The South's Most Iconic Recipes of All Time

Emily's Red Beans and Rice
Photo: Peter Frank Edwards

They say that New Orleanians come out of the womb knowing how to make red beans and rice; same goes for Kentuckians with burgoo. Though there are some Southern dishes that every Georgian, Mississippian, and Tennessean alike should know, we like to give certain regions their "thing," whether it's shrimp-and-grits to the Lowcountry or chicken-fried steak to Texas. Really, Southern cooking is as diverse as those who cook it.

In almost every great memory we Southerners hold close, food was there. We'd bet large on that. All of our gatherings—from holidays to weekend cookouts—feature a long table full of plates and platters. From Hoppin' John to chicken-and-dumplings to red rice, these famous Southern soul food dishes deserve to be kept on the family table for generations to come.

Disclaimer: For sanity's sake, we left out staples like buttermilk biscuits, cornbread, pimiento cheese, squash casserole, and potlikker greens. These are understood.

Now, what's for dessert? Maybe one of these iconic Southern confections.

01 of 27

Southern Fried Green Tomatoes

Southern Fried Green Tomatoes
Greg DuPree; Food Styling: Rishon Hanners; Prop Styling: Christine Keely

Recipe: Southern Fried Green Tomatoes

While certainly not the only way to enjoy green tomatoes, this is simply the most delectable. The best fried green tomatoes are crispy, lightly coated slices of tangy green tomatoes, fried in vegetable oil or bacon grease.

02 of 27

Tomato Pie

Tomato Pie Recipe: Tomato, Cheddar, and Bacon Pie
Hector Sanchez

Recipe: Tomato, Cheddar, and Bacon Pie

We love in-season tomatoes so much that we'll bake them into pies. With its mayonnaise and shredded cheese, old-fashioned tomato pie has a decidedly retro appeal. But unlike retro dishes such as congealed salad, we'll chow this down any day.

03 of 27

Lowcountry Red Rice

Red Rice
Victor Protasio, Food Styling: Rishon Hanners; Prop Styling: Audrey Davis

Recipe: Jessica Harris' Red Rice

In the South, a dish can come with many names, and red rice falls into that family. Essentially a pilaf (also known as pilau, perloo, perlou, and so forth), red rice is a regional delicacy that might come packed with seafood, sausage, or chicken. Tomatoes, and often hot sauce, give its fiery hue. It's derived from the Gullah-Geechee culture in the Lowcountry.

04 of 27

Old-Fashioned Chicken And Dumplings

Old-Fashioned Chicken And Dumplings
Greg DuPree; Prop Styling: Mindi Shapiro Levine; Food Styling: Torie Cox

Recipe: Old-Fashioned Chicken And Dumplings

Does it get any cozier than chicken and dumplings? Down here, definitely not. Part resourceful Southern cuisine, part comfort home cooking, this classic dish is a hug in a bowl.

05 of 27

Classic Fried Chicken

Mama's Fried Chicken
Southern Living

Recipe: Mama's Fried Chicken

All we can think is, where are the mashed potatoes, collard greens, and biscuits? This is our most loved, most shared, most perfect fried chicken recipe ever.

06 of 27

Peach Cobbler

Easy Peach Cobbler Recipe
Southern Living

Recipe: Fresh Peach Cobbler

Peach cobbler is the classic of all classics. Be it by way of buckles, slumps, pandowdies, crisps, or cobblers—Southerners love a sweet, stewed fruit.

07 of 27

Kentucky Burgoo

Kentucky Slow-Cooker Burgoo
Antonis Achilleos; Food Styling: Emily Nabors Hall; Prop Styling: Audrey Davis

Recipe: Kentucky Slow-Cooker Burgoo

Meet burgoo. This storied stew is traditionally heavy on the meats (chicken, pork, mutton, or all three) and vegetables. The old adage puts it best: "If it walked, crawled, or flew, it goes in burgoo."

