30 Recipes for Your Juneteenth Celebration
On June 19, 1865, more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation promised freedom to all enslaved people, the last of those in bondage were set free in Texas. Union soldiers came and spread the word, resulting in widespread celebrations. This day is now referred to as Juneteenth and is commemorated as the day slavery truly ended in the United States. Like Emma Lazarus said, “Until we are all free, we are none of us free.” Juneteenth is celebrated with family gatherings, outdoor BBQs, and swapping stories of history. Juneteenth is traditionally celebrated with red foods, hot links, and red drinks. It’s a mixture of traditional soul food and seasonal ingredients. Read on for a delicious selection of recipes that I've put together for your own Juneteenth celebrations.
Jamaican Beef Patties
When you’re playing outdoor games and need a snack, these beef patties do just the trick. These handheld pastries are stuffed with savory ground beef and spices for a flavorful kick found even in the dough. It’s also a good after-party snack for when you are craving a little more.
Rainbow Pasta Salad II
Pasta salad is a staple for any picnic or outdoor gathering. This is an easy salad to prepare and share with friends and family, going with just about anything on your menu. Keep it cool with fresh cold cucumbers. I usually add olives to my pasta salad for a salty, briny bite.
Strawberry Spinach Salad I
For most of the country, June is when strawberries are in their peak season, and it’s time to start incorporating strawberries in all our recipes. This salad balances sweet and savory. The homemade dressing can be tossed over the salad a few minutes before serving, making it a great make-ahead dish and easy to carry for a potluck gathering.
Vegan Black Eyed Pea Salad with Cilantro
Soul food is a cuisine with plant-forward origins. Vegetables were easy to grow and meat was scarce, so meals were often based on vegetables and beans. Beans are a low-cost source of protein. It’s only fair to have this vegan black-eyed pea salad on a Juneteenth menu. The cilantro and fresh ingredients brighten up this easy side dish.
Watermelon Cucumber Salad
This is a unique and refreshing salad for hot summer days. Watermelon is plentiful in summer and there are so many ways to enjoy it. By using so many seasonal ingredients, you’re sure to have a delicious salad that makes a great starter or side.
Fried Black-Eye Peas
This is another option to get black-eyed peas on your Juneteenth menu in a tasty way. Black-eyed peas are not only eaten for New Year’s Day for good luck, but also for Juneteenth. There’s nothing wrong with adding some good luck multiple times a year.
Cajun Style Blackened Snapper
This blackened red snapper is full of flavor and gets to your plate quickly with the help of a hot cast iron pan, but can also work well on a hot grill. Red snapper is a flavorful fish that can pair well with the bold flavors found in this dry rub.
Spicy Grilled Shrimp
Grilled shrimp cook quickly so there is no need to be away from the party for long. Leave out the cayenne pepper and it’s still a yummy dish. Shrimp can withstand lots of mild and bold flavors so you can create many variations of this dish. Grilling keeps the party safely outside.
Haitian-Style Fried Chicken
This Haitian fried chicken is unique because it doesn’t have a traditional crunchy outer breading. Lack of breading doesn’t mean lack of flavor — the acid from the lemon juice tenderizes the drumsticks and there are lots of Caribbean flavors bursting through. Give yourself plenty of time to allow the marinade to soak into the chicken so that the flavors are in every bite.
Pecan Honey Glazed Fried Chicken
Take fried chicken to the next level. This is not a recipe for cutting calories, but it’s a great combination of sweet and savory. Enslaved people were typically given a jar of molasses every week as part of their meal rations, making creativity important while cooking. Combining sweet and savory were typical of those times and are continued in this recipe.
Cat's Cajun Dirty Cauliflower "Rice"
Dirty rice reminds me of visiting my family in the South. A big pot of dirty rice is there to greet you at the door. For those watching their carb intake, this cauliflower rice version is a great low-carb option. Switch out the dried parsley for fresh parsley for a more invigorating flavor.
Southern Grilled Barbecued Ribs
Ribs are a quintessential part of any BBQ and large summer family gathering. This recipe for ribs doesn’t require you to be a grill master. It has the ease of cooking in the oven and the great flavor of finishing them on the grill. While the ribs are cooking, swap family stories and history lessons of Juneteenth celebrations past.
Eaton's Easy Pulled Pork
This slow cooker recipe is an easier alternative to roasting a whole hog in a smoker for 24 hours like it’s done in the Carolinas and Tennessee. This recipe is great for sandwiches and sliders and makes enough to serve the entire crew. It’s slow cooked in hickory and cider vinegar for a combination of tang and earthiness.
Jay's Jerk Chicken
Jerk chicken is a combination of sweet, spicy, and herbal notes of thyme. Cooking jerk chicken on the grill gives the chicken the next level of smoky flavor. Cook over indirect heat and until all the juices run clear for a healthy backyard experience. Jerk marinade recipes are different from family to family so when trying variations remember the balance of flavors is important to bring to the table.
