PART OF Summer Grilling

24 Jubilatory Juneteenth Recipes

Juneteenth, our nation’s newest federal holiday, is a portmanteau of June 19, 1865—the day when the Union Army marched into the port city of Galveston in Confederate Texas and announced the end of chattel slavery, beginning enforcement of the 1963 Emancipation Proclamation. The joyous eruption of an estimated 250,000 humans there, freed from bondage, became the first “Jubilee” Day, and marked a new beginning in the hope for equality and freedom; freedom that would be guaranteed later that year with the ratification of the 13th Amendment.

While early commemorations were held mainly within Black communities throughout Texas, they expanded over time as a result of the Great Migration. As foundational farmers and “cooks of the nation,” African-Americans helped define and shape national cookery and cuisine, including many now-classic dishes, some of which are reflected in this curated menu.

The start of summer means socializing, so communal dishes and outdoor cookery are common. Red-hued food and drink (ranging from mahogany or burnt sienna to black cherry and magenta) feature prominently at any Juneteenth gathering, distinguishing this early-summer holiday from regular picnics, park parties or backyard barbecues. A classic color of celebration, red has a strong connection to spiritually significant foods from western Africa—like hibiscus, watermelon and kola nuts. Red is also said to symbolize the blood shed during enslavement.

Curated by Tonya Hopkins, aka @TheFoodGriot

Redfish Courtbouillon

Galveston, Texas, is a port city on a barrier island with many beaches, and fish and seafood have always been integral to the local foodways. The enslaved peoples of the region who cooked would have prepared fish dishes, as well as fished and foraged for themselves and their families to supplement food rations. Redfish is the main local fish of this area, and this recipe puts it to good use along with spices from neighboring Louisiana.

Dale's Red Pickled Eggs

This crimson, Scottish family-fave is perfect for the uniquely American Juneteenth lineup. Southern foodways have strong Scottish influences. Black culinary professionals excelled at pickling, curing and preserving foods, and are credited with adding the secret ingredient (pickle juice!) to American-style deviled eggs—a staple at Black family gatherings. This is a fun, color-appropriate alternative.

Corn Pone

For centuries, doughs made from corn meal rations mixed with salt, hot water and/or rendered fat, have been made into pones. Pones—also known as ash cakes, hoe cakes or “johnny” cakes, so named for the ease with which they can be taken on a “journey”—are cooked directly over hot coals, making them the simplest form of cornbread that enslaved and emancipated people would have made. Ideally, corn pone is a supplement to other dishes.

Watermelon Soda

A longtime symbol of summer in America, watermelon—native to Africa—arrived in conjunction with the transatlantic slave trade. Originally cultivated by the enslaved, watermelon is a valuable crop appreciated the world over for its hydration, nourishment, culinary versatility and, of course, its vibrant red interior! Black bartenders in the 18th and 19th centuries popularized using mint to garnish and flavor beverages from cocktails to iced tea and beyond.

Texas "Caviar" Party Salsa

The main ingredient, black-eyed peas, is another prolific crop from Africa that enslaved and emancipated Blacks cultivated and popularized in mainstream America—notably for special occasions symbolizing good luck. The name “Texas caviar” (or “cowboy caviar”) can be credited to Helen Corbitt, a transplanted New Yorker who worked as a food service director at upscale Texas establishments in the 1940s.

Fresh Strawberry Pie

Growing and selling strawberries—either fresh or, given the short season, jarred and made into preserves—once helped recently emancipated communities of color to pave paths toward financial stability in pre- and post-Civil War settlements and towns throughout the southern and northern United States. A naturally red, seasonal, celebratory strawberry pie is perfectly timed for Juneteenth!


Cucumbers (or gherkins) are genetically related to watermelons and also originate from western Africa—are an appropriate accompaniment to this red veg-centered salad and a vegetable of longstanding significance in African-heritage foodways.

Hot Link Skillet

Many soul food experts and culinary historians “who know” agree that hot links are mandatory at any Juneteenth gathering. Whether this home cook knows it or not, their recipe represents an age-old Black culinary tenet of making do (as deliciously as possible!) with whatever’s on hand (à la the “one-pot” meal) and serving it up communally.

Rhubarb Crisp

Appropriately, red rhubarb pushes into peak season around the time of Juneteenth, right when the strawberry season begins to wane. That makes this the opportune time to let rhubarb shine on its own in a summery crisp that requires only half as much prep time as a pie.


