13 Recipes to Celebrate Juneteenth

Hibiscus Snow Cones
Photo: Photo by Jessica Pettway / Food Styling by Micah Morton / Prop Styling by Paola Andrea

Juneteenth is all about celebration, no matter how, where or with whom the festivities take place. This holiday, observed on June 19th, commemorates the day in 1865 when enslaved people in Galveston, Texas, learned of their freedom, which had been declared in the Emancipation Proclamation two years earlier. In her new cookbook, Watermelon & Red Birds: A Cookbook for Juneteenth and Black Celebration, Nicole A. Taylor offers exuberantly delicious recipes and stories that draw from her many years of celebrating the holiday. "For a few hours, pure liberation meets a plate of food," Taylor wrote in Food & Wine about her own Juneteenth parties. Here are a few recipes from Taylor and other cooks, full of flavor and joy to inspire your own Juneteenth menus.

01 of 13

Stone Fruit Salad with Collard-Peanut Pesto

Stone Fruit Salad with Collard Peanut Pesto
Photo by Jessica Pettway / Food Styling by Micah Morton / Prop Styling by Paola Andrea

"Nowadays, when I serve plums and nectarines, like in my Stone Fruit Salad with Collard-Peanut Pesto, I'm transported to parties where we dapped, hugged, boogied, and kissed under the moonlight," says writer Nicole A. Taylor, of her Juneteenth celebrations. In this savory fruit salad, roasted peanuts, collard greens, and Parmesan yield a hearty pesto that's the perfect partner for honey-dressed wedges of plums and nectarines. Fonio, a West African grain similar in texture to couscous, soaks up the the pesto, flavoring each bite of this salad.

02 of 13

Rosy Hibiscus-Gin Lowball

Rosy Hibiscus Gin Lowball
Photo by Victor Protasio / Food Styling by Margaret Dickey / Prop Styling by Kathleen Varner

Known as sorrel in parts of Africa, roselle — the type of hibiscus used in most hibiscus teas — complements the floral notes of gin here, resulting in a refreshing, balanced beverage. Stir leftover hibiscus tea into lemonade for a refreshing nonalcoholic sipper.

03 of 13

Sautéed Collards and Cabbage with Gremolata

Sautéed Collards and Cabbage with Gremolata
© Con Poulos

These crunchy sautéed greens from chef Carla Hall get big flavor from garlic, lemon, and crushed red pepper. The gremolata can be made up to three hours in advance and kept covered at room temperature.

04 of 13

Hibiscus Snow Cones

Hibiscus Snow Cones
Photo by Jessica Pettway / Food Styling by Micah Morton / Prop Styling by Paola Andrea

"When hibiscus is steeped in water, it creates a red drink, an essential menu item of Juneteenth," says Nicole A. Taylor, sharing the Juneteenth memories that inspired her to create this Hibiscus Snow Cone. In this playful icy dessert, Taylor riffs on tradition, using dried hibiscus blossoms to make a sweet, tangy syrup for a celebratory snow cone. Whipped cream and crushed pink peppercorns add a final flourish. To make snow cones at home, you'll want to grab a home ice-shaving machine, like the Little Snowie Max, which pulverizes cubed ice to a fine powder.

05 of 13

Rosemary Chicken with Corn and Sausage Fricasee

Rosemary Chicken with Corn and Sausage Fricassee
© Con Poulos

For juicy, flavorful chicken, New Orleans chef Nina Compton soaks her drumsticks in a simple brine for 45 minutes before she grills them. This is her summer version of the dish, which changes throughout the year: She uses butternut squash and mushrooms in the fall and fresh fava beans, English peas, and fiddlehead ferns in the spring.

06 of 13

Crudités with Carrot Dip and Romesco

Crudites with carrot dip and romesco
Sarah Crowder

"This double-sauce eats like a romesco sauce," food writer and recipe developer Yewande Komolafe says. "I love the idea of peanuts, carrots, and dipping back and forth. Think about this as a carrot dip crudité plate. Bring in cucumber, apple sticks, radishes, and any other favorite veggies. You have two dip sauces — go ahead, this is your crudité party. This recipe is in honor of Food Lab Detroit founder Devita Davison. In Detroit, farmers are super connected to the city; the Eastern Market is one of the oldest farmers' market in the country. This dish is inspired by the farm–city connection, with benne seeds and peanuts bringing it back to Africa."

07 of 13

Moscato Pound Cake with Grape Glaze

Moscato Pound Cake with Grape Glaze
Photo by Jessica Pettway / Food Styling by Micah Morton / Prop Styling by Paola Andrea

A dream of reuniting with friends and loved ones in 2021 for a Juneteenth celebration inspired Nicole A. Taylor's recipe for Moscato Pound Cake with Grape Glaze. Moscato gives this cake a lighter, more tender crumb than a typical pound cake while also imparting a subtle sweetness. Freeze-dried grapes bring vibrant color to the glaze. If you like, you can substitute lime juice in place of Moscato in the glaze for a brighter pink color.

