12 Essential Kwanzaa Recipes for Your Holiday Feast
Kwanzaa was initiated by Maulana Karenga, a professor and activist, in 1966. It's a non-religious holiday that celebrates African American heritage and culture across the diaspora. The recipes featured during Kwanzaa highlight the fruits and vegetables of the harvest, with influences from African cuisine. Here are some of my favorite Kwanzaa recipes!
Cornbread is one of my favorite foods to make during the holidays. Cornmeal is a humble ingredient that transforms into a comforting bread when mixed with butter, milk, eggs, flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Once baked, the result is a fluffy and moist cornbread. It’s a must-have at the table for sopping up sauces!
Learn more about the story of Kwanzaa.
Fried okra is a staple in Southern kitchens. The chopped okra gets dredged in a buttermilk, cornmeal and flour mixture and then deep-fried until golden. It’s crunchy on the outside and tender on the inside. Fried okra is the perfect appetizer for your Kwanzaa feast—or any day of the week.
Here’s another Kwanzaa food must! These collard greens are a healthy and yet comforting side dish for the Kwanzaa table. You saute onions, garlic, ham hocks, crushed red peppers, seasonings and wine; then simmer in a pot with aromatics. Then, collard greens are added to the pot. Two hours later, you get perfectly tender and flavorful collard greens.
Caramelized peaches topped with a crisp butter topping sounds perfect to me! When this cobbler bakes, the juices of the peach integrate with the dry mix to form a crispy cobbler batter. The peaches are tender and juicy, with a beautiful golden-brown crumble on top. Serve peach cobbler with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream for the ultimate Kwanzaa dessert. (I also like to serve these benne seed wafers after the meal.)
The sweetness in this recipe is balanced out by the earthiness of the yams. Sliced, coin-shaped yams go into a pot of butter, dark brown sugar, white sugar, baking spices, orange juice concentrate and vanilla. The yams cook and caramelize in the pot. They’re a nice balance of sweet and savory, with a beautiful tender bite.
Jollof rice is no ordinary steamed rice. It’s packed with tons of flavor from crushed tomatoes, onions, green peppers, a hot pepper, tomato paste, spices galore and veggie broth. Use a long-grain rice for a little extra bite. Top with fresh scallions. It’s a delicious side dish that your Kwanzaa table needs.
I make this sweet potato casserole to add a little sweetness to the dinner table before dessert. I mash roasted sweet potatoes and mix them with milk, butter, eggs and warm spices. The filling goes into a casserole dish and is topped with marshmallows and pecans. The dish is baked—and out comes the perfect side dish for Kwanzaa.
This recipe will be the star of your Kwanzaa feast. Fried whiting is crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. You dredge fillets of whiting in cornmeal, flour, garlic powder, cayenne powder, salt and pepper. Then, pan fry them in some vegetable oil. The result is a crunchy, flavorful exterior. Serve this whiting as a main with lemon wedges and a remoulade sauce or with bread, tartar and hot sauce.