Episode Recap: Vegan for the Culture

BLACK FOODIE Battle: Vegan for the Culture

On May 2nd, the BLACK FOODIE Battle returned and this time, it was all about a plant-based flex! In this episode of the Battle, contestants were challenged to recreate classic dishes found in Black restaurants around the world and they did not disappoint!

Challengers from across the diaspora plated up their best dishes to wow the audience, convincing many of us that maybe, just maybe, we could go vegan too.

Veganism as a lifestyle has swept through the online and offline foodie community in the last decade, so it was no surprise that this episode of the Battle was the most-viewed ever with over 11,000 people tuning in on Instagram, Facebook, and Youtube.

a golden brown mound of plantain beside a slice of avocado, both garnished with a cilantro sprig
Luis’ Trifongo combined the crispy, starchy goodness of plantains with crispy garlic.

Can you be Black and vegan?

Being Black and wanting to go vegan often comes with pushback from friends and family who just aren’t convinced that anything can replace the taste and texture of animal-based meals. Not only are your meat-free holiday meal requests often ignored, but it can also get tiring to constantly having to defend your preferences to folks in your circle. 

Those frustrations aside, sometimes the biggest hurdle to being Black and settling comfortably into the vegan life is the lack of representation in the field. Until recently, vegan takes on classic African, Caribbean, Afro-Latinx, and Southern dishes were few and far between. 

This is why episodes like the Vegan for the Culture segment of the Battle, and the show itself, are so important – they support greater representation of Black cultural foods in mainstream media. Representation encourages innovation and in the mostly-White vegan world, that’s more important now, than ever.

A winning dish

But back to the Battle. This month’s segment featured five amazing vegan chefs, home cooks, and entrepreneurs who are making it easy for Black foodies to transition to a plant-based lifestyle.

Laurie, Mark, Lauren, Luis, and Sunni presented five drool-worthy dishes that were rich in flavour and flair. From plantain tacos with fried gumbo to savoury Trifongo and luscious macaroni pie, they showed us what was possible with a little bit of creativity and a whole lot of cultural know-how.

While four contestants stayed closed to their roots to deliver meals, Sunni took a different approach that saw the addition of Japanese-style curry paired with plant-based ribs and greens. “If good credit had an essence,” she says after taking the first bite and melting in pleasure, the audience knows that it would taste just like her dish.

Ultimately, Lauren’s vegan take on Rasta Pasta with jerk tofu, the Jamaican classic, won the round by a solid margin. Try her recipe this week!  

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Liberally marinating Lauren’s jerk tofu is key to turning it into a Caribbean masterpiece.

Last year during BLACK FOODIE Week, we held a panel discussion with four vegans in the community who shared their perspectives and thoughts on why Black veganism is needed, how they transitioned, and what they hope the future of veganism looks like. If you’ve been thinking about going vegan or have recently moved to a plant-based lifestyle, watch or listen to the panel event for some fresh perspectives.

The BLACK FOODIE Battle will continue in June with a special edition to celebrate National Soul Food month. For more information on entering, stay tuned to our Instagram page or subscribe to our email list.

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