08 of 27

Hoppin' John

Classic Hoppin’ John
Alison Miksch; Prop Styling: Mary Clayton Carl; Food Styling: Mary-Claire Britton

Recipe: Classic Hoppin' John

Originally a staple of antebellum cooking, this dish became a promise of prosperity when served for the New Year. It comes together as a perfect blend of rice and black-eyed peas, usually flavored with ham hocks or bacon.

09 of 27

Okra Soup

Kardea Brown's Okra Soup with Shrimp
Johnny Autry; Prop and Food Styling: Charlotte L. Autry

Recipe: Kardea Brown's Okra Soup with Shrimp

A staple in Gullah-Geechee cooking, okra soup is time-honored and comforting. While the recipe is filled with delicious vegetables (you can use fresh or frozen), spices, and aromatics, one of the main components is the fresh shrimp stock.

10 of 27

Real Banana Pudding

Real Banana Pudding
Jennifer Davick

Recipe: Real Banana Pudding

This old-fashioned banana pudding takes a page straight from Grandmother's recipe box. It's a cool and creamy Southern staple that needs no other explanation.

11 of 27

Tomato Sandwich

Tomato Tea Sandwiches
Greg DuPree; Prop Styling: Kay E. Clarke; Food Styling: Cat Steele

Recipe: Tomato Tea Sandwiches

A Southern phenomenon, to be sure. A classic tomato sandwich is everything we need. Simple and statement-making, but with a no-frills attitude. Here's a cheat sheet: Slather one thick slice of good white bread with real mayonnaise, and top with one or two thick slices of fresh tomato and salt and black pepper to taste—though the more pepper, the better.

12 of 27


Shrimp and Okra Gumbo
Southern Living

Recipe: Shrimp and Okra Gumbo

In the realm of Louisiana cooking, gumbo is the original apogee. It's one of those dishes that real Southern cooks can conjure with heart and whatever's on hand—and it'll turn out amazing.

13 of 27

Frito Pie

Frito Pie
Southern Living

Recipe: Frito Pie

We should've known that Texas wasn't going to let a bowl of chili cut it for long. Instead, the Lone Star State went bigger by making this corn chip-laden chili dish. It's like a walking Tex-Mex taco that pays homage to the state's barbecue obsession. Often, it's served right out of the original chip bag.

14 of 27

Oyster Casserole

scalloped oysters
Antonis Achilleos; Prop Styling: Kathleen Varner; Food Styling: Emily Nabors Hall

Recipe: Scalloped Oysters

Whether we call it oyster dressing, oyster pie, or even scalloped oysters, oyster casserole is right at home on many Southerners' Christmas table. Typically, it includes a crunchy topping of soda crackers—or Saltines.

15 of 27

Sausage Gravy and Biscuits

Sausage Gravy and Biscuits
Southern Living

Recipe: Sausage Gravy and Biscuits

You know it'll be a good day if starting with a plate of split biscuits smothered in sausage gravy. Making it at home? This recipe lets the skillet do all the work, combining sausage, milk, and Southern-style biscuits together in perfect harmony.

16 of 27


Fried Shrimp-and-Okra Po’Boys
Antonis Achilleos; Prop Styling: Kay E. Clarke; Food Styling: Emily Nabors Hall

Recipe: Fried Shrimp-and-Okra Po'Boys

When we say eating a real-deal po'boy is a nothing less than a Southern (or New Orleans) rite of passage, we mean it. Because there are few moments in life quite like the one when you taste the perfectly crispy, deep-fried goodness that's packed into crusty, chewy French bread and dressed up with slatherings of gravy, lettuce, tomato, mayo, and pickles for the very first time. Hot sauce optional.

17 of 27

Chess Pie

Chess Pie
Southern Living

Recipe: Classic Chess Pie

Chess pie hails from an era of make-do pies. Using cornmeal and vinegar to thicken and flavor, this vintage pie from the South is what Mama would make if there was nothing else to do. It's that simple.

18 of 27

Crab Fried Rice

Sea Island Crab Fried Rice
Antonis Achilleos; Prop Styling: Kathleen Varner; Food Styling: Emily Nabors Hall

Recipe: Sea Island Crab Fried Rice

A popular dish found throughout the Lowcountry and Sea Islands, particularly in Gullah Geechie communities, crab rice is hearty, savory, and totally unique.

