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Nourishing Kwanzaa recipes to give your celebration a sense of purpose

Michele Borboa, MS is a freelance writer and editor specializing in health, fitness, food, lifestyle, and pets. Michele is a health and wellness expert, personal chef, cookbook author, and pet-lover based in Bozeman, Montana. She is also...

These hearty dishes for Kwanzaa are rich in flavor and history

Kwanzaa is a worldwide non-religious holiday week celebrating African heritage in countries like the United States. It's steeped in rich tradition — and did we mention the food is some serious business?

Celebrated from Dec. 26 to Jan. 1 and based on the seven guiding principles of Nguzo Saba, Kwanzaa is a time to honor and focus on the traditional African values of family, community responsibility and self-improvement. For many families, that means coming together to break bread and share a delicious meal.

More: 10 holiday traditions from across the world your kids will love

The holiday week culminates in Karamu — or an African feast — on Dec. 31, and you can start a Kwanzaa celebration of your own with these hearty recipes.

Sweet potato peanut soup

These hearty dishes for Kwanzaa are rich in flavor and history
Image: Savory Simple/Pinterest

Serves 8

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons peanut oil
  • 2 tablespoons curry powder
  • 1 large onion, halved, thinly sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 3 cups chopped tomatoes, seeded
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 cups natural smooth peanut butter
  • 2 sweet potatoes, baked until tender, peeled, cut into large chunks
  • 8 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • Finely chopped peanuts (optional)

Directions:

  1. Heat oil in a stockpot over medium heat. Add curry and cook, stirring, until fragrant. Add onions and cook, stirring, until tender, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and tomatoes and cook, stirring often, for 3 minutes. Season with salt and peppers.
  2. Stir in peanut butter until incorporated. Add sweet potatoes, broth and coconut milk. Bring to a vigorous simmer. Reduce heat to medium low and continue to simmer for 10 to 15 minutes.
  3. Remove stockpot from heat and, using an immersion blender, puree soup (alternatively, puree soup in a blender or food processor, in batches). Transfer to bowls and serve garnished with finely chopped peanuts, if desired.

Chicken tagine recipe

These hearty dishes for Kwanzaa are rich in flavor and history
Image: Venturists/Pinterest

Serves 8

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 8 small chicken breast halves
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 onion, halved, sliced
  • 1 cup pitted prunes, chopped (spray knife with cooking spray before chopping) 
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • Pinch of turmeric
  • 6 cups cooked couscous
  • Chopped green onions

Directions:

  1. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add garlic and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds or until fragrant. Add chicken and season with salt and pepper. Brown chicken on both sides, about 2 minutes each.
  2. Add onions, prunes and broth, moving chicken around to evenly distribute. Sprinkle with remaining spices and cover saucepan. Reduce heat to medium low. Cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.
  3. Stir chicken mixture and allow to cook, uncovered, for 2 to 3 more minutes or until liquid has slightly thickened.
  4. Serve with couscous garnished with green onions.

Sautéed collard greens

These hearty dishes for Kwanzaa are rich in flavor and history
Image: Saveur/Pinterest

Serves 8

Ingredients:

  • 4 pounds collard greens, stems and ribs removed, sliced thinly crosswise
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Juice of half a lemon

Directions:

  1. Cook greens in a large pot of boiling water. Drain in a colander and press to remove excess liquid.
  2. Heat butter and olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Stir in greens and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes.
  3. Sprinkle lemon juice over greens, toss, and serve.

Originally published December 2012. Updated December 2016.

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