29 Essential Southern Recipes

Pork Belly Burnt Ends with pickles and white bread
Photo: Photo by Antonis Achilleos / Prop Styling by Kathleen Varner / Food Styling by Margaret Monroe Dickey

Defined by an abundance of fresh produce, seafood and smoked meats with a blend of flavors and influences from Spanish, French, German and West African cultures, Southern cuisine is soul-warming comfort food at its best. These recipes represent the diverse genre of Southern recipes, from traditional classics such as Fried Chicken with Tomato Gravy passed down through generations to modern mash-ups like Summer Bean Salad with Potlikker Vinaigrette and Pork Belly Burnt Ends with Barbecue Sauce. Scroll through to see some of the best Southern recipes the region has to offer.

01 of 29

Crispy Buttermilk Fried Chicken

Crispy Buttermilk Fried Chicken
© Tina Rupp

With this especially crispy and tender version, F&W's Grace Parisi has perfected fried chicken. A buttermilk marinade with a touch of cayenne ensures juicy meat, while a flour dredge spiked with garlic and onion powder delivers a crunchy, flavorful crust in every bite.

02 of 29

Summer Fruit Cobbler with Vanilla-Mascarpone Biscuits

Summer Fruit Cobbler With Vanilla Mascarpone
Photo by Victor Protasio / Food Styling by Margaret Monroe Dickey / Prop Styling by Audrey Davis

Let the farmers market be your guide when it comes to this cobbler—any mixture of fresh stone fruits and berries can be cooked down to make the perfectly sweet-tart, jammy filling. Tender vanilla-mascarpone biscuits have a shortcake-like texture and a delightfully crunchy top from the turbinado sugar. They're also highly customizable: You can swap the mascarpone in the biscuit topping for crème fraîche or sour cream if that's what you have, and trade the semolina for fine cornmeal for a more crumbly texture.

03 of 29

Quick Bread-and-Butter Pickles

Siphon Recipes: The Quickest Pickles Ever
Photo © John Kernick

Even so-called "quick" pickles usually require several hours or overnight to marinate, but this recipe makes pickles in just over an hour. Richard Blais explains how to use a siphon filled with pickle brine to infuse cucumbers and turn them into pickles in a matter of minutes. He uses cucumber in this bread-and-butter-pickle recipe, but you can use the method with other thinly sliced vegetables—try it with red onion, radishes, and okra.

04 of 29

Buttermilk Cornbread

buttermilk-cornbread-FT-RECIPE1119.jpg
Victor Protasio

Former F&W food editor Josh Miller says this cornbread recipe is an amalgamation of best practices across families and generations. It will keep its crunch and retain its structure if cubed and folded into a dressing for Thanksgiving. But it's also delicious all by itself (well, with a pat of butter slathered on top, naturally).

05 of 29

Smoky Collard Greens

Smoky Collard Greens
© Christina Holmes

"I've been making collards this way ever since I can remember," says South Carolina chef Sarah Simmons. She gives the greens a double dose of smokiness with bacon and paprika and adds jalapeño for a good kick of heat.

06 of 29

Sweet Potato Pie

Sweet Potato Pie with Praline Sauce
Photo by Adam Friedlander / Food Styling by Pearl Jones

Sweet potato pie has become an all-American dish, but New Orleans chef Susan Spicer tops hers with bourbon-spiked praline sauce to accent its Southern roots.

07 of 29

Bourbon-Pecan Pie

bourbon pecan pie
Con Poulos

This easy pecan pie tastes of dark caramel, toasted nuts, and a little bit of bourbon. Savannah baker Cheryl Day created this recipe to work with a range of less-refined sweeteners, from honey to cane syrup. And the super easy press-in crust means you don't even need a rolling pin.

08 of 29

Meatloaf with Creamy Onion Gravy

Meat Loaf with Creamy Onion Gravy
© Con Poulos

"This is a culmination of all the meatloaf I've ever eaten," says Andrew Curren, chef-partner of 24 Diner in Austin. "My mom always made a good meatloaf—it never had the tomato goo on top of it. Then I tasted a meatloaf that had cheese in it; that was a good idea. In Italy, I was introduced to sofrito and realized the importance of cooking with carrots, onion, celery." Curren serves this meatloaf with creamy gravy, which is also an excellent addition to lunchtime meatloaf sandwiches.

