36 Southern Recipes That Taste Just Like Grandma’s
The Southern states of the U.S. are rich in culinary traditions, and you can try staples of the region with these healthy and delicious recipes. From mac and cheese to BBQ to Hoppin’ John, these recipes feature plenty of greens, beans and vegetables. Recipes like Mac & Cheese with Collards and Shrimp & Grits with Tomatillo Sauce are flavorful and grandma-approved.
Mac & Cheese with Collards
Dark leafy collards add bold flavor and boost the calcium in this healthy skillet mac and cheese recipe with a crispy topping. If you don't have collards, kale, Swiss chard and spinach are delicious substitutes.
Bourbon-Glazed Pork Chops with Hoppin' John
In this one-skillet dinner recipe, Kentucky bourbon gives a kick to these sticky glazed pork chops. In the healthier black-eyed pea Hoppin' John, this easy recipe uses smoked paprika instead of traditional ham or bacon.
BBQ Pulled Chicken Sandwich with Coleslaw
This eastern North Carolina-style chicken barbecue recipe is vinegar-based, a far cry from the sweet tomato-heavy sauces from the western part of the state. Double the recipe to make a big batch, perfect for game-day parties and potlucks.
Pimiento-Cheese Patty Melt
A healthy pimiento-cheese spread makes an insanely delicious topping for this easy patty melt recipe. To keep the bread-to-burger ratio even (and calories in check), look for a smaller loaf of country bread or cut large slices in half.
Blackened Tofu with Succotash
In this Southern-inspired healthy vegetarian recipe, the crispy, spice-infused tofu is served with an easy succotash of corn, lima beans and bell pepper. For an extra kick, serve with your favorite hot sauce.
Collard Green & Black-Eyed Pea Soup
Antioxidant-rich collard greens and fiber-packed black-eyed peas have a starring role in this nutritious soup. There's no need for loads of ham or salt pork--just a small amount of bacon gives it a wonderful smoky flavor. You can skip the bacon and substitute vegetable broth for chicken broth for a great vegetarian dish.
Adding okra to traditional ratatouille gives this French vegetable stew recipe Southern flair. It's delicious on the day it's cooked, but even better the next day. Serve as a side to grilled chicken or on top of thick, crusty bread.
Shrimp & Grits with Tomatillo Sauce
This shrimp and grits recipe get a zesty makeover with a vibrant salsa verde. Any type of whole-grain (or stone-ground) cornmeal will work for these Southern-style grits, but for the best texture, we recommend using medium-ground cornmeal or grits.
Chicken-Fried Turkey Cutlets with Redeye Gravy
Redeye gravy is a Southerner's trick of using coffee to make a quick pan gravy from the drippings that remain in the pan after frying ham steaks. In this lightened version we use lean turkey breast cutlets breaded and “fried” in a little canola oil, with just a bit of bacon for flavor in the gravy. Recipe by Joyce Hendley for EatingWell.
Black-Eyed Peas & Okra
This bean and okra recipe is a classic Southern side dish perfect for potlucks. Adding the okra toward the end of cooking guarantees a tender--not mushy--texture.
Okra & Red Pepper Cornbread
Colorful red bell pepper and thinly sliced okra add an exciting element in this cast-iron skillet cornbread recipe. Serve the cornbread in wedges alongside chili, baked beans or barbecued chicken or pork.
Grits & Greens Casserole
Here we've combined two favorite Southern side dishes--grits and greens--into one casserole; it's a natural choice to serve with Easter ham. Try omitting the bacon and using vegetable broth to make it a vegetarian dish.
Black-Eyed Peas with Pork & Greens
This boldly flavored spin on Hoppin' John replaces salt pork or bacon with lean pork chops. Plus we've added greens--in this case kale--a traditional accompaniment with the dish. Serve with cornbread and a glass of Spanish rioja.
Grilled Okra & Hot Peppers
The fire of the grill creates a tender texture while infusing the okra with subtle heat in this easy okra recipe. You can adjust the level of spiciness in this side dish by choosing chiles that are either tame, incendiary or anywhere in between.
Ancho-Honey Pork Tenderloin with Cheese Grits
In this recipe, roast pork tenderloin is glazed with honey, lime, soy and ancho chile powder and served on top of cheese grits. Ancho chile powder, made from dried poblano peppers, has a mild heat and adds a rich, subtly smoky flavor. Serve with sauteed kale with slivered garlic.
Shrimp & Cheddar Grits
The South's version of creamy polenta, grits are easy to make on a weeknight--especially when topped with quickly broiled shrimp and scallions. Use the sharpest Cheddar you can find for these cheesy grits. Serve with: Sautéed greens and a tall glass of iced tea.
Cajun Tilapia Po'Boy for Two
Forget the deep fryer--the tilapia in this healthy po'boy recipe, a classic Southern sandwich, is coated in cornmeal and cooked in just 2 tablespoons oil. The result? A healthy, crispy fish sandwich with little added fat. Cajun spice blends can be surprisingly high in sodium. Check the ingredients to find one without added sodium.
Sweet Southern Egg Salad
Crunchy celery, gherkin pickles and sweet onion flavor this Southern-style egg salad recipe. Serve on pumpernickel toast or a bed of lettuce.
