This authentic Jamaican Festival Recipe is a simple fried sweet dumpling that’s golden and crispy outside, soft and fluffy inside! Made with a few staple pantry items this soft sweet dough is fried and served hot for breakfast, lunch, dinner or anytime throughout the day as the perfect snack!
Love this sweet golden dumpling recipe? Then you just have to try my Jamaican Fried Dumpling recipe and my Jamaican Saltfish Fritters (Stamp and Go) recipe. Jamaican Callaloo is another well known classic Caribbean breakfast fave to serve alongside festivals!
Full recipe ingredients and instructions are available in the recipe card at the bottom of this post.
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Jamaican Festival Recipe
This is another one of those Jamaican classic recipes. Fried festival goes hand in hand with Jamaican Escovitch Fish, and known and loved by those not only in the Jamaica but throughout the caribbean islands.
It’s also one of my favourite breakfast recipes. If you’ve read my Jamaican Fried Dumpling recipe blog post, you’d know I grew up on that recipe! Waking to the smell of dumplings frying in the morning was a regular occurance, especially on Sunday morning. This is a sweeter version of that recipe, with a slight twist!
Again, I am honoured that my mothers’ legacy of cooking and allowing the kitchen to be a space of comfort, conversation and good eats lives on through me. Now let’s get into these festivals!
You’ll Love This Jamaican Festival Recipe! Here’s Why…
- Simple – made with only a few pantry staples and enjoyed during breakfast or anytime throughout the day!
- Quick and Easy – ready in less than 30 minutes, in and out the kitchen in no time.
- Perfect Every Time – this recipe is tested, tried and true, follow it and it’ll turn out perfect every time!
- Popular Jamaican Recipe for a Reason – it’s golden and crispy on the outside, soft and fluffy on the inside, with a sweet twist!
What is a Jamaican Festival?
Jamaican Festival is a simple fried sweet bread type dumpling. Although sweeter in taste, it is served as a side dish to Jamaican classic dishes such as fried fish, Jamaican Escovitch Fish, Quick & Easy Jamaican Jerk Chicken or Jamaican Brown Stew Chicken!
What is Jamaican Festival Made Of?
It’s made with simple pantry ingredients such as flour and cornmeal. Baking powder is used a leavening agent, granulated white sugar as a sweetener, with a pinch of salt and milk to bring it all together.
How To Make Jamaican Festival from Scratch – Easy, Step-by-Step YouTube Video
Difference Between a Dumpling and a Festival?
The addition of cornmeal and milk are the two most significant differences between festivals and fried dumplings. Festivals using milk and cornmeal, whereas fried dumpling uses no cornmeal and water.
Another significant difference between festival and fried dumpling is the unique shape. Festivals having a long thick oval shape, and fried dumpling taking a more round shape. Noted, the shapes can vary but traditionally this how they are made.
What Does Jamaican Festival Taste Like?
Jamaican Festivals are a simple fried sweet tasting dumpling that’s golden and crispy outside, soft and fluffy inside. It’s texture is more bread-like, with a outer thin crispy crunch.
What Do You Eat with Jamaican Festival?
These festivals are often served as a breakfast item alongside Jamaican Escovitch Fish and Jamaican Pickled Vegetables (Escovitch Sauce). It’s also great with ackee and saltfish, the national dish of Jamaica as well as Jerk Chicken!
Ingredients and Ingredient Notes
All Purpose Flour – you can use other types of flour such as whole wheat or gluten-free, however you may need to adjust the amount of milk.
Fine Yellow Cornmeal – this is the ingredient that distinguishes a festival from a Jamaican Fried Dumpling and shouldn’t be skipped!
Granulated White Sugar – used as the sweetening agent in this recipe.
Baking Powder – this is the leavening used to make a fluffier festival and help it rise.
Salt – used to boost the flavour of the festival.
Milk – you can also use water, however prefer the taste of milk in the recipe. You may need to add 2-3 tbsp more or less – depending on the state of your flour or cornmeal.
Vegetable Oil – this is used for frying. You can use any kind of neutral cooking oil such as vegetable, avocado or canola oil.
Equipment Needed to Make This Recipe
- Mixing Bowl – this is needed to mix the ingredients together.
- Dutch Pot or Heavy-Bottom Pot – needed to fry the festival. Alternatively, a deep skillet or frying pan work as well.
See My Story Below for Step-by-Step Instructions!
How to Make the Best Jamaican Festival
- Combine Ingredients – in a medium sized mixing bowl, combine all dry ingredients.
- Add Milk – gradually add milk, then use your hands to knead and form the dough, add more milk if needed.
- Roll Dough into Festivals – pinch or cut off large golf ball size pieces. In the palm of your hand using a back and forth motion, form each piece into long thick oval shapes. Set each festival aside.
- Fry Festivals – in a medium sized heavy bottom pot, heat oil over medium low heat. Add each festival to the heated oil and fry for about 8 to 10 minutes flipping at the halfway point.
