Delicious Kwanzaa Recipes to Make This Year

Glazed Beef Shanks with Coffee and Peanuts
Photo: Oriana Koren

Kwanzaa is an ever-evolving celebration of Black American heritage and culture that links African traditions with African American customs. Observed December 26 through January 1, it culminates with a feast called karamu. The meal usually takes place on the final night of Kwanzaa as an alternative to New Years Eve celebrations. Traditionally, the karamu might include dishes from across the African diaspora, such as Jollof Rice from West Africa, Jamaican Jerk Chicken from the Caribbean, or other traditional offerings from the American South. Scroll through for those and more delicious recipes to celebrate the holiday.

01 of 18

Jamaican Jerk Chicken

Jamaican Jerk Chicken
Photo by Greg Dupree / Food Styling by Mariana Velasquez / Prop Styling by Thom Driver

In 2018, we named this recipe one of our 40 best, and we stand by that decision. There are as many takes on jerk chicken in Jamaica as there are cooks on the island, but most share the same method: Chicken is coated in a seasoning mixture dominated by spices and chiles, then grilled. This version comes from Paul Chung, a self-taught cook of Chinese-Jamaican descent who worked in the mail room at Food & Wine. It's wonderfully spicy, smoky, and fragrant—everything we want jerk chicken to be.

02 of 18

Mirliton and Gulf Shrimp Casserole

Mirliton and Gulf Shrimp Casserole
Photo by Victor Protasio / Food Styling by Margaret Monroe Dickey / Prop Styling by Lydia Pursell

Mirliton, or chayote squash, tastes like a blend of cucumber and crisp zucchini, and is beloved in New Orleans, where there is even a festival dedicated to it. Paired with warming Creole seasoning and savory andouille sausage, the tender squash and sweet shrimp bring balancing freshness to this hearty casserole

03 of 18

Southern-Style Mac 'n' Cheese

Southern Style Mac n Cheese
Photo by Noah Fecks / Food Styling by Drew Aichele / Prop Styling by Ethan Lunkenheimer

Three different kinds of cheese—extra-sharp cheddar, Colby-Jack, and cream cheese—go into this creamy, savory macaroni and cheese recipe, which also gets layers of flavor from fresh bay leaves and dry mustard. Southern-style mac 'n' cheese is typically made with a milk-and-egg base rather than a roux. Here, that milk component is an infused milk-and-cream mixture reserved from cooking the noodles (which adds even more richness to the dish).

04 of 18

Chicken Livers with Bacon, Watercress and Dirty Rice

Chicken Livers with Bacon, Watercress and Dirty Rice
© John Kernick

Chicken-fried chicken livers are tossed with crisp bacon, tangy watercress and pickled onions in this piquant one-dish meal.

05 of 18

Mom's Fried Catfish with Hot Sauce

Mom's Fried Catfish with Hot Sauce
Victor Protasio

Todd Richards' mother made catfish on Fridays as part of her weekly rotation of dishes. He recalls how he was always amazed by the crispiness of her fish: Her secret is to let the dredged catfish sit in cornmeal for about 5 minutes before frying it—a technique he uses today.

06 of 18

Rosy Hibiscus-Gin Lowball

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

On the fence when it comes to gin? Try a sip of this gateway cocktail. Known as sorrel in parts of Africa, roselle—the type of hibiscus used in most hibiscus teas—complements the floral notes found in gin, resulting in a refreshing, balanced beverage. Stir leftover hibiscus tea into lemonade for a refreshing nonalcoholic sipper.

07 of 18

Coconut Chicken with Pickled Pepper Collards

Coconut Chicken with Pickled Pepper Collards
© Antonis Achilleos

"Coconut connects with my African roots," says Ethiopian-born Marcus Samuelsson about the key ingredient for this dish.

08 of 18

Nigerian Clay Pot Chicken

Nigerian Clay Pot Chicken
Caitlin Bensel

For this homey dish, a whole chicken is trussed, rubbed with an infused compound butter—Alligator Pepper and Makrut Lime Butter, in this case—then nestled in a layer of seasonal vegetables. Lemongrass, whole lime slices, and ginger add a punchy fragrance and a tangible sweetness to the pot. In the oven, the delicious herb-spiced chicken drippings coat the vegetables and citrus slices, which gently caramelize as the chicken cooks.

