Growing up, I loved learning to cook traditional Native American dishes that had been passed down in my family for centuries. In the Choctaw tradition, my grandparents kept a garden year-round and grew a diverse mix of vegetables, including corn, squash, tomatoes, lima beans, bell peppers, and kale.
As I got older and began to learn more about the horrors of using animals for food and the dairy industry, I relied heavily on my family’s ancient recipes, because not only were they delicious, they were also completely vegan, naturally.
For me, preparing these dishes is not only a celebration of my heritage but also a celebration of life for all animals! One of my fondest memories of cooking with my grandfather is hearing a traditional Choctaw folktale about a forest-dwelling creature named Kashehotapalo. He was half-deer and half-man, and he protected animals from hunters. Whenever he spotted a hunter with his bow raised toward an animal, he would create a diversion and frighten the hunter, giving the animal a chance to escape.
Although the options for Choctaw (and all Native American) dishes are endless, some of my favorites are below. As you read about them, remember that you can get as creative as you want when you make them. I love adding chunky corn kernels to the cornbread or tossing some extra peppers into the succotash.
Yakoke, chi pisa lachike! (Thanks, and see you later!)
Three Sisters Stew
In Native American mythology, squash, corn, and beans are known as the “three sisters”—they’re the same crops that the harvest festival of Thanksgiving is meant to celebrate. If you bake your pumpkin or squash a day ahead, the stew will come together in a snap.
Cornbread, a Native American staple, was my family’s bread of choice for almost every meal. Tenda-Bake Self-Rising Corn Meal Mix is a great starting point. In addition, all you’ll need are soymilk, a vegan egg replacer (I prefer applesauce for cornbread), and some vegetable shortening or margarine. It couldn’t get any easier!
Butternut Squash Soup
This warming autumnal staple is one of my go-to dishes from October to February. Fresh parsley and thyme really bring out the rich flavor of the squash.
There are countless ways to prepare stuffed squash (for instance, I have often made it stuffed with leftover cornbread and lima beans), but this recipe is one of my favorites. With a hint of nutmeg and cinnamon, this delicious dish is perfect for the holidays.
This simple combination of lima beans, butter beans, onions, corn, and bell peppers is one of my favorites. I love it warm as a main dish or chilled as a salsa-style dip. Canned, fresh, or dried beans work well, and it’s delicious with corn chips. If you’re serving it warm, be sure to sauté the onions in olive oil and salt for extra flavor.
Cornmeal Fried Green Tomatoes
This recipe is as easy as it gets. Over the years, I’ve seen some recipes for this dish that include eggs, but traditionally, eggs were never used, as they’d mean that the dish would not be as crispy when fried and that any leftovers would require refrigeration. I’m especially fond of the Cajun seasoning in the mix, which gives it a bit of Southern flair.
Kale and Black-Eyed Pea Stew
This recipe from Superfood Cuisine is a delicious twist on a very traditional autumnal dish that included almost everything in the garden. In addition to black-eyed peas and kale, it features onions and garlic—and I love throwing in corn and carrots, when they’re available.
Hope this fall season is warm and cozy for you! Feel free to take a look at our vegan comfort food recipes, too, as the weather turns colder.
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