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Party Plan: Honoring Community, Family and Our Ancestors

These Kwanzaa meal ideas are delicious ways to enjoy the “first fruits!”

Kwanzaa celebrates both the bounty of the harvest and our rich, diverse heritage. So fill your table with a great selection of dishes, from many African-inspired culinary traditions, that your friends and loved ones can enjoy this holiday!

Spice things up with Jerk Chicken, Chicken and Sausage Gumbo or Grilled Louisiana-Style Catfish, all guaranteed to get folks smiling, laughing and talking. Serve up some sides of hot, fresh Corn Bread, Crispy Fried Okra and Garlic Cheese Grits Casserole to satisfy their cravings for comfort food.

Then, round out your meal with a little something sweet for dessert…slices of Sweet Potato Pie. Dollop on a scoop of ice cream or some whipped topping for a double delight!

Chicken and Sausage Gumbo

Chicken and Sausage Gumbo

This is a relatively easy version of gumbo, but it certainly won’t disappoint. Serve it with warm, crusty French bread and plenty of butter.

Difficulty: Easy
Hands-on: 30 minutes
Total: 2 hours
Serves: 6

Ingredients:
  • 1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed
  • 1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • ⅛ tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1½ tsp. Creole seasoning, divided
  • ½ cup vegetable oil, divided
  • 12 oz. smoked sausage, cut into ½" slices
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup chopped yellow onion
  • ½ cup chopped green bell pepper
  • 3 medium ribs celery, chopped
  • 3 medium cloves garlic, minced
  • 6 cups chicken broth
  • 1 can (14.5 oz.) diced tomatoes in purée
  • ½ tsp. dried thyme, crumbled
  • 1 cup sliced fresh or frozen okra (thawed if frozen)
  • 4 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 3 cups hot cooked short-grain white rice
Directions:
  1. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper, then toss with ½ teaspoon Creole seasoning.
  2. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a heavy skillet over medium heat; add chicken. Cook, stirring, until browned. Transfer to a plate and shred into pieces. Brown sausage; add to the plate with chicken.
  3. In a large, heavy saucepan or Dutch oven, heat remaining oil; add flour. Cook, stirring constantly, until roux reaches a deep blond color, about the color of dark peanut butter. You can do this over medium to medium-high heat, but stir constantly and watch carefully. If it burns, you will have to start from scratch.
  4. When roux has reached the color you want, add yellow onion, bell pepper, and celery and stir briskly. Continue to cook, stirring constantly, for about 4 minutes. Add garlic, chicken broth, tomatoes, thyme, chicken, and sausage. Bring to a boil, then cook for about 1 hour, skimming fat off the top as needed.
  5. Add okra and cook for about 20 minutes. Add green onions and cook for 10 minutes longer.
  6. To serve, spoon gumbo into a bowl and top with a mound of ½ cup rice.

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Corn Bread

Corn Bread

Corn bread can be made with a variety of additions, such as pecans, corn kernels, diced red bell pepper, sliced green onions, bacon, or shredded Cheddar cheese.

To make muffins, simply scoop the batter into 12 greased muffin cups and bake for 12 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Difficulty: Easy
Hands-on: 10 minutes
Total: 50 minutes
Serves: 12

Ingredients:
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • ¾ cup cake flour
  • ⅓ cup sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. salt
  • 2¼ tsp. baking powder
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1¼ cups half-and-half
  • 3 egg whites
  • 14 Tbsp. butter, melted
Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 9" x 11" brownie pan, then dust it with cornmeal.
  2. Mix together cornmeal, flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder in a bowl. In another bowl, mix together egg yolks, cream, and half-and-half. Mix together the dry ingredients with the wet ingredients and let sit for 20 minutes. Stir.
  3. In a separate bowl, whip egg whites to soft peaks. Fold whipped egg whites into batter; then fold in melted butter. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake 20–25 minutes.

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Crispy Fried Okra

Crispy Fried Okra

Okra, fried with a crispy cornmeal coating, is a Southern favorite. If you’ve never tried okra, this is the recipe to try.

