Keshi Yena: Don’t Leave Aruba Without Trying this Dish

You’re sure to swoon for this easy keshi yena recipe, a traditional Dutch Caribbean casserole featuring melted Edam cheese and spiced meat. Popular in Aruba and Curacao, it makes a deliciously satisfying main course for company or a weekday meal. 

Keshi Yena at Aruba Ocean Villas

Keshi Yena created by Chef Annelotte Ellis at Aruba Ocean Villas

I first tried this popular casserole featuring spiced meat and melted Edam cheese at Aruba Ocean Villas in Savaneta, Aruba where it was served in individual baking dishes and we dined at sunset overlooking the water.

Much like other delicious local food in Aruba, keshi yena offers a taste of history and culture in every bite. Many people consider it to be Aruba’s national dish!

Dining cabana at Old Man and the Sea Aruba Ocean Villas

The dreamy dining cabana at  Aruba Ocean Villas

Where to Try Keshi Yena on Aruba

One of Aruba’s best pastry chefs, Chef Annelotte Ellis is recognized throughout the Caribbean for her artistry and creative use of local ingredients so I was lucky to have the opportunity to try her variation on this classic dish.

We also got to try keshi yena pizza but that’s a recipe for another post. Although Chef Annelotte Ellis has embarked on new culinary adventures, it’s still possible for hotel guests to enjoy keshi yena at Aruba Ocean Villas.  Read below for details on this.

Chef Annelotte Ellis Aruba

Shown here at Aruba Ocean Villas, Chef Annelotte Ellis has since launched a new restaurant project in Aruba

 Keshi Yena: A Must-try Dish in Aruba

In many ways, keshi yena reminds me of picadillo, the traditional hash made with ground pork, ground beef, chicken (or all three) that’s popular throughout Cuba, Latin America, Mexico and Spain.

Keshi Yena  recipes vary from country to country (and each cook’s kitchen) but picadillo gets its signature layers of flavour from the salty-sweet mix of  olives, capers and raisins.

Easy Recipe Keshi Yena Aruba

Keshi Yena as prepared by Chef Annelotte Ellis at Aruba Ocean Villas

History of Keshi Yena

With its spicy-sweetness and melted cheese, Keshi Yena reflects the culinary influences of Aruba’s diverse population – a fascinating mix drawn from the Caribbean, South America, Africa, India,  Asia, the Netherlands and other European countries.

You can find a similar stuffed cheese dish  throughout Europe, Asia and the Caribbean, a legacy of the period when Edam cheese was the world’s most popular cheese. During the 14th and 18th centuries, due to its durability in transportation by sea, Edam cheese made its way to remote Dutch colonies where it joined the culinary traditions in several countries.

Today, appears as queso de bola or queso relleno in the Yucatan of Mexico and in Spain. In the Philippines, queso de bola is popular during Christmas festivities, especially on NocheBuena, the evening Christmas Eve feast.

Like many other  traditional dishes, keshi yena has humble beginnings. It was originally designed as an inventive way to use leftover scraps from the kitchen, most notably the rind of a round of Edam cheese.

Leftover meat was seasoned, spooned into the empty cheese rind and then baked or steamed, resulting in a round of slightly nutty, melted Edam cheese stuffed with piping hot spicy meat.

All of which makes it a real crowd-pleaser and a dish you must try on a visit to Aruba.

How to Make Keshi Yena

If you’re craving keshi yena but don’t have a rind of Edam handy it can be made by lining the sides and bottom of a baking dish with thin slices of Edam. Or, for a low calorie version, just mix generous helpings of grated Edam into the spiced meat mixture.

Keshi Yena Recipe Aruba

Keshi Yena enjoyed at Aruba Ocean Villas in Savaneta Aruba

 Keshi Yena Recipe and Tips

When the weather is chilly in Canada and northern USA, it’s an ideal time to make this satisfying yet easy  keshi yena recipe for your next party, pot-luck or get-together with friends.   This is my interpretation of the Keshi Yena I enjoyed in Aruba.

  • Note that it doesn’t contain eggs and is gluten-free.
  • Serve it with toasted slices of French bread or cornbread.
  • You can also make the Keshi Yena filling to use as a topping and serve it as a pizza topping!

Tip: Whip up a side of Siboyo Tempera (the addicting fresh onion and hot pepper salsa) to serve with your keshi yena. Get the recipe here: Siboyo Tempera 

If you try this keshi yena recipe or any other recipe on the blog, please be sure to rate the recipe and let me know how the dish turns out in the comments below.  I’d love to hear from you! You can also FOLLOW ME on FACEBOOK, TWITTER, INSTAGRAM and PINTEREST to see more delicious recipes from around the world.

