25 Juneteenth Recipes to Serve at This Year’s Picnic or Cookout

Fire up the barbecue

juneteenth recipes: cornbread, buttermilk fried fish and southern mac and cheese, side by side
Make It Dairy Free/Robert S. Cooper/Grandbaby Cakes

Summer may seem far away, but it’ll be here before we know it, and with it, Juneteenth. This holiday honors the effective end of slavery in the United States and is a major summer event for many African American families and communities. If you’re planning to host or attend a cookout, barbecue or picnic this year, you should have some stellar dishes—soul food and otherwise—on the menu. Read on for 25 Juneteenth recipes created by Black cookbook authors and bloggers. They run the gamut from buttermilk biscuits to fried green tomatoes to honey-butter fish.

31 Southern Recipes Everyone on Earth Should Make

What Is Juneteenth?

Juneteenth, celebrated annually on June 19, commemorates the emancipation of enslaved people in the U.S. On this date in 1865, after the Civil War, enslaved people were declared free by the Emancipation Proclamation. According to, the executive order didn’t instantly free any enslaved people (in fact, slavery continued in states like Texas for years) and only applied to locations under Confederate control. Nevertheless, Juneteenth has been celebrated since 1866 and became a federal holiday in the U.S. in 2021.


1. Watermelon Sweet Tea

  • Time Commitment: 30 minutes
  • Why I Love It: crowd-pleaser, make ahead, <10 ingredients

Before you spend the day (or the night before) squeezing a boatload of citrus for a family-sized pitcher of lemonade, consider this summer stunner. “In Raleigh, we started to add watermelon puree to our sweet tea as a natural sweetener,” writes cookbook author Ryan Mitchell. “Buying cases of soda can get expensive. But with a few tea bags and some sugar, everyone gets a cup.”

2. Pomegranate-Demerara Rum Punch

  • Time Commitment: 2 hours and 15 minutes
  • Why I Love It: crowd-pleaser, make ahead, special occasion-worthy

“To make this punch top shelf, I’ve accented the rum’s deep sugarcane notes with orange and pineapple juices that I press myself in a masticating juicer,” writes cookbook author Toni Tipton-Martin. Prepare the juices and the pomegranate grenadine ahead so all you need to do before the barbecue is dump everything in a punch bowl.

3. Rosemary & Honey Whiskey Cocktail

  • Time Commitment: 20 minutes
  • Why I Love It: <30 minutes, <10 ingredients, beginner-friendly

If you’re having a smaller get-together, this Juneteenth recipe is just the ticket for cocktail hour. The trick is boiling the rosemary-honey simple syrup in advance, so it has plenty of time to cool before your relatives arrive.


4. Southern Hush Puppies

  • Time Commitment: 20 minutes
  • Why I Love It: <30 minutes, crowd-pleaser, special occasion-worthy

Think of these as sweet, fried poppables of cornbread. They come together quickly and disappear even faster, especially when doused in honey butter. Recipe developer Jocelyn Delk Adams’s hot tip? Let the batter rest for ten minutes before frying it so it thickens and sets properly.

5. Rodney Scott’s Pimento Cheese

  • Time Commitment: 10 minutes
  • Why I Love It: crowd-pleaser, <30 minutes, <10 ingredients, make ahead, no cook

“The South isn’t the only place where people thought of putting pimiento peppers and cheese together,” explains cookbook author Rodney Scott. “But the South is the only place where the dish became so legendary.” Use freshly grated cheese to give this no-cook masterpiece the smooth texture you crave.

6. Fried Green Tomatoes

  • Time Commitment: 20 minutes
  • Why I Love It: <30 minutes, beginner-friendly, special occasion-worthy

Speaking of pimento cheese, it pairs beautifully with these green tomato fritters (as do bacon and fried pork belly). Their slightly sour interiors are flawless matches for rich, fatty barbecue meats, like brisket and ribs.

