Show a Southerner any kind of food (including Jell-O) encased in a ball of dough (or maybe sandwiched between a couple of Oreos or rolled in Ritz Crackers), and our first instinct is to drop it into a deep fryer. Why? Because anything that tastes good will taste better Southern fried. (Anybody hungry for fried cheese balls?)
Now, we know grease isn’t good for us. And we can be persuaded to sauté and Pam spray for our health. But y’all, that deep fryer has an irresistible pull sometimes. Apparently, there’s something about watching spherical food bobble around in bubbling oil that gets our creative juices flowing because when it comes to fried-in-a-ball, we can come up with some doozies—mac ’n cheese (or any kind of cheese), salmon, squash, corn, potatoes, cornbread dressing (not to be confused with hushpuppies), sausage balls . . .
If you really want to see how far we can go, you should head to a Southern state fair, especially the State Fair of Texas, which is the biggest one in the whole country. Like everything else in the Lone Star State, fair food here is BIG. The fair even has its own Big Tex Choice Awards for food.
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And what kinds of cosmic creations have come out of the fryer in Dallas? Awesome Deep Fried Nutella, Deep Fried Breakfast Cupcake, Fried Redneck Wedding Cake Balls, Texas Fried Cowboy Fritters, Deep Fried Butter (in a dough ball), Deep Fried Jell-O (encased in dough, it’s rumored to taste like a jelly doughnut), Injectable Great Balls of BBQ, Southern Fried Chicken & Dumplins, Deep Fried Texas Salsa (made with masa and rolled in tortilla chips for frying) . . .
But Texas doesn’t monopolize the Crisco. At North Carolina's state fair, they’ve been known to serve up Deep Fried Bacon & Cheese Collard Bites, Deep Fried Crab Cake Cheese Curds, and Deep Fried Dirty Rice. You might find Deep Fried Coffee and Deep-Fried Koolaid among the offerings at the Oklahoma State Fair, while the crowds can usually count on Hot Brown Tots in (you guessed it) Kentucky.
When you think about it, every great Southern fried-in-a-ball food—from pimiento cheese to brisket—began when somebody South of the Mason Dixon eyeballed an ingredient and said those 5 magic words: “Reckon you could fry that?”
WATCH: Fried Pickles & Roundhouse-Kick Sauce
Think ranch dressing is the only suitable accompaniment to the salty yumminess of fried pickles? Our Roundhouse-Kick Sauce will totally change your mind.