Ready to put some South in your mouth? Hopefully, you’re hungry, because these Southern side dishes are just as good — if not better than — the main course!
Southern side dishes are practically a style of cuisine in and of themselves, with unique, singularly comforting flavors. They have the ability to transport you to a Sunday supper state of mind with a single bite.
From fluffy biscuits to fried green tomatoes and crave-worthy collards, here are 12 Southern side dishes that you simply must get to know.
While biscuits can be found all around the world, they’re particularly popular in the Southern United States. From the cat-head biscuit (named for its impressive scale) to drop biscuits to baking powder biscuits, these are a common side along a Southern meal.
2. Collard greens
If you want to serve an authentic Souther dinner, the meal simply must include collard greens. Collards are leafy green vegetables, part of the same family as cabbage and kale. In the South, the greens are typically cooked with pork or pork fat alongside spices, giving them a rich, hearty flavor.
Like biscuits, cornbread is known over the world, but there’s an extra-special place for it alongside Southern cuisine. Whether it’s made in a skillet and cut into wedges or served in rectangular hunks, a slice of cornbread is the carb of choice when you feast on fare like fried chicken and okra.
4. Black-eyed peas
Black-eyed peas have a secret: They’re actually beans. This little legume is roughly the size of a pea, but with a more bean-like shape, and typically has a pale coloring with a prominent black spot, hence their name.
In Southern cuisine, black-eyed peas are frequently cooked with ham and spices as a savory side. They’re also featured prominently in a pea-and-rice dish called Hoppin’ John, which is a New Year’s tradition — it’s said to bring good luck in the year ahead.
5. Fried green tomatoes
Fried green tomatoes via Craftsy member marisafranca
Fried green tomatoes are made using unripe, very firm and sometimes literally still-green tomatoes. The tomatoes are sliced, coated in a cornmeal mixture and fried in hot oil or bacon fat. The savory coating combined with the tart, slightly acidic tomato slices is a memorable combination.
Also called “corn grits” or “hominy grits,” grits are made by boiling ground corn. In Southern cuisine, grits are ubiquitous as a side and can appear on plates from morning till night.
At breakfast, grits might be combined with sweet ingredients, savory ingredients or left plain, as a sort of mush. As a dinner side dish, the grits are usually dressed up with cheese or other savory fixings to give them a rich, full flavor.
7. Hush puppies
Don’t worry: no actual pups are harmed in the making of this Southern side. Hushpuppies are a sort of freeform fritter made of cornmeal, usually combined with a binding agent such as egg. The balls are dropped into hot oil and fried.
The story behind their name goes that a harried cook tossed the cornmeal treats to barking dogs to silence them. Whether or not that is true is the subject of some debate, but it makes for some pleasant mealtime banter when you serve this savory side!
8. Mac and cheese
Sure, mac and cheese is beloved all over, but nobody does it quite like Southern cooks. Whether it’s a baked variety or a custard-y type, it’s the absolute perfect complement to fried chicken and collard greens.
9. Mashed potatoes
What makes mashed potatoes a Southern side dish? While there isn’t a specific treatment of mashed potatoes that makes them Southern-specific, they bear mention because they are so frequently served along fried chicken or as a side at the barbecue joints that are so popular in the South.
Southern plate via Craftsy member Sopisa
Okra is a staple of Southern Creole cuisine. As a side, it is often treated in one of two ways. First, is fried okra, in which the stalks are cut into tiny tubes and then coated in a cornmeal batter and fried up to crispy perfection.
The second is to cook an okra-tomato mixture and serve it as a side vegetable (as pictured above, alongside grits and beans). Either way, it’s a signature Southern flavor.
Try your hand at okra cooked with tomato with the recipe featured in Craftsy course Southern Classics at Home!
11. Potato salad
Potato salad is a classic at picnics and potlucks, and it’s also a staple side in Southern cuisine. So what makes a potato salad Southern? Typically, the addition of mustard or an acidic ingredient, which gives the potato salad just the right “bite” to balance out the richness of the meat mains to which it plays sidekick.
The South loves slaw! There are two general types of slaw that are served with Southern food. One is a creamy, mayonnaise-based slaw, which features finely chopped cabbage, carrots, and onion. The other is a crispier, tangier vinegar slaw, which acts as the perfect complement to a rich, savory main dish.
Want more Southern comfort?
Be sure to check out the new Craftsy class Southern Classics at Home. Along with beloved Souther chef Virginia Willis, you’ll learn to make juicy fried chicken, plenty of classic Southern side dishes, pulled pork and more comfort food favorites!