Skip to main content

The Manual may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site.

How To Make Keshi Yena: The Meat-Stuffed, Baked Cheese of Aruba

Throughout the Caribbean, there are countless amazing meat dishes ranging from spicy jerk chicken to crispy pork chicharron. One of the most decadent meat dishes is Keshi yena from the island of Aruba. A rich dish of baked Dutch gouda stuffed with a savory and slightly sweet mixture of chicken and herbs, keshi yena is beloved among Aruban locals. Here to help guide The Manual through this unique multicultural dish is Chef Ever de Peña, the Complex Executive Sous Chef of La Vista restaurant located in the Aruba Marriott Resort.

Main Dining Room at La Vista Restaurant in Aruba Marriott Resort
La Vista Restaurant in Aruba Marriott Resort. Marriott

Related Guides

What is Aruban Cuisine?

Despite being a small island, Aruba has its own unique culinary heritage. Aruban cuisine is heavy on comfort food and home cooking — beef stew is one of the most popular local dishes. As a former Dutch colony, the culinary influence of the Netherlands can be felt in many of the ingredients and snacks on the island, particularly the cheese. As a Caribbean island right off the coast of Venezuela, South American cuisine is another strong influence on Aruba.

Unsurprisingly, seafood is an important part of Aruban food. Fresh fish like red snapper is fried and enjoyed with fried plantains, polenta, and pan bati (an Aruban bread that resembles a pancake made from Sorghum bicolor, which grows on the island). Aruba also has a local hot sauce called pic di papaya. This spicy, slightly tart, orange-colored hot sauce is made from Madam Jeanette peppers and papayas and is ubiquitous throughout the island.

Keshi Yena — A Blend of Cultures

Dutch Gouda Wheels in Cheese Shop
Dutch Gouda Wheels. Image used with permission by copyright holder

The name Keshi yena stems from the Dutch word kase, which means cheese. Keshi yena was created by slaves during the 17th century in Aruba. Slaves were brought to the island by the Dutch, who colonized the island. These slaves took advantage of Dutch leftovers, in Keshi yena’s case, the hollowed-out cheese rinds of Gouda or Edam thrown out by the Dutch. From this, the slaves stuffed the discarded rinds with meat (usually chicken but beef is also common) and vegetables and baked everything together. Traditional versions of keshi yena were sometimes baked in empty food cans or wrapped for baking in plantain leaves. Nowadays, keshi yena is sometimes placed into individual ramekins. Keshi yena is most commonly enjoyed during holidays like Christmas although it can also be found on restaurant menus throughout the year.

As a dish, Keshi yena perfectly represents the blend of cultures in Aruba. The cheese element hails from the Dutch but the meat mixture is a blend of native Caribbean ingredients with influences of Latin America. A surprising ingredient in Chef Peña’s Keshi yena recipe is ketjap manis, a sweet soy sauce from Indonesia (another former Dutch colony). The addition of this soy sauce adds a sweet and umami rich flavor to the keshi yena.

Keshi Yena

Aruban Keshi Yena From La Vista Restaurant
Keshi Yena at La Vista Restaurant. Image used with permission by copyright holder

Serves 10-12

(By Chef Ever de Peña of La Vista restaurant in Aruba Marriott Resort)

A native Aruban, Chef Ever de Peña began his culinary career in 2005 at the Renaissance Hotel in Aruba, where he worked his way up from student apprentice to Junior Sous Chef. He then became Executive Chef at the Manchebo Beach Resort & Spa in Aruba. In 2016, Chef Peña joined the Aruba Marriott Resort as Complex Executive Sous Chef.


