February marks the kickoff of Black History Month, a 50-plus-year-old tradition celebrating Black culture. After gaining traction on college campuses in the late 1960s, Black History Month was recognized by President Gerald Ford in 1976.
And rightfully so, considering Black people helped build the foundation of this nation. Now amid racial tensions coupled with the coronavirus pandemic, we’re all looking for something to be excited about, something to make us feel good again.
Well, this Black History Month, we have an extra-special reason to celebrate our history with the inauguration of Kamala Harris as the first woman, the first African American, the first Indian-American, and the first graduate of an HBCU to be sworn in as Vice President of the United States of America.
Just like Kamala, Black culture is multi-hyphenated, with roots spanning across every continent. And every culture within the diaspora has unique relationships with food and drink—often connected by our shared experience of enslavement, immigration, systemic oppression, and scrappiness.
The duality of assorted origins and collective experiences inspired me to organize almost 40 Black food bloggers to create a menu that honors our past while celebrating our cultural diversity. This roster of comforting recipes includes ingredients tied to Black foodways, reimagined takes on holiday favorites, and traditional pan-African global cuisine.
The potluck allows us to unite through food, not ignoring that being Black in itself means being multicultural. The reality is, the more I conduct this potluck, the more I realize that soul or Southern food is just a fraction of the pie when it comes to Black food and identity.
“I’m honored to participate in the Black History Month Virtual Potluck every year because it is a unique opportunity to connect with Black food creatives from across the diaspora and learn more about the global richness of Black cuisine,” Jazzmine Woodward, founder of the blog A Dash of Jazz, told me. “This space provided valuable virtual connections, even before 2020, and I’m glad to be part of its growth. The Black History Month Virtual Potluck helps shine a light into all the corners of our distinct, yet related, food traditions.”
Many recipes from this round-up emphasize ingredients that have a tangible connection to African heritage. In Dude That Cookz’s Stewed Okra & Tomatoes With Chicken Sausage, Eric and Shanna Jones highlight okra, one of the ingredients brought from Africa for slaves to cultivate in the Western hemisphere. Peanuts were also brought to America by way of the slave trade and are reimagined in the Peanut Curry Braised Ribs by Britney Brown-Chamberlain of Britney Breaks Bread and the Sugar Coated Vanilla Peanuts from Murielle Banackissa.
Malawah (Somali Sweet Pancakes) was beautifully interpreted and enhanced with apple sauce by Vienna-born food blogger Melissa Ifemwe of A Sweet Point Of View. Renee Robley of Homemade Zagat shares her island roots with her take on Coo Coo, a side dish made popular by slaves during the early colonial period of the Caribbean. And buttermilk-laden cookout classics like Buttermilk Fried Chicken, Buttermilk Cornbread, and Cast-Iron Buttermilk Biscuits and were flawlessly executed by Butter Be Ready’s Quin Liburd, Erique Berry Co.’s Erique Berry, and Seasoned To Taste’s Carita Fambro, respectively.
This rich list of recipes celebrating Black food history, past and present, is something we can all get excited about. So, what will you be trying out from this Black History Month Virtual Potluck? Breeze through the full menu below, be sure to share using the hashtag #BHMVP2021, and shout out these amazing Black culinary creatives when you try their recipes!
