Nicole A. Taylor Shares Her Favorite Sweet Potato Seasoning

Nicole A. Taylor has penned a book filled with food for thought. The multi-talented, James Beard-nominated cookbook author, producer, and Georgian transplant to Brooklyn has a new cookbook in town: "Watermelon and Red Birds: A Cookbook for Juneteenth and Black Celebrations." Taylor's new volume is a celebration of freedom, both political and culinary, that's informed by her own history of celebrating Juneteenth as well as the country's (via Simon & Schuster). It will also show readers how to make radish and ginger pound cake, Afro egg cream, and dozens of other recipes. Despite her expertise, she initially resisted writing a Juneteenth cookbook, thinking it was "too niche." But she came around to the idea that "Black joy was needed" after the national turmoil ignited by George Floyd's murder (per Red and Black).

Taylor has many tricks up her sleeve. She explained to Red and Black that she wanted to focus on "foods that are closely associated with Black foodways" while giving them a unique twist. The cover of the book is red, and Taylor spoke of red punch as a key example of a Juneteenth-related food with deep roots that can be traced to African hibiscus beverages, through the history of enslaved Americans' celebrations in the Americas, and up to the present. She has also shared her great love for sweet potatoes and discussed a seasoning that she loves to add to them.

A sweet potato seasoning won her heart

Nicole Taylor told Red and Black that she considered sweet potatoes "a super important part of the Black American diet." The tuber won her over, too. There is even a recipe in her cookbook for sweet potato spritz (per Salt and Spine) and one for purple sweet potato snow cones that Publisher's Weekly found brilliant. But as she explained in an interview with Splendid Table, the seasoning she puts on sweet potato hash was the standout for her in "Watermelon and Red Birds."

Sweet potatoes are the starting point, but it's what Taylor does with them that's exciting. She has played around a lot with seasonings and blends, and her skill set shows. As she said, "I'm not going to lie, yes I have a favorite – it is the sweet potato seasoning. It is a seasoning that I keep around 24/7, 365. I sprinkle it on my Sunday, Saturday sweet potato hash. I sprinkle it on a roasted sweet potato that I've had in the oven forever. It's a wonderful, wonderful seasoning."

What's in this magic mix? Kosher salt, dried thyme, fennel seeds, and hot paprika are the key players in Taylor's sweet potato spice. But if you're not into spicy, you can swap regular sweet paprika for the hot stuff. Either way, it involves a classic blend of favorites being combined in a new and exciting way, ready to bring new joy to your holiday table.