These 10 dishes aren’t your typical Southern sides

Rachel Taylor
Fire-Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Pecans

Collard greens and cornbread are some of the typical sides you’ll find on the menu in the South. While we don’t want to call these beloved Southern dishes boring — we really do cherish their presence on the plate — sometimes we want something a little different and exciting to pair with our main entrée.

Here are our favorite non-traditional sides that will elevate your menu. 

Coleslaw with Sweet and Sour Creamy Dressing

Cool down with this classic side dish. Whether you’re at a barbecue, picnic, or backyard gathering, everyone loves this creamy slaw. This recipe’s twist turns a traditionally mayonnaise-laden side dish into a light salad by swapping the mayo for tangy low-fat yogurt and buttermilk.

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Pickled cranberry relish

Pickled Cranberry Relish

Cranberry sauce isn’t just a dish to serve at Thanksgiving. Our pickled take on the dish is a departure from the traditional canned version, and it will truly add texture and color to your plate, no matter what else is on the table. Along with fresh apples and pickled cranberries, we’ve included jicama, a tuber most commonly found in Latin American cooking, to add a crunchy texture to the relish. Jicama has a neutral flavor somewhere between an apple and a raw potato, so it complements the other flavors of the dish well.

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Bacon cornbread dressing

Bacon Cornbread Dressing

Bacon makes everything better, and in our bacon cornbread dressing, we use a whole pound of it. Crumbles of cornbread, bacon, butter and spices combine in a cast iron skillet to create a savory side dish you can serve all year long. To cut down on the preparation time, we recommend using pre-made cornbread, but if you’re feeling adventurous you can make your own.

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Herb and cheese drop biscuits

Virginia Willis’ Herb and Cheese Drop Biscuits

Award-winning chef and cookbook author Virginia Willis knows a thing or two about biscuits, but there’s no need to be intimidated by her recipe. This herb and cheese drop biscuit recipe is perfect for home cooks who aren’t ready to plunge into a traditional biscuit recipe. “Drop biscuits are like biscuits with training wheels,” Willis explained. “You don’t have to worry about overworking the dough.” These flavorful biscuits will steal the show at your next dinner party.

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Fire-Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Pecans

Fire-Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Pecans

We love sweet potatoes and pecans, so why not serve them in a dish together? This brightly colored side dish has an unexpected cooking method — a fire pit. The hot coals infuse the sweet potatoes with smoke, which helps to build complexity as well as amplify the vegetable’s natural sweetness, without adding any additional sugar. To further elevate the nutty flavors of the dish, puree the potatoes with browned butter instead of just straight-up unsalted. Trust us.

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No-Knead bread for two

No-Knead Bread for Two

You won’t have any leftovers of this perfectly portioned no-knead bread. The recipe uses the popular no-knead method, which requires a time investment, but little work, making it easy to churn out in your own kitchen. No-knead bread allows you to whip up the dough, throw it into the fridge, and pop it into the oven (okay, after a 4 to 6 hour proofing time). The resulting miniature loaf is chewy carb heaven with a crackling crunchy exterior. 

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Old-fashioned Hoppin' John

Old-Fashioned Hoppin’ John

Hoppin’ John is a Southern favorite, especially around New Year’s when it is supposed to bring you good luck. Editor Kate Williams explored the deep heritage that Hoppin’ John holds in the South with this generations-old recipe. Because the dish is so simple, Williams found the quality of ingredients really do make a difference. She recommends using high-quality, flavorful bacon and heirloom peas and rice, if possible.

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Southern Kitchen tomato cucumber salad

Southern Kitchen’s Tomato and Cucumber Salad

As warmer weather approaches, fresh local produce is becoming more and more available, and this salad shows off the best of summer’s produce. We like to use a mix of tomatoes — one large red, one large yellow, and a pint of cherries — as well as a variety of cucumbers in this recipe for a variety of flavors and textures. Along with the olive oil and apple cider vinegar dressing, feel free to experiment with the fresh herbs used as seasoning.

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Ray's on the river mac and cheese

Truffled Mac and Cheese

Truffles are a rare and expensive ingredient that add an earthiness to everything they touch. Because truffles are so expensive, one of the best ways to incorporate their aroma and flavor in a dish is by using truffle oil. This version of mac and cheese also calls for 10-year aged white cheddar cheese, which you might not be able to find in a regular grocery store. To find these special ingredients head to an upscale grocery or cheese stop before your start cooking — it’ll be worth the trip.

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Peach caprese salad

Peach Caprese Salad

Tomatoes are usually the main focus in caprese salad, but we’ve decided to put a Southern twist on this Italian dish. In this deconstructed version of caprese, peaches, mozzarella and fresh basil are tossed in a bowl with vinegar, oil, salt and vinegar before being plated. Add a layer of prosciutto and it’s ready to serve to guests.

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Rachel Taylor is a staff writer at Southern Kitchen. She moved to Atlanta earlier this year after graduating college in Maryland, and has been a digital audience specialist at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Politically Georgia, as well as a freelance writer for publications such as USA Today and the Delmarva Daily Times on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. She has lived in France and Italy, and loves to travel.