One remarkable byproduct of the African diaspora is the unmatched diversity of Black cuisine. It touches nearly every continent and comprises just about every kind of flavor profile you can imagine. In the Caribbean, South America, and Central America, African foodways have been incorporated into largely Latin and indigenous traditions. In the United States, a unique food culture and several signature dishes emerged from the innovations of a resilient people who had to work with scraps.
But the most important common thread through the world of Black cuisine is love. It’s that nonreplicable secret ingredient in your grandma’s Sour Cream Pound Cake or your aunty’s ofada or your uncle’s gumbo. It’s why the first thing you’re asked upon entering a Black household is: “Have you eaten?” And it’s why a group of Black food bloggers have come together to celebrate and promote Black culture through food—with a focus this year on plant-based recipes.
Some dishes, like Smoky Black Bean Hummus from FoodLoveTog, are naturally plant-based. Others, like Whisk It Real Gud’s Vegan Jollof Rice, require a bit of finesse. This collection of recipes spans the diaspora and is, in many ways, a return to tradition, as pre-colonial Africans followed mainly plant-based diets rich in fruits, vegetables, nuts, grains, seafood, and the occasional game meat.
In honor of Black History Month, here are the 29 vegan and vegetarian recipes from this year's virtual potluck.
“I chose this recipe because I have very fond memories of my grandmother handcrafting beautiful and delicious pound cakes throughout my childhood.” —A Girl Called Adri
“Fried corn is what you make on Sunday after church with fried chicken, potato salad, and baked macaroni and cheese. It’s so perfect and unlike any other corn recipe. It’s not creamed corn; it’s fried, and I’ve never met anyone who hasn’t loved this recipe.” —A Little Food
“Funny enough, this is a meal I only recently started to enjoy. Growing up, my dad forced us to eat black-eyed peas before the New Year for good luck. Greens were also a big no-go for me. It honestly wasn’t until I became vegan/vegetarian that I loved (and even craved) the combination of the two.” —Baum Ass Foods
“Sweet potatoes were always a staple in my home. My mom would cook them with lots of butter, brown sugar, and nutmeg.” —Beautiful Eats & Things
“Growing up in an African-American farming community, my mother notes that the cows were grass-fed and chickens free-range well before the phrases became coined. Her family raised fruits, vegetables, chickens, ducks, geese, pigs, and horses. Dependent upon cows for commodities like milk, butter, and buttermilk, consumption of beef, chicken, or other meat outside of salt pork or ham hocks was a rarity. ‘Our diet was primarily vegetarian,’ she says. Activist Dick Gregory confirmed the same when discussing his Southern upbringing in the 2012 documentary Soul Food Junkies. My grandpa’s favorite late-night snack was a sweet potato, baked to caramelized perfection nestled among fireplace coals...” —Collards Are the Old Kale
"If I hadn't made it myself, I would have been hard pressed to believe that this was a truly meatless dish, because it gives off the exact texture and look of the chili of my childhood (Grandmama's beef chili) and my favorite turkey chili I make most often these days." —D.M.R. Fine Foods
"If you’re like me, you grew up on your granny’s biscuits. And in 2020, our grandmas are probably tired of making them! With this vegan buttermilk biscuit recipe, you can recreate the comfort of your childhood with no dairy." —Dash of Jazz
"I visited NOLA for the first time in September. Like most people, I fell in love with the food. When I was told about the sub-theme [of this year's potluck], I immediately thought that I wanted to make a vegetarian po’boy. The fact that it’s vegetarian signifies that it’s not completely traditional, but it’s heavily influenced (and absolutely delicious)." —Dish It With Tisha
"Dirty rice is a traditional Louisiana Creole dish made from white rice, which gets its name 'dirty' from the color it turns while being cooked with meat, vegetables, and the various seasonings. But this one is unbelievably flavorful—and you can’t even tell that it's meatless!" —Domestic Dee
"Curry seasoning harkens back to the days in Jamaica shortly after Emancipation. With no more slaves, plantation owners resorted to bringing in indentured servants and immigrants from countries like India. Indians introduced curry to Jamaicans, which is how we get staple dishes like curry goat." —Food Fidelity
"Making this dish for folks I love required me to get a little creative, as many of my friends live plant-based lifestyles—no ham hock in these peas. A dash of liquid smoke gives this an extra smoky flavor without needing meat." —FoodLoveTog
