Juneteenth red food recipe: Simple West African Red-Red by Chef Kenyatta Ashford

Chef Ashford and his Simple West African Red-Red dish


  • 1 pound dried peas/beans (black-eyed peas, red peas, etc.)
  • 1/2 – 3/4 cup palm oil or canola oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 TBSP ginger, minced
  • 1/2 TBSP garlic, minced
  • 2 tomatoes, diced
  • 2 TBSP tomato paste
  • 1 TBSP paprika
  • 1 TBSP vegetarian bouillon powder
  • 1 habanero pepper, minced (or substitute other hot pepper)
  • 2 – 3 green onions, chopped
  • 2 – 3 cups reserved liquid from cooking the beans
  • Salt and pepper as needed

Prep time: 

  • 8 hours – overnight (to soak the beans)
  • 1.5 hours cooking


  1. Rinse and dry peas. Pick through and discard any foreign objects. Add beans to a large pot and cover with 3-4 inches of cold water. Let sit at least 6 hours but preferably overnight.
  2. Drain the peas, rinse and place in a Dutch oven (large pot). Simmer the beans for about 50-60 mins or until tender.
  3. Drain the cooked beans and set aside, reserving 2-3 cups of the cooking liquid for the next steps.
  4. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat until hot. Sauté the onions in the oil for 3-4 minutes, stirring often and scraping any browned bits off the bottom of the pot.
  5. Add tomatoes, tomato paste, ginger, garlic, paprika, pepper and bouillon powder. Cook while stirring for about 60 seconds.
  6. Add 2 cups of bean cooking liquid and bring to a simmer. Continue to cook the sauce, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes.
  7. Add the beans, green onions and more of the reserved cooking liquid (if needed) and bring to a boil. Simmer for another 10-15 minutes.
  8. Adjust the seasoning to taste and add the rest of the reserved cooking liquid if needed.
  9. Serve.

We like to garnish with fried sweet plantains, sliced avocado and pickled red onions, but these are also delicious on their own.

About West African Red-Red

Chef Ashford: My favorite thing to make for Juneteenth is West African Red-Red, which is on the menu at Neutral Ground Chattanooga. It’s a Ghanaian stew made with Sea Island red peas, sweet plantains, avocado and Carolina Gold coconut rice.

Chef Kenyatta AshfordIt incorporates red, but it’s also culturally significant because beans and rice are a staple in the diets of Africans who came to the new world. They helped establish cuisines everywhere from New Orleans and Cuba to Puerto Rico and South America. We all eat beans and rice in some form, and it’s really cool to be able to tie my ancestry to that.

I also like to make red-red because our version is vegan. We stew our peas with tomatoes and palm oil, which is to West Africa what olive oil is to Mediterranean people. It’s just a delicious dish.

Read the full interview with Chef Ashford

Ashley Brantley

Ashley Brantley has been writing about food, culture and health for more than a decade, and has lived in three of Tennessee’s four major cities (Memphis, Nashville and Knoxville).

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