20 Sweet Tea Recipes That Celebrate the Old-School Sipper

Big-Batch Spiked Arnold Palmers
Photo: Victor Protasio; Prop Styling: Heather Chadduck Hillegas; Food Styling: Emily Nabors Hall

Sweet tea isn't just some drink we tend to enjoy down in the South. It's the drink. It sits on the table as we tell stories and laugh with loved ones and it's there waiting for us when the summer heat spanks us silly. While a traditional Southern sweet tea recipe can be very simple and hard to veer away from (why mess with perfection?), we've got just as many variations that turn this old-fashioned classic into a fun new sipper or sweet treat. From bourbon-spiked Arnold Palmers that are pitcher-ready to be your new porch cocktail, to sweet tea-infused cakes that make the ultimate family barbecue dessert, and even sweet tea-centric sides and main dishes like Sweet Tea-Brined Fried Chicken, these sweet tea recipes maximize sweet tea's potential so you can enjoy the company of this iced-down Southern staple all summer long. Here are 20 recipes that'll have you immediately grabbing the tea bags and sugar.

01 of 20

Classic Sweet Tea

Classic Sweet Tea
Alison Miksch

Recipe: Classic Sweet Tea

There is no other Southern drink as iconic as sweet tea, and you should really master the basics before embarking on any crazy detours. Baking soda is the secret ingredient to good ole' Southern tea.

02 of 20

Big-Batch Spiked Arnold Palmers

Big-Batch Spiked Arnold Palmers
Victor Protasio; Prop Styling: Heather Chadduck Hillegas; Food Styling: Emily Nabors Hall

Recipe: Big-Batch Spiked Arnold Palmers

Spiked with bourbon, this crowd-pleasing Arnold Palmer is just for the adults, and you won't have to worry about constantly stirring up more, thanks to the big-batch ingredient list. The boozy mix of sweet tea and lemonade is a refreshing complement to any outdoor barbecue or bash.

03 of 20

Strawberry-Basil Sweet Tea

Strawberry-Basil Sweet Tea
Johnny Autry; Food and Prop Styling: Charlotte L. Autry

Recipe: Strawberry-Basil Sweet Tea

We can bet you have never had a sweet tea like this one, but you'll be so happy you veered from your mother's old recipe, if only for the weekend. Strawberries and basil make a fragrant, fruity duo.

04 of 20

Sweet Tea-and-Lemonade Cake

Sweet Tea-and-Lemonade Cake
Hector Sanchez

Recipe: Sweet Tea-and-Lemonade Cake

We'll take our glass of sweet tea—and eat it, too! Literally. This Sweet Tea-and-Lemonade Cake is an Arnold Palmer in a slice.

05 of 20

Bourbon-Peach Iced Tea

Bourbon-Peach Iced Tea
Antonis Achilleos; Prop Stylist: Kay E. Clarke; Food Stylist: Karen Rankin

Recipe: Bourbon-Peach Iced Tea

Did someone call for a new spiked summer drink to enjoy by the pool or at the outdoor barbecue? This peach-infused bourbon tea is just the thing you need.

06 of 20

Sweet Tea Mule

Sweet Tea Mule
Victor Protasio; Prop Styling: Audrey Davis; Food Styling: Emily Nabors Hall

Recipe: Sweet Tea Mule

Ginger beer, bourbon, and lime juice transform basic sweet tea into a refreshing cocktail you'll want to lap up on any warm afternoon. This summer sipper is tasty enough to be your house signature drink.

07 of 20

Sweet Tea Bundt

Sweet Tea Bundt Cake
Micah A. Leal

Recipe: Sweet Tea Bundt

We promised "new," didn't we? This is what we call a slice of sweetness. When the cake is out of the oven, it's brushed with a sweet tea syrup that gives the flavor of sweet tea and moistens the entire cake.

08 of 20

Pineapple-Sweet Tea Punch

Pineapple-Sweet Tea Punch
Johnny Autry; Prop and Food Styling: Charlotte L. Autry

Recipe: Pineapple-Sweet Tea Punch

Add major flair to the pitcher with fresh pineapple and pineapple juice. You can even spike this tropical sweet tea with a dash of vodka for the adults, if preferred.

09 of 20

Slow-Cooker Ginger, Sweet Tea, and Whiskey Short Ribs

Slow-Cooker Ginger, Sweet Tea, and Whiskey Short Ribs
Photo: Hector Manuel Sanchez; Prop Styling: Mindi Shapiro Levine; Food Styling: Torie Cox

Recipe: Slow-Cooker Ginger, Sweet Tea, and Whiskey Short Ribs

Oh, you didn't see this one coming? Incorporate everyone's favorite Southern sweet drink into the savory taste of dinnertime with this melt-in-your-mouth recipe that absolutely bursts with interesting flavors.

