Keep celebrating Black history with these recipes

February 29, 2024

The flavors of the African Diaspora extend their reach across continents. From the fiery debate over who makes the best Jollof rice to the contrasts of succulent shrimp and creamy grits, we have rounded up recipes that serve as ambassadors of cultural continuity and unity.

At the heart of this list lies the soulful embrace of traditional Black American recipes, commonly called soul food. These dishes, rooted in the experiences of the African American community, offer a savory narrative of Black joy and celebration.

Let’s celebrate throughout the year and savor these recipes as a tribute to the enduring legacy of the African Diaspora. The culinary pride in each dish reminds us of the unbreakable bonds that connect us to the past and paves the way for a future where diversity is celebrated and cherished at every table.

If you’re looking for inspiration on continuing to celebrate every day, we have some traditional recipes from Black food bloggers and chefs that will impress your dinner guests—and bring to life a vibrant mosaic of tastes from Africa, the Caribbean, and Latin America.

1. Collard greens

Dish of collard greens and Wusthof paring knife on purple background

Reviewed / Butter Be Ready / Wusthof

A good paring knife makes prepping collard greens a breeze.

Let’s start with collard greens, a distant cousin to broccoli and cabbage. Rich in potassium and American culinary history, these leafy greens are a staple dish in Black food culture. One of the few crops enslaved people could grow for themselves turned into a harmonious blend of smokiness, spice and a touch of sweetness.

This calls for the hearty stalks to be removed and sugar to be added to the pot to counteract the bitter flavor of the greens. Sauteed with aromatics and simmered in a flavorful stock or broth give this recipe its foundation. Seasoned bits of side meat like bacon, smoked turkey, or ham hocks give a soulful richness to this dish.

When prepping collard greens for this recipe, you’ll need to make sure to remove the leaves from the tough green stem. If you struggle to pull them off with your hands, using a good makes this step a breeze. Our favorite is , which is well-balanced and easy to maneuver.

Product image of Wüsthof Classic High Carbon Steel Paring Knife

Wüsthof Classic High Carbon Steel Paring Knife

A reliable paring knife will make it easy to prep collard greens for this recipe.

2. Southern shrimp and grits

Dish of shrimp and grits and All-Clad sauce pan on purple background

Reviewed / Getty Images /Alleko / All-Clad

Achieve optimally creamy grits with a reliable sauce pan.R

A culinary gem originating in the Lowcountry of South Carolina, shrimp and grits encapsulates a symphony of flavors that reflects the region’s cultural tapestry. Rooted in the Gullah Geechee culture of the Lowcountry, the traditional recipe was made with seawater for flavor.

This intertwines the creamy texture of stone-ground grits with the savory succulence of shrimp, creating a harmonious marriage of land and sea. This merging of West African culinary influence with the Gullah Geechee culture showcases how culinary traditions can transcend time, connecting us to Black history.

In cooking the foundation for this dish, an undisturbed simmer in a durable is the key to creamy stone-ground grits. While quick-cooking and instant grits proliferate the marketplace, the rich flavor and enhanced texture of stone-ground grits make the slightly longer preparation time worthwhile.

We love the heavy-duty because while the interior lining is of heat-conductive copper, it’s encased in alternating layers of durable aluminum.

Product image of All-Clad 4-quart Copper Core saucepan

All-Clad 4-quart Copper Core saucepan

The copper core in this cookware results in a highly conductive material for unmatched evenness and precision in cooking.

3. Jamaican rice and peas

Dish of rice and peas and wooden spoon on purple background

Reviewed / Food & Wine / OXO

This durable wooden spoon is great for stirring rice and beans—even in nonstick pans.

Originating from Jamaica’s Afro-Caribbean heritage, symbolizes the fusion of African culinary traditions with local ingredients. Straight from Ghana and Ivory Coast, the ‘peas’ are traditionally pigeon peas, but a modern substitute of kidney beans is common.

Ordinarily served as a side dish, the savory blend of coconut-infused rice and beans is a flavorful homage to the African diaspora’s influence. The aromatic spices and rich coconut milk evoke a culinary journey connecting us to the shared history, resilience, and vibrant traditions that define the essence of Black culture, celebrated with every bite.

The gentle simmering and occasional stirring of this one-pot dish calls for a with a firm, comfortable grip and no fear of scratching your cookware.

