Hopefully you’re hungry, because these Southern side dishes are just as good — if not better than — the main course! From fluffy biscuits to crispy fried tomatoes to luscious greens, these side dishes are practically a style of cuisine in and of themselves with comforting flavors that transport you to a Sunday supper state of mind.
It wouldn't be a Southern meal without biscuits. From the cat-head biscuit (named for its impressive scale) to drop biscuits to baking powder biscuits, there's something for everyone. If we had to pick a favorite though, It'd be these simple buttermilk ones. (Be careful not to over mix the butter, and they'll come out perfect every time!)
A Southern dinner without collard greens is just wrong. For you Northern folks, collards are leafy green vegetables, part of the same family as cabbage and kale. In the South, they're are usually cooked with pork or pork fat and spices, for a rich, hearty flavor. But if you're looking for a (slightly) lighter take, try our mustard greens with smoked turkey neck.
Biscuits AND cornbread. Yes indeed. 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 dirty little secret: They're actually beans! In Southern cuisine, black-eyed peas are often cooked with ham and spices as a savory side. Or they're featured prominently in a pea-and-rice dish called Hoppin' John, which is a New Year's tradition that promises good luck in the year ahead.
5. Fried Green Tomatoes
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 what keeps us coming back for more.
Also called "corn grits" or "hominy grits," grits are made by boiling ground corn, and these heavenly babies bring delight from morning till night. At breakfast, grits can be coupled with sweet ingredients, savory ingredients or left plain. For dinner, grits are often dressed up with cheese or topped with shrimp to give them a rich, full flavor.
7. Hush Puppies
Fear not: No actual pups are harmed in the making of this Southern side. Hush puppies are a free-form fritter made of cornmeal, usually combined with egg. The balls are dropped into hot oil and fried. If you're wondering about the name, the story goes that a frantic cook used to toss the cornmeal treats to barking dogs to silence them. We're not sure if this is entirely accurate, but it's a fun "fact" to throw in when you serve this savory side.
8. Mac and Cheese
Everybody loves mac and cheese, but nobody does it quite like the South. Whether it's a baked variety or a custard-y type, it's a must-have with fried chicken.
9. Mashed Potatoes
Mashed potatoes aren't inherently Southern, but they're usually along for the ride. They're often served along fried chicken or as a side at Southern barbecue joints. You can even lighten them up by swapping in cauliflower for half of the spuds. (Nobody will notice, promise!)
Okra's a staple of Southern Creole cuisine, and it's usually treated in one of two ways. The first is this: You can cut the stalks into tiny tubes, coat in a cornmeal batter and fry up to crispy perfection. Or you can cook an okra-tomato mixture and serve it as a side vegetable. Either way, it's a signature Southern flavor.
11. Potato Salad
This picnic and potluck classic is also a staple side in Southern cuisine. But what makes a potato salad Southern? Usually you add mustard or an acidic ingredient, which gives the potato salad just the right "bite" to balance out the richness of something like, say, fried chicken.
It's no secret: The South loves slaw! There are two general types of slaw that are served with Southern food. One's a creamy, mayonnaise-based slaw, with finely chopped cabbage, carrots and onion. The other is a crispier, tangier vinegar slaw that's a great complement to a rich, savory main dish. (For a fun alternative to traditional slaws, try our Asian-inspired version!)