10 of 20

Sweet Tea Mint Julep

Mint Julep Sweet Tea
Jennifer Davick

Recipe: Sweet Tea Mint Julep

This iced cocktail features the best of two classic Southern drinks: the mint julep and sweet tea. For best results, sip in a rocking chair on a front porch somewhere.

11 of 20

Sweet Tea-Brined Fried Chicken

Sweet Tea-Brined Fried Chicken
Photo: Hector Sanchez

Recipe: Sweet Tea-Brined Fried Chicken

Brining is essential to having the juiciest fried chicken ever, but using a salty-sweet brine of brown sugar and freshly brewed tea is actually a genius combination that adds slightly more intricate flavor. Everyone will be asking about it—and for seconds.

12 of 20

Spiced Tea Bourbon Refresher

Spiced Tea Bourbon Refresher
Becky Luigart Stayner

Recipe: Spiced Tea Bourbon Refresher

Consider this an extra spunky Arnold Palmer. Fresh-brewed tea infused with spices, ice-cold lemonade, Southern-made bourbon, honey-infused simple syrup, and orange wedges are ready to take your porch-sipping to the next level.

13 of 20

Sweet-Tea Brined Ham

Pepper Jelly and Ginger Glazed Ham
Photo: Iain Bagwell

Recipe: Sweet-Tea Brined Ham

Why brine your ham with sweet tea? You'll have to try it to find out. Hint: it'll sweeten up both the flavor and the texture. You'll never want to make ham any other way.

14 of 20

Sweet Tea Julep Pops

Sweet Tea Julep Pops
Becky Luigart-Stayner; Prop styling: Caroline M. Cunningham; Food styling: Vanessa McNeil Rocchio

Recipe: Sweet Tea Julep Pops

Why not turn not one, but two of your favorite beverages into a refreshing (not to mention, boozy) summertime treat? Pull one of these bad boys out of the freezer to cool off and get the party started on a hot day. Seriously, there's nothing not to like about this recipe.

15 of 20

Blackberry Cucumber Sweet Tea

Sipping this Blackberry Cucumber Sweet Tea is so refreshing—it may as well transport you right to the spa. This resort-worthy drink is uber refreshing and showcases both the crisp cucumbers and the succulent blackberries alongside classic Southern tea.

16 of 20

John Somerall's Sweet Tea-Brined Smoked Turkey

John’s Sweet Tea-Brined Smoked Turkey
Victor Protasio; Food Styling: Margaret Monroe Dickey; Prop Styling: Audrey Davis

Recipe: John Somerall's Sweet Tea-Brined Smoked Turkey

Dog-ear these instructions for your next occasion because you won't want to forget this sweet tea-brined smoked turkey recipe. Balance out the delicious sweet tea flavors with a touch of heat for a turkey dinner that will blow your guests away.

17 of 20

Pineapple-Basil Tea

Pineapple-Basil Tea
Iain Bagwell

Recipe: Pineapple-Basil Tea

Punch up your sweet tea with pineapple and basil. This surprising flavor combination is super fresh, slightly tropical, a touch peppery from the basil, and oh-so sweet.

18 of 20

Ginger-and-Honey Sweet Tea

Ginger-and-Honey Sweet Tea
Jennifer Davick

Recipe: Ginger-and-Honey Sweet Tea

Rather than sugar or simple syrup, this tea is sweetened with honey, making it oh-so tasty and just a little bit different than your usual sweet tea. Adding freshly grated ginger to the mix is a delightful enhancement that adds levels of flavor for sweet-and-spicy iced tea.

19 of 20

Sweet Tea Rice

Sweet Tea Rice
Jennifer Davick; Styling: Lydia DeGaris Pursell

Recipe: Sweet Tea Rice

If you're like us, you're gung-ho about this idea already. What if we told you that this recipe also includes exciting variations like Sweet Tea Rice Tabbouleh and Sweet Tea Rice with Jalapeño, Peaches, and Pecans? They're the sweet-tea infused surprises that we never knew we needed in our lives.

20 of 20

Blueberry-Lemon Iced Tea

Blueberry-Lemon Iced Tea
Van Chaplin; Styling: Rebecca Kracke Gordon

Recipe: Blueberry-Lemon Iced Tea

A fruity twist to tea, this will be your go-to drink of the summer to sip on hot days. Blueberries add a crisp tartness while the lemon is a much-needed refreshing zing.

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