Good Old-Fashioned Southern Comfort Food
Chances are some of the dishes you love — like cornbread, fried chicken, and macaroni and cheese — are from the American South. But there’s a lot more to Southern food than meets the eye.
Southern comfort food is such a staple on the American menu that you might not always recognize it as Southern. And that’s a mistake. To gloss over the rich and complicated history of Southern food is to miss layers of culture, flavor, and history — nuances that have deep meaning and are also undeniably delicious.
Chefs such as Carla Hall of The Chew and Top Chef have set out to teach us about the many regional variations and the differences between Southern food and soul food — the topic of her most recent cookbook, Carla Hall’s Soul Food. She writes, "Southern food's delicious any which way, but when it's made in the Black-American tradition with influences from Africa and the Caribbean, it delivers the kind of warmth and joy that makes you want to get up and dance."
Who wouldn’t want seconds of that?
What’s more, Hall goes back to Southern cuisine’s roots, empowering home cooks with healthful options. In her Soul Food Classics collection on Yummly Pro, for instance, the collard greens don’t have any meat — which, in some circles, is unthinkable. “I have served them to people who eat meat in their greens, and they’re like, ‘I love these even better because they're lighter.’” she told Yummly in an interview. “You're not missing anything.”
The trick, then, is to invoke the spirit of traditional Southern comfort food recipes while making them your own. Here are a dozen ideas to get you started.
Pot likker, for those not in the know, is the broth left over after cooking greens. In this recipe, Carla Hall brings together a seriously delicious pot likker, rich in smoked paprika, garlic, red pepper flakes, and apple cider vinegar. It’s so tasty — many people who are used to having meat in their collard greens don’t even miss it. “What you get is a very flavorful and balanced dish,” she told Yummly.
This recipe is a Cajun take on what’s traditionally a South Carolina dish, now popular throughout the States — and not just among Southerners. “My first time with shrimp and grits was a few years ago in Atlanta, Georgia. I was hooked after that,” writes Sharee of Savory Spicerack. Good grits are a must, and fresh shrimp make a real difference.
Hoppin’ John — stewed black-eyed peas served over rice — is considered a good luck dish for New Year’s Day across the South. Adapted from Southern Living, this recipe keeps it simple with little more than salt pork and a jalapeño for an extra kick.
We agree with Imma of Immaculate Bites — this classic Southern fried chicken recipe is a great addition to your collection. Hint: the secret is in the cornstarch and buttermilk. Naturally, this entrée goes well with a starchy side dish like buttermilk biscuits, mashed potatoes, or sweet potato fries.
In this Yummly Pro video recipe (available to paid subscribers), Carla Hall shows you how to make deliciously light and flaky biscuits, a Southern staple, not one but two ways — first with fennel and cheddar, then with cinnamon sugar. These biscuits boldly announce: "Brunch is served."
The recipe for this appetizer from Grazing Glutton is straightforward — and a standout. The trick is to salt the tomato well beforehand, so you don’t end up with soggy breading.
While there’s some back-and-forth about the history of the term “hush puppies,” the Southern-style recipe doesn’t change much. Its essence is balls of seasoned cornmeal, flour, egg, and buttermilk deep-fried in your fat of choice. Classic hush puppies get taken up a notch with the addition of shrimp and savory spices in this recipe from Brown Sugar.
For this version of the Southern classic from Grandbaby Cakes, a less expensive cut of beef — typically cube steak or tenderized round steak — gets the fried chicken treatment to great effect. Make a little roux with the drippings left in the skillet and add milk for a delicious white gravy to pour over the top.
With close to a half million versions of the recipe on Yummly, tomato pie clearly has a massive fan base. This savory pie is a must-try slice of Southern comfort food and an amazing way to show off one of summer’s tastiest fruits: tomatoes! This recipe by Food Media Producer Rosalynn Daniels features the best of traditional ingredients: good cheese, ripe tomatoes, and mayo in a flaky pie crust.
Here’s an iconic Southern breakfast dish by Tanya Harris of My Forking Life. “I used to make my sausage gravy on my stovetop but it’s so much easier to make in the Instant Pot,” she writes. “The great thing is after it’s done cooking, the Instant Pot will keep it warm for you.” Serve the gravy over flaky homemade buttermilk biscuits.
Southern cooking is as diverse as its many people. Red beans and rice is a distinctly Creole dish tied to the city of New Orleans. It was traditionally served on Mondays because it was a set-it-and-forget-it-style recipe to make while doing the laundry. Kalyn’s Kitchen takes this concept one step further in this lower-carb version written for the slow cooker.
This type of floury dish has been around for centuries. Here’s an award-winning recipe by Grandbaby Cakes, who considers Chicken and Dumplings the go-to Southern comfort food. I call it a country meal at its finest — and this one comes complete with an assortment of veggies.
Looking for dessert ideas to finish off your meal? Try a search for one of these crowd-pleasing favorites: