When I hear the words "Southern cuisine," instantly thoughts of grits, collards and hushpuppies come to mind- as they rightfully should. From Virginia to Florida, and Kentucky to Texas, the South is full of classic, comforting home cooked meals that make you feel like you're back in your grandmother's kitchen. Cooking with rendered bacon fat, buttermilk, or anything fried is part of what makes Southern recipes so darn good.
So if you're craving Southern food or just missing your mama's home cooking, try one of these 16 classic Southern recipes that are the best of food in the South.
1. Collard Greens with Bacon
Southern-style collard greens are often cooked with ham hock or hog jowl, especially on New Year's Day as a good luck tradition. What's also popular is using bacon or pork with the greens.
Frying up crisp bacon, the recipe calls for leaving a bit of fat in the pan then sautéing the onion, garlic, pepper flakes, a touch of brown sugar, and a dash of vinegar. Then, by simmering the collards with the crisp bacon and broth, you get a Southern veggie staple cooked in the most delicious way.
2. Slow Cooked Black Eyed Peas
Nothing says a Southern recipe like a bowl of these Slow Cooked Black Eyed Peas. Letting the slow cooker do practically all the work, sauté bacon, onion, bell pepper, and garlic so the flavors can develop. Next, toss it in the slow cooker with some peas, broth, tomatoes, and Cajun spices. If you're looking to add a bit of smokiness, you can even use some liquid smoke. After cooking on low all day, a hearty bowl of smoky black eyed peas awaits. Serve them over rice for Hoppin' John and New Year's luck.
Vegan? Omit the bacon and you'll still get a hearty bowl worthy of Southern comfort food.
3. Cola Glazed Ham
If you live in the South, you probably don't just drink your cola, you use it in your favorite Southern recipe. Cola glazed ham is a holiday tradition that requires everyone's favorite can of cola. In this Crockpot Brown Sugar Cola Glazed Ham recipe, all the work is taken out of the equation.
Requiring only four ingredients and five minutes of prep, place everything in the crockpot while the ham develops a nice sugar cola coated glaze. Before serving this show stopping holiday centerpiece, brush over the ham with some more glaze and dig in.
Chef's tip: This ham makes a mean bunch of leftover sandwiches.
4. Chicken Fried Steak
This home-cooked Chicken Fried Steak is Southern comfort on a plate. Cube steak is breaded, pan-fried, and served over a bed of mashed potatoes. It's topped off with a pan drippings creamy milk gravy. One bite and you'll feel like your back in your mama's kitchen.
Chef's Tip: You need a cooking pan that can handle high heat when frying. In this case a cast iron skillet works best.
5. Buttermilk Fried Chicken
Of course when it comes to classic dishes, you can't beat a plate of Southern fried chicken. Keeping it simple, a recipe like this buttermilk fried chicken does this staple justice.
The key here is adding spices to your flour and then double dipping. Double dipping the chicken in buttermilk then flour adds a beautiful coating that makes the outside extra scrumptious. Once you're chicken is properly coated in buttermilk, spices, and flour, fry until golden brown. Now you're ready to bit into a crispy, tender piece of fried chicken breasts.
While to dip in sauce or not to dip in sauce is up to you, you can't go wrong with one of these homemade barbecue sauce recipes.
6. Fried Catfish
Chicken isn't the only thing worth frying in the South, catfish is another must for a classic Southern recipe. To do it right though, a fresh filet of catfish is breaded in spicy cornmeal. It's then deep fried until the outside is a beautiful crispy, golden brown. While the serving options are up to you, a tarter sauce and side of hushpuppies (another essential Southern recipe) complete this easy Southern dish.
Chef's Note: High heat pans like cast iron or a Dutch oven work best for frying. Also, don't overcrowd the fish when frying. This can lower the oil temperature causing the fish to soak up oil. And be sure to cool on a rack to prevent the fish from getting soggy.
7. Cajun Shrimp and Grits
When it comes to grits, you can't beat a combo like this Cajun Shrimp and Grits. A true Southern classic, especially in Mississippi and Louisiana, the grits in this recipe are made even tastier with some sharp white cheddar cheese. It's then topped with Cajun spiced shrimp along with sautéed bell pepper and onions. Creamy, spicy, and downright Southern, this comforting staple is a must for breakfast, lunch, or supper.