On a farm, a pig is a valuable commodity and nothing is wasted. And on a plantation, your status determined which part of the pig you ate. The owners ate “high on the hog” (the ham, the bacon and chops). Meanwhile the enslaved people ate less desirable cuts, such as the intestines, feet and ribs. Ribs are traditionally cooked over fire, but in a pinch the oven will do.

Cherries Jubilee

In African American history, Jubilee Day commemorates President Lincoln’s signing of the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863. While the proclamation freed all black slaves in the Confederate states, it was not implemented in Texas until two and a half years later, on June 19, 1865. This flambéed fruit dessert (made originally with vanilla ice cream, not frozen yogurt) gained fame in 1897, when the renowned French chef Auguste Escoffier made it for a different type of jubilee—that of British monarch Queen Victoria. While Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee may have had little to do with emancipation, the red cherries and jubilatory nature of this dessert make it perfect for a Juneteenth celebration.


It wouldn’t be a barbecue without potato salad! And in many Black families, “Who made the potato salad?” is a serious question. As a now-famous Saturday Night Live skit explored in 2018, a good potato salad should be well-seasoned (with the right amount of salt and pepper!); it should be creamy; and it never, ever has raisins.


Long associated with nearby Louisiana when prepared creole-style with rice, red beans are beloved in Texas too. This recipe shows a different side of red beans, with a sauce combining brown sugar, honey mustard and red wine vinegar. This sweet-and-savory flavor technique originated with the Moors.


Beets are another natural source for vibrant red food coloring, and are said to be the original coloring used to make red velvet cake. In this cocktail, though, it’s gin that steals the show. The symbolic spirit of the speakeasy juke-joint jazz era, gin is intrinsically linked to a sense of inclusive (across race, class and gender) American-style celebration.


Aromatically red, strawberries are a great addition to a tart, savory, semi-sweet salad for Juneteenth.


For many Black Texans, having goat on the Juneteenth menu is a must. The food tradition is likely linked to age-old harvest festivals in western Africa that still take place in late June (notably in present day Nigeria). These harvest festivals involve sacrificing and cooking up a goat for the feast.

Hibiscus Cocktail

Hibiscus—also known as “bissap” in western Africa, “sorrel” in the Caribbean and “agua de Jamaica” throughout Latin America—is tea made from the edible flower of Roselle (Hibiscus sabdariffa), a plant indigenous to western, Central and sub-Saharan Africa. Full of healing properties and significance both social and spiritual, it’s an ancient and ideal source of natural, consumable red color.


Barbecue is a staple, and Texas is beef country thanks to the abundant cattle raised there. Yet few people know that in the late 1800s, one in four cowboys was Black. Several of the popular roping and herding styles came from West African Fulani tribe herding techniques. Cooking brisket slowly over a low fire ensures your meat will be tender and flavorful.


Creative combinations of humble beans, grains, vegetables and seasonings make deliciously healthy and satisfying meals—like this vegetarian take on a burger. While plant-based eating may seem in vogue now, primarily plant-based diets have a long history throughout the African diaspora.

Red Velvet Juice

Myriad methods for extracting healing juices from fruits and vegetables have deep roots throughout the African Diaspora, where plant-based diets are linked to health and vitality. This naturally red, antioxidant-packed drink is a perfect way to start a day filled with the whole gamut of celebration foods.

(Red) Radish Salad

Radishes are easy vegetables to grow that mature quickly and can be sown almost anywhere including in between rows of other vegetables. The exterior cardinal color and the bold, biting, sour-and-savory flavors of crisply sliced radishes are a perfect, refreshing accompaniment to the many meat dishes at any Juneteenth spread.


Spice rubs have a central role in culinary traditions throughout the African continent. When they arrived in the new world, African cooks used the peppers they found in the Caribbean and Americas to make seasonings that reminded them of home.


Cabbage is one of those ubiquitous vegetables that shows up in every food culture. It’s versatile, healthy and affordable, and red cabbage’s beautiful magenta purple adds a festive flare to any Juneteenth table.


Traditional red velvet cake’s color was caused by a chemical reaction between the natural cocoa powder and acids in buttermilk. As cocoa powder became more processed over time, the color changed, so cooks eventually relied on red food dye. In this cupcake recipe, natural red beets lend their color, and add to the velvety texture of this quintessentially Southern celebratory dessert!