A diverse array of plant-based soul food dishes | Lauren Paige for LIVEKINDLY

Traditional Black American Recipes Made Vegan

Many recipes iconic to American cuisine can be traced back to the native lands of the people who built it. Favorites like jambalaya, okra, and rice pudding are popular on menus today but all have their roots in African culture.

So much of American food has originated in Black communities, and each region is rich with its own history tied to the evolution of American culture and cuisine. Here are four traditional recipes (made vegan!) that originated in the South, Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, and the Gulf, and the unique stories behind their origins.

4 Traditional Black American Recipes Made Vegan

Peanut soup made with vegetable stock | Lauren Paige for LIVEKINDLY

Virginia Peanut Soup

By Lauren Paige

4 hours 30 mins to prep
55 mins to cook
Yields 8
Vegan

Ingredients

  • 2 cups roasted unsalted peanuts, shells removed
  • 2 tablespoons peanut oil, extra-virgin olive oil, or vegan butter
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 1 small white onion, diced
  • 6 cups vegetable broth
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • Sea salt, to taste
  • Fresh ground black pepper, to taste

Garnish

  • Chopped roasted peanuts
  • Fresh thyme
  • Maple syrup
  • Hot sauce (optional)

Preparation

  1. 1
    In a large bowl, place the peanuts and cover with water, allow them to soak at room temperature for 4 hours or overnight. Remove from bowl and drain.
  2. 2
    In a large pot, add the oil over medium heat. Add the celery and onions and sauté until tender and translucent, about 6-8 minutes.
  3. 3
    Over medium-high heat, add the peanuts to the pan and stir, coating them in the oil. Pour in the vegetable broth and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer uncovered until the peanuts are soft, about 20 minutes.
  4. 4
    In small batches, transfer the mixture from the pan to a blender and purée until smooth. Add more broth to get a thinner consistency, if desired.
  5. 5
    Once puréed, return the mixture back into the pot and season with nutmeg, lemon juice, salt, and black and white pepper. Reheat over medium heat.
  6. 6
    Serve hot and garnish with peanuts, fresh thyme, and a drizzle of maple syrup or hot sauce.
Deep-fried eggplant, in the style of Southern catfish | Lauren Paige for LIVEKINDLY

South Carolina Vegan Catfish and Coleslaw

By Lauren Paige

1 hour 15 mins to prep
2 hours 15 mins to cook
Yields 6
Vegan

Ingredients

Southern coleslaw

  • 1/2 head green cabbage, finely shredded
  • 1/2 head red cabbage, finely shredded
  • 1 large carrot, finely shredded
  • 1 small white onion, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup vegan mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar
  • Sea salt, to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Vegan tartar sauce

  • 1 cup vegan mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup dill pickle, minced (or sweet relish)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried tarragon
  • 1 teaspoon fresh dill, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 tablespoon capers, drained (optional)
  • Sea salt, to taste
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste

South Carolina Catfish

  • 2 small eggplants
  • 3/4 cup fine yellow cornmeal
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 cup nut milk, unsweetened
  • 2 teaspoons hot sauce (preferably a vinegar-heavy brand like Texas Pete or Louisiana Hot Sauce)
  • 2 cups frying oil, preferably peanut or sunflower

Catfish condiments and garnish

  • Lemon wedges
  • Hot sauce
  • Vegan tartar sauce

Preparation

  1. 1
    For Southern coleslaw: In a large bowl, mix green cabbage, red cabbage, carrots, and onion.
  2. 2
    In a separate bowl, whisk mayonnaise, sugar, lemon juice, vinegar, salt, and black pepper until mixed.
  3. 3
    Pour mayo mixture over cabbage and mix until thoroughly coated. Cover and transfer to the fridge to chill for at least 2 hours. Mix well before serving.
  4. 4
    For the tartar sauce: In a small bowl, mix together mayonnaise, pickles (or relish, if using), tarragon, dill, lemon juice, sugar, and capers (if using). Season to taste with salt and pepper. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving.
  5. 5
    Cut eggplant into 1/2-inch slices on the horizontal, so you’re left with long filet-shaped slices.
  6. 6
    In a large paper or Ziploc bag, add cornmeal, flour, Old Bay, garlic powder, black pepper, paprika, cayenne, and sea salt; shake until mixed.
  7. 7
    In a large bowl, whisk together nut milk and hot sauce.
  8. 8
    For the catfish: Add eggplant filets to the nut milk mixture, coating on all sides.
  9. 9
    One by one, remove eggplant filets from the nut milk, shake off excess liquid and add to the bag of cornmeal mix. Shaking vigorously until well coated.
  10. 10
    Remove eggplant from the bag, shaking off excess breading, and transfer to a lined baking sheet.
  11. 11
    In a large cast iron pan, pour in about 2 inches of oil, or enough to submerge the eggplant completely. Heat over medium-high heat until the temperature reaches 350 degrees. If you don’t have a thermometer to measure oil, drop in a dollop of batter; when it bubbles profusely, your oil is hot enough to start frying.
  12. 12
    In batches, slowly add the eggplant fillets into the oil. Fry until golden brown, about 2-4 minutes each side. Lower the heat if needed as you go.
  13. 13
    Transfer cooked eggplant to a baking rack or paper towels to absorb excess oil.
  14. 14
    Serve hot with hot sauce, tartar sauce, and fresh lemon wedges.
  15. 15
    If you are making the catfish in an airfryer, follow steps 1-5. Transfer eggplant fillets into a greased air fryer basket. Spritz generously with oil. Cook at 400 degrees for 10 minutes. Flip fillets, spritz again with oil, and cook an additional 3-5 minutes, or until crispy.
Étouffée, employing meaty mushrooms in place of seafood | Lauren Paige for LIVEKINDLY

