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17 Best Soul Food Dishes and Recipes

Learn about different types of soul food and find your new favorite dish.

Soul food is delicious, hearty cuisine with roots in African American culture of the South, specifically in Georgia, Mississippi, and Alabama.

Delicious homemade crispy fried chicken with taters and coleslaw

The term soul food was penned during the Black pride movement in 1964, but the cuisine itself came about during American slavery when Africans brought in from the Transatlantic Slave Trade were given scraps of “unwanted” food and leftovers.

But that didn’t stop them from making the best of what they had. The innovation and creativity of enslaved people turned these ingredients into mouthwatering dishes that have now become a staple of Southern comfort food.

Now, soul food is a cuisine people enjoy throughout and beyond the Deep South, as it has influenced cuisine worldwide.

Although soul food has continued to transform over the centuries, with modern restaurants spinning traditional recipes into fancy fusion meals, some classic recipes remain popular today.

Popular Soul Food Dishes

In this article, I describe some of the best soul food dishes. Keep reading to find some tasty comfort foods!


Fried Chicken

No list of the best soul food dishes would be complete without fried chicken.

Southern fried chicken is crispy on the outside and scrumptiously juicy on the inside. The tastiest fried chicken is dipped in eggs or buttermilk to achieve a crispier crust.

It’s also well-seasoned with salt and pepper on the chicken and various spices on the flour before getting fried to golden perfection.

Ingredients that can make fried chicken turn up a notch and impress even the most loyal fried chicken fans include:

  • Worcestershire sauce
  • Hot sauce
  • Paprika
  • Garlic powder
  • Onion powder
  • Cayenne pepper

The result of these additional ingredients is flavor-packed chicken that’s spicy and savory.

Fried chicken is one of my ultimate comfort foods, and it can be found almost anywhere, even in chain restaurants!


Macaroni and Cheese

Everyone knows and loves macaroni and cheese, but there are various ways to make it, and not all mac and cheese is created equal.

If you’ve only had Kraft mac and cheese, you haven’t truly had mac and cheese at all, in my opinion! Southern-style soul mac and cheese requires extra cheesiness, creaminess, and flavor.

People usually make it with a combination of cheeses like cheddar, Colby, and mozzarella cheese, but I also like to include fontina and pepper jack as well.

If I’m feeling fancy, I’ll take it up a notch and make Gouda mac and cheese!

The cheese should be freshly grated and mixed with melted butter, flour, milk, eggs, and seasonings before worrying about the macaroni.

If you want a smokier taste, you can add sundried tomatoes or even bacon to your meal. The possibilities are endless!


Collard Greens

Collard greens are another staple of Southern cooking and are often served at soul food restaurants around America.

The best collard greens are cooked low and slow with smoked ham hocks or bacon to infuse them with flavor.

They’re also well-seasoned with garlic, onion, black pepper, and vinegar. Some people also like adding a little sugar or hot sauce to their collard greens.

Some recipes use smoked turkey leg instead of ham hock for a unique take on the traditional dish.

This method of preparation is certainly worth a try.


Peach Cobbler

Soul food is best known for being savory and spicy, but it can also be the perfect amount of sweet and tart, thanks to peach cobbler!

I love peach cobbler when it’s made with fresh, ripe peaches and has a nice, thick crumble on top.

The best peach cobbler also has a hint of cinnamon and is best served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Most peach cobbler recipes include cinnamon and other tasty ingredients like:

  • Brown sugar
  • Nutmeg
  • Ginger

These warm spices make it the perfect dessert on a cold day. I love adding fresh peach slices and crushed nuts on top to take this dish to the next level. 

You can decide whether you want to use Bisquick for the cobbler crust or make your crust from scratch!


Baked Beans

Baked beans are a classic side dish that may turn into a main dish because they’re just that good!

Baked beans are a breakfast staple around the world because they’re delicious, healthy, and loaded with protein.

For basic and simple baked beans, all you need are canned baked beans, bacon, and the best BBQ sauce you can find.

But if you want to take it up a notch and make authentic Southern-style baked beans, add onions, garlic, ketchup, chili powder, and even a bit of brown sugar for a lovely sweet touch.

