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13 Old-Fashioned Food Terms You'll Only Hear in the South

These fun words for iconic dishes are regularly used in the South and in Southern restaurants.

The South is known for its rich culture, influential music scene, warm hospitality, and, of course, delicious food. From po'boys to possum pies, the Southern states have outdone themselves by providing many delicious dishes with some names that are just as equally unique.

If you ever wondered what "chow-chow" was or where Hummingbird Cake got its name, then keep reading ahead. Many of these iconic dishes originated in Southern homes or restaurants and those are the places to taste these heartwarming dishes. While these dishes are often imitated elsewhere, the best place to eat them is where they were born.

Here are 13 old-fashioned food terms you'll hear in the South and traditional Southern restaurants. And for more, check out the 7 Best Fast-Food Chains You Can Only Find in The South.


chitlins southern

Chitlins, which are sometimes referred to as chitterlings, are a special staple in American soul food cooking. Made typically from hog intestines, chitlins are stewed for hours, battered, then fried, and they're usually served with apple cider vinegar and hot sauce.

Besides being a popular dish in the South, especially in barbecue and soul food restaurants, chitlins are also a delicacy served worldwide and can be found in many Spanish, Asian, French, Jamaican, and Latin American kitchens and restaurants.

Giblet gravy

giblet gravy

This cozy Southern dish doesn't let any parts of the bird go to waste. Giblet gravy incorporates the gizzard, heart, and neck of the chicken into a rich sauce you can serve with chicken or turkey.

For a top-notch serving of giblet gravy, make a trip down to Dallas, Texas, and visit The Meat Shop. The butcher shop and eatery uses all the clippings of a turkey in a luxuriously rich stock that can be devoured on top of their quality meat products or in a bowl all on its own.


hush puppies on wax paper with dip
Brent Hofacker/Shutterstock

The word "hushpuppy" may evoke visions of adorable pets or a popular old-school shoe brand if you are not from the South. However, in Southern states, "hushpuppy" is the name for a deep-fried food made of eggs and flour and mixed with cornmeal, a popular staple that originated with the Native Americans. Hushpuppies are often served as a side dish and sometimes are made with garlic, whole-kernel corn, and peppers as well.



Hoecakes, also at times referred to as Johnnycakes, are a type of cornmeal flatbread that is made using ground corn, salt, and water. The dish, which is often served with sweet toppings such as honey, maple syrup, and fruit, dates back hundreds of years and has roots in southern Native American cooking.

Hummingbird Cake

slice of hummingbird cake with cream cheese frosting

Don't worry, none of our buzzing feathered friends make an appearance in this delectable dessert. Hummingbird Cake, which is a dessert favorite down South, features a cake made with banana, pineapple, cinnamon, vanilla, and pecans, served with a sweet cream cheese frosting. The cake, which actually originated in Jamaica, is named after the island's national bird.

Possum Pie

chocolate pie
Ekaterina Smirnova/Shutterstock

No, possum pie is not what it sounds like it is. Instead, possum pie is a sweet dessert typically made using chocolate custard, vanilla pudding, pecan, cream cheese, and sour cream. Exceptionally popular in Arkansas, this mouthwatering treat, which is covered in whipped cream, is named after the opossum's cleverly deceivable nature.

Corn Fritters

corn fritter balls with dip

Corn fritters, a scrumptious snack consisting of corn kernels, flour, egg, and milk, is an easy-to-make dish served in many Southern homes and restaurants. Typically topped with fruit, jam, and honey, this delicacy has roots in both Native American and Indonesian cuisine.

 8 Southern Foods That Aren't Actually From the South


bowl of chow chow mustard relish with spoon
Merrimon Crawford/Shutterstock

Chow-chow, a popular Southern condiment, is a delicious relish made from a mixture of vegetables including tomatoes, onions, cauliflower, peas, and sometimes cabbage. It is believed that this tasty dish made its way south when the Acadian people of Nova Scotia migrated down to Louisiana. Served on its own or on top of fish, hot dogs, or hamburgers, this delicacy will add some extra "oomph" to any meal.

Killed Lettuce Salad

pile of fresh and wilted lettuce

No worries, Killed Lettuce is not as violent as its name may suggest. In actuality, it is a popular dish served in the southern Appalachian Mountain region. Made from greens and onion, and tossed in hot bacon grease, Killed Lettuce gets its name from the wilted look they take on when the warm drippings are poured over it.

Shoofly Pie

Shoofly pie

Shoofly pie is a popular treat found down South. Made from ingredients such as molasses, sugar, flour, and egg, the pie features a crunchy top layer of brown sugar crumbs. Some say the baked good got its name from the act of bakers shooing flies away as it was being made, while others think that the name may be derived from the old 1800s song, "Shoo Fly, Don't Bother Me."


slugburger with onion rings

Slugburgers may sound like they are made from some unique ingredients, but we can assure you there are no slime-covered mollusks between these buns. Instead, slugburgers are meat and soy patties deep-fried in oil and often served with a side of french fries or onion rings. The burger, which has roots in Northeast Mississippi, is said to be named after the slang term for the small metal disk once used in vending machines.

Hoppin' John

hoppin john in bowl

Hoppin' John, made from black-eyed peas, rice, onions, and sliced bacon, is a Southern favorite that is most often served on New Year's Day for good luck. Hoppin' John's roots are in West African cuisine, inspired most specifically by the Senegalese recipe for a similar dish called thiebou niebe.

 16 Old-Fashioned Food Terms You'll Only Hear In The Midwest



Maybe one of the most famous Southern sandwiches, the Po'boy is a traditional Louisiana sandwich made from roast beef, fried seafood, crawfish, or oysters and served on New Orleans French bread. If you are heading down to Mardi Gras this year, be sure to try one of these lunchtime favorites while in town.

Whether you grew up in the South or just have an affinity for Southern food, these are some oddly named—but delicious—options you won't want to miss.

A previous version of this article was originally published on Jun 23, 2022.

Brittany Natale
Brittany Natale is a food and lifestyle writer. Read more about Brittany
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