Love ‘em or hate ‘em, these Southern foods are special. They have permanent places in our cookbooks and on our tables. That said, not everyone understands the appeal of some of our favorite Southern foods. Scroll through for a few of the dishes that delight our region and confuse most everyone else. (We’ll even teach you how to pronounce them.)
It’s best not to ask too many questions when it comes to this dessert. Just take a bite for the full orange-grapefruit-coconut-cherry-marshmallow experience.
Make it: Ambrosia Meringue Trifles Recipe
More from Southern Living
Biscuits and Gravy
Many a comedian has commented on the likeness of a plate of biscuits and gravy to a breakfast of cement. We care not, because appreciation of flaky buttermilk biscuits topped with thick sausage gravy is just good sense.
Make it: Biscuits-and-Gravy Skillet Recipe
This is the stew to end all Southern stews. We’ll forgive you if you're unfamiliar with Brunswick stew, but don’t be surprised when we force a bowl upon you at suppertime. You just have to try it.
Make it: Chicken-and-Brisket Brunswick Stew Recipe
This spicy stew hails from Kentucky and can be made with what you have on hand—venison or rabbit, anyone?
Make it: Harry Young’s Burgoo Recipe
Chicken and Waffles
Is it breakfast? Lunch? Both? Neither? Chicken and waffles is whatever you want it to be, and we want it on our plates, asap.
Make it: Buttermilk Chicken and Waffles
Don’t even think of serving this sans gravy. It’s not just a dinner dish; it’s an experience.
Make it: Chicken-Fried Steak Recipe
Chowchow has fans across the country, but over the years, it has become a go-to Southern relish. All you need to do is pick a peck of pickled veg to make a batch of this chunky condiment.
Make it: Garlicky Collard Greens with Confetti Chowchow Recipe
Fried Green Tomatoes
Sure, tomatoes are great on salads and such, but have you ever had them when they’re dredged in flour and cornmeal and fried up hot?
Make it: Fried Green Tomatoes Recipe
Fried Chicken Gizzard
Not unlike a juicy green tomato, to fry it is to love it.
Make it: How to Fry Chicken
You haven’t lived until you’ve bitten into one of these spheroids of deep-fried dough with a gooey Oreo center. You can find them at any and all Southern state fairs.
Make it: Deep-Fried Oreos Recipe
Another marvel of Southern culinary ingenuity—who knew a bag of Fritos could be the base of a savory pie?
Make it: Frito Pie Recipe
If you don’t understand the appeal of a bowl of good grits, you’re likely to be banished from any and every Southern breakfast table at which you have the good fortune to sit.
Make it: Buttermilk Stone-Ground Grits Recipe
This Louisiana stew is served over rice. If you’ve never tasted an authentic gumbo, we have just the recipe for you. Make it tonight. (Thank us later.)
Make it: Andouille Sausage and Smoked Chicken Gumbo Recipe
Hoppin’ who? Hoppin’ John, friends. This dish is made of a mixture of black-eyed peas and rice with additions of onion and bacon or ham. It’s a favorite of the Lowcountry Carolinas and coastal Georgia.
Make it: Classic Hoppin’ John Recipe
This particular Southern delicacy speaks for itself. It’s a Louisiana-favorite stew that’s packed with shrimp and Andouille sausage, and—always a bonus— it makes for an easy one-pot meal.
Make it: Chicken and Sausage Jambalaya Recipe
Texans know and love kolaches, baked breads filled with meat or preserves which have origins in the Czech Republic and surrounding regions.
Make it: Spicy Sausage-and-Cheddar Kolaches Recipe
Parts of North and South Carolina know and crave this food. (Southern Living Editors…not so much.) It’s a spiced blend of pig liver and cornmeal that's often eaten sliced or in sandwich form. For more info, check out this article on all things livermush.
Maryland, we salute you. While plenty of people would be surprised to find an oyster casserole on a Thanksgiving table, we know what a perfect addition it is to our holiday spreads.
Make it: Oyster Casserole Recipe
Just add cream cheese and a stack of crackers to assemble a pepper jelly-based, fancy-ish, Southern-style snack.
Make it: Red Pepper Jelly Recipe
Oh mayo, how we love thee. Over the years, just three perfectly paired and subtly mixed ingredients—pimientos, Cheddar cheese, and plenty of mayo—have provided our Southern palates measureless joy.
Make it: Our Favorite Pimiento Cheese Video
Don’t knock it ‘til you’ve tried it. When you read the ingredients list—pineapple, Cheddar cheese, crushed Ritz crackers—you may be tempted to pass on this particular dish, but don’t you dare. Mind your manners and start scooping.
Make it: Pineapple Casserole Recipe
Sweet Potato Casserole
Sweet potatoes and marshmallows. Ok, we admit it: This pair doesn’t make a bit of sense—until you take a bite, that is.
Make it: Classic Sweet Potato Casserole Recipe
Ask for tea in the South, and it’s coming to you sweet. If you’re ordering and you want your tea unsweeted, you have to say so. (You've been warned.)
Make it: Classic Southern Sweet Tea Video
Tater Tot Casserole
When you know, you know. And Southerners know that tater tots belong in our casseroles at breakfast, lunch, and dinner, please and thank you.
Make it: Tater Tot Breakfast Bake Recipe
WATCH: Southern Living Editors React to Livermush
What classically Southern dishes divide the diners at your family functions and backyard barbecues? Let us know your favorite Southern dishes.