12 Essential Kwanzaa Recipes to Bookmark ASAP (2024)

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12 Essential Kwanzaa Recipes to Bookmark ASAP (1)April WrightUpdated: Oct. 23, 2023

    Recipes featured during Kwanzaa highlight influences from African cuisine. Here are some of my favorite Kwanzaa recipes!

    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 name of the holiday originates from a Swahili phrase which translates to the “first fruits of the harvest.”

    Kwanzaa takes place from December 26 to January 1 each year, and a feast is generally held on December 31. Check out our guide to Kwanzaa food traditions and soul food recipes to make your feast all the more special.


    Buttery Cornbread

    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!

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    12 Essential Kwanzaa Recipes to Bookmark ASAP (3)

    Courtesy Whisk it Real Gud

    Fried Whiting

    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 (or maybe our fried catfish) as a main with lemon wedges and a remoulade sauceor with bread,tartarand hot sauce.

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    Fried Okra

    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.

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    Old-Fashioned Sweet Potato Casserole

    I make sweet potato casserole to add a little sweetness to the dinner table before dessert. 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.

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    Chicken Creole

    This dish, made with tender chicken and pepper in a luscious tomato sauce, is incredible. The layers of herbs and spices including oregano, basil, thyme, onion powder, garlic powder, black pepper and cayenne take this dish to another level. Serve it as a main on top of steamed rice.

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    Collard Greens

    Here’s another Kwanzaa food must! These collard greens are a healthy, 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.

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    Taste of Home

    Peach Cobbler

    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.

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    12 Essential Kwanzaa Recipes to Bookmark ASAP (9)

    Courtesy Whisk it Real Gud

    Vegan Jollof Rice

    Jollof riceis 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.

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    Plantain Fritters

    Plantain fritters can be savory or sweet. These sweet fritters are made with ripe plantains, which are mashed then mixed into flour, sugar, egg, cinnamon and baking powder. Of course, they’re deep-fried for a mouth-watering dessert that can be served after dinner.

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    Sweet Potato Pie

    Need an easy dessert recipe? You’re in luck. A sweet potato custard filling gets baked on top of the pie crust. Then cinnamon, nutmeg, sugar, vanilla, milk and eggs deepen the sweet, caramel notes of the sweet potatoes. The rich texture of the filling is velvety smooth. Although Kwanzaa food is not set in stone, sweet potato pie should be center stage at any Kwanzaa dinner table.

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    Taste of Home

    Zesty Coleslaw

    This simple slaw tastes best when it’s refrigerated for at least one hour. The mixture seems to get creamier as it sits.

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    Courtesy Whisk it Real Gud

    Candied Yams

    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.

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    Originally Published: December 10, 2020

    12 Essential Kwanzaa Recipes to Bookmark ASAP (14)

    April Wright

    April is the writer, photographer and recipe developer behind the blog Whisk It Real Gud, where she shares her knack for creating delicious, down-to-earth dishes. She enjoys developing recipes for southern food, American food and ethnic food, and loves experimenting with different ingredients and cooking techniques. For Taste of Home, she’s shared food stories and recipes about Kwanzaa, including her recipe for benne seed wafers, a traditional Kwanzaa holiday cookie. April has also been featured in The Pioneer Woman, HuffPost and Food52.

    12 Essential Kwanzaa Recipes to Bookmark ASAP (2024)
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