What Is Southern Cooking?


As culture developed all around the world, shaped by the circumstances and environments, so did the cuisine. Naturally, cuisine is after all a part of culture. And getting to experience all the various dishes from all these places is a gift from the Heavens to your taste buds. One very influential and popular batch of cuisine is the one that originated from the Southern United States.

The food culture that developed here is both delicious and heavy. The South has a habit of deep frying anything it gets its hands on. Deep frying in lard and then seasoning with pork is a Southern tradition. Southern cuisine has given rise to many types of food now known by other names, such as Soul Food and Lowcountry cuisine. The history behind the development of Southern food is also rich in history and quite interesting to read up on.

Historical Development

Some of the traditional cooking elements now found in Southern cuisine were in fact borrowed from a number of southeastern American Indian tribes such as the Seminole and Caddo. These elements include ingredients like squash and corn and methods like deep-pit barbecuing. Then there were the items adopted from Europe itself, namely milk and eggs as well as flour and sugar. The practice of frying literally anything was inherited from Scotland.

Still discussing the role Europe played in shaping up the Southern cuisine, Britain lent the American South its fondness for a full breakfast, whereas many more meals were Scottish in nature and were adapted to the new climate. The Southern people replaced oats with grits, and got rid of the old Scottish taboo around pork, using it in place of lamb or mutton. A few other parts of the South inherited more cuisine from other European countries, like France and Spain. Some Mexican, Caribbean, and Native American influence is also found.

Lastly, due to the slave trade in the South, many African dishes found their way into the United States. Many spices used in Southern cuisine are African in nature, and the use of rice, melons, sesame, and okra can also be attributed to African influence. Creole cuisine, also a part of Southern cuisine, also draws some inspiration from West Africa alongside France and Spain. In the early stages of settlement, Southerners cooked with whatever was available, and this led to some interesting dishes and unique ingredients.

Types Of Southern Cuisine

‘Southern cuisine’ is merely a blanket term that covers various kinds of cuisines and cooking styles across multiple states. Let’s take a closer look at the separate types of cuisines that have spawned from the South.

Soul Food:


Soul Food originated when slaves brought to the South used leftovers from the plantations they worked at to create new and unique dishes. Anything was fair game. The tops of crops like turnips and dandelions were added as well discarded meat items like the ears and feet of pigs as well as tripe and skin. Other ingredients like kale and mustard were also used. Onions, garlic, and other similar food items were used to enhance the flavor and any wild animal successfully hunted was also added. Nowadays, fried chicken and fried steaks are used as main dishes in place of pig feet and beef tongues, while biscuits and gravy and cornbread have replaced thyme and bay leaves as side dishes.

Cajun Food:

Cajun Food

This type of cuisine arose out of necessity after the expulsion of Acadian refugees by the British. Cajun Food relies on creating full meals with just locally available ingredients used in simple preparations. Nowadays Cajun Food is popular worldwide and includes dishes like potato salad, crawfish, and Cajun rice. Barbecuing, deep frying, and grilling are staple methods used in Cajun Food preparation.

Lowcountry Cuisine:


Typically associated with the states of South Carolina and Georgia, this cuisine relies heavily on seafood like shrimp, oysters, and fish. Rice is also extensively used in Lowcountry Cuisine. Typical dishes from this cuisine include sweet potato and crab soup, macaroni and cheese, catfish stew, and oyster roast.

Creole Food:

Creole Food

Creole Food uses very mild Southern food traditions but still falls under the category. Crawfish, oysters, and shrimp are used in addition to mirliton, chayote squash, and chicory coffee. Creole Food blends tons of cultures and cuisines together, from American and Mediterranean, to French and African. Creole cooking focuses on fresh ingredients and light cooking methods, and includes dishes like crabmeat, pecan pie, French toast, and red beans.

Classic Southern Dishes

Now that we’ve discussed some of the various regional cuisines and cooking styles Southern Cuisine incorporates, let’s take a look at some of the more popular Southern dishes. At least some of which you have bound to have heard about or tasted yourself.

Slow Cooked Black Eyed Peas:


A recipe mostly left to the pressure cooker. Optional additional ingredients include bacon, garlic, onions, bell peppers, peas, tomatoes, and Cajun spices. Best cooked on low pressure for a day. This recipe can make for a delicious Southern snack.

Chicken Fried Steak:

Chicken Fried Steak

One of the most mouthwatering Southern dishes out there. A chicken steak is breaded and then coated with seasoned flour before being pan-fried. Deliciousness doubles if this fried steak is served on top of some mashed potatoes and covered in melted cheese.

Buttermilk Fried Chicken:

Buttermilk Fried Chicken

Praise the South and its ingenuity and obsession with deep frying everything. This is perhaps the most famous Southern dish on here. Add some spices to your flour and double dip the chicken in buttermilk and the flour and then deep fry and you’ve got yourself Heaven on a plate.

Fried Catfish:

Fried Catfish

Following the same method as the fried chicken but being breaded in cornmeal instead, this is yet another Southern dish to make your taste buds fall in love. Can work with other varieties of fish, like whiting, porgies, and bluegill as well.

Boiled Peanuts:


A Southern classic, and a delicious snack for any time. You have to boil peanuts in low pressure mode for a day, covered in specific spices, but the end result is a treat for sure.



The most famous Southern side dish, craved and loved by many. These are balls made of cornmeal which are combined with other ingredients like flour, buttermilk, eggs, and certain spices before being deep fried. Hushpuppies are served alongside many dishes, like fried catfish or chicken.

Buttermilk Skillet Cornbread:


An oft consumed food item in the South, you’d be hard-pressed to find a dinner that doesn’t have some cornbread lying around. A delicious baking item consisting of flour, baking soda, baking powder, cornmeal, buttermilk, and a few additional ingredients, the buttermilk skillet cornbread is not only easy to make at home but also the perfect companion for cravings and other dishes. You can even try fancier variants by adding items like cheddar cheese or jalapenos. This bread came forth due to the abundance of corn in America, and is cooked in a European cake style. Buttermilk skillet cornbread is often seasoned with bacon fat, and is of Native American origin.


That was our short but adequately detailed post on Southern cooking, its origins, its likenesses, and its influence. What do you think? How do you feel about the dishes we have mentioned and the way Southern cooking is done? Was it informative for you or are you munching on some skillet cornbread or hushpuppies right this very moment?

Liked our post on Southern cooking? Why not check out our piece on the surprising origins of popular desserts? Feel like cooking something yourself? Have a look at the must-have small kitchen appliances you should get for your kitchen. Craving more history instead? Check out our fascinating piece on the history of cooking.