Difficulty: Medium
Hands-on: 40 minutes
Total: 40 minutes
Serves: 6

Ingredients:
  • 1 lb. fresh okra
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • Several drops hot pepper sauce
  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ¼ tsp. ground black pepper
  • Dash ground cayenne pepper
  • Vegetable oil
Directions:
  1. Wash okra; cut off tips and stem ends. Cut okra pods crosswise into 1" slices.
  2. Beat eggs in a shallow bowl with hot sauce.
  3. Combine cornmeal, flour, salt, black pepper, and cayenne in a large food storage bag or shallow bowl.
  4. Heat oil to 375°F in a deep fryer.
  5. Add okra to beaten eggs; stir to coat well. Drop several pieces of okra into cornmeal mixture and shake gently to coat well. Repeat with remaining okra.
  6. Fry okra in hot oil in batches until browned, about 4–6 minutes for each batch. Turn as needed to brown all sides. Drain on paper towels and keep warm.

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Garlic Cheese Grits Casserole

Garlic Cheese Grits Casserole

This is a garlicky version of a very popular Southern grits casserole—a classic comfort food.

Difficulty: Easy
Hands-on: 15 minutes
Total: 1 hour
Serves: 8

Ingredients:
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup quick-cooking grits
  • ¼ cup butter
  • 3 medium cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 3 large eggs, beaten
  • 2 cups shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly butter a medium baking dish.
  2. Bring milk and chicken broth to a rolling boil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Gradually whisk grits into boiling mixture. Boil for about 8 minutes, stirring until thick and grits are tender.
  3. Meanwhile, melt butter with minced garlic in the microwave or in a small saucepan over low heat. Let stand for about 5 minutes. Strain butter into boiling grits mixture. Discard garlic.
  4. Stir in salt and beaten eggs until well blended.
  5. Spread grits mixture in the prepared casserole dish. Sprinkle cheese over the top. Bake for 45 minutes until puffy and cheese is melted.

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Grilled Cajun-Style Catfish

Grilled Cajun-Style Catfish

For grilling catfish, you need a nice thick piece of fish. It is important to put a piece of aluminum foil under the fish to keep it together.

Difficulty: Easy
Hands-on: 20 minutes
Total: 20 minutes
Serves: 4

Ingredients:
  • 4 catfish fillets, (6 oz. each)
  • 4 tsp. vegetable oil
  • 1 Tbsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1 Tbsp. minced fresh ginger
  • 1 Tbsp. ground English mustard
  • ¼ tsp. ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp. ground cloves
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. sea salt
  • ½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 large lemon, cut in wedges
  • 4 large leaves lettuce
  • 1 Tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro
Directions:
  1. Set the grill to medium-high or wait until the coals are white. Cut pieces of heavy-duty foil to fit each fillet, and brush each fillet with vegetable oil.
  2. Mix oil, cayenne, ginger, mustard, cinnamon, cloves, garlic powder, salt, and pepper together to make a rub. Spread and press it into the fish.
  3. Grill over medium-hot coals or gas for 5 minutes. Carefully turn the fish over and cook another 5 minutes, or until the fish just starts to flake. Serve on lettuce with lemon wedges and topped with fresh cilantro.

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Jerk Chicken

Jerk Chicken

This is a milder take on this typically ultra-spicy Caribbean favorite.

Difficulty: Easy
Hands-on: 10 minutes
Total: 12 hours 50 minutes
Serves: 8

Ingredients:
  • 2 lbs. chicken legs
  • 1 small onion, peeled and chopped
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • 1 small jalapeño pepper, seeded
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 tsp. ground black pepper
  • ¾ tsp. kosher salt
  • ½ tsp. dried thyme
  • ¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1 Tbsp. coconut aminos
  • ¼ cup lime juice
  • 3 Tbsp. avocado oil
Directions:
  1. Wash chicken and pat dry. Place in a large glass baking dish.
  2. In a food processor or blender, combine onion, green onion, jalapeño, and garlic. Pulse to chop, then add black pepper, salt, thyme, cayenne pepper, coconut aminos, lime juice, and oil. Process until smooth.
  3. Pour mixture over chicken and stir well to coat evenly. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 12 hours.
  4. Preheat oven to 425°F. Place chicken in one layer in a greased roasting pan. Bake for approximately 40 minutes.

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Savory Collard Greens

Savory Collard Greens

Greens have long been a favorite in Southern kitchens, and collard greens are wonderful. Serve this dish with plenty of Tabasco sauce at the table.