5 from 2 votes
Keshi Yena at Aruba Ocean Villas
Easy Keshi Yena Recipe
Prep Time
15 mins
Cook Time
1 hr
Total Time
1 hr 15 mins
A spiced meat and Edam cheese main dish or appetizer from Aruba and Curacao
Course: Appetizer, Main Course
Cuisine: Aruban
Keyword: edam cheese, keshi yena, keshi yena recipe
Servings: 4 servings
Calories: 385 kcal
Author: Annelotte Ellis
  • 1 pound chicken white and dark meat or ground beef
  • 1 small onion chopped
  • 1 green pepper chopped
  • 1 clove garlic chopped
  • 1 Tablespoon raisins
  • 1/4 cup green pitted olives coarsely chopped
  • 1 Tablespoon capers
  • 1/2 Madame Janette pepper or Scotch Bonnet
  • 1 Roma tomato seeded and chopped
  • 1 Tablespoon ketchup
  • 2 Tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 Tablespoon sweet relish
  • 1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 Tablespoon parsley chopped
  • 1 tsp salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 pound Edam cheese shredded
  1. If using chicken, prepare it in advance by simmering in water (with salt, water, onion, parsley which is later discarded), allow it to cool, remove from the bones and then shred it. You can also bake the chicken pieces (sprinkled with salt, pepper and poultry seasoning) in a 350 oven for 45 minutes, allow it to cool, remove from the bones and then shred it.
  2. Brown the shredded chicken or ground beef ( or a combination of both) in a heavy frying pan.
  3. Add the remaining ingredients except for the Edam cheese and parsley
  4. Simmer for 15 minutes
  5. Slice 2/3 of the Edam cheese into thin slices (optional. Omit if you're not lining the casseroles)
  6. Grate the remaining 1/3 of the Edam cheese and add it to the meat and spice mixture.
  7. Line the individual serving dishes with the slices of Edam cheese making sure they overlap (optional)
  8. Fill the dishes with the Edam, meat and spice mixture and top with grated Edam
  9. Bake in the oven for 45 minutes, sprinkle with parsley and serve hot with sliced toasted French bread or chunks of cornbread
Nutrition Facts
Easy Keshi Yena Recipe
Amount Per Serving
Calories 385 Calories from Fat 225
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 25g 38%
Saturated Fat 12g 60%
Cholesterol 91mg 30%
Sodium 1558mg 65%
Potassium 465mg 13%
Total Carbohydrates 13g 4%
Dietary Fiber 2g 8%
Sugars 7g
Protein 25g 50%
Vitamin A 23.7%
Vitamin C 48%
Calcium 43.5%
Iron 7.9%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

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Where to Eat Keshi Yena in Aruba

For the ultimate in Caribbean dining, there’s nothing quite as memorable as enjoying keshi yena in an overwater bungalow surrounded by the sea. Boutique-sized Aruba Ocean Villas Resort  features six intimate villas, three perched over the Caribbean and three set directly on the private beach.

Not only is an authentic Aruban breakfast included in each overnight stay at Aruba Ocean Villas but when you book on the website there is an option to book a 3, 4, or 5 course gourmet dinner with a private chef at your villa. And keshi yena should definitely on your wish-list to try.

Jojoli villa at Aruba Ocean Villas in Savaneta

Jojoli villa at Aruba’s only overwater bungalows


Aruba Tourism Authority: Get maps, travel advice and other valuable resources on the official Aruba Tourism Authority website.

Interested in more delicious recipes, travel tips and information about travel to Aruba?


5 Secret Hideaways You’ll Love on Aruba  

Recipe for Siboyo Tempera, an authentic sauce from Aruba

Finding Vegan Heaven at Bucuti and Tara Beach Resort Aruba 

A Day of Luxury at Renaissance  Private Island 

Zeerovers Aruba: A Seafood Restaurant You Don’t Want to Miss! 

Diving into Dutch Tapas on Aruba 

Top 7 Things Every Visitor Should Do on Bonaire 

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This easy recipe for Keshi Yena makes a fantastic main course or appetizer and is a popular dish from the Aruba in the Dutch #caribbean #recipe

Michele Peterson
Michele Peterson
Dividing her time between Toronto, Mexico and Guatemala (or the nearest tropical beach), Michele Peterson is an award-winning writer, blogger, editor and publisher who specializes in travel, cuisine and luxury lifestyles.
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Showing 11 comments
  • Debbra Dunning Brouillette

    Aruba is high on my list of Caribbean islands to visit since I haven’t yet stayed there…and have visited the other two “ABC” islands and loved both of them. I’m sure if I make it there I will try this dish! I love to try the local specialties.

  • Irene S. Levine

    Keshi Yena looks like a wonderful dish – cold weather or warm weather in Aruba! Thanks for the recipe.

  • Donna Janke

    Kenshi Yena looks yummy. I’d love to go to Aruba and have it there, but in the meantime I may just have to make for myself at home.

  • Culture Tripper

    You had me at capers, olives and Edam cheese! The plate prepared by Chef Ellis looks super appetizing, and both the dining cabana and Jojoli bungalow at Aruba Ocean Villas are like something out of a tropical fantasy! Will definitely try this recipe.

  • Jon Bailey

    Thanks for the recipe! Will definitely try this at home soon.

  • Judy Freedman

    I’ve made piccadillo before but this dish sounds a bit different. Will have to try it. I’ve never been to the island of Aruba. Sounds like a relaxing spot.

  • Kevin Wagar

    That looks delicious! I’m looking for some great travel-themed meal ideas so I think I’ll try this in a few days!

  • Amanda Keeley-Thurman

    Sounds like a delicious dish. I love the mix of savory and sweet raisins.

  • Eric Gamble

    Chef Ellis looks like a serious woman! But that Keshi Yena looks and sounds amazing. You had me when you compared it to picadillo! (I am cuban and live off Picadillo)
    May have to ask for it without the cheese but drown it in the olive dressing for me!

  • Joe

    Looks mouth watering, and what a fusion of cuisines from around the world! That resort looks like the ideal place to stay too; loving the Hemingway reference 😉

  • Katie Diederichs

    Wow, this looks soooo good! I love trying new dishes around the world, and this is going on my list! I love that you included a recipe too so in case I don’t make it to Aruba soon I can give it a taste 🙂

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