30 Most Iconic Southern Foods. A burger and fries may be the ideal American meal, but the United States is a large country. Each place has its own food culture with delicious foods of which they’re proud. Visiting Philadelphia makes it clear that the Philly Cheese Steak reigns supreme. In Chicago, it’s all about the deep-dish pizza. Then there are New Yorkers who know they have the best pizza. Nothing is better than a big ol’ slice of greasy pizza while walking down the block, right?
Fried Green Tomatoes
It’s not just a Kathy Bates film. A not-quite-ripe tomato sliced, breaded, fried, and served with a sauce for dipping screams summer in the South. This food is also versatile; It can be a side dish, burger topper, or stand alone as a snack. Plus, it eliminates any food waste by giving chefs an option to turn something otherwise not quite ready to eat into a delicious treat. To make it truly Southern, pair them with some comeback sauce, a spiced mayo-based sauce similar to a remoulade. But if you’re in a pinch, you can use a good buttermilk ranch.
Chicken and Waffles
A delicious way to mix breakfast with lunch is to place crispy, fried chicken on top of a golden-brown waffle. It may sound strange at first, but the mid of the sweet syrup, buttery waffle, and golden, savory fried chicken is superb. Slather it with butter and syrup and you have a southern staple. No one is entirely sure how this unusual food combo got started, but the genius who invented this iconic duo deserves a medal!
Collard greens are often combined with kale, turnip greens, mustard greens, and spinach. They’re prepared with vinegar and salty meats, like ham and turkey. It’s a common side dish in the South, especially on special occasions.
A common breakfast side item in the South, we can thank Native Americans for this culinary delight. Grits are ground up corn or hominy and are usually topped with butter and salt. More adventurous toppings include: cheese, gravy, sausage, shrimp, or sugar.
Creamy banana pudding is a beloved southern dessert. Simple and sweet, it’s decorated with whipped cream, banana slices, and crunchy vanilla wafers.
Macaroni and Cheese
Thanks to Kraft and Velveeta, macaroni and cheese is a favorite of kids and kids-at-heart everywhere. However, this savory delight has southern roots. Made with plenty of butter, milk, and a variety of cheeses, the homemade version is in a league all its own.
Chicken is one of the most popularly eaten proteins in the world, but preparation methods contain regional cues. In the South, it’s usually fried. Southern chefs even make good use of the entire bird, so livers and gizzards are common southern fried delicacies.
Cornbread is the perfect accompaniment to a steaming bowl of soup or chili, and it’s great for “sopping up” just about anything on your plate. While some places might serve crusty French bread, cornbread—sometimes even with a jalapeño kick—is a pleasant alternative found in the South.
Biscuits and Gravy
Fluffy buttermilk biscuits covered with savory sausage gravy is a traditional southern breakfast dish. Sometimes served with eggs, this iconic dish can easily stand alone. The rich, starchy treat has enough fat and protein to keep you full for most of the day.
Cajun and Creole
There are too many to mention, but Cajun and Creole foods like jambalaya, red beans and rice, gumbo, and shrimp étouffée are native to a specific region of the American South: Louisiana and southern Mississippi. Rich and flavorful, the secret to Cajun and Creole cuisine is spice.
A popular picnic item, potato salad often contains eggs and vegetables. While the German version is made with mustard, southerners mix theirs with mayonnaise.
Tangy and creamy with a hint of sweet, coleslaw is a quintessential southern side made with shredded raw cabbage. It gives a cool crunch when paired with seafood, chicken, and ribs.
From eggy quiche to Granny Smith apple, pies are a common find planet-wide. However, the crunchy fruit of the pecan tree has filled southern pie shells for generations. Delicious whether served warm or cold, lots of folks like theirs á la mode.
Chicken and Dumplings
A savory side or the star of the show, chicken and dumplings is wholesome southern comfort food. The chicken—stewed with onions, celery, and a cream-based soup—combines with homemade dumplings or biscuits for a downhome medley designed to turn any frown upside-down.
Okra is a quintessential Southern food. It can be thrown in gumbo, but on its own, most southerners prefer this vegetable cut up and fried.
Catfish is a huge staple of Southern cuisine with many restaurants dedicated to this dish. Like many southern dishes, you can eat it fried, but many prefer it fried.
A hushpuppy is a small, savory, deep-fried ball of dough made of cornmeal. Most hush puppies add spices like salt, pepper, and onion. Generally, hushpuppies come as a side with catfish.
Love corn? You may also love corn fritters. These are deep fried corn nuggets or patties that are sweet and savory at the same time.
Boiled peanuts are actually a healthy addition to a diet because they have a higher concentration of nutrients, but they aren’t a fast dish. It can take four hours to make one batch of boiled peanuts.
Chocolate gravy isn’t the healthiest thing in the south, but it’s certainly delicious – who doesn’t like chocolate? It’s a sweet gravy that’s poured over biscuits to make a scrumptious treat.
Crawfish boils are a significant event in the south. Nothing’s better than cracking open a cold drink and breaking open and slurping on a crawdad tail.
There’s just something about fresh Georgia peaches in a cobbler that screams southern summers. Top this summer treat with some ice cream while it’s still fresh out of the oven, and you’ve got yourself a classic southern dessert.
Nothing sums up the south more than a refreshing glass of sweet tea. A true southern classic to be enjoyed on a hot summer afternoon. Honestly, are you really a true southerner if you don’t like sweet tea?
Deviled eggs are a southern favorite, almost everyone knows how to make them, and they’re all just a little bit different depending on the recipe you know. Any backyard barbecue, luncheon, or church event wouldn’t be complete without some homemade deviled eggs.
A forever favorite when the weather gets cool (or as cool as it gets in the south) or if you have a sick kiddo lounging in bed for the day. Baked potato soup is adored by southerners and a must-make for fall and winter events.
Every southern state has something a little different about their barbecue that makes it completely unique. Though BBQ is just about as universal to the American south as sweet tea. A true southern staple that can’t be lived without.
Sweet Potato Pie
British colonists brought the idea of pumpkin pie to the United States back when they were first colonizing, but most southern states rejected it. Pumpkin pie was deemed a symbol of ‘Yankee’ culture, so sweet potato pie (brought from west Africa in the 16th century) was an instant hit in the southern region of the country. It still finds its way onto southern dinner tables today.
The saying goes that if it walked, crawled, or flew, it went into this stew. Basically, everything and the kitchen sink went into this famous southern stew, and it’s made simply to serve to a crowd. This is a favorite for big gatherings like church potlucks.
Cream Cheese Pound Cake
Layer cakes are all fine and dandy, but southerners really do love a good pound cake. Old southern cookbooks would often praise the keeping quality of these cakes, so of course, it found its way as a staple in southern culture. Cream cheese pound cakes are simple and delicious on its own, but you can also add tons of different fruit and sauce combinations to liven it up.
Everyone knows Mardi Gras, and in famous old New Orleans, king cake is a staple of the Mardi Gras celebration. The fun thing about these colorful cakes? There’s a small plastic baby hidden in the cake, the lucky person who finds the doll is the chosen host for next years party! Laissez les bons temps rouler!