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Vegetarian Kwanzaa Feast

While most American holidays are “celebrated” with a dead animal on the dinner table (think Thanksgiving turkey or Christmas ham), Kwanzaa is especially suited to a vegetarian feast. Kwanzaa, which means “first fruits of the harvest” in Swahili, combines elements from traditional African harvest festivals. The week-long holiday, lasting from December 26 to January 1, culminates in the Kwanzaa Karamu, a feast that draws on the cuisines of Africa, the Caribbean, South America, and the American South and features common ingredients such as sweet potatoes, okra, peanuts, black-eyed peas, and greens.

What should be left off the menu? Meat! On a typical factory farm, animals spend their entire lives confined to cramped stalls barely bigger than their own bodies; many go lame from lack of exercise or suffer from chronic respiratory diseases and bacterial infections. At the slaughterhouse, many animals are strangled, beaten, scalded, skinned, and dismembered–all while fully conscious.

Holidays should be a celebration of life–not death. We’ve compiled some of our favorite festive vegetarian recipes to help make your Kwanzaa Karamu cruelty-free and delicious!

Grilled Plantains

2 or 3 large plantains
Cayenne pepper, to taste

Cut the plantains into fourths crosswise, then slice each piece lengthwise. Sprinkle with cayenne pepper. Grill or broil just until tender, about 6 minutes. Serve warm.

Makes 4 servings.

West African Yam and Groundnut Stew

(From Some Like It Hot by Robin Robertson)

1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 medium green or red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
2 lbs. yams, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
3 small fresh mild chilies, seeded and chopped
2 large tomatoes, chopped
4 cups vegetable stock
1 Tbsp. brown sugar
3/4 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground pepper
1/4 tsp. hot red pepper flakes
1 cup chopped roasted peanuts

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, bell pepper, yams, and chilies, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, stock, brown sugar, cinnamon, chili powder, salt, pepper, and hot red pepper flakes and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer until the vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasonings. Garnish with the chopped peanuts and serve.

Makes 8 servings.

Hip Hoppin’ John

1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 6-oz. package smoked tofu, cut into small cubes
2 16-oz. cans black-eyed peas, rinsed and drained
3 cups cooked white rice
1 1/2 cups cooked collard greens (or other dark, leafy greens), chopped
1/2 tsp. salt
Hot sauce, to taste

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and sauté 5 minutes, until the onion begins to soften.

Add the smoked tofu, black-eyed peas, rice, and collards. Cook for 5 minutes or until heated through. Season with salt and hot sauce.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Corn Bread

1 cup cornmeal
1 cup flour
2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. oil
1 1/2 cups soy milk

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Combine the dry ingredients. Add the oil and soy milk and mix well. Pour into a lightly oiled 8 x 8-inch pan, and bake for 30 minutes.

Makes 9 servings.

Cajun Collard Greens

(from Good Time Eatin’ in Cajun Country by Donna Simón)

2 bunches mustard or collard greens (1 if the bunches are large)
1/2 onion, thinly sliced
1 Tbsp. oil
1/2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/2 to 1 cup water (if the greens are tough)

Wash each leaf of the greens and remove the large stalk in the center. Tear into small pieces and set aside. Sauté the onion in the oil until it begins to turn brown. Add the greens, salt, and cayenne pepper and simmer on low heat until tender, stirring often. Collard greens may need a little longer cooking time and a little more water than mustard greens, especially if they are older greens.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Sweetie’s Sweet Potato Pie

(adapted from 366 Simply Delicious Dairy-Free Recipes by Robin Robertson)

1 cup cooked mashed sweet potatoes
1 Tbsp. margarine, softened to room temperature
1/2 cup soft silken tofu, drained
1 cup vanilla soy milk
11/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 unbaked 9-inch pie crust

Sweet Cream Topping, for garnish (recipe follows)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the sweet potatoes and margarine with an electric mixer. Blend in the tofu. Add the soy milk, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, salt, ginger and nutmeg, mixing until well blended. Pour the filling into the crust and bake for 45 to 50 minutes or until firm. Serve with Sweet Cream Topping (recipe follows).

Makes 8 servings.

Sweet Cream Topping

1/2 lb. firm tofu
1/4 cup oil
1/4 cup confectioner’s sugar
1 tsp. vanilla or coconut extract
1/2 tsp. lemon juice
1/8 tsp. salt

Combine all the ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth and creamy. Chill before serving.

Makes 1 1/2 cups.

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