Give Your Thanksgiving an African Food Twist

Happy Thanksgiving!


Many people in the United States traditionally celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday by gathering around a large table and sharing dishes like stuffing, marshmallow-topped sweet potatoes, and turkey. But why?

Thanksgiving as we know it today began in the 16th century as a harvest festival. It was celebrated at the end of the harvest season and was an opportunity for the townspeople of small pilgrim communities to share with each other the stocks of food they had in abundance.

The holiday is also associated with the Puritan religion. Spiritually, the festival is a symbol of giving thanks to god for an abundant year.

Pilgrim by Augustus St. Gaudens

Everyone in the community would bring a dish featuring what they had extra of in their gardens.

"They began now to gather in the small harvest they had, and to fit up their houses and dwellings against winter, being all well recovered in health and strength and had all things in good plenty." William Bradford, in Of Plymouth Plantation

Remarkable dishes made by people we care about remind us that everyone has something they can bring to the table. What better time of year to share our favorite dishes with friends and family?

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, the Jálè team have put together a list of recipe suggestions for any home chef wishing to bring people together over the flavors of West African cooking.

If you really want to get into the spirit, bring to the table some of what you have in abundance!


To begin, what would Thanksgiving be without a basket of warm, delicious bread?


Looking for an alternative to doughy dinner rolls? Try these poofy, puffy, cheesy “bread” bites. This recipe calls for fufu flour instead of tapioca flour or traditional wheat flour to achieve the same enjoyable texture, with a bonus cheesy flavor.


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Side dishes are a delightful part of Thanksgiving. Whether it’s stuffing, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, they are perfectly designed to compliment the main course. Chefs can really get wild with side dishes!



This sweet and savory dish is best served hot on a chilly evening in the fall. Essential to the flavor of this recipe are the Honey beans. The sweetness of the honey beans and the corn paired with the savory seafood flavor of crayfish and Maggi cube are a comforting combination.

This side dish can be made with any combination of honey beans (oloyin beans or ewa oloyin), black eyed peas, and/or African Red beans.

This dish is pescatarian, and can be made vegan by omitting the bouillon cubes and crayfish. Feel free to swap these out for other savory flavors!

Tip: To reduce cooking time, try using an instant pot or pressure cooker.

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This recipe for African Cajun spinach is inspired by recipes from Africa and the Southern US. It gets its savory seafood flavor from the combination of cajun seasoning, cayenne pepper, sausage and seafood. Dark leafy greens are also a great source of antioxidants and will balance your meal on a nutritional level. African Cajun spinach can be enjoyed as a side dish or with rice, boiled plantains, or yams as a meal.

Get the Recipe: African Cajun Spinach

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Let’s face it. Potato side dishes are delicious, but they are also really filling! These yam stacks are perfectly portioned, making them a wonderful side dish for sharing at holiday dinners. Make them in a muffin tin or a baking cup, whichever you have on hand. The Monterrey jack cheese and dried thyme add a spicy, cheesy zest.

Get the Recipe: Scalloped African Yam Stacks - Gluten Free

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Pleasantly soft in the middle and crispy on the outside, these fritters are a delicious and simple treat for any table.

Get the Recipe: African Mashed Yam Fritters

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The Ovaltine malt cookies and Bird’s custard powder make this cool, sweet treat extra yummy. If you know what you’re doing, you can make this cheesecake in 40 minutes! (Plus at least 4 hours of refrigeration time) For dessert experts, there is an opportunity to get creative with icing rosettes. 

Get the Recipe: Instant Pot Custard Cream Cheesecake

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