Indigenous Cuisine to Put On Your Table

Indigenous cuisine is a type of cuisine that is based on the preparation of cooking recipes with products obtained from native species of a specific area. Food is prepared using indigenous ingredients of vegetable or animal origin in traditional recipes of the typical cuisine of a place. In 2017, Sean Sherman introduced the world to contemporary indigenous cuisine in his James Beard award-winning title, The Sioux Chef''s Indigenous Kitchen, a richly educational and delectable introduction to the foods of the Dakota and Minnesota territories, with a vision and approach to food that travels well beyond those borders. There's an ever growing number of chefs and restaurateurs using indigenous foods, aided by farmers who are reviving traditional varieties of fruits and vegetables, and animal breeds.

To celebrate the culture and food of Indigenous People's Heritage Month, dive into this list of titles available from Denver Public Library. We've highlighted a few of the titles below just to whet your appetite!

Mabu Mabu celebrates Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities through food. Author Nornie Bero’s life story shares the pages with a native pantry guide and more than 50 recipes from her restaurants and home kitchen. Every ingredient comes with an explanation and is incorporated into one or more of the book’s recipes – which include wattleseed damper, hot seaweed eggs and barbequed emu. Bero grew up on the island of Mer in the Torres Strait and while her wanderlust would take her to Italian and Japanese kitchens in Melbourne and London via Townsville, her home now is Mabu Mabu, a restaurant renowned in Melbourne, Australia, and beyond for its innovative and delicious Australian Indigenous food. 

Tawâw, Progressive Indigenous Cuisine, by Shane Chartrand (Cree/Metis/Mi'kmaw), is the result of his years spent years learning about his history, visiting with other First Nations peoples, gathering and sharing knowledge and stories, and creating dishes that show his diverse interest and unique personality. This book contains 75 recipes and is part cookbook, part exploration of ingredients and techniques. tawâw is filled with ideas, education, recipes and inspiration. Chartrand has Cree parents and was raised by a Métis father and Mi’kmaw-Irish mother and he spent ten years writing this cookbook. It features delicious Indigenous recipes that are progressive and as well as writings about how he learned to raise livestock as well as his upbringing.

Chef Amalia Moreno-Damgaard does her part to keep the culture alive with her cookbooks. Her latest is Amalia's Mesoamerican Table: Ancient Culinary Traditions with Gourmet Infusions. The winner of four awards, including a Gold Medal for Best Cookbook 2022 from the International Latino Book Awards, the book has 132 recipes, including pictures and notes about the history behind each dish. With amazing biodiversity and historical wealth, this cookbook offers food for everyone, plus naturally vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free options. But the experience of fully enjoying the dishes of this region only increases when understanding how the ancient cultures behind them came to be. 

In Earth Medicines: Ancestral Wisdom, Healing Recipes, and Wellness Rituals from a Curandera, author Felicia Cocotzin Ruiz (aka the Kitchen Curandera) shares her knowledge through 23 years of apprenticeship and life experience with traditional healing medicines. The book is written in four sections, one for each element: water, air, earth, fire. Each section starts with a prayer for the element, and further divides into recipes and rituals for mind, body, and spirit. In each chapter, as she recommends herbs for recipes, she explains its “scientific” properties (as an antihistamine or an antioxidant, etc.). The book also includes beautiful photography from Nicky Hedayatzadeh, who captures the essence of Ruiz and her work.

And don't forget our Kanopy video streaming service, where you'll find films like Gather and The Garifuna Journey  which celebrate not only the foods of indigenous peoples, but their traditions and culture as well.

If you have any favorite indigenous recipes, please share with us in the Comments box below!

Written by Dodie on