Although the classic Cajun stew, étouffée, is usually made with crayfish, it's also delicious with catfish. The cooked butter-and-flour mixture, also called a brown roux, gives the sauce a nutty flavor. We added a bit of reduced-fat sour cream and stewed tomatoes to make the sauce rich and flavorful without a lot of extra calories or fat. Serve with brown rice.
Summer Tomato, Onion & Cucumber Salad
Fresh wedges of tomato, thinly sliced onion and sliced cucumber dressed simply with vinegar and oil makes the most simple salad possible--think of it as the Southern counterpart to the classic Italian tomato-and-mozzarella salad. It is best enjoyed at the height of summer, when tomatoes and cucumbers are fresh from the garden.
Invented at Antoine's in New Orleans in 1889, oysters Rockefeller was named for John D. Rockefeller, one of the richest Americans at the time, for its rich sauce. Antoine's has kept the original recipe secret, but basically it includes a cream sauce with spinach and other greens, flavored with Pernod or anisette. This version omits the cream sauce but is still full of flavor.
Chicken-Fried Steak & Gravy
Can you really make a chicken-fried steak that isn't loaded with saturated fat and salt? Absolutely. We skip the deep frying, but with rich country gravy as consolation, you won't miss it. Our pan-fried, crispy cube steak has less than one-third of the fat and about 80 percent less sodium.
Nutty Pimiento Cheese Balls
These bite-size pimiento cheese balls from Jamie and Bobby Deen are a huge hit with kids (of all ages). They're the perfect appetizer to bring to a summer picnic. Jamie and Bobby share a passion for great home-cooked food with a Southern flair with their celebrity-chef mom, Paula Deen. These brothers are following in their mom's footsteps with their own TV shows, books and website. Our favorite part of what they're up to: healthy makeovers of some of Paula's recipes! Recipe adapted from The Deen Bros. Get Fired Up, by Jamie & Bobby Deen and Melissa Clark (Ballantine Books, 2011).
Barley Hoppin' John
Traditionally made with rice, this classic Southern dish gets great toothsome texture here from quick-cooking barley instead. Serve with a green salad.
Summer Succotash Salad
This summer salad is based on the Southern favorite, succotash, and is a fresh-tasting combination of butter beans, corn, summer squash and tomatoes. Butter beans, the same species as lima beans, are the bean of choice in the South. When they're in season you may be able to find them fresh--shell them yourself. Or use frozen butter beans, baby lima beans or even edamame.
Peach Custard Pie
We use low-fat milk along with nonfat Greek yogurt in the creamy custard for this peach pie. The yogurt gives the custard a smooth texture without using cream or too many egg yolks. A slice is just as delicious served warm from the oven as it is chilled. For an added treat, serve topped with fresh blueberries.
Goat Cheese Grits with Fresh Corn
Take grits upscale by adding fresh corn, goat cheese and chives.
Louisiana Catfish with Okra & Corn
Purchased Cajun or Creole seasoning flavors both the catfish and vegetables in this 30-minute dinner. This dish is best with fresh vegetables, but we were pleasantly surprised at how well it turned out with frozen okra and corn. Serve with cheese grits and a green salad.
A traditional Southern favorite, spoonbread is a typically savory dish that's like a cross between a soufflé and cornbread. Here we transform the simple ingredients into a comforting dessert with the addition of summer's best raspberries and pure Vermont maple syrup. Any type of cornmeal will work, but we love the texture that stone-ground provides.
All-American BBQ Chicken Breast
In this healthy chicken breast recipe, bottled barbecue sauce--often loaded with sodium and high-fructose corn syrup--is replaced with a homemade barbecue sauce recipe. Use the barbecue sauce to baste the chicken breast while cooking--but if you want to also serve the barbecue sauce at the table, separate some before grilling to avoid cross-contamination.
Macque Choux (pronounced “mock shoe”) is a Cajun corn and vegetable sauté. Here we eschew the traditional bacon fat or butter for heart-healthy olive oil. Try it at your next backyard barbecue.
A Louisiana favorite, our version of this spicy dish uses whole-grain Wehani rice. Long-grain brown rice also works. Traditionally made with chicken liver, which gives it a “dirty” color, we use healthy lean chicken sausage instead.
Shrimp Po' Boy
This twist on the Louisiana favorite piles grilled shrimp and creamy-dressed cabbage onto a crusty bun. Bread that's soft on the inside and crusty on the outside is perfect for a Po' Boy sandwich. We grill both sides of a whole-wheat bun for that added crunch. You may need a few extra napkins to enjoy it, but this quick and easy sandwich is well worth it. Serve with: Sauteed corn and bell peppers.
Spicy Green Tomato Pickles
This green tomato pickle recipe combines the best of Jewish deli pickles and Southern-style pickles. Fermented for 4 to 10 days rather than brined in a vinegar solution, these delightfully sour pickles are worth the wait; they make a great snack, side or topping for burgers and sandwiches. Be sure to use firm green tomatoes without any blush of pink, as ripening tomatoes will turn mushy during fermentation.
EatingWell's Pimiento Cheese
This Southern favorite is a simple blend of Cheddar, mayonnaise and pimientos. If you like spicy foods, add a few shakes of hot sauce. Serve with crackers for an appetizer or as a sandwich spread for lunch!