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Ackee (Blighia sapida) may very well be one of the oddest fruits in the world. Originating in West Africa, where it bears the name Akye fufo, it was brought to Jamaica in the 1700s, and is today one of the main ingredients in the Jamaican national dish, ackee and saltfish.

Ackee grows on small, evergreen trees. It is slightly pear-shaped and bright red when mature. It looks very strange and just describing it is actually pretty difficult. When it ripens the skin splits open to reveal four pieces of yellowish fruit-meat which bear a big black seed. If it's eaten before it ripens it's can cause 'Jamaican vomiting sickness'(JVS). While the fruit matures, it has very high quantities of the amino acids hypoglycin A and B, which in some instances have been fatal when eaten. As soon as the fruit opens up, however, the amino acid very quickly disappears, and the fruit is ready and very nice to eat. Its taste is also a bit hard to describe, and while it has a sort of slight egg-flavour, it is unmistakably ackeeish. Ackee doesn't keep well and should be eaten a couple of days after purchase, at the latest. You may also find it canned, which is often exported to parts of the world other than Jamaica, especially places with a rather large Jamaican populace such as London.

Preparation and Cleaning

The first thing to do when preparing it is to clean it. The edible part of the fruit are the four pieces of white-yellow fruit-meat which you will find in each ackee. Take them out of the red fruit skin, and remove the black seed. Make sure that all the red parts that may hang on after the removal of the fruit skin also are removed, including the interior 'pit' in the fruit meat, so that all you're left with is pure fruit-meat. When you've cleaned it thoroughly, you will have to boil it until it is moderately soft, which will be something like 10-15 minutes.

Ackee is often served at breakfast together with vegetables like callaloo (callaloo is a bit like spinach), but also at other meals. When served as part of the ackee and saltfish dish, it is usually accompanied by rice and peas (rice with kidney beans).

Ackee Recipes

Here follows a couple of ackee recipes which may be interesting to try out at home, at your friend's place or anywhere else you may happen to be lucky enough to find some ackee.

Ackee and Saltfish


  • 1/2lb Saltfish (cod)
  • 12 Ackees
  • 1 Onion
  • 1 teaspoon Black pepper
  • 3-4 Slices hot pepper
  • 1 Sweet red pepper
  • Cooking oil


  1. First, soak the saltfish in warm water. This may take a long time, and the fish may have to be soaked in water overnight. Before soaking, the saltfish is as hard as a board after a long time drying in the sun. When it's soaked through, put it in water and boil it.

  2. Clean the ackee and wash it, and then boil it until it's moderately soft, at which point drain off the water and leave it for the time being.

  3. Remove the bones from the saltfish. Slice and fry the onions and the sweet pepper, take out half of this mixture before adding the saltfish to what remains in the frying pan, together with the ackees, and turn up the heat a bit.

  4. Add the black pepper, fry it a bit and pour it onto a plate, garnish with the remaining onions and sweet pepper slices.

This is only one of the many ways you can prepare ackee and saltfish, and the preparation, and many of the ingredients, may vary from place to place. You may serve it with rice and peas (rice and kidney beans), cooked in 50/50 water and coconut milk. It's delicious!

Ackee and Vegetables

This is a sort of 'use what you have' dish and not really a strict recipe. One way to make this dish would be like this:


  • 12 Ackees
  • 2 Tomatoes
  • 1 Onion
  • 5 Spring onions
  • 3 Cloves of garlic
  • 1 Sweet pepper
  • Cooking oil
  • Black pepper, thyme, chilli


  1. First clean and slice all the vegetables.

  2. While you boil the ackees as described above, heat up the pan with cooking oil. Add the spices and the finely sliced garlic first and fry just a bit before adding the onion, spring onion and the sweet pepper. Fry lightly, and then add the tomatoes.

  3. When the mixture looks done (according to taste), keep it on a very low heat and wait for the ackees to finish cooking. When they're done, drain off the water, add the ackees to the stir fry and turn up the heat. Stir fry to heat through.

Serve with rice and peas, or potatoes, cooking bananas/plantains, or other similar vegetables.

Use this recipe as a guide to what vegetables you can use. You can use almost any vegetables successfully, including boiled callaloo, which can be found fresh and canned.

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