The Seasoned Franciscan - Cooking Joyfully

Red Rice for African American History Month

By Vicki Lopez-Kaley (Indigenous) on Monday, February 13th 2023

3 slices bacon, diced OR 3 T butter
1/2 C finely diced onion
1 tsp minced garlic
1 C long-grain rice
1 (6 oz) can tomato paste
1 tsp sugar (optional)
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 bay leaf
2 C chicken or vegetable stock or water


  1. If using bacon, saute it in a heavy saucepan over medium heat until crisp and the fat is rendered, 5-7 minutes. Drain bacon on a paper towel. If using butter, heat it in the pan until melted.
  2. Add onion and saute until translucent, about 2 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook 1 minute longer. Stir in rice and cook 2-3 minutes, until it is no longer translucent. Stir in the remaining ingredients.
  3. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer until rice is tender, 20-25 minutes, stirring halfway through. Let stand covered for about 5-10 minutes. Remove and discard the bay leaf. Fluff with a fork before serving.
  4. If you used bacon, sprinkle bacon pieces over rice. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper.
  5. Variation: For Spanish rice, stir in 1/3 cup minced green pepper with the onion and garlic, a pinch of cumin with the seasonings and reduce tomato paste to 3 T.

Carolina Gold Rice which was original to this dish has been preserved by generations of Gullah-Geechee farmers and cooks. They are the descendants of enslaved Africans who were isolated on the barrier Sea Islands of Georgia and the Carolinas. Their knowledge of growing this crop made the port city of Charleston, NC wealthy within the sordid history of slavery. This is only one story of the unsung, foundational contributions African Americans have made to Southern cuisine, “soul food” and American cuisine, in general!

We learn from Jennifer Jensen Wallace in Dethroning the Deceitful Pork Chop that “Southern food has elements of African American food, but all African American food isn’t southern. Likewise, soul food is African American food, but not all African American Food is soul food.” If you find this confusing, it shows that what white people know about African American food culture is often full of stereotypes and deserves a respectful and inquisitive look!

Learn More:
One resource is journalist Toni Tipton-Martin who provided the “Red Rice” recipe above in the acclaimed cookbook “Jubilee: Recipes from Two Centuries of African American Cooking”. Through her collection of African American cookbooks, she “decoded” myths and stereotypes in her book “The Jemima Code” which showcased the skills, knowledge and ingenuity of African American cooks and chefs. Beyond slave cabin gardens and kitchens, they created masterpieces in white plantation houses and educated young chefs. They became caterers, managers and entrepreneurs. They encountered other cuisines as they moved through New Orleans and the southwest. Later, they nourished the growing Black pride of the African American community through the long struggle for human rights.

Ms. Tipton-Martin who has been editor-in-chief of Cook’s Country since 2019 won the 2021 Julia Child Award. Hear more about her contribution to an appreciation of African American Food Culture by clicking on this link. Another resource for Low Country Cuisine and Gold Rice is chef, writer and PBS contributor Vivian Howard. Check out her PBS food and culture documentary Somewhere South at about minute 16:10 or watch the whole episode of explorations of "porridge!" Thirdly, read about Glen Roberts who markets Carolina Gold Rice pictured above and other heirloom grains through Anson Mills.

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