You’ll see red, in all the best ways.
Traditional Juneteenth food ideas and recipes celebrate an important day in Black history — American history — with drinks, sides, main courses, and desserts that are rich with meaning, symbolism . . . and the color red. Learn more, and get these inspiring Juneteenth recipes.
Food History: What Is Juneteenth?
Juneteenth marks the day in 1865 when Union soldiers rode to Galveston, Texas and told the enslaved population that they had been freed by the Emancipation Proclamation — over two years prior, on January 1, 1863.
Juneteenth (a combination of June and nineteenth) celebrations include parades, parties, and prayer. And celebrations would not be complete without Juneteenth food. Barbecue and red-colored foods and drinks like red strawberry soda, and red velvet cake are all common.
You can learn more about Juneteenth food history here.
Why Is Juneteenth Food Red?
Red food became an important fixture in Juneteenth food, recipes, and celebrations. Common red foods for Juneteenth include red soda or lemonade, red velvet cake, and watermelon. (Plus barbecue and great sides.)
History offers several explanations for the idea of using red food for Juneteenth. These reasons include:
- In Yoruba and Kongo culture, red symbolizes spiritual power
- Remembrance of African ancestors lured with red cloth by slave trappers, since red cloth was used in spiritual practices
- Symbolism for the blood of enslaved ancestors
- Red drinks call to mind traditional West African drinks made from ruby red hibiscus flowers and kola nut
Juneteenth Recipes and Food Ideas Celebrate the Holiday
Now that you know some background on Juneteenth and its food traditions, here are some red Juneteenth food ideas and recipes to celebrate — from drinks to desserts to everything in between.
Skip the red dye and refined sugar of red soda. Make this gorgeous, naturally sweet agua fresca instead.
Nothing is more refreshing than fresh-squeezed lemonade. Here’s how to make it from scratch (it’s easy!). Add a little fresh berry to make it pink.
Juneteenth Recipes: Sides and Slaws
A vibrant, crunchy cabbage salad that’s ready in minutes. Red wine vinaigrette and with makes a tangy-sweet dressing that perks up any cookout. No mayo needed.
A hearty green salad always finds a welcome home at a backyard cookout. This recipe for kale salad with cornbread croutons comes from the highly-respected Sweet Home Café at the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C.
Take advantage of the season’s bounty with a fresh fruit platter loaded with fruit like juicy red watermelon and strawberries. Here’s how to arrange one like a pro.
This one’s admittedly a little out of the box, but this Israeli beet and tehina spread from famous Philadelphia chef Michael Solomonov of Zahav restaurant has a gorgeous purple hue, tastes amazing, and offers a healthy dish to the celebration.
The Best Course: Juneteenth Dessert Recipe Ideas
Sweet and homey strawberry shortcakes are a cinch to make and a true seasonal treat.
Fact: You don’t need an ice cream maker to make creamy, sweet homemade ice cream. Here’s how.
Hand pies are the cute cousins of regular pies. Just as tasty, but with the added bonus of being individually sized and ready to wrap up and pack for a picnic, snack, or as an edible gift. Blueberry hand pies are among the best.
This no-dye red velvet cake recipe is made without red food coloring for a moist, sweet buttermilk layer cake that lets cocoa’s natural ruddiness shine through.
What Juneteenth food ideas and recipes do you have? Share in the comments, below.
Juneteenth Strawberry Watermelon Agua Fresca
- 4 cups cubed watermelon, from 1/4 of a large watermelon
- 1 pint strawberries, hulled
- 1 lime, juiced
- 2 cups cold water
- sweetener of choice, optional
- Blend the strawberries, watermelon, water, and lime juice until very smooth. Taste. If necessary, add a pinch of salt and a teaspoon or so of sugar, agave, or the stevia equivalent.
- Strain through a fine mesh strainer into a pitcher. Pour into glasses, garnish with fruit if desired, and serve immediately.