You Just Started the African Heritage Diet—Here Are the Recipes to Make First

Moroccan-Style Citrus Salad on platter
Photo: Brittany Conerly

If you want to eat more foods from the African Heritage Diet, we have you covered. These flavorful recipes showcase many food groups from the African Heritage Diet Pyramid in dishes ranging from breakfast to dessert and even drinks. Recipes like the Collard & Rice Dumplings and Turnip Green Pesto feature familiar foods prepared in different yet tasty ways. These delicious, healthy meals from across the African diaspora will quickly become part of your regular meal rotation.

01 of 20

Jambalaya Stuffed Peppers


When thinking about foods associated with Louisiana, jambalaya quickly comes to mind. This dish, rooted in African, French and Spanish cuisine, includes a type of animal protein, vegetables, rice and stock. Serving jambalaya in a bell pepper bowl helps you fit an extra veggie into your day and makes for a perfectly sized portion of this Cajun goodness. If you are watching your sodium intake, skip the store-bought Cajun seasoning and make your own blend.

02 of 20

Plantain Puff Puffs

plantain puff puffs
Photographer: Greg DuPree, Food Stylist: Margaret Dickey, Prop Stylist: Kay Clarke

Although puff puffs can be eaten as a dessert, you can enjoy them any time of the day as a breakfast, a side or even a snack. Similar to beignets, these balls of deep-fried dough, spiced with nutmeg, are a popular street food throughout West Africa. This recipe replaces some flour with overripe plantains, increasing its fiber content and flavor. Just make sure the plantains you use have black skin for that increased sweetness.

03 of 20

Fossolia (Ethiopian-Style Green Beans)


Go to pretty much any Ethiopian restaurant, and if you order the vegetable combo, you'll likely see fossolia served atop the platter of injera (Ethiopian flatbread). Green beans are the focus of this dish, often accompanied by carrots, tomatoes and various spices. The simplicity of this dish, coupled with its unique herb and spice combination, makes it one you'll come back to over and over. You never thought green beans could taste this good, did you?

04 of 20

Collard & Rice Dumplings with Mamba 9 Sauce

2 Stuffed Collard Greens with Mamba 9 Sauce on a plate
Brittany Conerly

Full of nutrients and other health-promoting compounds, leafy greens are a key component of the African Heritage Diet. In fact, they make up the base of the pyramid, as they appear in most meals across the African diaspora. Leafy greens also symbolize prosperity and good health. This recipe from Chef Matthew Raiford features collard greens used as dumplings, filled with Japanese-inspired rice-and-lamb stuffing, baked in a sweet and spicy barbecue sauce. This recipe reminds us that African American cuisine is not monolithic.

05 of 20

Sorrel Spritz Mocktail

a recipe photo of Sorrel Spritz Mocktail
Ali Redmond

Red-colored drinks have cultural significance throughout the African diaspora. The red represents the shed blood of African ancestors forcibly displaced during the slave trade. Like in this recipe, many are made with sorrel, also known as hibiscus, which gives them their signature red hue. Drinks made with hibiscus have different names across these countries. In Africa, and mainly in Senegal, where it's the national drink, it's known as bissap. In Jamaica, the drink is commonly made during the holidays, and in the United States, red drinks like this (along with red foods) are a large part of Juneteenth celebrations.

06 of 20

Air-Fryer Crispy Chickpeas


The next time you shop for snacks at the market, skip the chip and cookie aisle and instead go down the bean aisle. This recipe uses canned chickpeas and cooks up quickly in the air fryer, making for a convenient and inexpensive snack. Another good part about this easy-to-make snack is that you can use your favorite African Heritage spice blend or another spice blend to give these chickpeas flavor. Eat these by the handful or top salads and other dishes with them to add an extra crunch.

07 of 20

Slow-Cooker Overnight Fonio Porridge

Slow-Cooker Overnight Fonio Porridge
Ted & Chelsea Cavanaugh

Fonio is an ancient grain primarily grown in West Africa and known for its quick growing time and resistance to drought. Fonio is a whole grain and is naturally gluten-free. For an African Heritage twist on breakfast, try fonio instead of your typical oatmeal. This recipe is completely vegan and can be started in the slow cooker the night before.