“Passionfruit is one of my comfort flavors that I grew up with in Sierra Leone. My dad introduced this fruit to us and it reminds me of my childhood, where a refreshing glass of passionfruit juice was always awaiting us after school. Today, I try to infuse this flavor in my baked goods.” —A Classic Twist
“Shrimp and grits has a rich cultural history in the Southern United States, with roots that can be traced back to Africa. This recipe for shrimp and creamy cauliflower grits is a twist on a comforting favorite. A down-home meal that is weaved throughout our history. ” —A Girl Called Adri
“Today I’ll be sharing this fun recipe called malawah, which are Somali sweet pancakes, which I spruced up with some apple sauce.” —A Sweet Point of View
“The combination of okra and corn takes me back to my childhood. Being from the South, my mom would literally put okra in everything and it would always taste so good!” —Beautiful Eats & Things
“To date, this is my favorite recipe. Without question. The ribs are seasoned and coated with onion powder, garlic powder, ginger, cinnamon, and a little bit of red pepper flakes. Braise them in the oven for about three hours. Then make the sticky peanut curry sauce.” —Britney Breaks Bread
“It doesn’t get much better than the Southern classic staple that is buttermilk fried chicken, y’all. I’m talking about loads of juicy flavor and that signature crunch! Fried chicken is such a time-honored tradition within Black culture and is an absolute must for every single potluck.” —Butter Be Ready
“These super easy sweet potato pop tarts are based on my go-to sweet potato pie recipe. The sweet potato filling and brown butter icing are so quick to make. The perfect way to satisfy those sweet cravings during quarantine!” —Chenée Today
“While some debate whether andouille has French or German roots, Cajun andouille is credited to be the result of sausage makers combining their skills with the distinct cooking flavors of French and African descendants living in Louisiana during the 18th century. We paired this spicy sausage with shrimp and grits, a Southern classic with roots tracing back to the Gullah Geechee people, descendants of slaves from West Africa.” —Cooks with Soul
“Suya is an iconic West African street food and the spice blend that gives it such memorable flavor can be used in a variety of savory dishes. Pairing these beloved spices with a familiar Western staple like Brussels sprouts helps bring the flavor to vegetarian palates and heightens awareness of and appreciation for Nigerian cuisine in new communities.” —Dash of Jazz
“This recipe blends two staple dishes with deep roots in African and African American history. Combining stewed okra and tomatoes with succotash (a simple combination of okra, corn, lima beans, and tomatoes) and juicy chicken sausage creates a spin on tradition meals served in my home and throughout the South for decades.” —Dude That Cookz
“Cornbread and collard greens are a match made in heaven and an absolute Southern favorite. Adding in the sweet potato makes this an instant Southern favorite to enjoy any day of the week.” —Erique Berry Co.
“This yam and plantain curry recipe is based on Nigerian asaro, and is a perfectly spicy and filling stew. Super easy to make and utterly delicious, this is the perfect dish for warming up on a cold night.” —Ethically Living
“Cornbread has a long history among African Americans. Corn was a central feature of the diets of Black Americans in the plantation South, and corn-based breads or cakes were prepared in various forms. Cornbread has retained its significance throughout the years post-emancipation. This cornbread recipe relies on sourdough discard, making it ideal for sourdough bakers who want to use up their excess starter and prevent food waste.” —Feed the Malik
“Jamaican jerk is way of cooking created by slaves (known as Maroons) who escaped to the mountains of Jamaica. Maroons would blend fragrant spices and herbs to marinate the wild pigs they hunted to survive. This style is used today on all meats (notably chicken), seafood, and vegetables.” —Food Fidelity
“Traditionally, collards are cooked over several hours until they almost melt in your mouth. While I like the traditional way of cooking greens, I don’t always have time for the all-day affair. I’ve come up with this quick dish that I can make on a weeknight to satisfy my craving.” — FoodLoveTog
“Add some Caribbean flare to a popular soul food brunch staple. Featuring fried shrimp cakes stuffed with onions, peppers, and celery, seasoned with a spicy jerk blend, and dusted with cornmeal, served on top of my special creamy and cheesy grits.” —Geo’s Table
“Crispy, flavorful, gluten-free fried chicken with apple-cinnamon waffles, smothered in a mouth-watering maple bourbon glaze. Chicken and waffles is a timeless soul food classic and deeply loved comfort food. Enjoy this recipe for breakfast, brunch, or dinner!” —Good Food Baddie
“A wonderful mix of tangy and sweet; these yams are buttery, rich, and definitely enjoyable! Yams are an important part of West African history, as they are sometimes seen as symbol of fertility and prosperity.” —Handy Chef
“This stew is a paleo and nightshade-free adaptation of a classic comforting dish served across the Caribbean diaspora. In this version, beef is marinaded in cilantro, lime, chives, and thyme, caramelized in coconut sugar, and cooked alongside carrots and dumplings.” —Heal Me Delicious
20. Cornmeal Coo Coo