7. Southern Deviled Eggs

  • Time Commitment: 25 minutes
  • Why I Love It: crowd-pleaser, vegetarian, beginner-friendly, <10 ingredients

Don’t worry about these sitting in the sun for too long—your guests will gobble them up in 30 seconds flat. Sweet relish and jalapeños give the filling an optimal balance of sweetness and spice.


8. Chicken and Chicken Sausage Jambalaya

  • Time Commitment: 40 minutes
  • Why I Love It: one pot, <500 calories, crowd-pleaser

This entrée is so hearty that you won’t need to pair it with any sides (although we’re sure your guests wouldn’t complain if you did). Cookbook authors Eric and Shanna Jones swap traditional white rice and andouille sausage with brown rice and chicken sausage for lighter results.

9. Rodney Scott’s Honey-Butter Fish

  • Time Commitment: 50 minutes
  • Why I Love It: high protein, beginner-friendly, crowd-pleaser

Zingy rib rub + honey butter + your choice of fish fillet (trout, catfish, red snapper or branzino, perhaps?) = a decidedly summery Juneteenth recipe. Double down on the smoky-sweet splendor by plating these with Ed Mitchell’s silver dollar corn cakes with smoked honey butter.

10. Tabitha Brown’s Chili Carrot Dogs

  • Time Commitment: 55 minutes
  • Why I Love It: vegan, beginner-friendly, dairy free

Complete with plant-based pecan “chili” and fresh coleslaw. Coconut aminos, ketchup and liquid smoke make a deliciously nostalgic marinade for carrots. (Even picky kids might get down with this veggie-heavy substitute for hot dogs.)

11. Sweet Tea Fried Chicken

  • Time Commitment: 2 hours and 25 minutes
  • Why I Love It: kid-friendly, crowd-pleaser, special occasion-worthy

Delk Adams’s regular fried chicken recipe is beyond drool-worthy. But you’re sure to love this creative mashup of two Southern classics, where sweet tea is used as a brine. For maximum crunch, thoroughly pat the chicken dry with paper towels before breading it.

12. Buttermilk-Battered Pan-Fried Fish Fillets

  • Time Commitment: 1 hour and 20 minutes
  • Why I Love It: crowd-pleaser, special occasion-worthy, high protein

“Just half an hour in the buttermilk will sweeten the fish and keep it deliciously moist,” explains cookbook author Dora Charles. “In the old days, we’d fry the fish in Crisco, but now it’s usually vegetable oil, with maybe a little bacon grease or butter for flavor.” Pass the hot sauce, please.

13. Creamy Louisiana Cajun Shrimp Alfredo

  • Time Commitment: 30 minutes
  • Why I Love It: crowd-pleaser, beginner-friendly, kid-friendly

If you’re not planning to include mac and cheese on your menu, this shrimp-topped main will satisfy everyone’s craving for pasta. “This recipe can be on the table in about half an hour,” writes Delk Adams, “letting you spend less time in the kitchen and more time just being.” Sounds like a win.

14. Southern Baked Chicken

  • Time Commitment: 2 hours and 30 minutes
  • Why I Love It: high protein, make ahead, crowd-pleaser

In case you’d rather avoid deep-frying. Butter, maple syrup, onions and spices make for a sticky sauce and crispy chicken skin. While Delk Adams uses wings, you can substitute legs or thighs—just don’t use breasts, which are sure to dry out due to the longer cooking time.


15. Gluten-Free Vegan Cornbread

  • Time Commitment: 40 minutes
  • Why I Love It: gluten free, vegan, crowd-pleaser

Ground flax seed, vegan milk and yellow cornmeal unite for a plant-based riff on a cookout essential. Serve the cornbread with plenty of melted vegan butter for drizzling and bake it in a cast iron pan for ridiculously crispy edges.

16. Real Deal Southern Green Beans

  • Time Commitment: 2 hours and 45 minutes
  • Why I Love It: make ahead, special occasion-worthy, gluten free

A far cry from that gloppy casserole you served at Thanksgiving, these green beans are braised with smoked turkey wings for a luxuriously savory flavor. Nevertheless, you can substitute bacon in a pinch, according to Butter Be Ready creator, Quin Liburd.

