What to Eat on Juneteenth

Looking for some Juneteenth food traditions this year? Read on for Juneteenth food ideas to share with your family and friends.

Table of Contents

What is Juneteenth?

Juneteenth, observed annually on June 19th, honors the abolition of slavery in the United States. The Emancipation Proclamation became official on January 1, 1863, as most history lovers are aware. However, even with the word of the Civil War’s end and the liberation of the slaves, this did not happen in Galveston, Texas, until June 19, 1865.

What to Eat on Juneteenth

Annual Juneteenth celebrations became a time for consoling one another, praying, and meeting remaining family members. Juneteenth has grown in popularity in recent years, and President Joe Biden declared it a federal holiday in 2021. However, many citizens do not know what it is or what the traditions are, we’re here to help educate you on the culinary and beverage traditions.

Food is important in Juneteenth celebrations, as it is in many other holidays. While a traditional Juneteenth meal is flavorful, it also has a rich history that contributes to the tale of Emancipation Day. Here’s everything you should know about Juneteenth cuisine and drink.

What Role Does Food Play?

A celebration isn’t complete without a buffet of delicacies made with love, and Juneteenth is no exception. Food is provided on Juneteenth to nourish, but it is also present for symbolic purposes. On Juneteenth, you can’t talk about food without mentioning soul food, red drinks and foods, and prosperity dinners.

What Is Soul Food?

Soul food, with origins in America dating back centuries, must certainly be on the menu on June 19. But, exactly, what is soul food? It’s a food that African-Americans in the South have historically prepared and cherished. It often comprises meals with beans, leafy greens, cornmeal recipes, and meats such as pork and chicken. Each of these fundamental components may be utilized to make a variety of soul food favorites such as cornbread, fried fish, stew, and the not-always-fan-favorite, chitterlings.

Stock up on Red Food Coloring – What Is The Symbolism of Red Foods On Juneteenth?

The color red has a richness and energy that resonated with individuals who initially celebrated Juneteenth. Surprisingly, there is a more diasporic reason why the color red is so prominent in Juneteenth cuisine.

red velvet cake

In the Antebellum South, Texas was on the fringes of the Antebellum South and basically ignored the Emancipation Proclamation. There were many enslaved Africans arriving in Texas from the continent and the Caribbean. The color red is strongly connected with the civilizations that would have arrived in the latter years of the trade, namely from cultures within the Yoruba and Kongo areas.

The red soda and red foods also represent and symbolize the suffering and perseverance of enslaved people.

There is no shortage of red food in a proper Juneteenth celebration, from specialty cocktails to major entrees. Juneteenth Punch, red velvet cake or cupcakes, red soda, watermelon, and hibiscus tea are some of the most popular red foods and drinks. Be sure to check out our delicious Strawberry or Watermelon Daiquiri recipe when you celebrate Juneteenth this year, and for many years to come.

What Is A Prosperity Meal And Why Is It Served?

On New Year’s Eve, many of us are probably familiar with the seductive scent of a pot of black-eyed peas simmering. And what’s on the stove right next to it? Collard greens boiling in a saucepan. These meals are traditionally cooked on December 31st to usher in the coming year and bring some good health and prosperity.

Prosperity lunches on Juneteenth are all about celebrating good luck and hoping for the best.  Side dishes such as black-eyed peas, collard greens, cornbread, cabbage, and sweet potatoes are frequently served with the dinners.

What Are The Most Popular Juneteenth Recipes?

There is a range of Juneteenth recipes you may make for the festival, whether you’re an experienced cook or a novice. A Juneteenth menu can range in difficulty from easy to challenging and include everything from drinks, sides, main dishes, and even desserts.

golden brown cornbreadCornbread for your Juneteenth Menu

Cornbread is always a good place to start, and it’s especially important on Juneteenth. It’s simple enough for almost anybody to create, and even youngsters can help out.

Check out our cornbread recipe.

Some Main Dishes

If you really want to change it up on Juneteenth, consider fried catfish. Dredging and frying are a tradition, and adding your own personal spices is always appreciated. However, as advocates of healthy living, we believe that substituting a healthier oil alternative may go a long way toward healthier food and many more Juneteenth memories with family members and friends.

If you’d prefer a non-fried main dish for your Juneteenth Menu, try a chicken tenders recipe served with hot sauce and or a traditional tomato-based sauce for dipping. Putting some hemp hearts in the breading can also be a new twist on traditional food.

Sides Such as Leafy Greens and Black Eyed Peas for Your Vegetarian Juneteenth Menu

juneteenth food ideas

Leafy greens such as collard greens also have a long history within the African American culture. Or perhaps a dish with black-eyed peas, such as Akara. Akara, also known as black eyed pea fritters originate from western Africa which was heavily affected by Transatlantic Slave Trade, and is perfect for those on a vegetarian diet.

Vegans might enjoy a twist on the traditional Vegan Hoppin’ John recipe.

Red Drinks for your Juneteenth Menu

red soda

Feeling thirsty? You can’t go wrong with a cold glass of Hibiscus tea or some cold strawberry soda for the youngsters, heck even the “big kids” can enjoy a little soda for the occasion.

Or if you prefer adult beverages, try our red Daiquiri recipe, you can add strawberries and or watermelon whichever you prefer.

Dessert – Red Velvet Cake or Sweet Potato Pie

For dessert, a nice sweet potato pie maybe with a nice cream cheese frosting, or if you want to break out the red food coloring a red velvet cake recipe would be perfect.

Conclusion - Juneteenth Recipes

No matter how you celebrate Juneteenth this year, paying homage to those who came before us, showing respect, and enjoying good eats are all necessary ingredients. Very few people realize the African American cooking traditions are some of the very staples all Americans grew up on.

celebrate juneteenth