisture, stirring often. This will create the base of the stew. These flavors will blend into each other and the bacon, salt, oil, beef, flour, and veg will make a deep, complex, smoky, sweet, salty, and savory taste. Stir often, scraping the pan bottom as the moisture develops, for 10 minutes. After the veg are cooked, you can leave it as a roux, or add 1/2 C broth and scrape into a food processor and puree into a gravy. The roux/gravy thickens the stew.
  5. Stir in the garlic, bay leaves, flaked coconut, the rest of the spice mix, and the meat with its juices.
  6. Cover the meat with 2-3 C of broth/stock/bone broth/red wine. Bring to a boil. Stir, scraping the pan bottom to blend everything. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook until the meat is fork tender, about 1½–2 hours. Stir occasionally, scraping the pan bottom so nothing sticks. All the flavors in the broth will have blended and it will be difficult to find any of the individual tastes in the broth.
  7. Add the chunks of carrots, celery, turnips, rutabagas, potatoes. Cover and cook on low heat until the vegetables are tender, about 35-40 minutes.
  8. The easiest way to serve this is in a slow cooker on low heat in your food area.
  9. Have crusty French bread or baguettes warmed and ready for butter.

Save These Pirate Party Food Ideas

Planning a Pirate Party, Scalawag Soiree, Buccaneer Buffet, Privateer Potluck, or my favorite, a Scurvy Seadog Smorgasbord? These recipes always work. If ye be transporting ye stew to another venue, use the slow cooker… just cover it with clear plastic wrap, and then place the lid on top. And if the seas be choppy, mates, secure the top to the base with packing tape or large rubber bands.

Was Pirate Food healthy? Yes, indeed. A varied diet, non-GMO, all organic, and no pesticides, insecticides, herbicides, growth hormones, vaccines, etc. As close to dirt as possible. My ingredients are organic and non-GMO.

For futher study, a great history and resource is A New Voyage Around the World by William Dampier. He traveled around the world 3 times from 1679 to 1699, the same years as the Golden Age of Pirates. So, this would be the answer to what foods did Pirates eat. His travels led him to Jamaica, Panama, Peru, Mexico, Australia, SE Asia, India, Africa, Europe. He bought and sold goods, drew maps, and most importantly, he sampled and chronicled the local food in every port of call. He is noted as the first Global Foodie.

If you make these recipes, leave a comment and let me know how you and your Scalawags like them. Or leave a comment with a question about the food or the preparation.

Stay tuned for more merry-making. Hoist ye Jolly Roger and travel to Pirate Festivals and revel in grog and cavorting!!!! Maybe we’ll meet up. Remember, always be yourself… unless you can be a Pirate, then obviously, be a Pirate.

Cooking for Pirates, where every meal is a party for a Pirate.

14 Comments

  1. Wow I had no idea that pirates had such a love for seasonings and spices. They had a very appealing palate for food. This is something I’d have to come back to and use these recipes if I wanted to cook something exotic.

    • Thank you, Jovan.
      Pirates love the good life… food, wine, wenching, sailing the open sea, plundering, singing, telling stories, blowing up things.
      And, please, stop back by… there’ll be more ‘exotic’ recipes to cook… And they are healthy.

  2. Hi there, this is a good post. I was already a fan with the pirate speech! Aaarrghh! LOL. I’m actually from the Caribbean and a fan of Pirates of the Caribbean, LOL, but cooking is not a favourite of mine. I enjoy eating other people’s cooking though,LOL. The stew sounds pretty good. I don’t know that we use so many spices all in 1 dish, here, though.

  3. Such a cool article, very engaging and the recipes sound delicious. Never thought of having some pirate food for a pirate party. Sounds like they ate pretty healthy, particularly the captain I imagine. I love the brief history and may just have to try out these recipes at my next pirate party!

    • Amanda, you are correct about the Captain…. they ate better than the crew.
      They kept their own food separate and employed a cook. The ship had a cook and the food was open for any Pirate was hungry.
      I imagine the social pressure was to eat in proportion to everyone else, or else.
      Ye be stretched from the yard arm, Matey.

