The story of Black History Month begins in 1915 when Dr. Carter G. Woodson—a scholar, historian, and author known as the “Father of Black History”—helped found what is known today as the Association for the Study of African American Life and History. In 1926, Woodson and the association launched an effort to celebrate and encourage the teaching of the history of Black Americans in the nation’s public schools and communities. What began as a week of observance expanded into a month, and since 1976 February has been a time dedicated to honoring the past, present, and future of Black contributions—rich with innovation and brilliance—to American history.
Eat the Culture was established to create community-centered spaces that nurture, support, and amplify Black culinary creators. In addition to collaborations like the Black History Month Virtual Potluck, we offer educational resources, virtual courses, and live events to elevate creatives and highlight the culinary heritage across the African diaspora.
For Black History Month 2023, Eat the Culture is examining the journey and evolution of different dishes from Africa to North America and beyond. Our goal is to show threads of connection through Black culture and food as a nuanced celebration of joy, resilience, and resistance.
Our food is magic and medicine. Our ancestors physically and mentally carried African foodways across the deadly Middle Passage to pass them down through generations. With that framework at the heart of this year’s potluck, 29 recipes from amazing Black culinary creatives take you on a food journey spanning various corners of the African continent—showcasing how those dishes, ingredients, and cooking styles evolved as they traveled to the Americas and the Caribbean.
“A large part of my food blogging journey has been to explore how my personal history is connected to the African diaspora,” says Geo Banks-Weston, a creator participating this year. “These potlucks and virtual cookouts have created invaluable opportunities for me to do just that. I’m always amazed by just how much I learn about myself, and about Black food history through participation in the collaborations, and I hope that through my own work I am able to provide some level of education to others.”
There is an African proverb that says, “Once you carry your own water, you’ll remember every drop.” From Jollof to Red Rice, Puff Puff to Barriguitas de Vieja, Maafe to Peanut Soup, and so much more, all of the featured dishes conjure up that remembrance, a shared history. We invite you to join us on this delicious journey.
Okro Soup is traditionally made by cooking okra in a mixture of palm oil, shrimp, meat, fish, and African spices. This dish migrated from West Africa and transformed as it traveled throughout South America and the American South with variations like Caruru Baiano from Brazil, Southern Okra Gumbo, and Callaloo in the Caribbean.
1. Okro Soup With Shrimp & Spinach From Dash of Jazz
2. Okra Gumbo With Shrimp From Food Fidelity
3. Caruru Baiano From Brazilian Kitchen Abroad
Muamba Chicken is a flavor-filled stew—featuring chicken, spices, and palm butter—considered to be Angola’s national dish. It’s typically served with funge, an Angolan staple of cassava flour whisked with boiling water, but white rice would also work well. The technique for stewing chicken seen in this dish has descendants throughout the Caribbean, Central America, and the American South, in recipes like Poulet Creole in Haiti and Pollo Guisado in Puerto Rico.
4. Muamba Chicken From Flights and Foods
5. Poulet Creole From Kenneth Temple
6. Pollo Guisado From A Girl Called Adri
Waakye is a simple, savory rice-and-beans dish native to northern Ghana and enjoyed across the country. To make the dish, both the rice and legumes are cooked in the same pot with West African sorghum or millet leaves for a tender texture and deep reddish-brown color. Eaten any time of day, it’s often served with a variety of condiments. Waakye’s influence can be found in a number of dishes today, from Jamaican Rice and Peas to Guyanese Cook-Up Rice.
7. Waakye From Dash of Jazz
8. Hoppin’ John From Her Mise en Place
9. Jamaican Rice & Peas From Big Delicious Life
10. Guyanese Cook-Up Rice From Coined Cuisine
Thiakry is a sweet, creamy, and mildly tangy dessert that is mostly native to Senegal and Gambia. While desserts aren’t common in West Africa, variations on rice pudding showcasing the indigenous rice crop appear in the cuisines of several countries both in and outside of the continent, with offshoots like comforting Trinidad Sweet Rice and Southern Rice Pudding.
11. Thiakry From My Sweet Precision
12. Southern Rice Pudding From Begin With Butter
13. Trinidad Sweet Rice From This Bago Girl
What we know as barbecue has roots in a term from the Hausa people of West Africa: babbake, which refers to a method of cooking over a large fire. We can see the West African origins, as well as regional influences that impacted these techniques as they crossed the Atlantic, in cooking today. Dibi is a Senegalese dish consisting of grilled meat (usually lamb) that has been seasoned and cut into pieces. In the West Indies, enslaved Africans forged ties with the Caribs and Arawaks to create the modern form of jerking. Similar ties were established in the United States with Indigenous peoples that co-evolved and refined American barbecue traditions.
14. Dibi Lamb From Be Greedy Eats
15. Brisket Burnt Ends From Meiko And the Dish
16. Jerk Chicken Wings From This Worthey Life
Fufu is a dough-like food found in West African cuisine made by separately mixing and pounding equal portions of boiled cassava with green plantain; it’s closely related to Ugali, an East African dish made with cornmeal or corn flour. Traditionally eaten with the fingers, a small ball of Fufu can be dipped into an accompanying soup, greens, or sauce. As enslaved Africans crossed the Atlantic and landed in the Caribbean and South America, variations of this West African dish emerged with recipes like Haitian Tom Tom and Puerto Rican Mofongo.
17. Plantain Fufu From Healthier Steps
18. Ugali From Kanyi’s Kitchen
19. Tom Tom ak Sos Kalalou From Global Kitchen Travels
20. Mofongo From Razzle Dazzle Life
There are many varieties of Maafe, a peanut or groundnut stew, found across West Africa, but common ingredients include chicken, tomato, onion, and garlic. Today, recipes influenced by this dish—including a Peanut Butter Soup with Jamaican flavors and a rich Southern Peanut Soup—appear across the Caribbean and Americas.
21. Maafe From My Pretty Brown Eats
22. Southern Peanut Soup From Savor and Sage
23. Peanut Butter Soup From Britney Breaks Bread
Puff Puff is a popular West African snack food of fried dough that’s served at celebrations of all kinds. Descendants of this recipe can be found across the Atlantic and include recipes such as Barriguitas de Vieja (literal translation: “old lady bellies”), which are commonly served in the Caribbean islands, and New Orleans-style Beignets.
24. Easy Nigerian Puff Puff From Sims Home Kitchen
25. Chocolate Beignets From Chenée Today
26. Barriguitas de Vieja From Sense & Edibility
Jollof Rice is a beloved and passionately debated rice dish originating from the Senegambia region of West Africa. While the dish typically includes a mixture of rice, tomato, and spices, there are nuanced yet distinct differences between the methods and ingredients used across each country in West Africa, particularly Nigeria and Ghana; for example, Nigerian Jollof Rice calls for long-grain rice, whereas the Ghanaian version uses basmati or sometimes jasmine rice. Throughout the Caribbean, Mexico, and the American South you can see offshoots of this dish in staple rice-based recipes like Red Rice, Jambalaya, and Arroz Rojo.
27. Jollof Rice From The Prince Eats
28. Red Rice With Jumbo Shrimp From Food Fidelity
29. Shrimp, Chicken & Sausage Jambalaya From Geo’s Table
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