17 Best Kwanzaa Recipes for Your Holiday Gathering

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At the heart of every Kwanzaa celebration is delicious food. The week-long festivities, which originated in 1966, are a way to embrace and celebrate the African diaspora. On the final night of Kwanzaa, family members and friends gather together for Karamu, a potluck-style dinner featuring dishes from West African culinary traditions, among others. A typical feast might include okra stew, gumbo, jambalaya, collard greens, and other favorite dishes.

Like all holidays, families each have their own take on how to celebrate Kwanzaa. And because it’s a relatively new holiday, the ways to celebrate it are still evolving and changing with every generation of Black Americans who celebrate. Just bring your loved ones together for a good meal and embrace the traditions that feel right.

1. ​​Fry Bake & Saltfish Salad

In my family, there’s not a week that goes by without some kind of saltfish dish being served for dinner. It’s a tried and true classic, and this dish is what writer Shelley Worrell’s grandmother was most famous for back in her hometown of Sangre Grande in Trinidad and Tobago.

2. Callaloo

Different variations of this popular dish can be found throughout the West Indies. This one is made with spinach instead of taro leaves.

3. Black Cake Cookies

All the best parts of black cake—the rum, the wine, the raisins, currants, and walnuts—come together to make a crispy-edge and chewy-centered cookie.

4. Alton Brown’s Shrimp Gumbo

Despite its name, sausage is just as important to this mostly hands-off gumbo recipe as shrimp is.

5. Vegan Hoppin’ John

Black-eyed peas and rice are a Southern New Year’s tradition said to bring you good fortune in the new year. Adding this vegan version to your table might just bring some of that good luck to your table a week early!

6. Ginger-Coconut Macaroons

These macaroons are inspired by a treat sometimes called coconut drops or coconut candy. They remind writer Samantha Davis of her visits to Jamaica to visit family when she was a child .”What I love about them most is that they require so few ingredients, but still turn into such a delicious treat at the end. More than that, you don’t have to be a baking or pastry expert to make them—you can be at any skill level, and the cookies still come out amazingly (even when they’re not perfect!). All you need is a good mixing bowl, a wooden spoon, and some elbow grease,” says Davis.

7. Saffron-scented Vegetable Couscous with North African-spiced Halibut

This dish will put your spice rack to good use. The oil paste used for the spiced halibut combines eight (yes, eight!) spices for a savory-sweet flavor that compliments the saffron couscous with cauliflower, fennel, and olives.

8. Classic Nigerian Jollof Rice

Jollof rice is everything. The perfect tomatoey broth and rice seasoned with Nigerian-style curry powder and served with fried sweet plantains and coleslaw. Your Kwanzaa table will be so much better with a big pot of jollof rice on it.

9. Rum Glazed Coconut Bread Pudding

This popular Caribbean-style coconut dessert is best served warm (what bread pudding isn’t?). Brush the butter rum glaze on the pudding right when it comes out of the oven; the warm cake will absorb all of the flavor from the syrup, making it sticky-sweet.

10. Anytime Jambalaya

Start your Kwanzaa celebration with a breakfast jambalaya made with bacon and eggs, plus bacon, bell peppers, sausage, and rice. The crowd-friendly format is perfect for a family brunch.

11. Shrimp & Sausage Creole

Recipe developer Rosalynn Daniels remembers her grandmother serving this quick-cooking, one-pot wonder for Mardi Gras, but there’s no reason not to prepare the Creole-style dish for Kwanzaa too.

12. Jamaican Jerk Roast Chicken With Fried Plantains

Make roast chicken far more flavorful by marinating it with jerk seasoning and lime juice. “The result is a simple, citrusy, and peppered-roasted chicken that comes together with very little effort or fuss,” writes recipe developer Briana Riddock.

13. Plantains Foster

Instead of the usual bananas foster, this deeply caramelized dessert uses plantains as a nod to Caribbean, South American, and African food traditions.

14. Flaky Buttermilk Biscuits from Carla Hall

These featherlight biscuits made with buttermilk have layer after layer of flaky, buttery dough that produces a small steam bath as you pull them apart. Serve a big basket of them for your feast—they won’t last long.

15. Collard Greens Braised in Coconut Milk

Many traditional recipes for braised collard greens are made with bacon, ham hock, or another seared pork product, but this side dish is totally and completely vegan. It gets all of its savory flavor alone from garlic, ginger, tamari, lime juice, and red chile flakes.

16. Spicy Oven-Roasted Okra

In less than 30 minutes, this roasted vegetable side dish comes together with little more than salt, pepper, olive oil, and red pepper flakes.

17. Sweet Potato Pie

Allow me to let you in on a little secret—the trick to the best-ever sweet potato pie is to roast the potatoes, which creates sweet, caramelized notes that you wouldn’t achieve just by boiling them.


If you celebrate Kwanzaa, what recipes do you prepare? Share them in the comments below!



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