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11 Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving Traditions You'll Only Find in the South

When it comes to preparing a flavorful Thanksgiving dinner, the South is in a league of its own.
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Many of us are familiar with the story of the first Thanksgiving. Frequently, when we see images of the Wampanoag tribe breaking bread with the Pilgrims in a pastoral New England setting, a cornucopia of classic Thanksgiving staple dishes is present: turkey, mashed potatoes, cranberries, and pumpkin pie. And while other regions of the U.S. may have found ways to add their own flair to Thanksgiving dinner over time, it's safe to say that when it comes to flavorful, scrumptious down-home cooking—much like college football—the South is in a league of its own.

There's much gratitude for these 11 Thanksgiving traditions that you will only see in the South. Though Southern hospitality is as timeless as your grandmama's pearls, don't be surprised if you're not too keep on sharing as you go for a second and third helping of these delectable dishes. Cook up any of these dishes and serve them up alongside a college football TV binge, and y'all will have yourself a Thanksgiving win-win.

1

Southern-Style Collard Greens

southern collard greens
Courtesy of Whisk It Real Gud

Collard greens are practically a Southern status symbol—and on Thanksgiving, it is a delicious way to add a bit of color to your plate and break up all the starchy sides with some fiber-rich greens. While most traditional recipes for collard greens call for a ham hock, this version suggests slowly simmering your greens in a pot with smoked turkey wings. Plus, the variety of peppers and Cajun seasoning adds a spicy kick that will have you giving thanks for this pop of flavor.

Get the recipe from Whisk It Real Gud.

2

Sweet Potato Casserole

sweet potato casserole
Courtesy of Gift of Hospitality

The South is especially sweet on sweet potatoes—and Thanksgiving is truly their day to shine. A traditional Southern sweet potato casserole is often built with thick slices of sweet potatoes, lots of butter, generous amounts of brown sugar, and a pile of marshmallows on top. This dish also adds a splash of color to your Thanksgiving table, and your kids may even love the nutrient-packed potatoes thanks to the typical blanket of golden marshmallows. Some recipes even sweeten the pot with a couple of other Southern specialties—bourbon and pecans to crown the top.

Get the recipe from Gift of Hospitality.

3

Turducken

Turducken
Shutterstock

Take a deboned chicken, stuff it inside a deboned duck, and then again tuck it inside a deboned turkey—and you've got yourself a classic Southern turducken. A popular hit in the Big Easy, this dish first caught mainstream attention thanks to Louisiana-native, Chef Paul Prudhomme, who elevated it to celebrity status and even trademarked the name. In the '80s, folks began flocking to the turducken even more after witnessing NFL broadcaster John Madden gobble about the avian hybrid dish during Thanksgiving football games. An adventurous dish with Cajun roots, this recipe will have you and your family thankful for the chance to—as they say in New Orleans—laissez bon temps rouler!

Get the recipe for Paul Prudhomme's Turducken from Magic Seasoning Blends.

4

Crab Cakes

northern neck crab cakes
Courtesy of Garlic & Zest

Having grown up near the Chesapeake Bay in Southeast Virginia, crab is a ubiquitous part of Southern Thanksgiving traditions, says Lisa Lotts of Garlic & Zest.

"Many times we start our celebrations with crab cakes seared in a cast iron skillet," Lotts says.

Get the recipe from Garlic & Zest.

5

Sweet Potato Bake

sweet potato bake
Courtesy of Dollar General

Katie Ellison, senior manager of public relations at Dollar General, grew up in a small rural town in Kentucky. When she recounts some of her favorite childhood memories, what comes to mind is the Thanksgiving meal she and her classmates would be served in school every year.

"For dessert, it was always a sunshine bar. The bars are a pumpkin bar with cinnamon and a drizzle of icing on top—and every school in Kentucky served them, Ellison says. "One recipe especially makes me smile and remember those tasty Thanksgiving school lunches [is] our Sweet Potato Bake, which is very similar in taste and ingredients to that annual sweet treat, the Sunshine Bar."

Best of all, you can get a taste of sunshine and Southern nostalgia without breaking the bank; this recipe can be made using ingredients you can find at a Dollar General store. Compared to a traditional sweet potato casserole, this recipe for a sweet potato bake cuts out more than 50% of the added sugar.

Get the recipe from Dollar General.

6

Corn Pudding

bacon green chile and corn pudding
Courtesy of Garlic & Zest

Corn, of course, is a popular Thanksgiving side dish in many parts of the country, and this can be traced all the way back to the first Thanksgiving feast in Plymouth, MA. In the South, sweet corn is often whipped up into a thick, creamy pudding with a delicious custardy consistency.

Get the recipe from Garlic & Zest.

7

Sweet Potato Biscuits

sweet potato biscuits
Courtesy of The Seasoned Mom

Southern grandmothers tend to be masters at the are of baking biscuits, and these sweet potato biscuits are no exception. Straight out of a farmhouse kitchen in Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains, this old fashioned recipe has been a Thanksgiving favorite among Virginians since the 18th century.

Get the recipe from The Seasoned Mom.

8

Cornbread Dressing

cornbread dressing
Courtesy of Louisiana Woman Blog

Although most regions of the U.S. refer to this dish as stuffing, Southerners in the Deep South typically refer to it as "dressing." Cornbread dressing, in particular, often gets fancy for the big feast with the addition of sausage, celery, onions, and herbs.

Get the recipe from Louisiana Woman Blog.

9

Sweet Tea

bourbon sweet tea cocktail
Courtesy of A Good Life Farm

Southerners are sweet on this tea any time of the year, no matter the occasion. But for holidays and celebrations, in particular, adding a little booze to the mix by pairing your sweet tea with Kentucky bourbon is the only proper way to celebrate gratitude and share a toast while giving thanks.

Get the recipe from A Good Life Farm.

10

Mac 'n Cheese

southern baked mac and cheese
Courtesy of Sweet Tea + Thyme

It's no secret that the South loves their macaroni and cheese—and what's not to love about this pasta dish baked to golden-brown perfection with an ooey, gooey, cheesy center? A soul food staple, this dish will have you and your Thanksgiving guests drooling while begging for more. Best of all, this side dish tends to be a crowd-pleaser among vegetarians, making it an excellent alternative to fill up on when not piling a plate high with turkey.

Get the recipe from Sweet Tea + Thyme.

11

Bourbon Pumpkin Pie

pumpkin pie with gingersnap crust
Courtesy of Garlic & Zest

Pumpkin pie is, of course, the upper crust at every Thanksgiving meal. And in the South, bourbon is often the chef's kiss.

Get the recipe from Garlic & Zest.

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