35 classic southern foods grandma used to make

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It’s no secret that Southern food is some of the most comforting home kitchens in the United States. And sometimes there is nothing else, other than making recipes for the old-fashioned. It includes slow-developing flavors that seep their delicious cooking odor through the house, making it impossible to wait (more than one Southern child has burnt his mouth on a just-cooked fried chicken). We’ve got you covered from starters to desserts with 35 classic Southern foods that you could find in a Southern Grandma’s recipe collection any day, plus the creative recipe ideas to recreate at home.

Whether you grew up in the South enjoying homemade versions of these meals or you just tried them at a restaurant, your mouth will be watered when you finish reading this list. Southerners know how to cook right – especially when an old family recipe is involved.

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The roots of “stuffed eggs” can be traced back to ancient Rome. But the term “devil” was introduced to describe spicy or spicy food in Britain in the 1700s. Southern chefs, meanwhile, have their own version of deviled eggs.

For a classic Southern deviled egg recipe, cook the eggs, cut them and place the egg yolks in a bowl. Then you can mash the egg yolks with mayonnaise, mustard and sweet jam, as well as some salt and pepper. Eventually, the sweet and tangy yellow mix in the egg and dust with a little pepper.

And if you really want an authentic take on the Southern dish, Duke’s is the mayonnaise of choice in the south. It is sugar-free and higher in egg yolks than most mayo, and plenty of southerners will swear by the mark. Its homemade flavor results in a creamy concoction.

Get our recipe for Deviled Egg With Bacon.

buttermilk biscuits on cooling rack
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Southern grandmothers often had a bread bowl where they kept flour ready to mix biscuits for dinner. They perfected the art of making biscuits as an easy way to fill hungry stomachs at their table, and you can do the same today with a simple biscuit recipe.

Back in your grandmother’s day, chefs would have to sell their choice of fat – butter, shorten or lard – and add cow’s milk or milk to pull it together. The best biscuits are sweet and tender inside and brown and crispy on the outside. The secret is to gently mix the dough, fold it over and create layers. These treats were often served with cane syrup or homemade preserves.

Get our recipe for Southern style biscuits.

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Paleo oven fried chicken
Mitch Mandel and Thomas MacDonald

There may not be anything more iconic to the Southern food cannon than fried chicken. The meat, which is muddy in thick flour and fried to a golden crisp, is a salty and satisfying meal. A Southern grandmother would probably have cooked this in a cast iron pan, the experience of cooking utensils so valuable that it would become the next generation’s best cook. Something about the pans gives the chicken a crispier skin while maintaining the juicy juiciness of the meat, allowing the Southlanders to perfect the recipe.

The country’s most famous fried chicken restaurant, KFC, was founded in 1930 to feed hungry travelers at Harland Sanders’ gas station by the roads. Sanders developed a recipe using a pressure cooker, much like the technology of an Instant Pot. This recipe has not changed much over the years. (By the way, if you’re wondering, he was actually a colonel, even if it was an honorary title).

Get our recipe for Crispy Oven-Fried Chicken.

serving of peach cobbler with spoon
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While peaches are grown throughout the United States, there is something very special about the versions harvested in Georgia. Known as “The Peach State”, connoisseurs swear by the quality of fruit grown in the state.

Eating a Georgia peach is a multi-sensory experience of sight, smell and taste, often resulting in sticky, sweet peach juice running down your arm. And the cobbler made from a fresh Georgia peach is delicious, especially with vanilla ice cream.

And if you really want to try an authentic version of the dessert, go for it Georgia Peach Festival. Every year, festival goers make the world’s largest peach cobbler and give it away to event guests for free. Can’t you go south? This blueberry-peach cobbler recipe tastes just as delicious wherever you are.

Get our recipe for Blueberry-Peach Cobbler.

If you’re not from the South, I’ll bet you’ve wondered what is. Like polenta, grains are made by grinding white corn called hominy. Before grinding the cores, the hulls are removed, resulting in a fine consistency.

