Wakanda was a glorious place to envision. When I’m feeling the weight of the world, I select Black Panther on Disney+ and fast-forward to the Wakanda scenes. Instantly a smile will come to my face. Marvel’s Black Panther: The Official Wakanda Cookbook is a cookbook with recipes that make my belly smile.
The 143-page cookbook is the same size as a sheet of 8.5-by-11-inch paper and is filled with visual delights. The images of the recipes jump off the page and instantly make your mouth water. The book is written by Malawian-American chef Nyanyika Banda with a concise structure. Chef Banda has contributed articles about cooking to Saveur and contributed an essay to the book Knives and Ink.
In the foreword, journalist Jesse J. Holland describes his love of comic books and how his respect for Black Panther and Southern cuisine inspired the stories he writes that are connected to the recipes. Chef Banda shares a little bit about her cooking lineage as she blends her story with Wakandan lore, weaving a lovely setting for any cosplaying cook to get themselves ready to cook Wakanda style.
The structure of Marvel’s Black Panther: The Official Wakanda Cookbook works for people who are just learning to cook and for the seasoned home cook. The cookbook begins with an ingredients guide that includes 22 basic ingredients found in West African and Caribbean cuisine. Everything from the African spice blend ras el hanout to cassava flour is defined succinctly so that cooks young and old can easily understand.
Next, we have a section that breaks down the dietary considerations. There is a table of contents (Spices; Sauces and Condiments; Market Food; Breakfast; Soups and Salads; Vegetables and Sides; Main Dishes; Desserts; and Drinks), with each recipe’s specific dietary information. You can look up the cassava fries recipe and find that it is vegan, non-dairy, and gluten-free.
I picked recipes from four different sections of this cookbook to test cook.
Breakfast: Baked sweet potato and kale eggs.
Spices, Sauces and Condiments: Kale pesto.
Vegetables and Sides: Braised kale and tomatoes and dried fruits and rice.
Main Dishes: Blackened tilapia.
Let’s start with breakfast.
Baked Sweet Potato and Kale Eggs
I would have never thought of kale pesto, but it works, y’all. This recipe is so yummy that even my super picky 89-year-old father loved it for real. The kale pesto sauce is creamy, delicious, and a smart way to get the phytonutrients and vitamins from kale into your body, paired with protein to start your day.
Eating sweet potatoes with skin on rather than white potatoes is a healthier option, and paired with these eggs, you can’t go wrong. The kale pesto can be quickly prepped in a food processor, but I used my immersion blender, and it worked perfectly. I added a little bit of filtered water to the pesto to make it creamier. The kale pesto is vegan and can be used on pasta as a substitute for Alfredo sauce on other dishes that require a creamy sauce.
Braised Kale and Tomatoes
I love braised kale and tomatoes. I normally sauté some onions, garlic, and tomatoes in Bragg’s Amino Acids and throw in some kale and baked tempeh or animal protein. This recipe was so good that it shifted my peace of mind on a really hard day. I’d never even considered using cumin as a spice to pair with kale and tomatoes.
The result is this gorgeous, slightly buttery flavor that blends well with the acidity of the tomato and the richness of the kale. For whatever reason, I’m really into eating sautéed onions these days, and I added a little extra onion and garlic. This dish is tasty when freshly made, but I gotta tell you it tasted even better the next day. I’d say double the recipe so that you have leftovers.
Dried Fruits and Rice
My father’s side of the family is from the U.S. Virgin Islands, and pigeon peas and rice was always a staple in our house. I never even considered placing dried mixed fruits like mango, papaya, and pineapple in rice! This recipe is ingenious. I used my favorite Le Creuset Signature 2.5 qt. covered braiser to cook this recipe in coconut oil. The Dried Fruits and Rice section of the cookbook has just four recipes.
I come from an Air Force background, and my parents were stationed in Asia for over 10 years — so all forms of rice were a staple in our house. We had rice as a side dish with most dinners that my mom cooked for us. Normally, I make my rice in a rice cooker and never even considered making rice in my covered braiser, but it worked, and I learned a new rice cooking technique.
This recipe includes turmeric, which is anti-inflammatory and an antioxidant. When cooked, dried fruits become soft, which adds a sweet mix to the savory turmeric, and the coconut oil adds a lovely crisp crust. The dried fruits and rice recipe was the most creative one encountered on this list.
If you know how to season food, you know how to cook. Chef Banda can throw down some serious flavors, and her talent is showcased in this recipe. The spice blend works perfectly with the fish, giving us a full-on restaurant flavor of blackened fish. I don’t usually eat tilapia, but I found a responsibly farmed brand that worked perfectly with this recipe. I look forward to cooking this recipe for dinner again soon.
Marvel’s Black Panther: The Official Wakanda Cookbook is aesthetically beautiful. This is a cookbook that you can curl up with in a chair and thumb through on a rainy day. It’s also functional. The recipes I cooked are all delicious, nutritious, and easy to make with minimal inexpensive ingredients that cook in 30 minutes or less. Chef Banda’s love of food shines through her writing.
I cannot wait to cook the sweet and spicy oxtail with cassava dumplings, the beef samosas, and the doughnuts and foamed cocoa with a Bissap Spritz. Every recipe is easy to read, and parents can use this cookbook as a guide to teach their kids how to cook. Take a home-cooked culinary journey to Wakanda with your family and friends any time you like. Make this food with love and feel satisfied.
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Jeanine is a Writer, Actor, member SAG/AFTRA, AEA, Podcast host, Producer, CEO VisAbleBlackWoman Productions, Certified Health Coach and Conscious Dance facilitator. Jeanine's mission, centering Black women's stories to preserve our legacies.