08 of 20

Berbere-Spiced Chicken & Lentil Stew


A hallmark of Ethiopian cuisine is a spice blend called berbere, which includes chile peppers, garlic, ginger, coriander and other spices. Doro wot and misir wot (spellings may vary) are Ethiopian stews spiced with berbere featuring chicken and red lentils, respectively. This dish combines the two, giving you the best of both worlds. If you are fortunate to have an Ethiopian market nearby, you can find berbere stocked there. If not, there are plenty of online markets that you can purchase from as well.

09 of 20

Turnip Green Pesto

Turnip Green Pesto in a bowl
Brittany Conerly

Food waste is a serious issue in the U.S. and around the world. Not only does it contribute to climate-changing greenhouse gas emissions, but a significant amount of that food is still fresh, nutritious and, with a bit of processing, can feed people. Make Food Not Waste, in Detroit, rescues food and transforms it into tasty meals in their Upcycling Kitchen to serve communities in the city. Chef Ederique Goudia's recipe that turns turnip greens into pesto is a direct result of this work and a reminder that we all can contribute to reducing food waste.

10 of 20

Beet & Fonio Salad with Spicy Pickled Carrots

Beet & Fonio Salad with Spicy Pickled Carrots in blue bowl
Brittany Conerly

Fonio, a whole grain cultivated in Western Africa for over 5,000 years, is in the culinary spotlight, largely due to the work of Senegalese-born Chef Pierre Thiam. The grain is easy to prepare, taking only five minutes to cook, and has notable nutritional properties, including its low glycemic index. This salad, one of many recipes in Thiam's The Fonio Cookbook, features the nutty, slightly earthy fonio combined with roasted beets for sweetness and pickled carrots for acidity. Remember, "fonio never embarrasses the cook."

11 of 20

Ataya Maghrebi Nana (Moroccan Mint Tea)

Moroccan Mint Tea
Evan de normandie

Teas are prevalent across different cultures and regions in Africa, often reflecting the impact of colonization on the various countries that make up the continent. For instance, black teas are consumed primarily in Central and Western Africa, rooibos teas in South Africa, and green, minty teas are commonplace in Northwest and West Africa. This Moroccan mint tea holds a special place in culinary historian Jessica B. Harris' heart, as it was one of her first culinary experiences upon her initial visit to Africa.

12 of 20

Cajun Vegan Succotash

Cajun Vegan Succotash
Brittany Conerly

If you're looking for a simple, easy-to-prep meal—this is it. Succotash is a dish rooted in Indigenous/Native American food culture and traditionally contains corn, beans and other vegetables. Dishes like succotash helped people get through the Great Depression and other tough times. Nutritionally speaking, this dish combines a whole grain (corn) and beans, providing a "complete protein," or all of the essential amino acids. Packed with different vegetables, beans and Cajun spices, this recipe will make you feel like you're in Louisiana.

13 of 20

Bammy with Basil-Tamarind Pistou

Bammy with Basil-Tamarind Pistou
Brittany Conerly

Cassava is a starchy tuber that originated in South America and was brought to Africa in the 16th century. Nowadays, cassava is a culinary staple throughout the African diaspora. In Jamaica, where recipe developer and chef Suzanne Barr's parents were born, cassava is grated and formed into disk-like cakes known as bammy. Bammy is traditionally served with saltfish and ackee—the Jamaican national dish. Barr's bammy recipe is accompanied by a fresh, herby pistou (a sauce) and can be served as a snack or appetizer. To her, this recipe is one way of paying homage to her parents' homeland.

