States in the Southern US have some of the best, tastiest, and most buttery dishes throughout the country.
Many southern food dishes have origins in African-American culture, influenced by slaves during the 17th and 18th centuries. Soul food, Cajun food, and Creole food are examples of southern cuisine with African influences.
Today, many popular southern dishes have been adopted by people worldwide. From fried chicken to cornbread to sweet potato casserole to hush puppies, southern eats have made their way around the globe.
And while all this buttery, fried, breaded, cheesy, and or creamy comfort food might not be great for your waistline, they sure are delicious.
In this article, we’ll share the most popular southern food dishes.
Fried chicken is an incredible, popular dish that you may only be able to deny if you’re a strict vegetarian.
Fried chicken is any piece of chicken that is breaded and then thrown in a deep fryer, but southerners will say that there are particular ways to prepare fried chicken to make sure it’s as juicy on the inside and crispy on the outside as possible!
Plus, what you choose to put in the batter can make or break your chicken. Some people like to keep their fried chicken simple with just salt, pepper, and flour.
Others, like myself, go all out with garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne pepper, and buttermilk.
There are endless ways to fry chicken, but the result is always a crispy piece of goodness that will surely leave you licking your fingers.
Southern food and soul food go hand in hand, and this is one of the most classic soul food dishes you can find.
There are few things more comforting than a warm biscuit straight out of the oven, and southerners know this all too well.
Biscuits are a type of quick bread incorporating flour, baking powder or soda, salt, butter (or another fat), and milk or buttermilk.
They are leavened, meaning they rise due to the baking powder, and are usually made into small, round shapes.
You can eat biscuits independently, but I like to serve them with gravy, honey, or jelly.
You can also make biscuit sandwiches by splitting them in half and adding eggs, bacon, sausage, or cheese.
Hush puppies are deep-fried cornmeal balls usually served as a side dish at barbecues and other meals.
You make them with cornmeal, flour, salt, sugar, baking powder, eggs, and milk or buttermilk.
Then, add green onions (or a similar onion), and deep fry them until they’re golden brown.
Hush puppies are typically served with fried fish, but you can eat them with anything.
I like to eat mine alongside smoky, barbecued meat and dunk mine in ketchup, honey mustard, or the same barbecue sauce I’m using for my meat dish.
Banana pudding is a southern dessert made with layers of vanilla pudding, bananas, and Nilla Wafers.
To make it, you start by mixing milk, sugar, eggs, cornstarch, and vanilla extract to make a pudding.
Once that’s thickened, you layer it in a dish with sliced bananas and Nilla Wafers.
You can serve banana pudding cold or hot, but I think it’s best served cold, especially if you’re making it for an outdoor spring or summer event — like a backyard barbecue.
Plus, when you serve it cold, the pudding has time to set in the fridge, and the flavors meld together perfectly.
Chicken Pot Pie
Chicken pot pie is a staple comfort food meal that warms the belly, heart, and soul!
To make it, you need a pie crust (homemade or store-bought), chicken breasts, carrots, celery, potatoes, butter, flour, salt, pepper, chicken broth, and milk.
Cook the chicken and vegetables, then mix together a roux of flour and butter. Once that’s thickened, you add in the chicken broth and milk.
Once everything is cooked and combined, you pour it into the pie crust, top it with another piece of crust, and bake it until the top is golden brown.
I like to add a few peppers to mine to give it a bit of a kick. And if you want to try a chicken pot pie even more unique, check out this spicy Cajun chicken pot pie recipe from the Food Network.
Peach cobbler is a tasty, fruity southern dessert made with fresh or canned peaches, sugar, flour, butter, and baking powder.
This dessert is excellent for any time of the year, but I especially like it between mid-May to mid-August when Georgia peaches are in season and taste incredible.
You’ll be everyone’s favorite guest at your next event if you bring homemade peach cobbler!
Of course, you don’t have to use peaches from Georgia to make a good pie. Just remember to use fresh, ripe peaches that are juicy and sweet.
You don’t want to use hard or unripe ones because they won’t soften as much when they cook and won’t be as tasty.
Fried okra might not immediately come to mind when you think about popular southern food dishes, but it’s by far one of my favorites of the bunch!
I love okra — a unique vegetable with little seed pods between its finger-like shape. I fully support any dish that includes it.
But some people don’t like that okra can get a bit gooey when cooked in specific ways, such as stewed or pan-fried.
However, when fried, you rarely ever get the gooey okra problem. Instead, breaded, deep-fried okra is crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, giving it a dynamic consistency and flavor.
Although technically not a “food,” I had to include sweet tea on this list because it is such a popular drink down south!
Sweet tea is simply iced tea that has been sweetened with sugar. It’s typically served cold or over ice and is the perfect drink to enjoy on a hot summer day.
You can make your own sweet tea at home by brewing some regular tea and adding sugar to it, or you can buy it pre-made at the store.