    • And if you do cook these at your next Pirate Party, let me know how it goes, ok?

  4. Hey Michael, I really enjoyed this post. I have to tell you a little story. Amongst my ancestors was a family of privateers by the name of Compaen. They were originally Dutch and plundered Spanish Ships on the North Sea, but they got sick of paying such high taxes to the Government, they moved their fleet to the Caribbean where they could plunder and keep 100% of their booty.
    This is where it gets funny. By 9 year old granddaughter was studying pirates at school, so I gave her some articles about one of them , by the name of Claes Compaen (also the name of a family Ketch we built many years ago). “Anyway my granddaughter said to the teacher in class, one of my ancestors was a pirate Miss.” The teacher fobbed her off and didn’t believe her, which was a big disappointment to her. Michael this was an excellent informative article. I liked the way you took the story to the food.

    • Thank you for your story, too, Luigi.
      This was such o fun article to do.
      I’ll be writing more about Pirates, posting photos, and cooking for pirates.
      Stop back by.
      I appreciate your taking the time to comment.
      Enjoy ye days, ye be Pirate Blood.

  5. What a nice post you wrote! I really enjoyed reading it and I could not be silent about your post so I decided to leave my comment here and say Thank You! For sharing this quality post with others.
    Actually this is exactly the information that I was looking for information about the pirate food and when I landed on your website and read this post, it answered all my questions in details.
    So I’m happy that you decided to write about this topic and share it with people. It’s very useful and can definitely be used as a great source for everyone who is interested in this topic.
    I will come back to your website again for sure and I’m looking forward to reading your new posts.)

    Thanks!

    • Hi, Ali,
      I appreciate your comments so much. Thank you.
      It’s so much fun cooking for Pirates.
      Much of my food, regardless of whether it’s Tex-Mex or Greek, is this type of cooking.
      I just happen to love Pirating.
      Thanks again, and please do let me know if you stop back by and cook these foods.
      Take care, Ali.
      Mike

  6. Hello Pirate Mike! 😉 

    Since I went on my first cruise, I’ve been quite interested in finding out more about what to eat while sea-faring.

    Cooking for Pirates is quite a fun idea! You can cook just about anything, just don’t cook the captain’s parrot! 

    Well, I guess it is also such a huge change of paradigm between the all-you-can-eat-all-day-long buffets on cruise ships, and the ancient foods that could keep well on a long journey…

    I like both of your recipes, really wholesome salad and a very tasty stew. It’s going to be too much work to find all from that long list of ingredients, but I guess one is allowed to cut a few corners and it’ll be just as good!

    Cheers mate, Pirate Phil

    • Aye, Pirate Phil, tis easier to cook in the kitchen than be on the high seas.

      There are stories of Pirates running out of food, especially with a shipwreck, who did eat the Captain’s parrot. 🙁

      And, sure, you can definitely take a recipe and make it to fit your needs. That’s what I do. Like no potatoes, but turnips and rutabagas, more heat, special kind of salt. The important thing to me is have fun and make it fun for others. 

      Thank you for taking the time to make a comment.

      Enjoy a sea breeze day.

      Pirate Mike – Foodie Pirate

      Cooking for Pirates, where every meal is a party for a Pirate.

  7. Hi, I always learned something new about every topic you make. Very engaging and the recipes sound delicious. They had a very appealing palate for food. I really Enjoyed reading it and I could not be silent about your topic so I decided to leave my comment here and say Thank You! For sharing this quality topic with others. This is exactly the information that I was looking for information about the pirate party food and when I landed on your website and read this topic, It answered all my questions in detail. 

    Thanks for the enlightenment🙂

    • Thank you for your comment, Nasrin.

      Pirate Party Food is not only my passion, it’s  whole lot of fun.

      I appreciate you.

      Pirate Mike – Foodie Pirate

      Cooking for Pirates, where every meal is party for a Pirate.

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