You Can’t Leave Aruba Without Trying this Dish

Just in time for the holiday season comes this easy recipe for keshi yena, the traditional dish from Aruba you’re sure to swoon for. I first tried this delicious casserole featuring spiced meat and melted Edam cheese at Aruba Ocean Villas in Savaneta, Aruba where Chef Annelotte Ellis served it in individual baking dishes and we dined at sunset overlooking the water. It offers a taste of history and culture in every bite.

Dining cabana at Old Man and the Sea Aruba Ocean Villas

The dreamy dining cabana at  Aruba Ocean Villas

One of Aruba’s best pastry and appetizer 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 is now helming a new restaurant Delicious, 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

Easy Recipe for 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.  The 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.

History of Keshi Yena

Easy Recipe Keshi Yena Aruba

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

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. 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.

For those of us craving keshi yena — but who don’t have a rind of Edam handy– it can be made by lining a baking dish with slices of Edam. Or, for a low calorie version, just mix generous helpings of grated Edam into the spiced meat mixture.

Keshi Yena at Aruba Ocean Villas

Keshi Yena created by Chef Annelotte Ellis at Aruba Ocean Villas

With the weather getting colder in Canada and northern USA, autumn is an ideal time to make this satisfying yet easy recipe for keshi yena 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. Whip up a batch of Siboyo Tempera (the addicting fresh onion and hot pepper salsa) to serve with your keshi yena. Get the recipe here: Siboyo Tempera 

5.0 from 2 reviews
Easy Keshi Yena Recipe
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
A spiced meat and Edam cheese main dish or appetizer from Aruba and Curacao
Author:
Recipe type: Appetizer
Cuisine: Aruban
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 1 pound of chicken (white and dark meat) or ground beef
  • 1 small onion chopped
  • 1 green pepper chopped
  • 1 garlic clove chopped
  • 1 Tablespoon raisins
  • ¼ cup green pitted olives coarsely chopped
  • 1 Tablespoon capers
  • ½ 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
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • ½ pound Edam cheese
Instructions
  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 ⅔ of the Edam cheese into thin slices (optional. Omit if you're not lining the casseroles)
  6. Grate the remaining ⅓ 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
 

Where to Stay 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 (Old Man and the Sea features six intimate villas, three perched over the Caribbean and three set directly on the private beach. If you’re planning a honeymoon and looking for the ultimate in privacy,  these overwater bungalows offer an unforgettable couples retreat. The newest, #6 or Dushi Sue Villa (dushi means sweet), offers unique features such as a chandelier created of crystals and the branches of a divi-divi tree as well as a hammock slung at water’s edge.

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

Travel Planner

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

Old Man and the Sea Ocean Villas: This collection of boho-chic bungalows and villas located in Savaneta are the only overwater villas and beach bungalows in Aruba. Stay overnight and swim in shallow water, watch heron diving for fish and enjoy fabulous cuisine for breakfast and dinner. Rates begin at $250 USD per night. Visit the Old Man and the Sea Ocean Villas online or Email: info@arubaoceanvillas.com

Interested in more delicious recipes, travel tips and information about travel to Aruba? Check out these posts:

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 

Diving into Dutch Tapas on Aruba 

Top 7 Things Every Visitor Should Do on Bonaire 

Check prices on Aruba Ocean Villas and other hotels in Aruba using Booking.com. If you book, we’ll earn a small commission that will help keep this website running and you won’t pay anything extra. Check our full  Disclosure Statement  for more details.



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Recipe for Keshi Yena Aruba

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Showing 11 comments
  • Debbra Dunning Brouillette
    Reply

    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
    Reply

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

  • Donna Janke
    Reply

    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
    Reply

    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
    Reply

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

  • Judy Freedman
    Reply

    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
    Reply

    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
    Reply

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

  • Eric Gamble
    Reply

    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
    Reply

    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
    Reply

    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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