As its name suggests, the beans are baked in the oven, giving them time to soak up all that delicious flavor.

This straightforward baked bean recipe from Stay Snatched looks mouthwatering and incorporates just the right amount of fixings.


Cornbread

If I could only have one side dish for the rest of my life, cornbread would be it.

Cornbread is so versatile and full of flavor that I could never grow tired of it.

For the best cornbread, look no further than the South! People typically make it with yellow cornmeal, but you can also use white cornmeal.

Other ingredients include sugar, baking powder, salt, egg, milk, and, of course, butter. Some people like adding cheese, diced jalapenos, or green onions to their cornbread for extra flavor, texture, and spice.


Chitlins

Chitlins, otherwise known as chitterlings, are a dish made from the small intestines of a pig.

I know what you’re thinking, but trust me when I say they’re delicious! They’re usually simmered in a vinegar-based sauce with garlic, onion, and seasonings.

Some people like to add a little hot sauce or sugar to their chitlins as well.

What’s great about most recipes is that you can adapt the sweetness and spiciness according to taste.

It tastes delectable, especially alongside other soul food dishes on this list like cornbread and collard greens.


Fried Pork Chops

Unlike fried chicken, fried pork chops are typically pan-fried instead of deep-fried, but they’re just as delicious and full of soul!

I love fried pork chops with an extra crispy crust because they pair so beautifully with creamy, smooth gravy on top.

Beyond pork chops, which should have the bones left in for ultimate flavor, this dish contains various spices and ingredients like:

  • Paprika
  • Pepper
  • Garlic powder
  • Onion
  • Olive oil

Recipes also incorporate heavy whipping cream, which is responsible for that delectable gravy I mentioned earlier.

There’s nothing better than feasting on fried pork chops, collard greens, and mashed potatoes.


Creamed Corn

Creamed corn is a side dish that can be made in many different ways, but the best way will always be the Southern way!

The best creamed corn is made with whole milk, unsalted butter, and cream-style corn, which is basically just really thick and creamy corn.

I like adding sugar, salt, and black pepper to the creamed corn, but I think it’s best to let each person season this dish to taste.

If you want a smoky kick, you can use smoked paprika to enhance the flavor. You can also add mozzarella to get this dish even creamier!


Black-eyed Peas

Black-eyed peas are a must at any Southern gathering, especially on New Year’s Day!

They’re said to bring good luck, so it’s best to consume them while you can.

These little beans are usually cooked with ham hocks or bacon as well as onions, garlic, and seasonings.

This recipe for black-eyed peas from Chef Lola’s Kitchen looks delicious and perfect for any occasion.

Instead of traditional ham hock, it calls for Turkey, but you can use either one.

I like this recipe because it incorporates minced jalapeños and paprika for extra spice, as well as bay leaf and thyme for a complex flavor.


Sweet Potato Casserole

Sweet Potato Casserole is a dish people like to serve as dessert, but I’ve eaten it as a side and even a main dish on more than one occasion.

Honestly, it’s so good that I wouldn’t blame someone if they wanted to eat it for breakfast!

As its name suggests, this casserole includes sweet potatoes as its primary ingredient. These are then mashed and combined with things like brown sugar, spices, butter, eggs, and even marshmallows.

I’ve seen some people top their sweet potato casseroles with a pecan-crusted topping, which sounds divine.

What’s best about this dish is that the sweet potato balances out the other ingredients to create a nutty flavor that isn’t overpowering.


Okra and Tomatoes

Many people have heard about fried okra, a popular side dish at southern barbeque joints. But okra and tomatoes is an underrated traditional southern dish.

This dish is popular in the South, especially during the summer when fresh tomatoes are in season.

It’s a pretty simple dish that contains, you guessed it, okra and tomatoes! I like to add shallots, paprika, salt, and pepper for a basic version of the dish and duck fat, lemon juice, and honey for a full, dynamic flavor.

For an even bolder flavor, you can try charring your okra. If you’ve overlooked this dish in the past, I urge you to try it. You won’t be disappointed!