We recommend this for its durable beechwood build and comfortably long handle. It comes in different styles, shapes, and sizes—such as a slotted spoon, saute paddle, and corner spoon—for all your one-pot wonder needs.

Product image of OXO Good Grips Large Wooden Spoon

OXO Good Grips Large Wooden Spoon

This beechwood spatula is a kitchen staple for stirring meals like rice and peas in every type of cookware.

4. Brazilian fish stew

Plate of fish stew and pile of stainless steel mixing bowls on purple background

Reviewed / Food Fidelity / Cuisinart

Appropriately marinating seafood is the key to a tasty fish stew.

Brazilian fish stew, or , traces its roots to an Afro-Brazilian culinary heritage. Tomatoes and bell peppers simmer in a rich coconut milk broth, along with vibrant spices and tender, firm-fleshed fish. Everything is layered with the earthy flavor and hue of red palm oil.

The dish captures the essence of coastal cuisine and mirrors the historical journey of African influence across the diaspora, embodying shared cultural threads that bind Black Americans worldwide.

Marinating the fish and shrimp in a with citrus, garlic, and spices is the first step to making the vibrant flavors of the stew pop. Our top pick is the , perfect for refrigerating the marinade and holding the chopped vegetables.

Product image of Cuisinart Stainless Steel Mixing Bowls with Lids

Cuisinart Stainless Steel Mixing Bowls with Lids

Our favorite set of mixing bowls benefits from tall sides, a durable stainless steel build, and included lids for overnight marinating storage.

5. Soul food fried empanadas

Plate of fried empanadas and cast iron skillet on purple background

Reviewed / Getty Images / LarisaBlinova / Lodge

Cast iron cookware is the key to even heating—especially when it comes to frying.

Soul food fried empanadas are a delightful fusion of African American and Latin American culinary traditions, combining the comforting flavors of soul food with the iconic stuffed pastry.

In , a medley of seasoned chicken or ham with collard greens and macaroni and cheese is infused with a blend of spices that evoke the soulful essence of Southern cuisine, while the empanada dough embodies street-food culture.

The origins of these crispy delights can be linked to the Moorish and Middle Eastern traditions of hand pies. As Spanish explorers, settlers, and missionaries traveled to the Americas, they brought culinary practices that blended with local ingredients and techniques. Enjoyed as a snack, appetizer, or even a full meal, these handheld treats showcase the diversity and creativity within the realm of fusion cuisine, bringing together two rich cultural traditions in a delicious and portable form.

Temperature control and uniform heat distribution are crucial for frying perfectly golden and crispy empanadas. That’s why we often turn to in situations like these: It holds heat much longer than other cookware, making it ideal for frying.

Product image of Lodge 12-inch Cast Iron Skillet

Lodge 12-inch Cast Iron Skillet

Our favorite cast iron pan is great for churning out crispy empanadas.

6. Jollof rice

Dish of jollof rice and Cuisinart blender on purple backgorund

Reviewed / Getty Images / Los_angela / Cuisinart

Whether you make it the Ghanaian or Nigerian way, Jollof rice calls for a good blender.

With ties to the Senegambia region of West Africa, legend has it that the name “Jollof” is derived from the Wolof people of Senegal. This dish, however, became a staple across the region, with each country infusing its unique twist into the recipe.

The heart of the debate over the best Jollof rice revolves around Nigeria and Ghana. The friendly rivalry has sparked lively conversations, online debates, and even international Jollof rice competitions.

Ghanaians claim that their version, with a milder taste and a balance of flavors, reigns supreme. On the other hand, Nigerians argue that their Jollof rice, characterized by its bold and spicy flavors, stands unparalleled. is flavored with obe ata, a Nigerian tomato and red pepper-based sauce.

Jollof is a dish best cooked low and slow, but the preparation deserves a helping hand from a workhorse of a . The makes quick work of blending the tomatoes, bell peppers and aromatics for the obe ata sauce base of this festive rice. That leaves plenty of time to make additional dishes like stewed oxtails and fried plantains to serve with this culturally unifying dish.

Product image of Cuisinart Hurricane Blender

Cuisinart Hurricane Blender

Our favorite blender makes it easy to process homemade sauces with speedy and even results.

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