I first wrote this Jamaican festival recipe only after my brother asked me for a Jerk Chicken stuffed dumpling recipe. At the time of his request, we lived on opposite ends of the USA and I had just posted a picture of Jerk Chicken stuffed festival online. And it apparently set off a craving. Despite making festivals countless times I had never written a recipe. So, I figured if I was going to all that trouble I might as well capture the steps and get a recipe.
Jamaican festivals are best described as sweet little fried cornmeal biscuits. They are similar to fried dumplings and made the same way. The difference is that festivals contain a noticeable amount of cornmeal, sugar, and cinnamon. Traditional fried dumplings can be made with or without cornmeal but do not contain sugar or cinnamon. Festival is usually served with spicy fish, jerk pork or chicken, and other spicy meat dishes. Festivals are usually rolled into a long cylindrical shape but there is no rule that says you must. All the pictures you see below were taken in 2021 when inspiration prompted me to make large bun-sized festivals. And to update this recipe post.
Whether you’re a professional or a novice cook, this Jamaican festival recipe is very easy to follow. The coarseness of the cornmeal, and inexact measurements can impact how much water is needed. When you knead the dough resist the temptation to pour in all the liquid at once.
Jamaican Festivals Recipe
- 1½ C all-purpose flour (*substitute self-rising flour for flour and baking powder)
- 2 tsp baking powder
- ½ C cornmeal
- ¼ C sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- ¾ C water*
- oil (for frying)
Combine the dry ingredients in a small mixing bowl. Make a well in the middle. Slowly pour in the water while mixing with a spoon or your hands. When half the water is added stop and start kneading the dough with your hand. Slowly add water as needed while you knead.
Let the dough rest for 10 to 30 minutes if you wish
The finished dough should be soft but dry enough to not stick to your hands.
When you are ready to cook the festivals. Pour enough oil into a small skillet to come about ½ inch up the side. While you shape the festivals Heat the oil over medium heat for 5 to 7 minutes. Tear the dough into about 12 small pieces. Roll each piece between your palms to form sticks 2 to 3 inches long. Carefully place each festival into the hot oil. As they fry and color on the sides. Use a fork to carefully turn each festival. Fry until festivals are golden on all sides.
Remove from the oil and place on a paper towel lined plate. Delicious served with spicy meat or gravy
*I use half water half milk for a lighter crisper festival. Do not use more than 50% milk. It will cause your festivals to burn before they are cooked through.