8. Crawfish Boil
When you're hosting the perfect crawfish boil, there are some do's and don'ts to getting this southern tradition right. And if you want to get it right, then follow the steps in this Perfect Crawfish Boil recipe.
First, wash and sort your mudbuggers. Next, prepare the pot with all your spices and be sure that potatoes and corn are added to the mix. Add your crawfish, boil, and once done, dump it all out on a giant table lined in newspaper. Then roll up your sleeves and dig in!
9. Boiled Peanuts
Boiled peanuts are the epitome of Southern snacks. If you're craving this classic southern snack, then these warm, salted Slow Cooker Boiled Peanuts recipe is the answer to your prayers. You'll just want to pre-plan your snacking. This treat requires cooking raw peanuts in spices for a day. But once that day is up, the wait will totally be worth it.
Hushpuppies are the Southern equivalent of fries, they go with everything. A perfect side for barbecue, seafood, or any meal really, these little poppable balls are like heaven.
Cornmeal is mixed with flour, spices, green onion, buttermilk, and eggs. The batter is then balled and dropped into the deep fryer until golden brown. One bite of this Southern recipe, and you won't be able to stop until they're all gone.
11. Buttermilk Skillet Cornbread
This Easy Buttermilk Skillet Cornbread is a must in the South. Whether company is on its way or you're wracking your brain for a dinner fix, a delicious cornbread is the answer to your problems.
With the help of the baking trio - flour, baking powder, and baking soda - some cornmeal, buttermilk, and a few other ingredients you'll have the perfect crumbly skillet cornbread ready to feed the impatient. And, if you're feeling extra fancy, you can try adding in some jalapeño and cheddar for a twist. Or, if you're starving try this Enchilada Cornbread Skillet.
Chef's Note: Brown the butter in the cast iron skillet to add an extra layer of depth to the cornbread.
12. Buttermilk Biscuits
Flaky, buttery Buttermilk Biscuits are the answer to every Southern side. Better than store-bought, these homemade biscuits are made from scratch with rich buttermilk, flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and butter. Baked until slightly browned, serve these warm with a dollop of butter. Or, you can go crazy and try this hearty biscuits and gravy bake.
Chef's Note: The less amount of dough handling, the better the biscuits will be. Over handling will make the biscuits tough.
13. Fried Green Tomatoes
Even in the South veggies get fried, and it's amazing. Fried green tomatoes are a Southern recipe delight that certainly hold a place in many a Southerner's heart. If you've never tried them before, then start off with this awesome Fried Green Tomatoes recipe. Green tomatoes are dipped in a batter of flour, then eggs, then cornmeal. Then they are fried until crispy brown and laid on a paper towel to drain off excess oil, and ready to serve with dill or your sauce of choice.
Chef's Note: Dry off tomatoes before frying. This will remove excessive moisture and allow each tomato to crisp nicely.
14. Peach Cobbler
There is something about fresh Georgia peaches in a peach cobbler that scream summer in the South. If you're missing afternoons spent hanging out on the front porch, then bring a little southern flair to the table with this Peach Cobbler.
Using fresh peaches, combine them with some sugar, lemon, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Then spoon on the topping and bake until the peaches are bubbling and the topping is a golden brown. How you serve this Southern dessert is up to you, but I recommend a solid quality scoop of vanilla ice cream.
15. Pecan Pie
When it comes to Southern recipes for dessert, the pecan pie is a must alongside the classic banana pudding, chocolate cake, and sweet potato pie.
Using a tasty vodka pie dough, a filling of brown sugar, corn syrup, vanilla, butter, eggs, and pecans is poured in. After baking then setting in the fridge, you're ready to get a sweet taste of the South. Serve with ice cream or homemade whipped cream of course.
16. Sweet Tea
If there were only one drink to sum up Southern classics, it would be sweet tea. Best enjoyed on a hot summer day, this Perfect Sweet Tea recipe is a must when it comes to the classics. Requiring only black tea, sugar, lemons, water, and ice, you can whip up a batch in minutes. Although, it should be noted the longer you let the tea sit, the better the flavor.