Grits became important in southern dishes because farms in the area typically grew corn. Usually it is served with breakfast and paired with eggs, cereals are also used for dinner, often made with greens or topped with sautéed shrimp. Southern chefs have plenty of methods to make their own cereals. The best way to try their unique flavors is cooked with cream, butter and salt added to taste.

Get our recipe for southern shrimp and grits.

jars of banana pudding
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Banana pudding is a staple at potluck dinners, comfort food at funerals and a sweet ending to this summer’s dinner. Southern has enjoyed scoops of the cool vanilla sauce topped with whipped meringue and garnished with bananas and Nilla slices for years, and it won’t go away anytime soon.

The recipe is wonderfully eaten the day it is made, but it is even better when cookies have had a chance to absorb some of the pudding’s sweet moisture. They turn into a cake-like consistency that will make you chase more treasure at the end of your spoon. Nabisco printed its famous version of the banana bidding recipe on the boxes in the 1940s, and it stayed there ever since.

Get our recipe for Southern style banana pudding.

chicken pot
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While no one in the South can claim that meat pies pies got their start in the area, there is hardly a family that does not sit down to this dish often. Maybe it seems so southern because of the comfort level it provides: pastry, broth, chicken and vegetables all in one sitting.

Whatever the reason, chicken pot is a staple in the South and shows no signs of becoming any less popular anytime soon. Loved by children and adults alike, it is one of those meals that pleases everyone at the table.

Get our recipe for Chicken Pot Pie.

southern chicken balls in square bowl
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Many memories of Southern grandmothers involve them rolling the itchy dough right on the counter and flourishing the surface to prevent it from sticking. They cut the dough into strips and added it to a slow-cooked, flavorful chicken broth that had simmered for hours. The cooked dumplings combined with the tender chicken and vegetables made many a satisfying Sunday meal, feeding a large family with a pot and less cost.

Get our recipe for chicken and bumblebees.

black black catfish dinner plate
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A funny looking fish inhabits the lakes and rivers in the lower south, and it has snotty. They are a fun fish to catch, simply caught by many southern kids with a cane filled with a piece of hot dog. Fishermen, meanwhile, should be careful about the saltwater version – its poison-laden barbs will cause a quick trip to the hospital.

Freshwater fish, like this 89 pounds of fish caught by an angler in South Carolina, is delicious fried in a dough with cereal, traditionally served with hush puppies, fried potatoes and coleslaw.

Get our recipe for a black fish sandwich.

biting into a slice of coca cola cake on a gray plate
Kiersten Hickman / Eat This, Don’t It!

Some bakers in the South swear by adding Coca-Cola to the cake to beat up the sweetness and add airiness to the texture with the carbonation team. the Coca-Cola sheet cake is smothered with marshmallows and icing right out of the oven, adding to the nasty dessert.

Cracker Barrel adopted the recipe in 1997 when the company was looking for a way to use Coca-Cola in their menu by calling it “Double Chocolate Fudge Coca-Cola Cake.” It was so loved by diners that it has now become their signature dessert.

Get our recipe for traditional Coca-Cola cake.

roasted peanuts with salt in brown bowl
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We have a love affair for peanuts in the South. No one is sure when exactly this love was combined with our obsession with coke, but the combination of the two became a satisfyingly sweet and salty snack that many Southerners remember from their childhood. There may not be a recipe for this goodness in your Southern Grandmother’s collection, but she sure helped you enjoy it to curb hunger while she cooked.

Here’s what we thought when we tried peanuts and coke.

whole sweet potato puree
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The sweet potato pie is a favorite for food lovers in the South and is a sweet and satisfying substitute for pumpkin pie. And it provides a lot of tables on Thanksgiving.

The dessert’s roots come from Africa, where yams were a beloved, familiar flavor. In the south, the chefs replaced sweet potato, which was readily available in the area, and made it a dessert. Not sure where to start? Patti LaBelle shared her family’s recipe with sweet potatoes, which has the technique of adding brown sugar before the sweet potato, creating a sweet layer of syrup near the crust. Her packed version was so popular that it sold out in stores last year. Delicious!