Turkey Wings

Turkey wings might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of soul food, but they definitely should be!

These wings are usually slow-cooked until they’re fall-off-the-bone tender and then tossed in a delicious homemade gravy sauce.

Making your own gravy might sound complicated, but this smothered turkey wings recipe from Savory Thoughts makes it as simple as you can imagine.

I love turkey wings because of the juicy, tender meat and because it goes so well with other dishes like collard greens, mashed potatoes, cornbread, and mac and cheese.


Buttermilk Biscuits 

I’ve tried biscuits in no fewer than 15 states, and I’ll be honest; the best ones come from the South.

There’s something special about southern-made buttermilk biscuits. They’re always light, fluffy, and flaky with just the right amount of butter. Or perhaps, they have a little more butter than I’d like to admit!

Buttermilk biscuits are exceptionally easy to make, and with a few simple ingredients, you’ll be able to impress all your southern friends. In addition to the buttermilk, most biscuits also have:

  • Egg
  • Sugar 
  • Salt
  • Flour 
  • Baking powder

Buttermilk biscuits make the perfect side dish for any barbeque because they’re versatile and delicious.


Honey Baked Ham

A honey-baked ham is a must-have for any holiday meal, but it’s also pretty popular as an everyday dish in the South.

I like my ham cooked with a sweet and savory glaze made of honey, brown sugar, and spices.

Like any significant meat dish, this isn’t the easiest or quickest dish, which is perhaps why people tend to save it for special events.

But if you want to impress your family and friends, it’s well worth the extra effort.

Honey-baked ham recipes tend to incorporate the delicious ingredients mentioned above as well as garlic powder, unsalted butter, and black pepper.


Sweet Tea

Sweet tea is not necessarily a food, but it’s such an integral part of Southern food that I couldn’t complete this list without it!

Most if not all of these dishes go incredibly well with a glass of ice-cold sweet tea on the side, especially if you’re consuming these items at a daytime cookout.

Although you can use any type of tea, the traditional method calls for standard black tea.

You can pare down the sugar or get fancy by adding lemon and other flavorings. There are no rules when it comes to making the perfect sweet tea.


BBQ Ribs

Last on this list of mouthwatering eats is one of the best soul food dishes of all time – BBQ ribs.

These ribs are usually pork spare ribs that have been rubbed with spices, smoked or grilled, and then covered in BBQ sauce.

BBQ ribs are a beloved dish all over America, not just in the South. Although they can be time-consuming to prepare, you won’t regret putting in the time.

This delectable dish will feature at most Southern cookouts, and it pairs perfectly with collard greens and creamed corn.

Just prepared to get your fingers sticky with the mouthwatering BBQ sauce!


Popular Soul Food Dishes

  1. Fried Chicken
  2. Macaroni and Cheese
  3. Collard Greens
  4. Peach Cobbler
  5. Baked Beans
  6. Cornbread
  7. Chitlins
  8. Fried Pork Chops
  9. Creamed Corn
  10. Black-eyed Peas
  11. Sweet Potato Casserole
  12. Okra and Tomatoes
  13. Turkey Wings
  14. Buttermilk Biscuits 
  15. Honey Baked Ham
  16. Sweet Tea
  17. BBQ Ribs

Final Thoughts

Soul food is rooted in a powerful, rich history that has often been overlooked. But thankfully, people are now beginning to appreciate not only the beauty and deliciousness of these dishes but the meaning behind them.

If you love savory, spicy, sweet, fatty, buttery, and oh-so-delicious dishes, at least one soul food dish will likely become your favorite.

These are the best soul food dishes that you’ll find at most Southern restaurants. But why not try making them at home?

If I missed your favorite soul food dish, leave a comment below, and I’ll check it out!

Learn more about food here on Restaurant Clicks! If you love soul food, check out other classic American foods we love.

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Written by Erin Elizabeth

Erin lives in East Passyunk and enjoys checking out the local restaurants in South Philly and beyond. Her favorite restaurants are those with spicy food and outdoor seating so that she can bring along her dog, Miss Piggy.