- Rest and Set Aside – once golden brown and cooked through remove from pot, place on a wire rack to drain any excess oil and allow to cool. Enjoy while warm!
How to Knead Festival Dough: Techniques and Tips
This recipe is more about the technique, than the ingredients as they are simple pantry items. The trick is how you combine the ingredients, how you knead the dough and how you form the festival. It takes practice, so do not get discouraged if your first batch isn’t perfectly shaped – it’ll still taste amazing!
Here are some tips when kneading the dough:
- You may not need all the water to knead the dough.
- Gradually add in the milk and mix it together by using your hand to form the dough.
- After kneading the dough, it should still be soft. This will make the dumplings soft on the inside and crispy on the outside.
How to Know When the Festivals Are Cooked
These are a great indication that the dough is cooked through:
- When you tap the festivals in the pan with a fork or spoon they should sound hollow.
- They start to float.
- When they turn golden brown.
Recipe Variations and Substitutions
Here are some variations to the jamaican festival recipe you can try next:
- Add Spices – some often add a small dash of nutmeg or cinnamon for a boost of flavour.
- Sub Milk for Water – you can use water instead of milk or a mixture of water and milk.
- Coconut Milk – easily substitute regular cow’s milk with coconut milk.
- Change Flour – you can substitute whole wheat flour or gluten-free flour as an alternative to all purpose flour.
- Add More Sugar – for a sweeter kick to the recipe, add a tablespoon or more to the flour mixture.
What to Serve With Jamaican Festival
These festivals are often served as a breakfast item alongside Jamaican Escovitch Fish and Jamaican Pickled Vegetables (Escovitch Sauce). It’s also great with ackee and saltfish, the national dish of Jamaica.
You can also serve these festivals with the following Jamaican dishes:
- Jack Mackerel in Tomato Sauce
- Salt Mackerel
- Jamaican Brown Stew Chicken
- Steamed Callaloo (with or with saltfish)
- Bacon and Eggs
Make Ahead Jamaican Festival
You can make the dough a few hours ahead of time and keep refrigerated. When ready to serve, bring to room temperature and prepare as outlined in recipe instructions.
How Do You Store?
These festivals are best enjoyed when they’re freshly made, but they can still make great leftovers if needed.
Once they have cooled completely, transfer to an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.
How Do You Reheat Jamaican Festivals?
Should you need to reheat; place in aluminum foil and wrap tighty. Warm in oven set to 375 degrees fahrenheit until fully heated through.
Note, if you use a microwave it can result in the festivals becoming hard and chewy.
Recipe Notes and Tips for Best Results
Dough – Dough should be soft but not sticky and wet. Remember not to over knead. As soon as all the ingredients are combined, stop kneading the dough.
Medium Low Heat – ensure your oil is hot, but not too hot. We want golden brown, not burnt to a crisp! Fry on medium-low heat, and ensure there are little sizzles of bubbles around each festival.
Slow and Steady – don’t rush the cooking process. To get golden and crispy on the outside, soft and fluffy on the inside, you need to fry them slowly.
Work in Batches – fry festivals in small batches as it will help them cook evenly and keep the oil from cooling down too much.
Test Fry – test fry one festival before frying a full batch to help determine if the oil is at the correct temperature. If it browns too quickly, the inside will be uncooked.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s)
Make sure to use fine yellow cornmeal and not coarse cornmeal as this will result in the best texture. The coarser the cornmeal the more gritty the festival will be.
You can use 2% cows milk (or any fat % cows milk) or any plant-based milks such as oat, almond or cashew milk.
Yes you can substitute granulated white sugar, with brown sugar.
I do not recommend using a air fryer to make festivals. Anything is possible, however it’s not what I will suggest.
Try adding in a touch of nutmeg or cinnamon, or pure vanilla extract.
I have not tried making this in the oven, however once I attempt I’ll update the blog post.
Interested in More Jamaican Food? Try these Recipes Out Next!
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Jamaican Festival Recipe
- Mixing Bowl
- Heavy-Bottom Pot for frying
- 1 1/2 cups All Purpose Flour
- 1/2 cup Yellow Cornmeal fine
- 4 tbsp Granulated White Sugar
- 2 tsp Baking Powder
- 1/2 tsp Salt
- 3/4 cup Milk or water may need to add 2-3 tbsp more or less
- Vegetable Oil for frying
- In a medium sized mixing bowl, combine all dry ingredients. Gradually add milk, then use your hands to knead and form the dough, add more milk if needed. Dough should be soft but not sticky and wet. Remember not to over knead.
- Pinch or cut off large golf ball size pieces. In the palm of your hand using a back and forth motion, form each piece into long thick oval shapes. Set each festival aside.
- In a medium sized heavy bottom pot, heat oil over medium low heat. Add each festival to the heated oil and fry for about 8 to 10 minutes flipping at the halfway point – do not rush this process, be patient. Keep heat level at low to medium (ensuring there is a sizzle all around).
- Once golden brown and cooked through remove from pot, place on a wire rack to drain any excess oil and allow to cool. Enjoy while warm!