We like this sweet potato cookie recipe from What’s Gaby Cooking.

Collard greens
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Related to cabbage and kale, collard greens is rich in beta-carotene and is packed with antioxidants and phytochemicals to prevent disease. However, the hard, fibrous leaves require a longer cooking time, and this often reduces the nutritional value of the plant. Southern had a solution.

It was common to use “pot liquor,” the nutritious olive-colored water used to cook the greens, for a soup base, or even just soaked in a piece of cereal. The greens were usually cooked with some ham to taste, making the resulting stew food salty and delicious.

We like this collard green recipe from Cookie + Kate.

serving dish with creamy corn
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Go ahead and thank the people here at Eat This, Not That! right now. While creamy corn recipes have all kinds of methods to cut corn kernels from the cob, there is a tool.

The best creamy corn comes from a corn screamer, a tool that fits over your pot and shreds corn and all its natural juices in the pot. A simple back and forth motion cleanses the shell of any edible goodness. Then just add butter and cream or half and half with a pinch of salt and cook for just a little bit to create the most delicious side dish in the South. The most important thing is to use fresh corn, specifically Silver Queen sweet corn, if you can get it.

We like this creamy corn recipe from Well Plated by Erin.

raw green organic okra
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Logically, this had to be the next dish on the list. Fried okra makes a delicious accompaniment to creamy corn. Throw in a little chicken and you have a glorified food coma that is Thanksgiving only.

Okra is firmly rooted in Southern cuisine, but it is eaten all over the world in almost every culture. And if you shop for the veggies, bigger isn’t better. The pods become fibrous and hard as they grow on the plant for too long. It is best to pick and enjoy okra early.

We like this air fried okra recipe from A Beautiful Mess.

pimento cheese bread spread with knife
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A quick sandwich for lunch or light appetizers before dinner. Pimento cheese has been a practical and tasty solution for Southern chefs since the early 1900s. The simple blend is made from shredded cheddar cheese, mayonnaise, pimentos and spices.

There may be variations involving mustard or garlic, but the simple recipe provides a delicious dip for celery or a great topping for a burger.

We like this pimento cheese dip recipe from Heartbeet Kitchen.

Ice tea
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Dolly Parton’s character Truvy makes sweet tea “South house wine” in Stålmagnolier correctly describe the widespread love for this drink. Sweet tea can be found in almost all southern restaurants. And no meal is complete without its sugary accompaniment – the more syrupy, the better. Fortunately, the best way to make iced tea is not difficult to replicate at home.

Most southerners boil water in a saucepan and let the tea bags steep for a while, making for a pretty strong solution. Then mix it with cane sugar (batches) or simple syrup and water. The drink is then poured over ice, but it is best to cool it first to avoid diluting the taste.

Sweet tea can be an addictive beverage that counteracts the steamy heat of summer. If you’re looking for sweet tea that tastes authentic, it’s fairly well known that McDonald’s has perfected the mix.

We like this honey and orange sweet tea recipe from A Beautiful Mess.

hoppin john in cheers
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This dish is served every New Year’s Day, said to bring good luck to anyone who eats the flavorful blend of pork, black-eyed peas and rice. Add a few greens and “golden” cereal breads as they go along, and as the tradition goes, your year will be full of money!

We like this hoppin ‘John recipe from The Seasoned Mom.

RELATED: The easy way to make healthier comfort foods.

cereal bread in basket wrapped in cloth
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corn bread can be traced back to the settlers to Indians grinding corn to corn flour mix with water and salt. The crumbling fast bread was an instant favorite in the South, with chefs adding eggs and bacon fat and swapping water for cow’s milk. The result, cooked in a cast iron pan, was a loaf of crispy fried on the outside with a tender, moist golden yellow crumb on the inside. There is a lot of discussion about sweet versus tasty cereal breads in the South, but the original version was a bit tangier.

