Gumbo, Jambalaya, Beignet, Grits…What is Southern Cooking?

“In the United States, Southern cooking is the style of cooking developed in the American South. These southern states include North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, Mississippi, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Florida, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia, Arkansas, Delaware, & DC.

As you can see, many states make up the South, which means lots of different influences, opinions, and modern interpretations of its cuisine! In essence, Southern cooking is truly a potluck, with several cultures and backgrounds bringing different cooking styles to the Southern table!  

Southern cooking is divided into several cooking styles based on the different regions of the South.

Beignets (Classic)

Appalachia: Southern Appalachian cooking refers to the central part of the Appalachian mountains, which spans several Southern states. Think authentic farm-to-table, hearty and homegrown! The mountains provide ample foraging and wild game like rabbits, wild turkeys, and venison, along with herbs, berries, ramps, sumac, and sorghum. Popular Appalachian recipes use home-canned ingredients preserved during their peak season.  Chili beans, chow chow, berry cobblers, biscuits & gravy, and chicken and dumplings are all said to originate from Appalachia.

Creole: Bring on the bread pudding, crawfish etouffee, and gumbo! Creole cooking originated in Louisiana and utilizes cooking techniques from France and Spain. This cuisine uses spicy seasoning combinations passed down from Native Americans and African cultures to create savory meals. The “holy trinity” (onions, celery, and bell peppers) makes an appearance in many flavorful Creole dishes.

Cajun: Jambalaya, dirty rice, and frog legs are popular Cajun dishes in the South. Cajun cooking originated when the French Canadians migrated to Southern Louisiana in the mid-1700s. The swampland provided plenty of alligators, crawfish, and frogs for eating.

Soul Food: The term “Soul Food” became popular in the 1960s during the Black Power Movement. It was a way for African-Americans to honor their often overlooked contribution to Southern cooking. Before being called Soul Food, it was known simply as down-home cooking. When Southern African American families moved to larger cities to seek more opportunities, they took with them the comforting, familiar dishes of home, like fried chicken, macaroni & cheese, collard greens, and candied yams; these Southern dishes were called Soul Food. We’ll look into how this food initially came about in the next section.

Low Country: Venture to the South Carolina coast, and you’ll discover the best authentic low country cuisine. Low country cooking takes advantage of the  bountiful coastline to create savory seafood dishes that resemble Creole and Cajun meals. Rice is prevalent in Low country cooking. Popular dishes are shrimp and grits, okra soup, Hoppin’ John, and rice puddings. 

Floribbean: Floribbean cooking is a combination of Floridian and Caribbean cuisines. This style of cooking is found throughout Florida, but mainly on the Southern tip of Florida. Floribbean cooking combines influences from the Caribbean, Hispanic and Asian immigrants who settled in Florida. It’s known for its healthier, lighter approach that consists of fresh, often organic ingredients like fish, lemongrass, key limes, coconut, mango, papaya, rum, and honey. Popular Floribbean dishes are stone crab, red conch chowder, and the famous key lime pie birthed in the Florida Keys.

Gullah: Former slaves who migrated to the coast of South Carolina, Georgia, and Northeast Florida are responsible for Gullah cooking. This style of Southern cooking is nearly identical to West African cuisines. The recipes remain intact, carefully preserved, and passed down through generations. Gullah cooking contains many dishes that use seafood, rice, and plenty of vegetables. One-pot meals are popular with Gullah cooking as well as mastering the art of pairing spices. Popular Gullah dishes include okra soup, Frog-more stew, and seed wafers.

poboys kitchen family meal