Is there any region in the United States that is more distinctive than the South? We don’t think so. Things are just a little different down there, from the way people conduct themselves to the slang to the way that people eat. Yes, while there are plenty of dishes that you’ll only find in the Midwest or the Northeast, there are many, many more signature foods and beverages in the South.
There are some Southern dishes everyone knows. You don’t have to go below the Mason-Dixon to find fried chicken or some insanely good barbecue. But you will have to venture a little while to find some more obscure Southern foods. Have you ever seen boiled peanuts, Kool-Aid-brined pickles, or fried chicken so hot it’ll make you sweat all night in the northern United States? We don’t think so.
And of course, there are some dishes that you technically can find outside of the South, but they’re just not the same. Sure, you can get shrimp and grits and mint juleps at any halfway decent brunch spot, but they’ll definitely be missing some particular Southern charm. So sip on some Cheerwine and get ready to make these dishes you can really only find in the South.
Every great breakfast menu in America has biscuits and sausage gravy on it, but only Southerners know the real decadent breakfast dish: Biscuits and chocolate gravy. It’s a sweet way to start your day.
For the Buttermilk Biscuits With Melted Chocolate recipe, click here.
If you love salty foods but don’t like the crunch of a peanut, well then, boiled peanuts are the iconic Southern dish for you. These salty and slightly mushy peanuts almost take on the form of beans, and can be found at roadside stands and gas stations across the South.
For the Boiled Peanuts recipe, click here.
Tossing the bouquet isn’t the only activity for single ladies at Southern weddings. Stemming from New Orleans, the cake ribbon pull involves the bride hiding small charms attached to string in the wedding cake and having her girlfriends each pull out a token. You’ll only find these charm cakes at Southern weddings along with these other unique traditions.
Founded in 1917, Cheerwine is a cherry-flavored soda that is synonymous with life in the South. Southerners will even infuse their desserts, like cupcakes, with Cheerwine.
For the Two-Ingredient Soda Cake recipe, click here.
The South is known for its indulgent comfort foods, and chicken and dumplings is the king of comfort thanks to its hearty infusion of chicken, buttery dumplings, and a few vegetables (for good measure).
For the Slow Cooker Chicken and Dumplings recipe, click here.
What could make a cheap cut of steak tender and delicious? Pounding it, frying it, and covering it in gravy. Introducing the Southern classic: chicken-fried steak.
For the Chicken-Fried Steak recipe, click here.
Sometimes called chitterlings, this dish is made by cleaning and cooking the small intestines of a pig. They’re typically slow-cooked for a very long time before being fried or mixed into pasta. But because they’re the small intestine of a pig, be very, very sure you clean them out well before eating. All we can say is, this is one dish that doesn’t quite sound like what it really is.
Coconut cake is a delectable twist on a classic white or yellow cake. The outside is covered in coconut flakes, leading to a rustic yet lovely presentation (and an even lovelier flavor).
For the Coconut Lavender Cream Cake recipe, click here.
This cousin of cabbage and kale is a staple green in the South. It’s braised and oftentimes stewed in bacon or pork fat and something spicy like jalapeños.
For the Spicy Collard Greens recipe, click here.
Stewed corn might not sound exciting, but the brightness of this favorite summertime vegetable is emphasized in this all-Southern dish.
For the Corn Pudding recipe, click here.
Green tomatoes are left on the vine to ripen in most kitchens, but down south, cooks know the best thing to do with those bad boys is to deep-fry them and chow down.
For the Fried Green Tomatoes recipe, click here.
One lesson you need to learn quickly about the South: Vegetables do not need to be healthy. Case in point: the Southern staple appetizer, fried okra.
For the Fried Okra recipe, click here.
A spicy, rich gumbo recipe is a must-have for any Southerner who calls themselves a cook. True fans of Cajun food know there’s only one way to serve this iconic Louisiana stew: With a dollop of potato salad in the middle.
For the Chicken and Andouille Gumbo recipe, click here.
The weather isn’t the only thing that’s a little hotter in the South, the fried chicken is too. While you can find incredible Nashville hot chicken at restaurants, you can easily make this yourself at home too. Just be generous with the cayenne and Tabasco.
For the Nashville-Style Hot Chicken recipe, click here.
What kind of cake would a Southern hummingbird eat? Apparently, it’s filled with pineapples, banana, and pecans and topped with a tangy cream cheese frosting.
For the Hummingbird Cake recipe, click here.
This festive purple, green, and yellow cake is a staple of Mardi Gras celebrations in New Orleans and across the South. Traditionally, there’s a tiny plastic figurine hiding inside the cake. When the cake is sliced, the person who receives the hidden treat is the King or Queen of the day.
For the King Cake recipe, click here.
What are Koolickes you ask? They’re Kool-Aid-brined pickles. These neon-colored pickles are brined in Kool-Aid for about a week, resulting in a sweet and sour flavor like no other. Though once sold exclusively at gas stations, this bizarre food has made its way to Walmart’s food aisle.
This simple cocktail is the official drink of the Kentucky Derby, but you’ll find refreshing (and boozy) mint juleps all across the South. It’s the perfect thing to drink on those long, hot summer days.
For the Mint Julep recipe, click here.
Almost like the Northeast’s whoopie pie, the moon pie has an extra added crunch with a graham cracker (or Ritz cracker) coated in chocolate.
For the Moon Pie recipe, click here.
Green beans, collard greens, and Brussels sprouts are considered healthy sides in most parts of the country. But in the South, these green vegetables are stewed all day in bacon and pork fat. They’re delicious, but definitely not vegetarian-friendly, which is curious for a veggie side.
For the Southern-Style Green Beans recipe, click here.
Peanut butter and jelly is the classic combination across most of the country, but in the South, it’s all about peanut butter and mayo. This combination started during the Great Depression but stuck around because it’s cheap, easy, and people like it. In fact, Southerners like all sorts of wacky mayonnaise combinations, like mayo with fruit or beans on bread. If you’re doing a PB&M, we recommend these seven peanut butter brands.
OK, technically you can find pecan pie anywhere in the U.S., but it’s particularly amazing in the South. It is the official state dessert of Texas, after all!
For the Brown Butter Pecan Pie recipe, click here.
This dippable cheese spread has just the perfect Southern kick thanks to jalapeños and hot sauce, but don’t worry! Like any proper Southern dish, there’s plenty of mayonnaise and cream cheese to balance it all out.
For the Spicy Pimento Cheese recipe, click here.
Sausage balls are a classic, simple Southern appetizer. They have just three ingredients: sausage, Bisquik, and cheese. If you want to get fancy, add salt and pepper. To Southerners, this is a dreamy dish, but it’s befuddling to people from other regions of America.
For the Southern Sausage Balls recipe, click here.
Shrimp and grits is a staple on any Southern menu, and we get why. It’s perfect for lunch, dinner, or even breakfast! This dish has spread across the country a bit, making it one of the many Southern dishes that have conquered America.
For the Spicy Shrimp and Cheese Grits recipe, click here.
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