We like this cereal bread recipe from Sally’s Baking Addiction.

captain of the chicken on the plate
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country Captain are said to originate from the coast of Georgia, and where captains brought spices and recipes from India into their ports.

to this dish, stewed chicken is cooked with tomatoes, onions, green pepper and rips and flavored with fragrant curry powder, resulting in a flavorful meal, often served with steaming hot rice. Self Franklin D. Roosevelt enjoyed the dish when I visit Warm Springs, Georgia, for polio treatment.

We like this landscape man chicken recipe from The Seasoned Mom.

sour cream
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Every Southern grandmother had a favorite recipe for pound cakethat vary only in the amounts of sugar, butter or cream added to bring the best crust and condensed buttery center. The rich cake can be served in slices with strawberries and whipped cream or even toasted in the oven with a slice of butter.

The remains often find their way into a trifle, a sweet lemon curd foil or chocolate vanilla sauce. And why is it called a pound cake? The simplest recipes require a pound of flour, a pound of egg, a pound of sugar, and – you guessed it – a pound of butter.

We like this blueberry cream pound cake recipe from Julie’s Eats and Treats.

divine Christmas candy on dish
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A white candy that looks like a cloud, divinity is made from only six ingredients (mostly sugar). Pop a piece in your mouth and the sweet immediately begins to melt, coating your tongue with its sugary goodness.

However, the candy can be difficult to make. A humid day may prevent it from settling down while dry weather will help it heal.

We like this cherry-almond divinity recipe from Cafe Johnsonia.

raw figs
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Delicious with whole milk biscuit, fig preserves were often found on a southern sideboard. To make fig boxes, slice figs and cook them with sugar, lemon slices or ginger to make a thick, sweet palate.

The jam, bottled in masonry screws sealed with thick lids, created a lovely holiday gift or a house heating gift for new neighbors. And by doing the preserves, everyone was given the opportunity to enjoy figs year-round, rather than just during their short season in the South.

We like this fig to keep the recipe from running to the kitchen.

pot with brunswick stew
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Brunswick County, Virginia and Brunswick, Georgia, both claim the origin of this right. the The Virginia General Assembly proclaimed the state “birthplace” of Brunswick Stew, while The House of Representatives made the same statement on behalf of their state.

Wherever you fall within this argument, Brunswick Stew is a rich fusion of vegetables reminiscent of barbecue, but sweeter. The soup is filled with butter beans, corn, tomatoes, potatoes and meat. In Virginia, it is traditionally made with chicken, while Georgia adds beef.

We like this Brunswick stew recipe from Eating Bird Food.

potato salad
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There are as many recipes for potato salad as there are for barbecue, and just as many arguments about which one is best. Hot, cold, with mayo or mustard, celery, onion, bell peppers or pickles, it seems no one can agree.

The way to make the best potato salad is, of course, your grandmother’s recipe. Because each Southern family served their own version, Grandma’s recipe is the best. However, you should always use Duke’s mayonnaise.

We like this potato salad recipe from FoodieCrush.

raw peanuts
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When this southern snack is introduced, some people just can’t believe it. Why would you take a perfectly good peanut and do nothing but fry it? but cooked peanuts is something to experience. And a good peanut stand has the right variety with lukewarm red or green peanuts that are tasty from their immersion in the salty bath.

They need to be cooked where they have the perfect structure: not mushy, but not raw either. And it is best to enjoy cooked peanuts outside where juices and shells can end up on the ground.

We like this cooked peanut recipe from She Wears Many Hats.

whole pecans with slice
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Butter, Karo syrup, eggs and pecans. The sugary, bad goodness is enough to hurt your teeth, but you still come back for more. Don’t feel any shame: Pecan pie is an addictive addition to the holidays. The nuts are typically harvested down south from September to November, which is the harvest for the Thanksgiving party.

The nutritious nut has created yet another southern argument about its pronunciation. Anyone down in the South will tell you that the way you say it is, “PEE-CAN.”

We like this pecancert recipe from Taste & Tell.

whole vanilla sauce
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The filling of this dessert is a joyful blend of eggs, cream and vanilla with notes of nutmeg. Similar to cow’s milk pie, this vanilla sauce is made with what Southern grandmothers call “whole milk” or whole milk for the rest of us. A good recipe is smooth, but not too eggy. My own grandmother had to visit Morrison’s cafeteria and stand in line impatiently to get to the pieces that flew off the buffet.