“Coo coo (sometimes spelled cou cou), also known as fungi, is an integral food of both the Windward and Leeward islands. It is a dish that became popular in the early colonial history of the Caribbean. This inexpensive recipe came to us from our African ancestry and was a regular meal for slaves who could afford just the basics of cornmeal and okra.” —HomeMadeZagat
21. Caribbean Oxtail
“This is a traditional Caribbean oxtail recipe with a couple of different twists, given to me by my cousin years ago. She always made it on Fridays as a celebratory meal for making it through the week. It’s savory, a tad spicy, rich, and a big bowl of comfort!” —Just Add Hot Sauce
“If you’ve never had oxtail before, you are missing out. Once you make my Creole oxtail stew recipe, you’ll be making it again and again. I leaned on my Creole roots to make a savory red gravy that incorporates staple ingredients like tomatoes, bell peppers, onions, and Creole seasoning.” —Kenneth Temple
“Perfectly spiced sweet potato cake is sure to be your favorite fall dessert! A tender moist crumb, packed with amazing cozy flavors, then topped with a creamy glaze and crunchy nuts. Yum!” —Lenox Bakery
“Black people have always found a way to make something out of nothing. Slaves turned unwanted scraps of food into some of the most sought-after dishes in the South. Growing up we had cornbread every Sunday and hush puppies at all of our fish fries; it was a true staple in our home. These cornmeal waffles bring some nostalgia for me, something I hope everyone can enjoy.” —Margaritas On The Rocks
“The most controversial and acclaimed dish at the Black family function is, hands down, the potato salad. Loaded with hard-boiled eggs, pickle relish, mayonnaise, mustard, and topped with the hefty signature sprinkle of paprika, this soul-filling and crowd-pleasing potato salad is definitely cookout-approved.” —Meiko And The Dish
“Traditionally sold by street vendors, these peanuts are a snack popular in many African nations, including the Republic of Congo. If you are looking for a super-easy, satisfying snack or dessert, one that requires only five ingredients, that delivers on flavor, and that is highly customizable, this one is for you!” —Murielle Banackissa
“Hoppin’ John Fritters are savory, smoky, a little bit spicy—a crunchy way to create something new out of some familiar, traditional Southern foods. Repurpose some leftovers or chop it up fresh to bring good luck and prosperity to your table.” —Nik Snacks
“Flaky blackened catfish is served over creamy smoked Gouda grits and topped with a flavorful Cajun cream sauce. This Southern dish is loaded with flavor and features just the right amount of spice!” —Pink Owl Kitchen
“The honey is infused with a nice lemon pepper flavor and then drizzled over extra crispy, lightly breaded chicken wings to create the perfect balance of savory and sweet!” —Razzle Dazzle Life
“Lentils have been my go-to comfort food for the past year. This underrated ingredient is so versatile and fulfilling that it’s a staple in many African American households. I enjoy eating BBQ lentils when I want something smoky and sweet. Pair with dairy-free cheesy grits, and you are good to go.” —Rosalynn Daniels
“This spicy Ghanaian condiment has a strong and smoky taste with a big kick of chile. It may not be for the faint of heart, but Shito Pepper Sauce can spice up even the plainest dishes, adding a rich and bold African flavor with plenty of depth and complexity.” —Savory Thoughts
“Food is at the very soul of African American history. Traditional Southern biscuits are a sacred staple served at every meal. This small-batch recipe is made with a handful of pantry items; have warm, soft, buttery biscuits in under 40 minutes!” —Seasoned To Taste
“Black-eyed peas with rice has been a delectable staple in the diets of the African diaspora for centuries. My family has eaten it to usher in wealth and prosperity. Especially now, it should be a cherished recipe that ties us to our roots and culture. Serve this savory, flavorful dish as a side or as a main course.” —Sense & Edibility
“This hearty stew is packed full of flavor and will have everyone coming back for a second serving. It’s a little bit smoky and loaded with vegetables. Great served with rice, quinoa, or even some freshly baked bread.” —Supper With Michelle
“Misir wot is one of Ethiopia’s most well-known dishes. Healthy, protein-packed, and richly spiced, this flavorful stew is a truly satisfying dish. It’s the hug you can eat. It’s the perfect quarantine comfort food. Ladle on a plate of injera and dive on in—no utensils needed!” —That Green Lyfe
“What inspired this recipe? I am all about creating fusion dishes; Afro-centered specifically, to highlight not only the amazing flavors and dishes across the continent, but to also showcase how similar our flavors, cooking techniques, etc. are, and the beauty we can create once we merge cultures. ” —The Food Disciple
“Historically, soul food has been traditional. As the eating habits and techniques have evolved, the soul food experience becomes one of creativity and inherent instinct. Combining two of my favorites—sweet potatoes and warm, fluffy cinnamon rolls—is one of the best things to come out of my quarantine.” —Vee the Baker
“The ultimate comfort food that can be done in the comfort of your kitchen. When you slow-cook ribs, you’ll achieve fall-off-the-bone goodness that will keep you reaching for more. The magic is in the sauce–homemade, sweet, and tangy, each bite filling you up with comforting feels to get you through this pandemic.” —Whisper of Yum