In honor of Black History Month, black writers take a broader look at old and new food traditions.
It's not uncommon for cultures to use food as a means to further define who they are. So I ask the question: What is "black food"? Most wouldn’t think twice if someone answered with fried chicken, collard greens, and cornbread—all examples of traditional soul food. However, each year, along with Aaron Hutcherson (of The Hungry Hutch), I coordinate a virtual potluck in celebration of Black History Month, where 28 bloggers contribute original recipes from the vast African Diaspora.
Every year I'm amazed by the sheer ingenuity, thoughtfulness, and wide cultural reach of each dish and story. From Guava short ribs (Caribbean) to mbuzi choma (East African) to chicken and sausage gumbo (Southern American), a range of traditional recipes are represented in this year’s list. While not explicitly called out, what's also represented is the influence of black migrations. The historical movement of African peoples to new destinations has led to diasporic fusions, brand-new cuisines, and a thousand rich food stories. Take, for instance, A Dash of Jazz’s "Soul Food Power Bowl," a hybrid of flavors from her mom’s Southern roots and her dad’s Nigerian roots.
What becomes more evident each year we do this potluck is that centuries of black migration have given today’s foodies a more personal yet diverse lens into their families' food customs. So when asked, "What is 'black food'?" I hesitate to answer because it appears that we're constantly in the process of redefining what that means.
To start, check out our list of participants in this year’s Black History Month Virtual Potluck, a rich representation of black culture through food:
"Similar to crab cakes, these Creole mackerel balls are the perfect start or end to any day. Make sure to serve with ample amounts of hot sauce, buttermilk biscuits, and cane syrup."
"This recipe brings back memories of my childhood. My mom would make okra, corn, and tomato soup after getting fresh produce from the farmer's market."
"A shorter way to make red beans and rice without compromising on flavor, this delicious comfort meal feeds a whole family."
"This rich and satisfying Caribbean curry goat, best served alongside rice and peas, is cooked until tender with fresh spices and so much flavor in every bite."
"Not your grandmother's roast chicken, this spiced chicken packs a flavor punch, crispy skin, and tender, moist meat, bite after bite. It's what comfort food dreams are made of."
"Colorful, flavorful, soulful power bowls are made with lemon pepper shrimp, tender collards, caramelized sweet potato, spicy okra, and fluffy yellow rice. These are packed with protein, nutrients, and energy and inspired by hybrid meals from my Nigerian-American upbringing in the Deep South."
"This Cajun boudin egg roll recipe features pork, chicken liver, rice, and seasonings, and is served with a side of homemade remoulade sauce. Traditional Louisiana boudin is served in sausage casings and steamed; however, we've stuffed the meat and rice mixture in egg roll wraps and fried them."
"This comforting chicken recipe is full of flavor and perfect for any occasion, from weeknight dinners to weekend potlucks."
"A flaky pie crust, filled with peaches tossed in brown sugar, cinnamon, and a little lemon juice. The filling starts to bubble, the latticed top starts to brown, and the entire house smells like Sunday after church."
"Sweet potato pie is a staple in the black kitchen, but what if we added bourbon? Yep, bourbon sweet potato pie is just as divine as the original."
"Simple yet unforgettably delicious, this old-fashioned chess pie is a classic Southern staple dessert that comes together beautifully with minimal effort."
"These fried chicken sliders are crispy, juicy and packed with flavor. Serve them at room temperature or pipping hot, served on buns and topped with a creamy slaw."
"Nashville hot chicken meets Japanese ebi katsu burger for a spicy, succulent panko-crusted shrimp sandwich with a collard green slaw."
"A blend of sharp Cheddar cheese, mayonnaise, and spicy pimiento peppers, this creamy cheese spread is quintessential Southern food and goes perfectly with crackers, veggies, sandwiches and burgers."
"Mbuzi choma (roast goat) and kachumbari are two meals in combination that are distinctly and loudly Kenyan. Always present in every celebratory banquet, my recipe gives it a clever twist to the Kenyan classic."
"There is no meal that makes me think of both of my grandmothers more than smothered okra. The taste and smell immediately bring me back to visiting them both here in Louisiana as we grew up in Alabama."
"There's nothing more New Orleanian than a good gumbo. This recipe is packed with herbs, spices, chicken, shrimp, ham, tasso, sausage, crab, okra, stock, hot sausage, roux, and of course the aroma."
"Spicy, flavorful beef gets stuffed in puff pastry dough for a delectable Haitian specialty."
"These braised ribs are rich, sweet, smoky, and spicy, thanks to the addition of guava paste and ancho chili powder. The key to tender short ribs is to sear them and simmer in red wine and beef broth."
"Dredge fresh cut okra in a seasoned cornmeal and flour mixture before frying in hot oil to form a delicious, crispy, crunchy bite."
"Spiced shortcake biscuits sop up sweet peach juice and are topped with a hearty dollop of whipped cream and candied nuts for a twist on Southern classics."
"Step aside biscuits and honey—this recipe for hot buttered rum biscuits is your new favorite. With warm cinnamon, allspice and nutmeg, just like a hot buttered rum cocktail, these biscuits will warm your heart and please your belly."
"Heat seekers will love this vinegar-free version of my flaming hot Caribbean-style Scotch bonnet pepper sauce."
"Cornbread is mixed with sautéed vegetables and stock to make this sweet Southern side dish staple."
"A lighter twist on the classic Caesar salad, my version has curly kale, black-eyed peas, and corn with an anchovy-yogurt dressing. Cornbread croutons get tossed through for a sweet Southern finish."
"This is a great way to make easy osso buco as a one-pot dinner option."
"This flavorful roasted cabbage is balanced with a little heat and a touch of sweetness for a simple side dish any night of the week."
"This banana bread is, well, the best: moist, soft, and fluffy with a golden crusted top, BIG banana flavor that's not overly sweet. The best part? Just 10 minutes of prep and no mixer needed."