Categories: Caribbean, Recipes

Recipe From Afar: Ducana, Antigua and Barbuda

In honor of our month of Caribbean food on social media, we have a recipe for ducana, one of our favorite Antiguan dishes, provided by our friends at The Foreign Fork. Ducana is a dumpling made of grated sweet potato, coconut, cinnamon, and other seasonings that’s wrapped in a banana leaf, boiled in water, and served as a common side to fish dishes. Check out the recipe below, and then see our full guide to Antiguan foods.

Antiguan ducana, a sweet potato dumpling, wrapped in a banana leaf and twine
Photos courtesy of The Foreign Fork except where indicated.


Making Antiguan ducana was such a fun experience because it was unlike anything I had ever done before. First you grate sweet potatoes and combine them with sugar, coconut, flour, and spices. Form the mixture into dumplings, wrap in ginormous banana leaves and secure with twine, and then boil for about 45 minutes. Easy peasy! The end result is a sweet potato dumpling that is the perfect side to a seafood dish like red snapper or salted cod, the traditional accompaniment in Antigua.

Long banana leaves before being prepared for cooking in a home kitchen.
Gigantic banana leaves, unfurled.

I cooked about half of the ducana in banana leaves and, as an experiment, wrapped the other half in aluminum foil. Both types emerged from the water a little soggy but delicious nonetheless. Perhaps try securing your aluminum foil a bit more carefully than I secured mine before popping them in the water. The coconut and sweet potato combination creates a flavor dream come true!

Homemade ducana, or sweet potato dumplings, after being cooked in banana leaf.

How to Make Ducana, Antiguan Sweet Potato Dumplings

Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 45 minutes
Total time: 1 hour, 5 minutes

Makes 10 servings


8 banana leaves or aluminum foil
1 dry coconut, grated (or 3 cups/710 ml unsweetened grated coconut from a bag)
3 lbs (1.4 kg) sweet potatoes, grated
2 cups (480 ml) flour
1/2 cup (120 ml) sugar
1/2 cup (120 ml) water
1 Tbsp (15 ml) vanilla
1/2 tsp (2 ml) cinnamon
1/2 tsp (2 ml) salt
1/4 tsp (1 ml) nutmeg

  1. Wash banana leaves and remove central stems.
  2. Cut leaves into 5-inch (13 cm) squares.
  3. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add leaves and blanch for about 10 seconds to soften. Remove and run under water to cool. Set aside.
  4. Combine all remaining ingredients, mixing to make a very soft dough. Add a little extra water if the dough is too stiff, or add flour if it feels too liquidy.
  5. Place about 1/2 cup dough on each leaf. Fold to make a neat parcel. Secure by tying with kitchen twine or leftover strips of banana leaf. Dough can also be wrapped in aluminum foil if banana leaves are unavailable (note: you can find them on Amazon these days!). 
  6. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add ducana packets and simmer for about 45 minutes. Drain and let cool.
  7. Serve warm or at room temperature. 

Recipe adapted from


Saltfish and ducana, sweet potato dumplings, as found in an Antiguan restaurant
Here's how we at EYW found ducana presented in Antigua, with salt fish and veggies.

About the author: Alexandria Drzazgowski is the crazy cook behind The Foreign Fork, a project that she started to cook a meal from every country in the world. She’s been to 21 countries in her 21 years and is using her blog to explore more of the Earth every single day. Check out her website for global recipes, great flavor profiles, and the wild experiences that come with cooking the world! You can also visit her Instagram here.

Published On: January 22, 2019

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