09 of 18

Hoppin' John with Turnips and Turnip Greens

Hoppin' John with Turnips and Turnip Greens
Photo by Victor Protasio / Food Styling by Torie Cox / Prop Styling by Claire Spollen

Todd Richards spices up his family recipe for this Southern favorite (often enjoyed on New Year's Day) with harissa for extra heat. Richards makes the traditional ham hock is optional so that vegetarians can enjoy the dish as well, and adds smoked paprika and cumin to deliver a similar savory depth. Turnips become soft and tender after a quick braise, adding body to the dish.

10 of 18

Island Jollof Rice

Island Jollof Rice, from THE RISE
Angie Mosier

Jollof rice, a spiced red rice dish with diasporic expressions across the Atlantic, starts with rice, tomatoes, onions and chili peppers. It's such a beloved dish that several West African countries claim ownership of it. Historians believe it was actually created in Senegal, but that doesn't stop the competition; Nigerians and Ghanaians especially squabble on who makes it better.

11 of 18

Sage Fried Chicken

Sage Fried Chicken
© Todd Porter & Diane Cu

Perfect for a holiday crowd, this fried chicken gets a nice twist from the addition of fragrant and earthy ground sage rubbed into the meat before it's cooked.

12 of 18

Sour Cream Pound Cake

Sour Cream Pound Cake
© Abby Hocking

The combination of sour cream and buttermilk in this recipe creates a lighter pound cake. For a decadent breakfast, serve toasted slices with butter and preserves.

13 of 18

Okra Gumbo with Blue Crabs and Shrimp

Okra Gumbo with Blue Crabs and Shrimp
© John Kernick

In this recipe from the iconic The Dooky Chase Cookbook, the late chef Leah Chase used okra (and lots of it) to thicken the dish.

14 of 18

Bourbon-and Cider-Braised Jowl Bacon Steaks

Bourbon- and Cider-Braised Jowl Bacon Steaks

Already a flavorful cut of meat, jowl bacon transforms into a decadent meal when braised in bourbon and cider and served as seared steaks. This pairs perfectly with simple turnip greens.

15 of 18

Tropical Ambrosia

Tropical Ambrosia
Christopher Testani

Chef Ryan Ratino of Bresca in Washington, D.C., was inspired by memories of his grandmother's ambrosia, a marshmallow-studded fruit salad. To bring this vintage dessert to the modern table, Ratino steeps chewy tapioca pearls in coconut milk and coconut water for balanced sweetness, then layers in fresh tropical fruit, mango sorbet, and crisp shards of pink-peppercorn meringue. Pink peppercorns add a fruity, peppery bite to the meringue; lightly crush them to release their fragrant oils. For the lightest, snappiest meringue, bake it until completely firm and dry to the touch.

16 of 18

Black-Eyed Pea and Watercress Salad with Corn Bread Croutons

Black-Eyed Pea and Watercress Salad with Corn Bread Croutons
© Christina Holmes

Chef Sean Brock seasons his black-eyed peas with hot sauce, lemon juice and vinaigrette before tossing them with crackling corn bread and peppery watercress for a Southern main-course salad.

17 of 18

Candied Sweet Potatoes

Candied Sweet Potatoes
Photo by Greg DuPree / Food Styling by Chelsea Zimmer / Prop Styling by Kay Clarke

Sweet potatoes are baked in a sweet, buttery sauce with hints of maple syrup and warm autumn spices in this satisfying side. The syrup thickens and becomes sticky as it rests; sprinkling on grated orange zest at the end balances the sweetness of the dish.

18 of 18

Glazed Beef Shanks with Coffee and Peanuts

Glazed Beef Shanks with Coffee and Peanuts
Oriana Koren

Mashama Bailey roasts these hefty beef shanks in a ginger- and spice-spiked tomato sauce which she finishes with a generous dollop of thick and creamy peanut butter. She garnishes them with grated coffee beans; toss them in a coffee grinder for a chunkier texture.

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