31 classic Southern foods everyone should make

Mike Jordan
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Ask any Southerner alive who has a working mouth, and they’ll tell you, “Yes, you can enjoy classic Southern food all month long.” And since there’s no better time to eat homestyle Southern food than the holidays, here are 31 delicious, quintessential meals traditionally associated with America’s greatest region, to keep you well-fed all December long.

Snacks & Starters

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Fried Green Tomatoes

This simple recipe comes from Anne Byrn and will get you 12 to 16 slices -- enough for a proper Southern dinner party.

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Deviled Eggs

This savory snack is just the right bite to settle anxious stomachs while waiting for a first course.

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Cheese Straws

How on earth could you go wrong with flour, butter, salt and a generous amount of sharp cheddar cheese shaped like crispy little sticks?

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Chicken Wings

We’ll consider wings a snack just to keep up the appearance of good taste, but we all know that wings are good at any point of a meal or all by themselves. Especially these Coca-Cola wings!

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Pimento Cheese

You don’t need an invitation to The Masters to master this staple of every cheese-lovin’ Southerner’s diet.

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Soups

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Chicken & Dumplings

Your mama made them. Your grandmama made them. Now it’s your turn to turn a C&D recipe into your own, with help from our collection.

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She Crab Soup

You may associate it with Baltimore (which, depending on the day and who you ask, might be the South anyway), but Charleston has made a strong case for stealing She Crab Soup for South Carolina, and you’ll find it in restaurants and dinner tables across the region.

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Brisket Chili

Whether you’re from Texas or just live like it, a nice meaty bowl of brisket chili always tastes like home.

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Oyster Stew

Everybody needs a sturdy kick of Cajun spice and a little mixed-in liquor (good-old brandy as well as the oyster kind) now and then. Today’s your day.

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Seafood Gumbo

It’s the official cuisine of the state of Louisiana. How could you be Southern and not have a good gumbo recipe handy?

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Salads

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Potato Salad

OK, so maybe it’s not really a “salad,” per se. But it’s delicious and it’s been Southern longer than any of us. Bring it to a pot luck or house party and people will know you love them.

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Shrimp Salad

There are many ways to enjoy the South’s favorite shellfish in salad format, with and without leafy greens. Here’s a can’t-fail pickled version.

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Tomato Salad

Fresh tomatoes make a fantastic platform for a refreshing salad, and you can add all sorts of extras, from cucumbers to onions, peas and more. Speaking of which...

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Chicken Salad

There is no South without the mighty chicken salad, regardless if you have it inside or outside a sandwich (yep, Southerners are so good at salads that we can even make sandwiches out of them). But today, we’ve got a chicken salad topped with another classic Southern (fruit) salad: the Tomato Aspic. Two for one!

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Coleslaw

Love it? Hate it? Doesn’t matter. As long as you’ve had it, or at least tried to make it, you can officially call yourself Southern and have the right to have an opinion.

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Entrees

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Fried chicken

It’s either the first thing you thought of when you thought “classic Southern food,” or it was high up there. Cook it the old-fashioned way: in a cast iron skillet.

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Shrimp & Grits

There are so many ways to cook this quintessential Southern dish that we’d dare not give you a recipe. So we’re giving you several!

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Crawfish Etouffee

Prepared in Cajun and Creole styles, there are many ways to fix up a helping of this thickened, smothered seafood dish, but the result is somehow always deliciously familiar.

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Ribs

If you’re somewhere in America and you can’t find a rack of wonderfully saucy, sweet and smoky ribs somewhere in a 5-mile radius, you must not actually be in the South.

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Catfish

We like all types of seafood down here, but if you had to name the fins-down favorite, we think it would automatically be the funny-looking fish with the whiskers on its face, which happens to be unbeatably delicious when properly seasoned, battered and fried. Actually, some catfish sounds great — let’s make some tonight!

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Sides

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Macaroni & Cheese

Nothing says “down home” like a serving (or several) of mac ‘n’ cheese.

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Collard Greens

If you’re like us, you put a little hot sauce in yours.

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Baked Beans

You like barbecue, right? Well, you can’t legally eat barbecue without baked beans.

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Biscuits & Gravy

We knew there’d be some unhappy folks if we didn’t include biscuits, and for good reason. Biscuits are love, as Virginia Willis would say. Shouldn’t you be eating one right now?

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Red Beans & Rice

Going to a Cajun restaurant and not seeing this spicy starchy combo on the menu? Not likely.

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Cornbread

You’ll be disowned by your family, friends, significant other and children if you can’t make cornbread and you live in the South.

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Desserts

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Pecan Pie

Southerners love pecans, and they love pie. Put them together and you’ve got a sweet treat upon which we can all agree is our birthrite.

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Banana Pudding

Sweet, creamy and delicious, just like Nana makes!

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Sweet Potato Pie

Earthy, rich and perfected with a bit of spice and vanilla, you know somebody in the South loves you whenever you get a slice of this pie.

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Peach Cobbler

You probably have this dessert at least 10 times a year if you live below the Mason-Dixon. And you love it every time.

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Pound Cake

There are so many wonderful cakes coming out of Southern kitchens, but the standard is the mighty Pound Cake. Before you can move on to Caramel, Chocolate, Apple Stack or Red Velvet, you’ve gotta master the original, which is universal around these parts and always welcome on any cake platter.

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