17. Easy Red Beans and Rice

  • Time Commitment: 2 hours and 55 minutes
  • Why I Love It: crowd-pleaser, one pot, beginner-friendly

This Creole staple stars beans braised with ham hock and andouille sausage. Many recipes for red beans and rice take longer to prepare, but this Juneteenth recipe calls for canned beans instead of dried. Thanks to a flurry of spices, it’ll still taste like it took you days to cook.

18. Southern Collard Greens

  • Time Commitment: 2 hours and 20 minutes
  • Why I Love It: crowd-pleaser, make ahead, gluten free

These greens are usually flavored with ham hocks, but you can also try substituting smoked turkey wings if you don’t eat pork. (Bonus points for using smoked meat for the most authentic flavor possible.)

19. Southern Baked Macaroni and Cheese

  • Time Commitment: 55 minutes
  • Why I Love It: vegetarian, kid-friendly, special occasion-worthy

Southern mac and cheese is heavy, rich and decadent, since it typically includes butter, cheese heavy cream and eggs. (Eggs offer stability as it bakes, FYI.) Delk Adams’s recipe uses sharp cheddar, Manchego and gruyere, plus lots of spices, like ground mustard, nutmeg and crushed red pepper flakes. Don’t overcook the pasta—it’ll soften to completion in the oven.

20. Fried Okra

  • Time Commitment: 20 minutes
  • Why I Love It: <30 minutes, vegetarian, kid-friendly

The okra only takes 20 minutes to bread and fry, and it definitely won’t last long once it hits the table. (In other words, you’ll want to make a second batch.) Let the pieces sit in the batter longer if you’d prefer them to have an extra thick coating of breading.

21. Buttermilk Biscuits

  • Time Commitment: 25 minutes
  • Why I Love It: <30 minutes, vegetarian, special occasion-worthy

Delk Adams’s trips to visit her grandmother (who she lovingly calls Big Mama) in Mississippi always started with daily biscuits at breakfast. Once you taste them, you’ll see why. If you’re wondering the secret to their fluffiness, it’s a foolproof combo of shortening and buttermilk.


22. Hummingbird Coffee Cake

  • Time Commitment: 55 minutes
  • Why I Love It: crowd-pleaser, make ahead, beginner-friendly

Hummingbird cake is an iconic banana-pineapple spice cake originally from Jamaica that’s now popular in the South. Serve this breakfast-inspired twist on the original with fresh coffee, and you’ll be the hostess with the mostest in no time.

23. Vanilla Bean Buttermilk Pie

  • Time Commitment: 2 hours and 20 minutes
  • Why I Love It: crowd-pleaser, special occasion-worthy, beginner-friendly

This vanilla-forward treat comes from Kardea Brown’s cookbook, The Way Home, a collection of Lowcountry Southern recipes inspired by her family’s Gullah and Geechee heritage. The crust is very no-fuss, but we won’t tell if you substitute store-bought.

24. Bourbon Apple Crisp à la Mode

  • Time Commitment: 1 hour
  • Why I Love It: crowd-pleaser, kid-friendly, special occasion-worthy

“The apples are peeled and chopped into the bite-sized pieces to ensure you get a little bit of everything in each bite,” write cookbook authors Eric and Shanna Jones. “Because we want the apples to shine and not get lost in overpowering sweetness, they’re tossed in delicious maple syrup and bourbon with a bit of brown sugar and some spices, which bring it all home.” Did I mention there are crunchy pecans in the oat crumble topping?

25. Louisiana Crunch Cake

  • Time Commitment: 1 hour and 10 minutes
  • Why I Love It: crowd-pleaser, make ahead, beginner-friendly

This Louisiana mainstay is buttery, rich and gently coconut flavored. The almond-infused glaze on top gives every bite a certain je nais se quois to boot. If you’re craving more texture, finish the confection with chopped pecans for good measure.

taryn pire

Food Editor

Taryn Pire is PureWow’s food editor and has been writing about all things delicious since 2016. She’s developed recipes, reviewed restaurants and investigated food trends at...