Hearty, creamy, carby, dreamy—there’s a reason we call it Southern comfort food. Whether you’re a fan of the region’s African and French-inspired fare or iconic bourbon and sweet tea, the South undoubtedly has some of the most exceptional (and mouthwatering) cuisine in our nation. Which is why we dedicated a whole list to enlightening the rest of us northerners about grub usually found in the bottom states. (A brief cautionary disclosure: this report may maximize either wanderlust or hometown appreciation.) Once you’ve tamed your tummy’s grumbling response to our list, check out Reese Witherspoon's 10 Best Diet Secrets to discover how this Southern belle stays slim!
A Mardi Gras tradition, this doughy ring-shaped cake is topped with enough sugar and icing to make a 5-year-old collect a lifetime supply of purple, green, and yellow beads. If you're the lucky taster who finds a plastic baby doll hiding in your slice, don’t fret—that just means you’ve been chosen to host next year’s Fat Tuesday bash, or just bring the cake. Talk about Southern hospitality!
If you’re the one who always grabs a bag of peanuts at baseball games, you may want to try the boiled version of this healthy, high protein snack. They’re most popular in Georgia, and the nuts are even sold by the highway for those that get especially hungry on the road.
Fried Green Tomatoes
Fried tomatoes? Green tomatoes? These merged oddities are a popular favorite down south—much like most things battered and fried.
I’ve only tried okra in my mother’s secret (and ultra spicy) red sauce, but fried okra is supposedly as mouthwatering as it sounds. Plus, if you’re frying a vegetable, doesn’t it reduce a bit of the guilt?
Pimentos are usually found cut up and mysteriously stuffed into green olives. But this slightly sweet pepper finds itself mixed with grated cheese, mayo, salt, and pepper to create this dixie classic dubbed the “caviar of the South.”
Before you get too excited, no you cannot sip a drink through this cheesy concoction. Cheese straws are kind of like breadsticks, as they make the perfect accompaniment to soups and salads down South. Plus, they’re baked with seasoned flour and, you guessed it, cheese.
Seasoned with a custom blend of spices, this recipe has been around for 90 years until Wickles (wicked pickles?) shared it with us in 1998. This jar is definitely making its way onto my personal list of must-try foods.
Or chitterlings. Or pig intestines that are cooked and then ladled onto a bowl of rice or pasta… If you’re into that.
Unfortunately, this so-called wine does not contain any alcohol. But since it’s been around since 1917 (after it was made during a WWI sugar shortage), this Salisbury-born soda must be a hit.
As the name suggests, this deep-fried finger food was originally made to bribe dogs into keeping quiet. These says, they keep fans’ mouths shut and full of the crunchy golden brown nuggets.
This pineapple-banana spiced dessert is topped with sweet cream cheese frosting. No wonder why it’s a Southern celebration staple.
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Sure you can ask your local bartender to stir up one of these as a nightcap, but the OG mint julep became a Southern staple mostly due to its popularity in the Kentucky Derby, which is why the bourbon, sugar, mint, and water mix became the horse race’s official drink.
Shrimp and Grits
Southerners enjoy this creamy seafood dish nowadays for lunch or dinner, or even breakfast! Besides for being an everyday staple, a warm bowl of creamy shrimp and grits is also quite festive, as it’s usually enjoyed on Christmas or New Year’s.
Chicken & Dumplings
This hearty dish is as comforting as comfort food gets. To up this meal’s nutrition factor, many add veggies like carrots, celery, or peas, while others call that blasphemy.
Charm cakes, a significant part of Southern weddings, are pastries that have little charms attached to a ribbon hiding inside for each of the bridesmaids to pull out and discover their fate! The anchor charm signifies a stable life, while the ring symbolizes marriage and the airplane suggests travel and adventure. Consider these the dixie version of a fortune cookie.
While you may find these at your local BJ’s or Costco, this s’more-like dessert originated in 1917 Kentucky after a coal miner had a craving for a sweet treat “as big as the moon.”
Sweet and ideal for deep frying, this white-fleshed fish is dipped into seasoned cornmeal and buttermilk, and is one of a southerner’s fave lunches. Pair catfish (one of the healthiest and cheapest foods in America) with a bucket of hush puppies and abundant tartar sauce and you’ve got yourself belly-filling (and possibly artery-clogging) meal.
Original Southern BBQ is truly incomplete without a good pulled pork sandwich or rack of ribs. In fact, southerners are so dedicated to their grill that they began a team called South Pork BBQ, which aims to have the “biggest party and the best BBQ at every event” and has been competing for over 18 years!
This gourmet taffy is sold exclusively via a wagon (which was the original vehicle used since 1915!) roaming the streets of New Orleans. Think of it as an old-fashioned ice cream truck, but for taffy!
Click here for 20 Flat-belly Hacks for Southern Cooking
Traditional Pecan Pie
Southerners don’t wait for Thanksgiving to enjoy this syrupy nutty pie. While pecan pie is a holiday favorite, we’re not surprised this ooey gooey tradition started in the South—after all, San Saba, Texas is “The Pecan Capital of The World.”