14 of 20

Beef Suya Tacos

beef suya tacos
Photographer: Greg DuPree; Food Stylist: Margaret Dickey; Prop Stylist: Kay Clarke

In the middle of the African Heritage Diet pyramid are herbs, spices and sauces used to flavor meals. Spice blends often represent the culinary and agricultural traditions of a culture. Throughout the countries located in West Africa, suya spice is a common blend. Used as a rub for meat, seafood and vegetables, suya consists of a blend of ground peanuts, ginger, chiles, garlic and other herbs and spices. This recipe uses suya to season thinly sliced beef that's then grilled or broiled. These beef suya tacos will add an African Heritage-inspired twist to your next Taco Tuesday (or any day of the week).

15 of 20

Caramelized Ripe Plantains with Dark Rum

Caramelized Ripe Plantains with Dark Rum
Andrea Mathis

Plantains are enjoyed throughout the African diaspora in various ways, from boiled to fried, roasted and even used as an ingredient in other sweet or savory dishes (like these Plantain Puff Puffs). The color of the plantain indicates its ripeness and often dictates what dishes it works best in. Green, unripe plantains are starchier and less sweet, whereas the starch in yellow plantains has broken down into sugars, making them sweeter. For this dessert, reminiscent of Bananas Foster, use the black, super-ripe plantains—they are the sweetest.

16 of 20

Moroccan Chermoula

Moroccan Chermoula
Cooks with Soul

Sauces are an essential part of any culture's food traditions, and in Morocco across Northern Africa, chermoula is that sauce. Africa, particularly North Africa, is a part of the Mediterranean region too, and this savory chermoula is a delicious reminder of that fact. This recipe combines many green herbs, garlic, spices and oil into a deep green sauce used to marinate meat, seafood or vegetables. It can also be served alongside food as a condiment.

17 of 20

Citrus Salad with Pomegranate & Mint

Moroccan-Style Citrus Salad on platter
Brittany Conerly

In the United States, dessert is often associated with cakes, pies and other hyper-sweet and rich foods. However, as recipe developer Jessica B. Harris, Ph.D., points out, this isn't the case for many culinary traditions of the African continent. There, fruit is often served during dessert time. Her recipe includes different citrus fruits drizzled with more citrus juice and sprinkled with pomegranate arils. Not only is this a more refreshing way to finish a meal, but it's also a great way to get closer to the 1.5 to 3.5 servings of fruit recommended by the Dietary Guidelines.

18 of 20

Sheet-Pan Spiced Chickpeas & Sweet Potatoes with Herby Yogurt

a recipe photo of the Sheet-Pan Spiced Chickpeas & Sweet Potatoes with Herby Yogurt served on a platter
Photographer: Brie Goldman Food Stylist: Lauren McAnelly Prop Stylist: Holly Raibikis

If one of your goals this year is to eat more meatless meals, this recipe is for you. And even if going meatless isn't your goal, this can be another great addition to your cooking repertoire. The crisp, spiced chickpeas pair well with the tender sweet potato wedges, and the tahini and yogurt sauce brings a bit of coolness and tanginess to the meal. This dish combines ingredients and flavors from Africa and the American South and can be cooked in one pan for easy cleanup afterward.

19 of 20

Red Red

Red Red in a bowl
Brittany Conerly

Red Red is a black-eyed pea stew eaten in Ghana, along with fried plantains. For Chef Zoe Adjonyoh, this dish is the perfect vehicle to dispel false narratives around cultural food practices and traditions because of its primary ingredient, red palm oil. This nutrient-dense oil often draws criticism for not being environmentally sustainable. However, as Adjonyoh points out, the tree that produces the oil is native to West and Central Africa and has been sustainably, organically and locally farmed there for centuries. You can enjoy this vegan stew all day, whether for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

20 of 20

Spicy Jerk Shrimp

Spicy Jerk Shrimp

This recipe uses Jamaican jerk seasoning to season shrimp and vegetables for a quick and easy sheet-pan meal. Because jerk seasoning can add a significant amount of heat to a dish, this recipe includes pineapple; its sweetness balances the heat from the seasoning. You can serve this dish with rice or any other grain you choose. As with any spice blend, you can make it at home and have more control over the sodium, the flavors and the heat.

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