NYPL Exhibitions

Jamaican Beef Patties

Immigrants from the Caribbean have been settling in New York for more than a century, but it was not until the 1960s and ’70s that sizable Jamaican communities began appearing in Brooklyn, the Bronx, and elsewhere throughout the city. As bakeries and restaurants specializing in Jamaican food began to open, New York acquired its newest culinary icon: the Jamaican beef patty, a dollop of spicy beef wrapped in dough, baked, and then tucked into a soft roll. Variations include patties with chicken or vegetarian fillings, but purists insist on the traditional version, freshly made by hand. Once known only in Caribbean neighborhoods, today the patties are so at home in New York that they are available in pizzerias, bodegas, Grand Central Station, and the school lunch program. Gourmet magazine said the Jamaican beef patty might be “the best portable lunch in the world.”