35 Delicious Recipe Ideas for Kwanzaa

Whether you’re gathering with your community for a holiday feast or sitting down with family for a small, at-home celebration, these recipes make it easy to bring the best to your table.

December 23, 2022

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Celebrate with Flavor

Kwanzaa is often marked by a vibrant spread of dishes that can have significant meaning to family celebrating and their history. If you're looking for some extra inspiration this year, start here. The first few recipes in this collection are from Food Network's digital series, The Kwanzaa Menu, hosted by Tonya Hopkins (who you might know as the Food Griot). She invited a line-up of guests to cook a recipe for each day of Kwanzaa and explore the stories and history behind the dishes.

For instance, take akara (a Yoruba and Igbo word referring to a bean cake or fritter), which has long been a popular street snack throughout West Africa and shows up prominently in Atlantic Creole cookery all over the New World, including the American South. The fritters are made with black-eyed peas, which are an ancient indigenous staple of the Senegambian diet and popularized by Black American cooks (many descendants of that region) after the Civil War. Representing resilience and blessings, black-eyed peas are a long-standing symbol of good luck.

Get the Recipe: Crispy Àkàrà with Savory Smoky Sesame Sauce 

Good Deeds Greens

This recipe's medley aspect highlights collective work and responsibility come to life via all the extra hands needed to clean and dice up the greens! It’s also great to use three different types of greens for taste and texture diversity. And the integral layering of leaves, alliums and seasonings throughout the pot is another example of the collective work it takes to get to the top. For a festive flare, the recipe factors in more colors — red, yellow and orange bell peppers, as well as some green ones too, cut into circles and added towards the end of cooking — to be displayed on the uppermost layer of the greens in the serving dish on the table.

Get the Recipe: Good Deeds Greens

Amazing Hibiscus Mulled Wine Mocktail and Kwanzaa Mimosa 

This mulled wine mocktail is a deliciously spiced blended beverage of African teas (red rooibos and bissap — or hibiscus) and ripe red fruit (tart cherry) yielding a seasonally appropriate (and culturally significant!) deep red color with aromatics of Ancient Africa (clove, pepper, ashanti pepper). Tonya Hopkins and Kenya Parham created this flavor-filled potion for Kwanzaa’s many planned (and improvised!) multigenerational gatherings of family and friends over the course of the holiday’s seven days and six nights. A reclamation of colonized, classic holiday season spices with both warming and healing properties, it’s a lovely ancestrally inspired aftercomer to the Christmas Eve and Day tradition of their Dad’s signature spiced hot cider. It looks and smells so amazing while being made that they love ladling steamy servings straight from the pot it just simmered up in. But because the flavors only get better each day, they suggest you also make a big enough batch for reheating in the days ahead — AND so it can morph from hot mocktail to a chilled cocktail (a Kwanzaa mimosa!) — complete with a zawadi (gift) cube! You’ll also be ready with two options for the kikombe cha umoja (unity cup) when it’s time for the holiday’s libations ceremonies.

Get the Recipe: Amazing Hibiscus Mulled Wine Mocktail and Kwanzaa Mimosa 

Black Sable Rice Calas

Calas are semisweet fried rice cakes (an evolution of the beignet) seasoned with warming spices (e.g., ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg) and so appropriate for this Yuletide season. They are akin to rice pudding fritters, with a smooth and creamy yet textured interior and a satisfyingly crispy exterior. The word "cala" comes from one or more African languages. Calas were one of many foods made and sold by both enslaved and free women of color in New Orleans. They are a symbol of the frugality, inventiveness, self-reliance and entrepreneurial spirit of Black women food vendors throughout the Thirteen Colonies and entire Eastern Seaboard for centuries, not unlike several entrepreneurial ancestors in our family whose stories we remember during Kwanzaa and always.  Sprinkled lightly with coconut crystal sugar while warm, or for an even sweeter treat, drizzled with a (preferably all-natural) syrup of your choice, they’re great accompaniments to a freshly brewed pot of Kenyan (or other African/Diasporic) coffee.

