25 Classic Recipes Every Southerner Should Know by Heart
Simply put, there are some recipes to know by heart. For Southerners, it’s like learning the alphabet, from A (ambrosia salad) to Z (zesty lemon pie). From buttermilk biscuits to skillet cornbread, gumbo to dumplings, these Southern dishes are the bones from which every weeknight dinner and holiday feast alike are built—and we'll be darned if we ever saw Mama look at a recipe card while making any one of these.
Southern food is all about comfort—and speaking of comfort, we don’t like to stray from our staples. We rounded up our favorite Southern recipes that should be memorized and mastered, singling out those that can be easily remembered and tailored on the fly. For example, you'll see more than one of the Cajun persuasion. Why? Because we've never met a rice dish we didn't like, especially one that lets us wing it a little. Below, find the recipes every Southerner should know how to make.
How To Make The World's Best Buttermilk Biscuits
Recipe: Our Favorite Buttermilk Biscuits
Southerners have more than mastered the art of the flaky, buttery biscuit. In our book, we’ve made it a true Southern staple. And, if you ask us, there’s nothing better on a Sunday morning breakfast table than a tray full of warm, flaky biscuits waiting to be buttered and thoroughly enjoyed by the whole family. Talk about a morning treat! Always ready to be filled with everything from eggs and bacon to jam, a plate piled with breakfast biscuits is truly a morning blessing in the South.
With that in mind, the Southern Living Test Kitchen set out to find the most standout buttermilk biscuit recipes from across the South so we could bring you what we fully believe is the very best. To find the perfect buttermilk biscuit formula, our Test Kitchen experts whipped up hundreds of biscuit recipes to land on our all-time best batch of buttermilk biscuits. They're amazing. In fact, we’re willing to declare that they're the best biscuits ever. But, don’t just take our word for us. Why not whip up a batch for yourself? Here we demonstrate exactly how to prepare this tasty homemade treat.
Whether you're on the side of fluffy vs. flaky or butter vs. lard, this homemade biscuit recipe will please every Southerner you know. Top these warm, soft biscuits with a pat of butter, a drizzle of honey, some freshly made sausage, or a hearty helping of Chocolate Gravy – we don't discriminate. This delightful biscuit recipe is perfect for serving at breakfast with a plate full of eggs or as a side for lunch and dinner. (Trust us, you'll want to eat these biscuits at all three meals and anytime in between!) Be sure to make at least one full batch, because these buttermilk biscuits are sure to go fast.
Mama's Fried Chicken
Recipe: Mama’s Fried Chicken
The best thing about fried chicken: It doesn't ask for much. All you need is a simple coating of seasoned flour after two hours of letting the chicken soak in buttermilk. (That step, however simple, is imperative.) Then, crispy fried perfection.
Recipe: Sausage Gravy
There's really no excuse not to know how to make this three-ingredient recipe that bolsters any blissful Southern breakfast.
Recipe: Chicken Bog
You might know this old-fashioned recipe by any number of names, but regardless, it's always a delicious pot full of chicken and rice. At the heart, it calls for cooking rice in chicken stock, adding shredded chicken, and going heavy on the pepper. Anything else is fair game.
Recipe: Basic Pimiento Cheese
Is it really a party without pimiento? We think not. Southerners know that just a few dashes of Worcestershire, or a couple sprinkles of cayenne, make the difference between basic and out-of-this-world.
Red Beans and Rice
Louisiana by origin, red beans and rice should be a dinner staple throughout the South. Starting with the same aromatics as most—onion, bell pepper, celery—it's a heavenly free-for-all after that. For some, ham hocks, andouille sausage, or bacon are a must; for others, it's pickled or salt pork. Some serve it with fried pork chops; others omit the smoked sausage in the pot and serve it with a link instead.
Recipe: Basic Deviled Eggs
This favorite Southern snack and side doesn't often get the credit it's due. Sure, it's never the star of the spread; but well-seasoned deviled eggs disappear quicker than any casserole.
