If one of your next trips is a destination in the American South or you’re passing through, don’t just visit a roadside fast-food joint when hunger strikes. Do yourself a massive favour and sample the delicious offerings of a restaurant serving up Southern classics. Each pocket of the South has its own specialty but if there’s one common denominator — they’re all mega flavourful. Many of the dishes you’ll read about below are very important in African-American culture. It’s important to be aware of where these tasty dishes came from and respect them while we enjoy them.
See also: All The Desserts You Have To Try When You’re In Turkey >>>
A staple in the South, cornbread goes with just about any dish and it’s super tasty as a snack just on its own. There are a variety of different ways to make it and you can add in other ingredients like chopped jalapenos, onions, bacon, and even kernels of fresh corn for an even cornier vibe. For an authentic Southern experience, make your cornbread in a cast-iron skillet so that you get a delicious crispy crust.
Southern Mac & Cheese
While we love mac and cheese that’s made with a thick roux and baked with a breadcrumb topping, Southern mac & cheese is a bit different but satisfying nonetheless. This type of mac and cheese is very important to Black culture in the US and it’s a staple at any Juneteenth celebration. If you’re not familiar, Juneteenth (June 19) is the day that African-Americans celebrate being officially freed from slavery. Southern mac & cheese might look super simple and every household has its own variation. The dum-and-bake recipe needs to have at least three cheeses and it must be made with elbow macaroni. Try a few recipes and find out which one you like the best — we couldn’t think of a more fun weekend project!
Another classic Southern dish that has roots in Black culture is Pot Likker. It may be one of the more unknown Southern foods but it’s a hidden gem that deserves its time in the spotlight. I first had this dish at Mary Macs Tea Room in Atlanta and ever since I’ve been a fan. Pot Likker is the liquid left behind from braised collard greens and it’s got the flavour of not only the greens but the smoked pork and other aromatics that get cooked with them. It’s basically the most flavourful broth you’ll ever have. Some folks leave the broth as is while some add vegetables, rice or barley to make it into a heartier soup.
Shrimp & Grits
If you haven’t tried shrimp & grits, you’ve at least probably heard of them. Known for originating in the Lowlands of Georgia and the Carolinas, this comfort food classic is well-loved and there are countless variations.
Nashville Hot Chicken
A local specialty in Nashville, hence the name, Nashville Hot Chicken is for anyone who has a taste for heat. Basically it’s fried chicken that’s been marinated and fried, then it’s smothered in a sauce or seasoning that’s flavoured with spicy cayenne pepper. It’s often served atop sliced white bread and a few pickles.
While there’s some debate on where it was invented, Brunswick Stew is a hearty tomato-based stew that’s made with local beans, meat, and lots of vegetables. Some say it was developed in Brunswick County in Virginia claiming it’s theirs while Brunswick, Georgia argues it was their invention. Either way, it’s delicious and deserves your attention. Like most comfort food recipes there are a variety of ways to prepare it but these days, folks like to add BBQ sauce for a richer and more developed flavour. It’s perfect for anyone wanting a stick-to-your-ribs meal that’ll help you use up whatever odds and ends are in your fridge and pantry.
Coming to us from Louisiana, Jambalaya is a Creole dish that marrys the West African, Spanish and French influences found there. The dish consists of mainly smoked meat, rice, and vegetables and if you think it sounds basic — you’re sorely mistaken. Traditionally, andouille sausage is used and it’s a smoked sausage that’s main ingredient is cayenne pepper so to say it packs a punch is an understatement. Jambalaya is a twist on the Nigerian Jollof Rice and Spain’s famed paella.
Another Louisiana classic is the beignet and when you’re in New Orleans next, you must pay a visit to the iconic Cafe Du Monde to sample one. These little treats are made fresh and hot and absolutely smothered in icing sugar. Dunk yours in chicory coffee for the full experience.
While it’s consumed pretty much everywhere, pecan pie is a Southern staple. There are rumours that the French brought pecan pie to Louisiana while others say that it existed in Alabama during the early 1800s — either way, it’s one of the best pies out there. A true Southern way to make pecan pie is to add a splash of bourbon!
There’s nothing better than ending a good meal with a large helping of peach cobbler. Peaches are a Southern staple fruit and they’re used in jams, marinades, barbeque sauces, and many more but in our opinion, they’re best used in desserts.
At any Southern soul-food restaurant, you’re bound to find banana pudding on the menu. It’s rich and comforting texture of the pudding and whipped cream is complimented so beautifully by the flavourful and soft bananas and crisp vanilla wafers. Trust us — you won’t want to miss out.
Featured Image: @HattieBs