Get the Recipe: Black Sable Rice Calas

First Fruits Harvest Smoothie Bowl

The first fruits harvest smoothie is a great way to start any sequence of holiday days to feel good and energized! This fab festive green refresher has two non-dairy base options: pear nectar or coconut milk blended with fresh and frozen fruits along with high-water-ratio green veg from both land and lake. Cucumber (genetically related to watermelons, which are originally from Africa) and the Central African algae superfood, spirulina, are two of the green stars of this satisfying smoothie. Banana and pineapple add plenty of sweetness. This shake-like refresher appeals to vegan sensibilities and historically informed ingredients that originate from and/or are relevant to the African continent and the big, beautiful Black Diaspora that Kwanzaa was created to celebrate.  The first fruits harvest smoothie can also be served as a reinterpretation/reclamation of the acai bowls popular today — complete with a red/'black'/green topper of red berries/the darkest chocolate/kiwi and granola of your choice —or one made from African super grains like millet, fonio or sorghum.

Get the Recipe: First Fruits Harvest Smoothie Bowl

Yassa-Inspired Grilled Feast

This recipe from Tonya Hopkins and Michael Twitty is a "plethora of proteins" kind of approach to grilling both poultry (chicken) and seafood (snapper and spiny lobsters). It also dials up both the feast aspect of the 6th day’s karamu feast, as well as the notion of a "creative synthesis" (of spicing, marinating and technique — arriving at an African food fusion of sorts) that aligns with the kuumba principle of the day (creativity).

Get the Recipe: Yassa-Inspired Grilled Feast

Pan-Roasted Cassava with Ginger-Peanut Stew

Cassava, aka manioc or yuca, is a New World crop that was introduced and readily adopted in West Africa centuries ago, where it became a primary starch in the diet. It’s used in myriad ways in culinary cultures throughout the African Diaspora (e.g., pounded to make fufu, dried and powdered and used as flour or a starch thickener, sliced or cubed, roasted, baked or fried; additionally, its liquid or juice can be fermented). It’s the perfect base and medium in this dish for the spicy, gingery sauce and is a culturally relevant addition to any Kwanzaa celebration.

Get the Recipe: Pan-Roasted Cassava with Ginger-Peanut Stew

Curried Sweet Potato Puree

Almond milk makes this creamy side dish dairy-free. The heat from the ginger and curry counter the sweetness of the potatoes, and the lime adds a bright kick at the end.

Get the Recipe: Curried Sweet Potato Puree

Stewed Okra and Tomatoes

With just four ingredients you can turn okra and tomatoes into a flavorful side dish.

Get the Recipe: Stewed Okra and Tomatoes

Gina's Best Collard Greens

Gina's collard greens take only 15 minutes of prep time and then can simmer on the stove worry-free for an hour while other dishes are being assembled.

Get the Recipe: Gina's Best Collard Greens

Sweet Potato Pie with Candied Pecans and Coconut

Extra-vibrant garnet yams lend bright color and silky texture to this special holiday pie. Regular sweet potatoes are also delicious in this recipe and just as sweet and moist, but the color of the filling will be a little more muted.

Get the Recipe: Sweet Potato Pie with Candied Pecans and Coconut

Individual Corn Spoon Breads

These fluffy spoon breads pack in a lot of rich corn flavor with a hint of chipotle kick. Serve them as a side dish for dinner, and then toast the leftovers-if there are any-for breakfast.

Get the Recipe: Individual Corn Spoon Breads

Yams with Toasted Spice Rub

Make a toasted spice rub in advance to save time when baking these butter and brown sugar-coated yams.

Get the Recipe: Yams with Toasted Spice Rub

Grits and Roasted Vegetables with Hazelnut Butter

Creamy, Southern-style grits are topped with earthy roasted squash, mushrooms and tomatoes and then finished with warm hazelnut butter.

Get the Recipe: Grits and Roasted Vegetables With Hazelnut Butter

Spicy Black-Eyed Peas

Tyler's black-eyed peas are simmered with dried red chiles, then tossed with crispy bacon, cilantro and green onions for a flavor-packed side dish.

Get the Recipe: Spicy Black-Eyed Peas

Oven-Dried Mashed Sweet Potatoes

Layers of cream and molasses flavor these delicious sweet potatoes that are a great side dish when you're cooking on a budget.