  • 2 pounds chicken breast
  • 1-2 limes
  • 4 whole shallots
  • 3 ounces chopped garlic and 1 garlic clove
  • 4 quarts water
  • 12 peppercorns
  • 1 or 2 whole onions and 3 cups of diced onions
  • 1 celery stalk with leaves
  • bay leaf (bruised)
  • 3 cups tomatoes diced
  • 3 cups bell pepper diced
  • 2 ounces Piccalilli (mustard pickle)
  • 5 ounces cocktail onions
  • 5 ounces green olives
  • 4 ounces raisin
  • 3 ounces cashew nuts
  • 1 tablespoon parsley, minced
  • Tabasco sauce to taste
  • 12 ounces ketchup
  • 3 ounces ketjap manis
  • 10 ounces Dutch Gouda, sliced
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. To season the chicken, squeeze the limes and rub the chicken with the juice. Then, season the chicken with salt, pepper,  shallots, and 1 clove of chopped garlic. Marinate for several hours.
  2. Arrange marinated chicken in a shallow baking dish and bake for one hour at 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Once cooked, let the chicken cool at room temperature. Alternative cooking method: Brown the chicken in a pan with 2 tbsp of butter.
  3. When the chicken has cooled, shred into small pieces and place into a large pot.
  4.  Add into pot: 4 quarts water, 2 teaspoons salt, 12 peppercorns, 1 or 2 onions, 1 celery stalk with leaves, and bay leaf (bruised). Bring to a boil.
  5. Once boiling, reduce heat and simmer for twenty minutes or until chicken is tender. Strain and reserve the broth, discarding the vegetables.
  6. As the chicken cools, sauté in a pan: Two tablespoons of butter or olive oil, 3 cups diced tomatoes, 3 cups diced onion, 3 cups diced bell pepper, and 3 ounces chopped garlic.
  7. Add and stir in pan: 5 ounces cocktail onions, 5 ounces green olives, 4 ounces raisins, 3 ounces cashew nuts, 1 tablespoon parsley, 12 ounces ketchup. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add Tabasco here if desired.
  8. Simmer until the tomatoes are reduced, about twenty to thirty minutes. When done, remove from heat and let cool.
  9. If keshi yena is to be baked, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Make sure mixture is well-mixed before placing it in a 13 by 9 by 2 baking pan. Top with sliced Dutch Gouda cheese. Cover loosely with tin foil.
  10. Bake at 350 degrees F for 60 minutes. Let cool before serving.

Editors' Recommendations

Hunter Lu
Hunter Lu is a New York-based food and features writer, editor, and NYU graduate. His fiction has appeared in The Line…
How to make the perfect beef stew, according to a master chef
This is the only beef stew recipe you need for dinner in
Beef stew

When one thinks of hearty spring dishes, beef stew is sure to be at the top of the list. The simplicity and deliciousness of this one-pot meal is what have made it a go-to meal for centuries. It can be made in a standard stock pot, Dutch oven, or cast-iron cauldron hanging over a campfire.

Whatever vessel you decide to cook beef stew in, it's a good idea to make a lot of it. The leftovers keep for a long time, and it's one of the few dishes you can prepare where the re-heats taste as good as the first cook. Combined with a crusty baguette to sop up the flavorful stock, there are few foods more comforting than this.

Read more
How to make the perfect Boulevardier
Learn how to make this cocktail and add it to your home bartending list
Boulevardier cocktail and orange zest on wooden table

If you haven't introduced yourself to the classic cocktail otherwise known as the Boulevardier, it's time you do so. The brooding relative of the Negroni, this drink goes way back and brings out some of the best flavors Campari has to offer.

The Boulevardier is a layered mix of Campari, vermouth, and bourbon, usually treated to a citrus garnish. It's believed to have been created in 1927, when it became the favorite cocktail of expatriate writer Erskine Gwynne. The Paris-based penman worked on a magazine of the same name, hence the drink's title. The drink was one of the many shining stars from the cocktail world's first true golden era.
Alicia Perry is a cocktail wizard and former general manager at San Diego's Polite Provisions. She likes a Boulevardier that allows the base spirit to shine brightly through the partner ingredients of sweet vermouth and Campari. "I utilize Buffalo Trace or Eagle Rare in mine personally, there are vanilla and browned sugar notes in this specific bourbon that are brought forth when showcased in this cocktail," she said. In terms of the sweet vermouth, Perry opts for Carpano Antica.

Read more
How to make the Garibaldi, the world’s most complicated 2-Ingredient cocktail
Warm weather, here we come with the Garibaldi
Garibaldi cocktail

The classic two-ingredient Garibaldi cocktail embodies the perfect summer cocktail: sweet, refreshing, and easy to drink. Well-made versions hit all the right notes: The bitterness and complexity of Campari married to the fruit-filled simplicity of orange juice, while a top layer of foam gives a rich texture. This versatile beverage goes nicely as an aperitivo before dinner, at brunch, or for an afternoon pick-me-up. Though there is some finesse to making a respectable Garibaldi, you won’t need much in the way of complicated liqueurs or specialty bitters.

The cocktail is named after Giuseppe Garibaldi, the 19th-century revolutionary who successfully united Italy. Aptly symbolizing Italian unification in a glass, the Garibaldi joins the north (Lombardy being the birthplace of Campari) with the south (oranges grown in Sicily). You can also draw a parallel between the color of the drink and the red-hued shirts worn by Garibaldi’s freedom fighters — some say its bright hue is the reason it’s called the Garibaldi. Curiously, Garibaldi adopted his trademark style of red shirt, poncho, and hat while living in exile in South America.

Read more