Louisiana Étouffée

By Lauren Paige

30 mins to prep
1 hour 10 mins to cook
Yields 6
Vegan

Ingredients

Louisiana Étouffée:

  • 3 cups white or brown rice
  • 4 tablespoons salted vegan butter
  • 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, finely chopped
  • 1/2 green bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon Creole or Cajun seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 dried bay leaf
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • Sea salt, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 8 ounces cremini, oyster, or baby portobello mushrooms, sliced

Garnish:

  • 2 fresh green onions, sliced

Preparation

  1. 1
    In a large pot, combine the rice and 6 cups of water. Bring to a boil. Cover, and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, until rice is soft and all the water is absorbed. Set aside.
  2. 2
    In a large saucepan, add the butter and melt over medium heat. Cook until butter begins to brown and slowly begin to sprinkle in the flour, stirring to mix until smooth. Reduce the heat to simmer and stir frequently until the roux begins to thicken and turn dark brown, about 10 minutes.
  3. 3
    Add the onion, celery, and green bell pepper to the roux and sauté over medium heat until tender, about 8-10 minutes. Stir frequently. Add in the garlic and thyme and saute for 1-2 more minutes. Pour in vegetable stock, diced tomatoes and 1/2 cup of water, stirring well.
  4. 4
    Season mixture with Creole seasoning, smoked paprika, cayenne pepper, black pepper, white pepper, dried basil, bay leaf, lemon juice, and salt. Reduce heat to low, and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  5. 5
    In a separate pan, add the olive oil and heat over medium-high heat. Add in the mushrooms and sauté until tender, about 5 minutes.
  6. 6
    Add cooked mushrooms to the vegetable mix and stir until coated. Remove bay leaf and season with additional salt or spices, to taste.
  7. 7
    Serve over rice and garnish with chopped green onion.
Crab cakes, made with hearts of palm for flaky, seafood-like feel | Lauren Paige for LIVEKINDLY

Vegan Maryland Crab Cakes

By Gowri Chandra

1 hour 30 mins to prep
15 mins to cook
Vegan

Ingredients

Vegan tartar sauce

  • 1 cup vegan mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup dill pickle, minced (or sweet relish)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried tarragon
  • 1 teaspoon fresh dill, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 tablespoon capers, drained (optional)
  • Sea salt, to taste
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste

Vegan crab cakes

  • 1 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 15-ounce can hearts of palm hearts of palm, drained and rinsed
  • 1/4 cup onion, diced
  • 1/4 cup celery, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup vegan mayonnaise
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon fresh dill, chopped
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs
  • 2 tablespoons Old Bay seasoning, divided in half
  • Sea salt, to taste
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup Flour, for dredging
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, for frying

Garnish for crab cakes

  • Vegan tartar sauce
  • Lemon wedges

Preparation

  1. 1
    For the tartar sauce: In a small bowl, mix together mayonnaise, pickles (or sweet relish, if using), tarragon, dill, lemon juice, sugar, and capers (if using). Season to taste with salt and pepper. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving.
  2. 2
    For the crab cakes: In a blender or food processor, add chickpeas and hearts of palm. Pulse slowly until the mixture is chopped but still slightly whole. Be careful not to over-process, as the mixture should remain flaky.
  3. 3
    Transfer mixture to a large mixing bowl and add in onions, celery, garlic, mayonnaise, lemon juice, parsley, dill, bread crumbs, and 1 tablespoon of Old Bay seasoning. Mix until everything is combined. Season the mixture with salt and pepper, to taste. Transfer mixture to the fridge and chill for 1 hour.
  4. 4
    Remove mixture from the fridge and use your hands to form patties about 1 inch thick.
  5. 5
    Add the flour to a shallow dish and season with the remaining 1 tablespoon of Old Bay seasoning. Dip each patty in the flour on both sides until evenly coated.
  6. 6
    Heat a large pan over medium-high heat and add 2 tablespoons of olive oil.
  7. 7
    Once oil is hot, fry patties one at a time, 2-3 minutes per side, or until golden brown.
  8. 8
    Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to absorb excess oil.
  9. 9
    Serve crab cakes warm, with tartar sauce and fresh lemon wedges.