"My mother and grandmother made rice pudding on the stovetop. According to my cousin Chris (our family historian and an amazing cook), my great-grandmother Agnes typically baked rice pudding as a dessert for family gatherings and holidays. He also confirmed that hers was baked and included raisins. According to my mom, she included egg to create a more custard-like pudding for the dessert." —Her Mise en Place
"Have you ever wondered what would happen if a fluffy yeast roll swiped right on a piping hot piece of cornbread? These yeasted cornmeal rolls are the perfect combination of soft and fluffy, but have a slight crunch and mildly sweet flavor from the cornbread." —Kalisha Blair
"What’s wakanda cake? Wakanda cake is a red-velvet, chocolate cake, with chocolate chips, cayenne, cinnamon, nondairy cream cheese icing and a refreshing strawberry-mint salad. The salad balances and brings the dish together, so please do not leave the ingredients at the grocery store." —Kenneth Temple
"Good food does not (and will not) take all day at my house. I just don’t have the time." —Kenya Rae
"Black-eyed pea fritters are crispy outside and creamy inside and made for snacking! These are a modified and shortcut version of akara—West African black-eyed pea fritters." —Marisa Moore Nutrition
"My grandma always said if it ain’t broke, then don’t fix it. So I started this recipe off using [my husband] Kenneth’s old faithful grits recipe. It’s so easy and results in perfectly creamy grits every time. Then, I decided to roast mushrooms in order to draw out their moisture and impart flavor with all the Cajun spices on their crispy exterior." —Meiko and the Dish
"My family kicked off the new year with meatless January, so I’ve been in the kitchen working harder than ever creating new ways to eat what we like minus the meat. One of those creations is this amazingly delicious orange vinaigrette that we pour generously over freshly chopped collard greens, thinly sliced red onion, and beautiful slices of avocado." —On Ty’s Plate
"What you'll love most about this cake? It’s super fluffy and moist. Bold banana and nut flavor, plus spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and allspice). Warm and comforting in every bite." —Orchids + Sweet Tea
"We all have that one food, or one dish that we remember from childhood. For me, it’s any sort of casserole, or a large pan of pasta. So this roasted garlic white veggie lasagna was truly a nostalgic dish for me to recreate." —Razzle Dazzle Life
"Just keeping it real: I’ve searched and tried a ton of vegan bread puddings recently and none of them hit the mark for me. When eating a bread pudding, I want a custard-like pudding that is sweet but not overbearing. I want it to be easy to make and dear Lord, please don’t let it be dry!" —Rosalynn Daniels
"This particular type of rice, black rice or black mushroom rice, is special to us as it's my husband’s favorite, and you will always find it in our home during special occasions." —Savory Thoughts
"Sweet potato casserole is a classic Southern holiday dish that is originally made without marshmallows. The marshmallow addition was actually a marketing ploy by ... a marshmallow company." —Sweet Tea and Thyme
"Southern-style collard greens recipes are all about the broth. To make this vegetarian version nice and hearty, I fortify (unsalted or low-sodium) store-bought vegetable stock with a charred onion to add depth and just a hint of smokiness. That along with a few spices really works wonders to give the collard green potlikker the depth it requires." —The Hungry Hutch
"My inspiration for this recipe comes from how some people make it in Nigeria, Ghana, and Sierra Leone. There are many different ways to make jollof rice. Some people use coconut milk, or Maggi seasoning cubes and water. Some pots are saucy while others are more dry. I prefer my rice dry when I use meat, but I like it a tad saucy when it’s vegan." —Whisk It Real Gud
"Filé powder is ground sassafras leaves, the same leaves that are used to make root beer. If you cannot find it in your local store, I highly suggest ordering some online because it will add that extra touch to make a good gumbo a great gumbo." —Kenneth Temple
"Yes, ma'am, you saw that right. Rum for breakfast. You’re welcome!" —Meiko and the Dish
"Okra with no slime? This spicy, crispy roasted okra with ginger-peanut dipping sauce has got you covered! Fresh okra is spiced up and roasted to perfection." —Marisa Moore Nutrition
"I’ve been a Florida girl my whole life, and while I’ve resided in N.Y.C. for quite some time, I’ve always stayed true to my good ole Southern values. This definitely being one." —Orchids + Sweet Tea