25 Essential Recipes Every Southern Kid Should Know Before Heading to College

Quick and Easy Spaghetti Bolognese
Photo: Greg DuPree

Learning to cook is no easy feat, especially when learning to cook the comfort food Southerners grow up eating. Nothing makes you realize just how much work goes into those buttermilk biscuits until you're off on your own, covered in flour and crying on the kitchen floor. But our mamas would never dream of raising quitters, and every generation gets there eventually—and has to return the favor. We know that sending the younger generation off without knowing the basic ins and outs of cooking a creamy pot of grits, cheesy pasta casserole, or gooey last-minute cobbler simply won't do. There are some essential recipes that every Southern kid heading to college would do well to memorize like the alphabet; and we'll be here waiting in the wings for a frantic call, of course, ready to tell what temperature the oven needs to be on for the crispy potatoes or roasted chicken. These easy recipes for college students are delicious, simple, yet still capture that Southern comfort feel. So check this list, and check it twice, because it'll make a huge difference once freshman year kicks off.

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These Renditions of Southern Favorites Will Satisfy Your Busy Student

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Sausage-Potato Frittata

Sausage-Potato Frittata
Victor Protasio

Recipe: Sausage-Potato Frittata

What makes a frittata such a versatile dish? It's like an omelette filled with delicious ingredients of your choosing, but baked in a dish for ultimate ease. (That also makes it great for amateur cooks, since no flipping is required!) This hearty casserole is packed with smoked sausage, baby red potatoes, eggs, milk, and Monterey Jack cheese.

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Breakfast Enchiladas

Breakfast Enchiladas
Hector Manuel Sanchez

Recipe: Breakfast Enchiladas

For all of the taco lovers, this one is for you. Start the day off right with these easy and cheesy breakfast enchiladas. If making a real-deal spread, serve with toppings like avocado, fresh cilantro, and grape tomatoes.

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Creamy Parmesan Grits

Creamy Parmesan Grits
Alison Miksch; Styling: Buffy Hargett Miller

Recipe: Creamy Parmesan Grits

Grits are a breakfast essential down in the South, and this creamy recipe is packed with Parmesan cheese. Don't worry if you don't have Parmesan cheese on hand, use one of your other favorite cheeses, such as Gouda or Cheddar. If you can whip up a pot of these heavenly grits, you're not off to a bad start.

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Brioche French Toast

Brioche French Toast
Photo: Lee Harrelson; Styling: Jan Gautro

Recipe: Brioche French Toast

French toast is a true delicacy, but can be made with storebought bread and only a handful of other ingredients. Top with powdered sugar and maple syrup, and you've made yourself a gourmet breakfast that's actually so easy and quick.

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Quick and Easy Spaghetti Bolognese

Quick and Easy Spaghetti Bolognese
Greg DuPree

Recipe: Quick and Easy Spaghetti Bolognese

We can whip up this hearty meat sauce in just 25 minutes? Now that's speaking our language. Make extra sauce to freeze for later or to have as leftovers; and you'll have a great time-saver on your hands.

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Classic Grilled Cheese

Ham and Dijon Grilled Cheese
Photo: Stephen DeVries, Prop Styling: Missie Neville Crawford; Food Styling: Torie Cox

Recipe: Classic Grilled Cheese

We fully believe in this cheesy, melty, perfectly golden brown classic grilled cheese. It's a next-level basic recipe that everyone should know how to make with their eyes closed. But if you're feeling adventurous, try one of these knockout grilled cheese variations: Caramelized Onion Grilled Cheese, Ham and Dijon Grilled Cheese, and Brie, Fig, and Arugula Grilled Cheese.

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Classic Baked Macaroni and Cheese

Classic Baked Macaroni and Cheese
Beth Dreiling Hontzas

Recipe: Classic Baked Macaroni and Cheese

Even though it's tempting to grab the boxed stuff—No one is watching!—you're always going to need to know how to make a perfectly melty, creamy dish of macaroni and cheese. Whether gearing up for a 'Friendsgiving' feast or class potluck, this classic recipe will be the crowd favorite.

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Bacon-Pimiento Guacamole

Collard Dip
Hector Manuel Sanchez

Recipe: Bacon-Pimiento Guacamole

Everyone loves guacamole; and the sooner you figure out the perfect recipe, the better. Luckily, we just gave you another reason to fall in love with it: bacon. (Oh, and pimientos.) Perfect for tailgates and parties, this guacamole can be dumbed down if in a hurry. Avocados, lime juice, salt, and cilantro are the essentials!

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Southwest Chicken Tortillas

Southwest Chicken Tortillas
Greg DuPree

Recipe: Southwest Chicken Tortillas

When you're young, Taco Tuesday might as well be any day of the week. Microwaveable rice and pre-cooked chicken make this recipe quick and easy, but a homemade chipotle lime crema makes it taste and look so much better.

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Ranch Turkey Burgers

Ranch Turkey Burgers
Photo: Greg DuPree; Prop Styling: Kay E. Clarke; Food Styling: Torie Cox

These tangy turkey burgers let you go lighter using lean turkey meat. Though these are flavored with a homemade ranch seasoning, a less-experienced cook can easily sub in a ranch seasoning packet. (Who doesn't love a quick-fix trick?) If you want to show off a little bit, try our decadent Pimiento Cheese-Bacon Burgers.

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Crispy Potatoes

Crispy Potatoes
Photo: Hector Manuel Sanchez; Prop Styling: Buffy Hargett Miller; Food Styling: Katelyn Hardwick

Recipe: Crispy Potatoes

When making classic crispy potatoes in the oven, little tips make the difference between decent and amazing. First: Make sure you don't crowd the pan. Second: Choose a white potato that isn't too waxy or too starchy, such as the russet, Yukon gold, red, or fingerling.