Get the Recipe: Oven-Dried Mashed Sweet Potatoes

Vegetarian "Southern-Style" Collard Greens

Sunny's hearty collard greens have all of the flavor of traditional southern-style collard greens, but none of the meat.

Get the Recipe: Vegetarian "Southern-style" Collard Greens

Spicy Candied Sweet Potatoes    

Sandra cuts down on prep time for this potato side dish by using cans of already cut sweet potatoes. They're easy to prepare in a slow cooker and you can add the marshmallows a few minutes before serving.

Get the Recipe: Spicy Candied Sweet Potatoes

Creamy Stove-Top Mac and Cheese

Made with three types of cheese and cooked right on the stove top, this mac and cheese is ready in 25 minutes. Sunny uses baby shell pasta, but macaroni or cavatappi would work too.

Get the Recipe: Creamy Stove-top Mac and Cheese

Classic Fried Chicken

Use buttermilk, garlic and a little paprika and pepper to kick up this classic fried chicken main dish.

Get the Recipe: Classic Fried Chicken

Moroccan Couscous

Dress up couscous with Moroccan spices like cinnamon, cumin, coriander, ginger, turmeric, cayenne and nutmeg.

Get the Recipe: Moroccan Couscous

Apple-Cheddar-Squash Soup

Traditional harvest flavors of apple and squash pair well with sharp cheddar cheese and crisp prosciutto.

Get the Recipe: Apple-Cheddar-Squash Soup

Onion-Ringed Fried Chicken

Thin slices of onion add an unexpected twist to this Southern staple.

Get the Recipe: Onion-Ringed Fried Chicken

Vegetable Couscous with Moroccan Pesto

This Moroccan-spiced dish is bursting with flavor from the fresh cilantro and parsley pesto topping.

Get the Recipe: Vegetable Couscous with Moroccan Pesto

Carrot-Mushroom-Barley Stew

Warm a crowd with this earthy, hearty stew, perfect for the chilliest winter day.

Get the Recipe: Carrot-Mushroom-Barley Stew

Blackened Tilapia with Black-Eyed Pea Salad

Serve this well-cooked fish with a cold salad and buttery corn bread.

Get the Recipe: Blackened Tilapia With Black-Eyed Pea Salad

Coconut-Lime Pudding Cake

Serve this lucsious pudding cake with a sprinkle of toasted coconut.

Get the Recipe: Coconut-Lime Pudding Cake

Braised Collard Greens

Melissa's collard greens capture the flavors of smoky bacon, spicy red pepper flakes, garlic and lemon zest.

Get the Recipe: Braised Collard Greens

Beefy Mac and Cheese

Guests will scoop into this traditional-looking, golden brown-crusted mac and cheese to find a surprise layer of hearty ground beef and tomato sauce on the bottom.

Get the Recipe: Beefy Mac and Cheese

Stewed Collard Greens

Cajun seasoning adds a kick to tender collard greens, while the cider vinegar and hot sauce give the holiday side a tangy twist.

Get the Recipe: Stewed Collard Greens

Southern-Style Collard Greens

Cubes of bacon speckle these collard greens, which will be on the table in 35 minutes.

Get the Recipe: Southern-Style Collard Greens

Turkey and Okra Skillet

This one-pan meal is festive and colorful with okra, corn and cherry tomatoes.

Get the Recipe: Turkey and Okra Skillet Dinner

Sweet Onion Potatoes au Gratin

Rachael uses the two pantry staples of potatoes and onions to whip up this creamy and cheesy vegetable side.

Get the Recipe: Sweet Onion Potatoes Au Gratin

Southern Cornbread Dressed-Up Chicken

It's not just the thick-sliced bacon that gives this incredible chicken dish its winning appeal: Baby spinach, cheddar cheese, store-bought cornbread and pecans make up the supporting cast.

Get the Recipe: Southern Cornbread Dressed-Up Chicken

Chard, Squash and Tomatoes

This colorful holiday side is every vegetarian's dream. Crumbled pecorino and red pepper flakes add creaminess and heat to cubed butternut squash and tender Swiss chard leaves.

Get the Recipe: Chard, Squash and Tomatoes