Holiday dishes to try from Arizona’s many different cultural traditions

Holiday dishes to try from Arizona’s many different cultural traditions

Jollof rice served during Kwanzaa (Photo courtesy of Chef Patty)

By Teresa K. Traverse

December 22, 2023

When we think of the holidays, certain images immediately come to mind—lights, presents, and classic holiday dishes like mashed potatoes, pies, and turkey. 

While most of those foods are beloved for good reason, if you’re looking to switch up your holiday dining offerings, we have some ideas for you. We’ve curated this list based on a variety of nontraditional holidays like Las Posadas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa. Enjoy learning more about these holidays and their popular dishes. 


Las Posadas or The Inns

Las Posadas, or “The Inns” in English, is a religious festival celebrated from Dec. 16-24 each year. With beginnings in 16th-century Mexico, the nine-day festival commemorates the journey that Joseph and Mary made while searching for shelter where Mary could give birth to Jesus. Spaniards used this holiday to teach Mexican people about Christianity. Sometimes a child will lead a procession through town, stopping at certain homes and asking for lodging. They’re typically refused lodging, but refreshments are offered. Mass tends to conclude these processions, according to the Encyclopedia Britannica. Today, a party held around Christmastime is often called a posada. 

St. Christopher’s Episcopal Church in Sun City told us over email that pozole, tamales, and conchas are often served during this holiday. Given that the holiday has roots in Mexico, it makes sense that these Mexican dishes would make an appearance. Pozole is a hearty soup that’s topped with pork. Another traditional Southwestern dish that can be served over the holidays, tamales consist of masa stuffed with a variety of fillings like beef, pork, or vegetables. Conchas are made of Mexican sweet bread that you can find at plenty of Mexican bakeries like La Purisima—or make your own with this recipe.  



Hanukkah, or the Festival of Lights, is a Jewish holiday that’s celebrated over eight days with the daily lighting of a menorah, games of dreidel, gift exchanges, and plenty of food. Many different foods can be served during Hanukkah (see a list of over 30 recipes here), but some of the most common include latkes (potato pancakes); sufganiyot (jelly doughnuts); and challah, a leavened bread that’s typically been braided. 



Patty Titcombe, known more widely as Chef Patty, is the owner of Lasgidi Café. As a Nigerian American woman serving Nigerian food in Phoenix, we reached out to Chef Patty to ask about what dishes she serves during Kwanzaa, a festival holiday observed by many African Americans from Dec. 26-Jan. 1. 

“Kwanzaa is an ever-evolving celebration of Black history and culture that connects African tradition with African American customs,” Titcombe told us before sharing her recipe for jollof rice. 

“Jollof rice is one of the most common and versatile dishes in West Africa and is commonly found at Karamu (Kwanzaa feast) across the country,” she explained.  

Here’s how she makes the dish: 


  • 3 red bell peppers
  • 3 Roma tomatoes 
  • 1 medium onion 
  • 2 scotch bonnets/habaneros (less if you don’t like spice)
  • ¼-cup water
  • ½-cup oil
  • 1 medium red onion sliced
  • 4 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon thyme
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt 
  • 1 tablespoon chicken bouillon
  • 4 cups long grain rice rinsed and drained
  • 3-4 cups chicken stock


  1. First, make the tomato-based sauce by blending together the red bell peppers, tomatoes, onion, and scotch bonnets.
  2. Heat the cooking oil in a large pan over medium heat, then add the sliced red onions and let them cook for about 3 minutes or until they are soft.
  3. Next, add the tomato paste and fry for about 5 minutes. Then stir in bay leaves and leave to cook for 2 more minutes.
  4. Add the blended sauce and allow the pepper to cook until the sauce becomes thick —about 10 to 15 minutes.
  5. Season with thyme, curry powder, bouillon cubes, salt, and pepper to taste. Cook for another 2 to 5 minutes.
  6. Add the rinsed rice to the sauce and stir until it is well-coated with the sauce. Then add the chicken stock, stir briefly, cover with a tight-fitting lid and bring to a quick boil over high heat.
  7. Once it begins to boil after about 3 to 5 minutes, reduce the heat immediately to low and steam until the rice is done—about 30 minutes.
  8. Serve with sweet fried plantains, roasted chicken, or salad.


READ MORE: We asked, you answered: The Valley’s top restaurants for dining this winter


  • Teresa K. Traverse

    Teresa K. Traverse is a Phoenix, Arizona-based writer and editor. Her work also has appeared in national print outlets including Weight Watchers, Bust and Parenting magazines and on sites like Tripadvisor, Wine Enthusiast, SFGate, Brides, Rachael Ray Every Day, Bustle, Racked,, WeddingWire, Refinery29, The Daily Meal,, USA Today and Fast Company. She's the managing editor of Sedona Monthly. In her spare time, she loves hiking, reading magazines and spending quality time with her long-haired Chihuahua, Rocket. Visit to check out more of her work.

Related Stories
Share This