19 of 27

Brunswick Stew

Smoky Mountain Brunswick Stew
Southern Living

Recipe: Smoky Mountain Brunswick Stew

Imagine a whole community coming together to make a stew, throwing in meats (wild game and otherwise), spices, and seasonal vegetables with wild abandon. That's this dish. Each Southern cook has a secret combination of ingredients, but most agree that corn, butter or lima beans, and tomatoes are essential.

20 of 27


Melina Hammer

Recipe: Best Jambalaya

One of the hallmarks of Creole cooking, jambalaya makes a play for most popular. That might be due to the fact that it can be as quick and easy as you'd like, using whatever meats and seasonings you have on hand. Some think the name derives from the French word jambon, meaning ham, the main ingredient in many of the first jambalayas.

21 of 27

Chicken-Fried Steak

David's Chicken-Fried Steak with Redeye Gravy
Photo: Iain Bagwell; Styling: Annette Joseph

Recipe: Traditional Chicken-Fried Steak

Most agree that this glorious chicken-fried creation should be dubbed the national treasure of Texas. To deserve the name, chicken-fried steak should involve tenderized beef steak that's breaded, fried, and blanketed with a pepper-cream gravy. (Or, if preferred, old-fashioned red-eye gravy.)

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Senate Bean Soup

Ham-and-Bean Soup
Hector Manuel Sanchez

Recipe: Capitol Hill Bean Soup

If making any dish could be dubbed a patriotic act, this would be the one. This hearty bean soup has been on the menu in the Senate's restaurant every day since at least 1903.

23 of 27

Hummingbird Cake

Hummingbird Cake
Victor Protasio; Prop Styling: Kay E. Clarke; Food Styling: Torie Cox

Recipe: Hummingbird Cake

It's the most popular recipe in Southern Living history. Enough said. Simple spiced cakes with canned pineapple and bananas popped up in community cookbooks throughout the early 20th century, and this three-layer dream became the clear frontrunner. If this cake hasn't graced your plate, well, you're surely not from around here.

24 of 27

Shrimp and Grits

Lowcountry Shrimp and Grits
Iain Bagwell

Recipe: Lowcountry Shrimp and Grits

Once upon a time, a Southerner along the Gulf Coast thought it would be a genius idea to combine creamy grits with fresh shrimp and a rich, tomato-based sauce. He or she was correct. Genius.

25 of 27

Fried Pork Chops

Fried Pork Chops with Peas and Potatoes
Greg DuPree

Recipe: Fried Pork Chops with Peas and Potatoes

Smothered or fried, fried then smothered, smothered then topped with something fried—we don't care which combination. Pork chops are quickest way to a Southerner's heart. Especially when served with mashed potatoes, red beans and rice, or Texas toast.

26 of 27

Congealed Salad

Molded Cranberry Salad
Hector M Sanchez

Recipe: Molded Cranberry Salad

Even if it just sits there, and nobody knows why it's there, a congealed salad just wants to be included on the spread. Congealed salads were once quite stylish in the South, and we're happy to have rediscovered this jewel of a holiday recipe.

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Red Beans and Rice

Emily's Red Beans and Rice
Peter Frank Edwards

Recipe: Emily's Red Beans and Rice

Louisiana by nature, New Orleans by distinction, red beans and rice is a staple of the Cajun community. Every recipe is bound to be a little different, but that's what makes it so special to every person who cooks it. 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.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What are the Southern cooking styles?

    The multicultural and diverse history of the South influences the various cuisines. Some popular cooking styles include Cajun, Creole, Floribbean, Gullah, Low Country, and Soul Food.

  • What is traditional Southern food?

    Southern cuisines use elements from various cultures and global influences to create some of the most recognized foods associated with the region. Several cuisines emerged using local crops and resources from the surrounding environment, from barbecue and fried chicken to seafood and vegetables.

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