We like this blueberry berry pie recipe from The Girl Who Ate Everything.

gilded giblet sauce
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Classic Southern foods have always reflected thrift using ingredients that were available locally and developed ways to reduce waste. Giblet sauce is a way to use the other parts of the chicken, the ones you find inside the cavity. (Of course, on a Southern grandmother’s day, the chicken might not have arrived frozen.)

Giblet sauce uses the neck, gizzards and hearts that are packed inside today’s grocery store. Chefs cook them slowly in chicken broth and form them into a rich sauce, especially suitable for turkey or other dry white meat. However, leave the liver. Its flavor is a bit overwhelming to use.

We like this giblet sauce recipe from Platter Talk.

Pork ribs
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Let me start by saying: All types of southern barbecue dishes are all delicious. Now that we have passed it, there are just as many varieties of southern barbecue as you have fingers and toes. And people get really upset if you say theirs is not the best. Whether you like your pit-cooked meat (pork or beef) covered with mustard-based, vinegar, white, sweet or tomato sauce, slow cooking with smoke creates one of the most classic Southern foods.

We like this baked rib recipe from Inspired Taste.

Old fashion red velvet cake
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The roots of this dessert are not exactly southern. But it has become so iconic that you rarely see a collection of recipes or a church buffet without it being added. The classic recipe comes from the Waldorf-Astoria hotel in New York City, its smooth, cocoa-flavored dough topped with a challenging fluffy cooked glaze.

Southern chefs also love to substitute a cream cheese icing, resulting in a cake that is not too sweet but still pleasant. In the beginning, beets were used for the pink tint, where food color made it even brighter in the 1940s.

We like this red velvet cake recipe from My Name Is Yeh.

chicken fried steak with sauce
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You may be confused about the difference between “roast steak” and “chicken roast steak.” The country edition is lightly dusted with flour and served with brown onion ice cream, while chicken fried steak is heavily battered and covered with cream sauce.

Like all southern things, the dish is rich and big. It is typically served over mashed potatoes with a side of vegetables. As to its origin, Texas has the requirement for the original chicken fried steak recipe. According to legend, a short-order cook named Jimmy Don Perkins accidentally combined two orders, one for chicken and one for fried steak, for the recipe we enjoy today.

We like this chicken fried steak recipe from Macheesmo.

smoked ham on wooden cutting board with peppercorns and rosemary
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Before cooling was widely available, Southerners learned how to preserve their meat in a crust of salt, which stops the deterioration process. They also used smoke houses to hang meat, cooked it slowly with a smoked fire to create hams that would last for months.

Country ham is usually salty and delicious, more like bacon than plain bland processed ham. Southern grandmothers probably coated the ham with a glaze of brown sugar and pecans, creating a salty and sweet combination.

We like this baked country ham recipe from Leites Culinaria.

squash stew in glass bowl
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Sometimes ordinary vegetables can be, yes, ordinary. But Southern grandmothers loved to jazz up their produce, and the squash stew is no exception. Tender cooked dishes with squash with butter, onion, cream and cheddar cheese make a delicious stew. And the dusting of buttery Ritz Crackers on top makes it decadent. The dish works well with all kinds of squash straight out of the garden or farmer’s market.

We like this Southern squash casserole recipe from Five Heart Home.

unprocessed spoon with red rice
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Southern mothers grandmothers know how to make a meal of rice, especially when they added celery, bell peppers, onions and shrimp sautéed in bacon fat. This recipe was refined in the southern coastal areas of Savannah and Charleston, where the ingredients were plentiful. Newer versions include pork, sausage, beef or other vegetables.

We like this recipe for red rice from Spicy Southern Kitchen.

Even if you don’t have Southern relatives at home, you can enjoy these classic Southern foods at plenty of restaurants today. Or better yet, pick your favorites and learn how to prepare them yourself. There is nothing better than a home-cooked meal, especially a southern one.

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