Difficulty: Easy
Hands-on: 30 minutes
Total: 1 hour 15 minutes
Serves: 6

Ingredients:
  • 2 or 3 meaty ham hocks
  • 3 lbs. collard greens
  • 1 tsp. seasoned salt
  • 1½ tsp. salt
  • Dash ground black pepper
  • Dash ground cayenne pepper
  • Dash garlic powder
Directions:
  1. In a large stockpot over high heat, bring about 4–5 quarts of water to a boil with ham hocks. Reduce heat to a simmer and continue cooking for about 1–1½ hours until ham hock meat is tender. Add more water as needed.
  2. Stack several collard green leaves together. Roll them, then cut into ½" slices.
  3. Working with batches, add sliced collard leaves to the pot of simmering water with ham hocks. (You’ll probably have to let some of the greens wilt down before adding more.) Add seasoned salt, salt, black pepper, cayenne, and garlic powder. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer for about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove ham hocks. If you like, remove meat from hocks and return it to the pot.
  4. Taste and adjust seasonings.

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Spicy Red Beans and Rice

Spicy Red Beans and Rice

Red beans and rice is a New Orleans specialty. This combination makes an inexpensive and satisfying dinner.

Difficulty: Easy
Hands-on: 15 minutes
Total: 1 hour
Serves: 4

Ingredients:
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • ¼ cup diced celery
  • ¼ cup diced onion
  • ½ cup diced red bell pepper
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1 small habanero pepper, seeded and minced
  • 2 cups canned red beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 Tbsp. minced parsley
  • ¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
  • ¾ cup water
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 2 cups cooked white rice
Directions:
  1. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Sauté celery, onion, bell pepper, garlic, and habanero until softened, about 8 minutes. Add beans, parsley, cayenne pepper, water, and salt. Increase heat to high and bring to a boil.
  2. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 45 minutes. Stir in rice.

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Sweet Potato Pie

Sweet Potato Pie

This is a delicious sweet potato pie, made with just the right combination of spices and sugar.

Difficulty: Easy
Hands-on: 20 minutes
Total: 1 hour 20 minutes
Serves: 8

Ingredients:
  • 2 cups mashed sweet potatoes (about 1 large or 2 medium sweet potatoes)
  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup light brown sugar, packed
  • ½ cup whole milk or half-and-half
  • 2 large eggs
  • ½ tsp. ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 unbaked pie shell (9")
Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, beat mashed sweet potato with butter, sugars, milk, eggs, cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla. Beat until smooth and well blended. Pour filling into unbaked pie shell.
  3. Bake for 60 minutes or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack. The pie will settle as it cools.

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Ethiopian Injera

Ethiopian Injera

Injera is not only used as a utensil. Savory, spicy Ethiopian stews are served on top of the bread too. It catches the juices and gravies, producing a fantastic end-of-the-meal treat.

Difficulty: Easy
Hands-on: 30 minutes
Total: 8 hours 30 minutes
Serves: 8

Ingredients:
  • ½ cup ground teff
  • 2 cups water
  • ¼ tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 Tbsp. canola oil
Directions:
  1. In a large bowl, combine teff and water, stir, and set at room temperature overnight.
  2. Preheat griddle on high heat. Stir salt into batter. Lightly oil griddle and ladle out about ¼ cup of batter. Cook until holes bubble up into the batter, and the edges begin to contract slightly. Do not flip. Repeat with remaining batter, stacking finished injera between sheets of plastic wrap.

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Sweet Corn Spoonbread

Sweet Corn Spoonbread

A little bit cornbread, a little bit soufflé, and lots of tasty!

Prep: 20 minutes
Cook: 40 minutes
Total: 1 hour

Ingredients:
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels, thawed if frozen
  • 2 cups whole milk, divided
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 3 eggs, separated
Directions:
  1. Heat oven to 350°F. Butter a 2-quart baking dish; set aside.
  2. In a 3-quart sauce pan over medium heat, melt butter. Add corn; cook 3 minutes. Add 1½ cups milk and cornmeal. Cook 2-4 minutes, stirring constantly, until mixture is thickened. Remove from heat.
  3. Whisk together remaining milk, honey, salt, cayenne pepper and egg yolks. Add to corn mixture and stir until smooth.
  4. Place egg whites in a large bowl and beat at high speed until stiff peaks form. Gently fold egg whites into corn mixture.
  5. Transfer to prepared pan. Bake 38-42 minutes until golden brown and set in the center. Serve immediately. Refrigerate leftovers.

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