09 of 29

Pork Belly Burnt Ends with Barbecue Sauce

Pork Belly Burnt Ends with pickles and white bread
Photo by Antonis Achilleos / Prop Styling by Kathleen Varner / Food Styling by Margaret Monroe Dickey

Burnt ends are, strictly speaking, the extra-dark, chewy, extremely delicious ends of barbecued beef brisket—not pork belly at all. But if you find burnt ends irresistible, then this recipe is for you. Slow-smoking chunks of spice-rubbed pork belly, then tossing them in a quick, not-too-sweet barbecue sauce and smoking them some more yields a crispy-chewy pile of pork that will win over the most passionate burnt-ends purist. Enjoy these with a stack of white bread slices to sop up the sauce, along with tangy pickles and raw onion to cut through the richness.

10 of 29

Biscoff Banana Pudding

Banana Pudding
Photo by Greg DuPree / Food Styling by Rishon Hanners / Prop Styling by Christina Daley

The subtle spice of Biscoff cookies helps to balance the sweetness of each decadent layer of creamy custard and fresh bananas in this tall and impressive banana pudding for a crowd. F&W Best New Chef Kwame Onwuachi says he was inspired by one made by his aunt Yolanda in Beaumont, Texas; he got to taste it while on a recent trip to connect with his roots in Louisiana and Texas.

11 of 29

Sweet Corn Succotash

Sweet Corn Succotash
© Lucy Schaeffer

Birmingham, Alabama, chef Chris Hastings uses fresh field peas in this succotash, but says green peas are a nice, sweet addition if you prefer.

12 of 29

Deviled Eggs With Country Ham

Deviled Eggs with Country Ham
© Wendell T. Webber

Chef Ford Fry gives these deviled eggs a few European touches. They get their terrific flavor from goat cheese, Dijon mustard, and cornichons, plus a topping of country ham from the famed Benton's Smoky Mountain Country Hams in Madisonville, Tennessee.

13 of 29

The Best Biscuits

Fried Chicken with Tomato Gravy and The Best Biscuits
Greg DuPree

Scott Peacock got this delectable biscuit recipe from the legendary Southern cook Edna Lewis, who was his dear friend and mentor. In 2018, Food & Wine named this recipe one of our 40 best.

14 of 29

Fried Chicken with Tomato Gravy

Fried Chicken with Tomato Gravy and The Best Biscuits
Greg DuPree

The bird is double brined, dredged in a mix of flour, cornstarch, and potato starch; and fried in a trinity of lard, butter, and bacon fat. It's best served with Edna Lewis' light, fluffy, irresistible biscuits; you'll have plenty of extra gravy to go with them.

15 of 29

Pulled Pork Sandwiches with Barbecue Sauce

Pulled Pork Sandwiches with Barbecue Sauce
© Con Poulos

Roasted garlic seasons this pork shoulder, which slow-cooks until it is both tender and deeply flavorful. Shred it and top with barbecue sauce, coleslaw, and a spicy habanero vinaigrette for the perfect sandwich.

16 of 29

Hummingbird Cake

Hummingbird Cake
Photo by Jennifer Causey / Food Styling by Ali Ramee / Prop Styling by Christina Daley

This classic, over-the-top cake first garnered fame in Southern Living magazine in the 1970s and has been a potluck staple ever since. Bananas and pineapple are baked into a spiced yellow cake, which is bathed in a rich cream cheese icing. Its slightly tropical, down-home appeal makes it an ideal dessert for picnics or warm summer days.

17 of 29

Fried Green Tomatoes, Pickles, and Okra with Crème Fraîche Ranch Dip

fried tomatoes, okra, and pickles
Caitlin Bensel

Fried green tomatoes are a classic Southern treat, perfect for those early summer months when green tomatoes are plentiful. Served with fried pickles, okra, and a cooling crème fraîche riff on ranch dressing, these super-crunchy, tangy fried veggies will make you the star of every summer party or weeknight dinner. Be sure to pat the tomatoes dry before you fry them so the breading will adhere to the tomatoes and stay crisp. Crème fraîche can be temperamental and break if you stir it too rapidly, so stir the herbs in gently to guarantee a perfectly creamy dipping sauce.

18 of 29

Mom's Fried Catfish with Hot Sauce

Mom's Fried Catfish with Hot Sauce
Victor Protasio

Chef Todd Richard's mother made catfish on Fridays as part of her weekly rotation of dishes, and he was always amazed by the crispiness of her fish. Her secret was to let it sit in cornmeal for about 5 minutes—a technique he uses today.