08 of 13

Grilled Pork Chops with Burst Blueberry Sauce

Grilled Pork Chops with Burst Blueberry Sauce
Photo by Jessica Pettway / Food Styling by Micah Morton / Prop Styling by Paola Andrea

Gorgeous summer fruit and grilling are at the heart of Nicole A. Taylor's Juneteenth menu. Here, she takes blueberries for a savory spin, blending the berries with shallots, thyme, and chipotles in adobo to create a sticky sauce that showcases the floral notes of the fruit, while red wine and balsamic vinegar add a tart backbone that brings the flavors into focus. This sauce pairs beautifully with almost any grilled meat; here Taylor spoons it over juicy grilled pork rib chops. Summer berries tend to be sweeter; if you're cooking this recipe with out-of-season berries, gradually add sugar as needed.

09 of 13

Cucumber-Avocado Salad with Gooseberry Piri Piri Soup

Cucumber Avocado Salad
Greg DuPree

2019 F&W Best New Chef Kwame Onwuachi's bright, summery salad of tomatoes, cucumbers, gooseberries, avocado, and mint might seem simple at first, but stand back. With its Trinidadian Green Seasoning (which delivers a sinus-clearing wallop of fresh ginger and fruity aromatics from the Scotch bonnet chiles) and an irresistible, tangy, gazpacho-like Gooseberry Piri Piri (you will want to drink a basin of it), this 30-minute recipe is one of the best things we've eaten. Serve very cold.

10 of 13

Island Jollof Rice

Island Jollof Rice, from THE RISE
Angie Mosier

"When I think of Eric Adjepong's food, I think of the West African dance called the highlife, full of Afro beats and guitars and brass instruments," says Tamie Cook, who co-wrote the cookbook The Rise: Black Cooks and the Soul of American Food with Marcus Samuelsson, Osayi Endolyn, and Yewande Komolafe. "The syncopation of the music moves you. Eric and his wife have a catering company in D.C., but most of America knows him from Top Chef. He represents the new African chef who gives a nod to the past, but also to the future. When you eat his food, you can taste that blend and complexity. He brings the African food tradition he grew up with into everything he does, and he does it in the most modern and beautiful way. This rice dish is inspired by Eric and his Ghanaian roots. I eat it and hear the trap beats of 'Pour Me Water,' a big Afro beat song. It's layered and deliciously complicated in your mouth. Jollof rice is such a beloved dish that every West African takes ownership of it. Nigerians and Ghanaians especially squabble on who makes it better and where it was first created. Historians believe it was actually created in Senegal, but that doesn't stop the competition."

11 of 13

Kwame's Escovitch Snapper

Escovitch Snapper
Photo by Caitlin Bensel / Food Styling by Emily Nabors Hall / Prop styling by Christine Keely

Inspired by his travels in Jamaica, Kwame Onwuachi shared this recipe for escovitch snapper. In Jamaica, escovitch fish — fish that's fried and then topped with pickled, thinly sliced vegetables — is everywhere. In Onwuachi's version, a garlicky marinade forms a crust as the fish cooks, adding flavor and keeping the snapper moist and tender, and a pickled tangle of thinly sliced chiles, carrot, and onion­ makes a punchy, crunchy topping for crispy fried whole snapper.

12 of 13

Oto (Mashed Yam Patties)

Oto (Mashed Yam Patties)
Photo by Victor Protasio / Food Styling by Torie Cox / Prop Styling by Claire Spollen

Puna yam (not to be confused with sweet potato) is the star of this Ghanaian dish often served on wedding days. Puna yams are starchy; it's essential to avoid overcooking them in order to make shaping the patties easier. Their unique texture and flavor make them worth seeking out for this recipe; see sourcing info below.

13 of 13

Spicy Mango Bisque with Scent Leaf

Spicy Mango Bisque with Scent Leaf
Caitlin Bensel

"The cold, smooth emulsion of mango and coconut milk is the vehicle that highlights the scent leaf — 'efirin' in Yoruba — a magical leaf that embodies the essence of cinnamon, mint, and basil. (Thai basil has a similar, if not exact aroma and is a good stand-in here.) The soup ends with a note of habanero oil, a tingle just barely hitting the back of your palate," food writer and recipe developer Yewande Komolafe says of this recipe, inspired by the drive into Lagos from the west. "Frozen mango cubes are great for smoothies; just don't use them here. Any fresh and lusciously ripe mangoes will do—they don't have to be harvested from the roadside in Lagos to be delicious."

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