Recipe: Savannah Red Rice
Lowcountry cooks have been making red rice for nearly 300 years, a dish that draws on Native American, Italian, and African cultures. Essentially a pilaf (also known as pilau, perloo, perlou, and so forth), red rice is a regional delicacy that lets you play around with ingredients. Tomatoes are the must-have ingredient!
Shout Hallelujah Potato Salad
Old-Fashioned Chicken and Dumplings
Here's a Mama-approved hack: Use refrigerated piecrust for the dumplings. It's the time-saving tip that'll get chicken and dumplings on the dinner table a little bit faster.
In the realm of Louisiana cooking, gumbo is Mama's specialty. A Southern cook can conjure this stew with whatever's on hand—be it Andouille sausage, chicken, shrimp, or okra. (Okra makes a great thickening agent.) The base requires aromatics like onion, bell pepper, and celery. Hot sauce is always appreciated.
Chicken-Fried Steak with Gravy
Recipe: Traditional Chicken-Fried Steak
Much like fried chicken, the magic of this Southern classic lies in its humble simplicity. Seasoned, dredged in flour, dipped in egg-milk mixture, and pan-fried in oil—that's about it. Oh, but don't dare forget about the pepper-cream gravy, which is made from the drippings.
Recipe: Classic Fried Catfish
Frying up fresh catfish is something Southerners do when feeling frisky. Stone-ground cornmeal makes for the crispiest crust you've ever tasted, and hearty seasoning will steer you home.
Old-School Squash Casserole
Shrimp and Grits
Recipe: Shrimp and Grits
The moment that a coast-dwelling Southerner decided to combine creamy grits with fresh shrimp should go down in history. If you've lived in the South long enough, a good pot of grits should basically manifest on command—then layer it with shrimp, bacon, and its dressed-up drippings.
Recipe: Southern-Style Collard Greens
Collard greens make it easy. Don't separate them from their favorite friends—ham hocks and bacon—and we won't have any problems. Apple cider vinegar, sugar, and garlic give a nice touch.
Stovetop Chicken Pie
Recipe: Stovetop Chicken Pot Pie
Chicken pot pie, though comforting and classic, is a little involved. This stove-top rendition...is not. Bake buttermilk biscuits, and cover them generously with this creamy mixture of chopped chicken, whatever frozen veggies you prefer, and mushrooms.
Just like what they say about Kentucky's burgoo: “If it walked, crawled, or flew, it goes in Brunswick stew.” Each Southern cook has a secret combination of ingredients, but most agree that corn, butter or lima beans, and tomatoes are essential.
Recipe: Ben Mims' Perfect Cornbread
A skillet of perfect cornbread will come together every single time if you learn this simple ratio. Browned butter is the extra step that gives this cornbread its "perfect" title.
Recipe: Cheddar Cheese Straws
These might be the hallmark of Southern hosting. In fact, a batch of these simple cheese straws can carry an entire party on its back. Learn it, and learn it well.
Classic Egg Salad
Classic Poppy Seed Chicken
Recipe: Classic Poppy Seed Chicken
From the church halls to the sorority houses throughout the South, you'll find this classic creamy chicken dish. Speedy and easy to prepare, the six-ingredient recipe should be a crime not to memorize.
Recipe: Banana Pudding
Though we love our cakes and pies, nothing is easier to know and love than this classic banana pudding. It takes a page straight from grandmother's recipe box. (Note: You can rebel by using that vanilla pudding packet in your pantry.)
Recipe: Easy Peach Cobbler
Peach cobbler is the ultimate classic. Even if you practically burn water on the stove, you can make this easy six-ingredient recipe.
Recipe: Rum Balls
This boozy confection is a Southern holiday favorite worth knowing. We'll vouch for any recipe that features one-third ingredients from the bar cart, while the other four ingredients are gloriously storebought.