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Soulful Chicken Soup

Soulful Chicken Soup
Iain Bagwell

Recipe: Soulful Chicken Soup

No matter how old you are, craving chicken noodle soup on a cold winter night or when you're feeling less-than-great just happens. This recipe is full of fragrant herbs, wide egg noodles, and aromatic veggies, making it a classic recipe that deserves to be passed down.

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Lemon-Rosemary-Garlic Chicken and Potatoes

Lemon-Rosemary-Garlic Chicken and Potatoes
Becky Luigart Stayner

Recipe: Lemon-Rosemary-Garlic Chicken and Potatoes

Knowing how to roast a chicken falls under lifelong essentials—and throw a sheet pan into the mix, along with some hearty vegetables? Dinnertime perfection. A bold lemon-rosemary-garlic trio makes this recipe one of the best ones to learn first.

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Creamy Chicken Alfredo Casserole

Creamy Chicken Alfredo Casserole
Greg DuPree

Recipe: Creamy Chicken Alfredo Casserole

Being off on your own makes you crave one thing: comfort food. No one said that comfort food needs to take forever or be overly complicated, though. Rotisserie chicken, jars of Alfredo sauce and pesto, and pre-shredded cheese make this indulgent casserole almost too easy.

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Basic Pimiento Cheese

Basic Pimiento Cheese
Jennifer Causey; Prop Styling: Christine Keely; Food Styling: Torie Cox

Recipe: Basic Pimiento Cheese​​​​​​​

This crowd-pleasing Southern spread goes with any occasion, whether served as a dip or between two slices of bread. But for beginners, there are two game-changing steps: hand-shredding the cheese and using diced jarred pimientos (not sliced).

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Sheet Pan Nachos

Sheet Pan Nachos
Greg DuPree

Recipe: Sheet Pan Nachos

Using just one skillet and one baking sheet, these nachos are set to be a football tailgate favorite or late-night snack staple. These loaded, flavorful nachos are full of Southwestern-style toppings.

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White Lightning Chicken Chili

White Lightning Chicken Chili
Becky Luigart Stayner

Recipe: White Lightning Chicken Chili

This comforting chili is ready in just 30 minutes, making it a no-brainer for busy schedules. Green chiles, shredded chicken, and navy beans give heartiness and flavor—and it'll have you set with leftovers! Everyone should have a staple chili recipe on hand.

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Sheet Pan Pizza with Corn, Tomatoes, and Sausage

Sheet Pan Pizza with Corn, Tomatoes, and Sausage
Caitlin Bensel; Prop Styling: Claire Spollen; Food Styling: Anna Hampton

Recipe: Sheet Pan Pizza with Corn, Tomatoes, and Sausage

Pizza...in a sheet pan? That makes us want to forget the delivery number altogether. This easy summer pizza is topped with fresh corn, bell peppers, plum tomatoes, and hot Italian sausage; but you can switch up the toppings according to what you're craving.

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Roasted Root Vegetables

Stuffing-Stuffed Onions
Photo: Iain Bagwell; Styling: Caroline M. Cunningham 

Recipe: Roasted Root Vegetables

Roasted vegetables might be the most foolproof way to make sure any college kid is actually packing some veggies into the weekly menu. The savory, seasoned flavor beats out blanched green beans or broccoli any day. It's deceptively easy, and you can mix and match vegetables as you wish.

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Tomato Carbonara

Tomato Carbonara
Alison Miksch; Prop Styling: Kay E. Clarke; Food Styling: Torie Cox

Recipe: Tomato Carbonara

A little more elevated than your basic spaghetti, this tomato carbonara will make you feel like a five-star chef, but it doesn't take nearly as much work or as many ingredients as it looks. Cherry tomatoes add pops of summery brightness, while fragrant herbs add major flavor. The kicker? Definitely the bacon.

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Kale and Sweet Potato Salad with Chicken

Kale and Sweet Potato Salad with Chicken Recipe
Victor Protasio; Prop Styling: Mary Clayton Carl; Food Styling: Emily Nabors Hall

When it comes time to put down the pizza and pick up a health hick, this delicious salad won't make the transition harder than it needs to be. It offers a wholesome, filling meal with sweet potatoes and chicken.

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Lemon Vinaigrette

Lemon-Shallot Vinaigrette
Hector Sanchez; Styling: Buffy Hargett Miller

Recipe: Lemon Vinaigrette

With a classic citrus vinaigrette under your belt, salads will get just a little bit more delicious—and usually a little healthier too! Dijon mustard and white wine vinegar give a tangy kick to this lemony vinaigratte recipe. Being able to make your own salad dressing will always save you in a pinch.

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So Good Brownies

So Good Brownies
Jennifer Davick

Recipe: So Good Brownies

The name says it all. These brownies are not only simply amazing, but don't require a bunch of complicated steps or ingredients. When the late-night chocolate craving hits, knowing how to whip up these bad boys will come in handy.

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Easy Peach Cobbler

Easy Peach Cobbler
Iain Bagwell; Prop Styling: Mindi Shapiro Levine; Food Styling: Torie Cox

Recipe: Easy Peach Cobbler

Let simplicity shine with this classic cobbler packed with peaches, butter, and sugar. With just nine ingredients and four steps, this cobbler is our easiest ever.

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All-Time Favorite Chocolate Chip Cookies

All-Time Favorite Chocolate Chip Cookies
Beth Dreiling Hontzas

Recipe: All-Time Favorite Chocolate Chip Cookies

A batch of warm chocolate chip cookies can cure any stress, which is practically a non-negotiable during college and young adulthood. This ultimate recipe doesn't include a slew of difficult steps or ingredients, making it perfect for the amateur cook.

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