19 of 29

Creamy Cheese Grits

Creamy Cheese Grits
© Lucy Schaeffer

These luscious, creamy grits cook low and slow until they are thick and tender. Seasoned simply with salt and pepper, they're finished with butter and freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano to make an alluring side or as the base for a hearty main dish.

20 of 29

Summer Bean Salad with Potlikker Vinaigrette

Summer Bean Salad with Potlikker Vinaigrette
Eva Kolenko

Potlikker, as it's called in the South, is the savory, starchy liquid left over after cooking beans or greens. Here, chef Joe Kindred whisks the flavorful liquid into a vinaigrette, but you can also use it in soups and pasta sauces, or thicken it with butter and drizzle it over fish.

21 of 29

Coconut Cake

Coconut Cake
© Karen Mordechai

Coconut cake came into vogue in the 1920s as a dainty dessert for ladies' gatherings. Traditionally made with marshmallow frosting, the cake was famously served to President Truman during a trip to Florida in the 1950s.

22 of 29

Beaten Biscuit Breakfast Sandwich with Tomato Jam

Beaten Biscuit Breakfast Sandwich with Tomato Jam
© Abby Hocking

Chef Marcus Samuelsson adds a little bit of nutty brown butter to amp up the flavor in these incredible biscuits. He serves them warm, spread with tangy-sweet tomato jam, fried country ham, and perfectly scrambled eggs with cheddar cheese.

23 of 29

Hoppin' John with Turnips and Turnip Greens

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Todd Richards spices up his family recipe for this Southern favorite (often enjoyed on New Year's Day) with harissa for extra heat. Richards makes the traditional ham hock optional so that vegetarians can enjoy the dish as well; he adds smoked paprika and cumin to deliver a similar savory depth. Turnips become soft and tender after a quick braise, adding body to the dish.

24 of 29

Buttermilk Eggnog Pie

Buttermilk Eggnog Pie
Con Poulos

Chef and cookbook author Carla Hall flavors her Southern buttermilk pie with rum and lots of nutmeg, which evoke the flavors of eggnog.

25 of 29

Carolina Pulled Pork

Carolina Pulled Pork
© Antonis Achilleos

Traditional Carolina barbecue begins with a whole hog smoked over coals. Here, chef Sean Brock cooks pork shoulder for 12 hours in a 275°F oven before smoking it for about 1 hour in a backyard grill.

26 of 29

Southern-Style Mac 'n' Cheese

Southern Style Mac n Cheese
Photo by Noah Fecks / Food Styling by Drew Aichele / Prop Styling by Ethan Lunkenheimer

Three different kinds of cheese—extra-sharp cheddar, Colby-Jack, and cream cheese—go into this creamy, savory macaroni and cheese recipe, which also gets hints of flavor from fresh bay leaves and dry mustard. Southern-style mac 'n' cheese is typically made with a milk-and-egg base rather than a roux. Here, the milk component is an infused milk-and-cream mixture reserved from cooking the noodles (which adds even more richness to the dish).

27 of 29

Shrimp with Cheddar-Parmesan Grits

Shrimp and Cheesy Grits
Hannah Khan

It's worth it to take the time to peel and devein your own shrimp, and in this recipe, chef Michael Reed gives us a lesson on why. He saves the shrimp shells to cook with vegetables and herbs to create a deeply-flavorful stock, which he then uses as a sauce for these shrimp and grits. Pan-fried shrimp are spooned on top of a mound of cheesy grits, and topped with the rich shellfish stock as the finishing touch.

28 of 29

Braised Lamb Neck with Turnip

Braised Lamb Neck with Turnip
© John Kernick

Lamb necks, an underappreciated cut, are fantastic when braised, such as in this homey stew from Boston chef Tony Maws. The meat gets succulent and tender as it cooks in the slightly sweet braising liquid flavored with white wine and fresh herbs, while the neck bones, in turn, intensify and flavor the broth.

29 of 29

Chess Pie with Crème Fraîche and Vanilla

Chess Pie with Crème Fraîche and Vanilla
© Bobbi Lin

Southerners love chess pie for its sweet and buttery custard filling. In this version, crème fraîche adds a mellow tang and vanilla bean gives the sweetness some character. Because the alcohol in vodka evaporates quickly in the oven, using it in the crust makes for a dough that's easy to work with, and a finished product that's flaky and tender.

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