Southern Collard Greens
Braised greens are a soul food classic. This recipe creates a rich stock from ham hocks. Smoked turkey can be easily substituted and leave out the vegetable oil for a lower calorie option. This basic recipe is flexible. It’s good for collard greens but also works with kale, mustard greens, or a mix of all three.
Cornbread is a great accompaniment to any menu. It’s a tasty bread option and is good for gathering up juices from stews and gravies. Many African and regional cuisines use a low-cost starchy item to stretch out meals and gather up gravies from other dishes. West Africa has fufu, East Africa has ugali and injera, and the Carolinas have rice.
Easy Apple Coleslaw
This is a traditional coleslaw recipe with a little twist. I like how this recipe uses Granny Smith apples for a tart and crisp taste. Leaving the skin on the apples gives even more fiber for this yummy side dish. The coleslaw recipe is great as a side or to top pulled pork on a sandwich.
Old Fashioned Potato Salad
One infamous question at many BIPOC barbeques and cookouts is “Who made the potato salad?” The answer determines if the potato salad will end up on your plate, and the taste determines if you will be invited to the cookout again. This recipe should get you re-invited year after year.
Simple Baked Beans II
Baked beans are a fun traditional summertime BBQ side. This recipe is semi-homemade by starting with canned beans and adding ingredients to make them your own. We’ve been dressing up store ingredients for many years to make them our own. It’s all the little touches that make the best differences.
Authentic Louisiana Red Beans and Rice
In Louisiana Mondays are for red beans and rice. Mondays were usually laundry day and there was a need for a low-fuss but hearty meal. This is where slow cooked red beans and andouille sausage came in for the win. The beans would cook until they release a creamy gravy that pairs perfectly with rice.
Sparkling Hibiscus Cooler
One tradition of Juneteenth is to have red drinks as part of the menu. The symbolism of the red color has many thoughts regarding its origin. Some believe the color represents the enslaved people's blood that was shed while others think it dates back before American slavery to the Yoruba and Kongo tribes drinking tea made from hibiscus flower. The flower was brought to the Americas during the slave trades. This drink celebrates that hibiscus flower.
Frozen Strawberry Lemonade
A cool and refreshing slushy drink that doubles as a frozen treat. It’s a frozen red drink option for any Juneteenth celebration if hibiscus flower is difficult to find. It’s so yummy, you’ll make it again and again throughout the summer.
Peach Orange Iced Tea
A cool twist to iced tea. Fresh orange and peaches take iced tea from ordinary to extraordinary. So why not? This way you can make iced tea your own signature drink.
Molasses Grilled Peaches
A jar of molasses was typically given to enslaved people to stretch throughout the week. In the 1860s access to imported foods was scarce so people ate what was in season. Peaches are one wonderful summer fruit. This recipe uses molasses to caramelize the peaches and deepen the intensity of flavor. It’s also reminiscent of peach cobbler without all the work or calories.
Mississippi Tea Cakes
Tea cakes are a symbol of freedom on Juneteenth menus. During slavery, enslaved people worked in kitchens where ingredients like sugar, butter, vanilla, and eggs were readily available. However, they were given whatever leftovers there were and unwanted inexpensive ingredients. Newly freed, they saw making tea cakes for themselves and their families as a symbol of eating what you choose to eat instead of whatever you were given as leftovers.
Berry Fruit Salad
While berries are in season, have them on every menu. Choose berries that are at their peak ripeness. This fruit salad can be made with any seasonal fruits and is so simple. It can come together in no time. With all the pretty colors, you’ll be amazed at what nature can do.
Banana Pudding I
Banana pudding is one of those desserts that reminds me of my childhood. It’s the perfect way to use slightly overripe bananas and a cool dessert for a hot day. Many recipes call for frozen whipped topping. This one uses homemade whipped cream, which is my personal favorite ingredient in banana pudding.
Strawberry Cake from Scratch
You can’t celebrate Juneteenth without strawberry cake. With strawberries in season, it means it's time to use them in all their glory — including in this homemade dessert. This cake helps you keep the red food traditions from beginning to end. Try this cake with cream cheese frosting for a really special treat.
Lemon Icebox Pie III
This is a tart dessert that your kids can help make since no oven is needed. This gets everyone in on the festivities. The cream cheese in this recipe makes it especially creamy, and since it has to be stored in the refrigerator at least two hours in advance, it’s a great make-ahead dessert option.
Seven-Up Cake II
Growing up there was always a pound cake on display in a beautiful cake stand whenever I visited family. My favorite version was this lemon-lime soda pound cake. I still use this as my easy go-to dessert to share. Juneteenth is about remembering family and history and this simple cake is just what I need when I want to bring back memories.
About the Author
Bettina J. Applewhite is a Registered Dietitian-Nutritionist, School Nutrition Specialist, and all-around foodie. Having traveled around the globe, Bettina has an adventurous palate and loves to explore various cuisines and share them with others. She is an Allrecipes Allstar and shares her recipes and meal ideas both on Allrecipes and her blog, Bites with Applewhite.