There are many ways to enjoy sweet tea, but my favorite is adding a sprig of fresh mint to it. This mint gives the tea a refreshing flavor that is perfect for sipping on a warm afternoon.
Chicken and Dumplings
Chicken and dumplings is a hearty, comfort food dish popular in the southern United States.
It typically consists of chicken breasts, carrots, celery, onions, flour, salt, pepper, chicken broth, and milk.
To make it, cook the chicken and vegetables until they’re tender. Then, you make a roux of flour and butter and add it to the broth to thicken it. Once that’s done, you add in the milk and dumplings.
The dumplings are made with flour, salt, baking powder, and milk. You simply combine all of the ingredients, drop them by the spoonful into the boiling broth and let them cook until they’re fluffy and tender. Sounds delicious, right?
I like to enjoy this dish on a cold day, and it’s perfect for leftovers!
Hopping John is another hearty dish made with black-eyed peas, sausage, and veggies.
Many people see Hoppin’ John as a tasty and dynamic side dish, but I think Hoppin’ John is so good that you can eat it alone as a main dish too!
Also, I always include some spicy peppers, like jalapeños, to turn up the heat a bit.
Given the inclusion of black-eyed peas, which people believe grant good luck, this recipe is popular as a New Year’s eve recipe so that people can feel comforted and supported when going into the New Year.
But I fully support this meal at any time of the chilly fall or winter months. You can make it using this authentic Hoppin’ John recipe from A Spicy Perspective.
Nashville Hot Chicken
Nashville Hot Chicken is a dish that originated in, you guessed it, Nashville, Tennessee. It’s a type of fried chicken that is coated in a spicy, hot sauce before being fried.
The chicken is usually served on a piece of white bread with pickles. And the level of spiciness can be customized to your liking — from mild to extra hot.
If you’re feeling brave, I recommend trying the extra hot. The extra hot version is not for the faint of heart, but it’s delectable and will give you a good kick.
I’ve had Nashville Hot Chicken right in Nashville, and it’s certainly top-notch, but you can easily make it at home as well. Try out this Nashville hot chicken recipe from Grandbaby Cakes.
Pimento cheese is a southern staple I like to use as a spread, dip, or condiment. It’s made with cheddar cheese, pimentos, mayo, and cream cheese. That’s it!
Pimentos are small, red, sweet peppers that are typically used in Spanish cuisine. You can buy them jarred or roast your own pimentos at home.
Pimento cheese is perfect for a party or potluck because it’s so easy to make, and it’s always a hit. Plus, it goes swimmingly with crackers, biscuits, and chips.
Like pimento cheese, deviled eggs are another party classic. They’re made by taking hard-boiled eggs and removing the yolks.
The yolks are then mashed with mayo, mustard, vinegar, and other spices before being spooned back into the egg whites.
These guys are so good that they’ll be gone in a flash, so you might want to make a double batch.
When I make deviled eggs for parties or events, I always make at least three for each expected guest.
The final number might sound like a lot, but trust me — you won’t regret having extra!
Pecan pie is a classic dessert that includes a filling made of corn syrup, sugar, eggs, butter, and pecans, all nestled into a flaky pie crust.
This dessert is popular all over the south, and it’s perfect for holiday gatherings and potlucks.
I like to make my pecan pie with a bit of bourbon for extra flavor, but of course, you can leave it out if you’d like.
No matter what, this dessert is sure to be a hit. Some people might not like having pecans in their dessert, but in that case, there’s more for you!
Country Ham With Red-Eye Gravy
If you’re a fan of salty meat, you can’t go wrong with a meal of country ham with red-eye gravy.
You might have tried country ham alone or with other combinations. It goes well in sandwiches, eggs, pancakes, mac and cheese, and much more.
But the red-eye gravy takes this ham to a whole new level. It’s an interesting mix of chicken broth, butter, sugar, and black coffee.
I don’t even like black coffee on its own, but this gravy mixture is out of this world! Even if it sounds odd, this popular dish is certainly worth a try.
Sweet Potato Casserole
Because it’s served in a pie crust, many people argue that sweet potato casserole is a dessert.
While others argue that it’s a side dish because sweet potatoes are a vegetable.
My argument is that there’s no reason to argue – I like to serve it as both a side dish and a dessert! It also depends on how you make it, as some recipes are sweeter than others.
This dish usually includes sweet potatoes, eggs, spices, butter, and either marshmallows or pecans on top. I personally love the marshmallow version, but again, to each their own.
Last but certainly not least is cornbread. You can easily find this dish all throughout the south, and it is often served on the side of large, hearty meals.
My grandmother always made the best cornbread. Her cornbread was nice and moist with a slight sweetness to it.
I remember that she would add a little bit of sugar to the batter, which I also now like to do.
Cornbread is made with cornmeal, flour, eggs, milk, sugar, baking powder, and butter. You can add things like chopped onions, jalapeños, or cheese.
No matter what I decide to put in it, I also make sure to smear a little butter when it’s still hot so it can melt delightfully on top.