Ah, the South. It's a world full of humid summers, country music, renowned colleges, and of course, incredible comfort food dishes that you can't find anywhere else. Before coming to the South for school I didn't think much of it. But after experiencing all it has to offer (including the delicious food) I realized coming to live here was a great choice. If you live, or ever happen to find yourself, in the South, here's a list of the best Southern foods you absolutely have to try, along with recipes so that you can recreate them yourself when you go back home.

1. Biscuits and Gravy

The biscuits in the South are prime, but they're made all the better when drenched in a creamy sausage gravy. It's nowhere near good for you, but it's definitely worth all the butter and sausage fat that goes into making such a divine masterpieces. Biscuits and gravy is the perfect Southern breakfast for sharing with the family, or just by yourself when you're missing some good comfort food. 

2. Southern BBQ

sauce, pork
Amanda Gajdosik

There are a number of different types of BBQ in the South, ranging from pulled pork lathered in a sweet, ketchup-based sauce, to herb-filled dry rubs massaged into various slabs of meat. But no matter what, they all pack a flavorful punch that will leave you with a huge, satisfying smile, and possibly a face covered in sauce (more for later?). 

3. Shrimp and Grits

onion, pork, rice, pepper, meat, vegetable
Samantha Yudin

Grits are the epitome of Southern breakfasts, but they're made into a satisfying and hearty dinner when paired with shrimp and additional toppings like cheese, bacon, and veggies. If you're from the North and have no idea what grits are (don't worry, I was like you once too), they're coarsely ground corn kernels boiled until soft with water or milk. Their creamy texture is balanced perfectly with shrimp, making for a light dinner that'll make you feel like a true Southerner. 

4. Mac and Cheese

penne, spaghetti, pasta, cheese, sauce, macaroni
Amanda Shulman

Let me just make one thing clear: southern mac and cheese is not your average mac and cheese. It’s pretty much 20% mac and 80% cheese, which is in no way a bad thing. It's the definition of comfort food, served either as an entree or on the side of one of the other delicious Southern dishes listed here. 

5. Fried Green Tomatoes

Green tomatoes? Yeah, it's a thing. They're actually just regular tomatoes that haven't fully ripened yet, with a tart and astringent flavor that's perfect for frying. In the South, fried green tomatoes are typically served as an appetizer or in a sandwich. Some even go as far as making a BLT, subbing a regular tomatoes for a fried green one. In the South, it's known that everything tastes better fried. 

6. Collard Greens

Collard greens are a super healthy cruciferous vegetable that appear as a star side on Southern tables. They're typically steamed or sauteed in anything from broth to bacon grease, depending on how healthy you're trying to be. But you and I both know that you'll justify their green healthiness no matter how you prepare them (and I don't blame you if you do).

7. Chicken Pot Pie

pastry, meat, vegetable, pie
Ming-Ray Liao

Cutting into a warm chicken pot pie provides about the same satisfaction as opening up a present. Their fillings can include fried chicken, steamed vegetables, creamy white wine sauce, and/or sweet potatoes. The best thing about chicken pot pie, besides the fact that you can put pretty much whatever you want in it, is the flaky, golden crust. For best results, get a recipe from a Southern grandma who's been baking up pastry crusts for years. 

8. Fried Chicken

When most people think of Southern food, they picture fried chicken. Which is perfectly fitting because the South has the best fried chicken known to this world. Golden, crispy, tender, and juicy, no other variety of chicken compares. Sure it's very unhealthy, but it's 100% worth it. Pair it with classic Southern sides like mac and cheese or coleslaw for a comfort meal that can only end with pure happiness (and a full stomach). 

9. Corn Pudding

meat, sauce, chicken
Meredith Simmons

Corn pudding is definitely one of those weird dishes that only Southern people would've thought of. It's a creamy dish made from corn and heaping amounts of butter and sugar, making it a sweet side to balance out the rest of a typical savory Southern meal. It might be weird to imagine eating pudding that's made from corn, but just roll with it.  

10. Peach Cobbler

strawberry, jam
Annie Madole

There ain't nothin' finer than sweet Georgia peaches. And they're made all the more finer when you bake them into a juicy cobbler topped with a crispy, cinnamon crumble. Additionally, you can add fresh raspberries or blueberries to the mix as well, for a sweet dessert that'll have you dreaming of moving to Georgia solely for the fresh fruits.

11. Chili 

chicken, noodle, soup, ramen
Judy Holtz

Chili is a Southern staple during the winter months when you're too cold (and lazy) to cook anything else. It's perfect to prepare on a busy day, because all it requires is throwing a bunch of ingredients into a pot and letting it cook. Then by dinnertime you have a warm, steamy pot of deliciousness just waiting to be devoured while you cuddle up on the couch watching Netflix. 

12. Chicken Fried Steak

If you thought fried chicken was good, get ready for chicken fried steak. It's essentially a tenderized steak that's battered and fried the same as fried chicken. Aka, it's heaven and the South is genius for coming up with this hybrid dish. To make it even better, chicken fried steak is served smothered with a creamy gravy. This meal is great for when you're extremely hungry and in need of something amazingly significant to Southern culture. 

13. Pecan Pie

chocolate, pie, pumpkin, pecan, cream
Jessica Payne

Nothing beats the richness of a Southern pecan pie. It's great for when you want something sweet for dessert but not too overwhelming that you'll go into a sugar coma. (Though it does contain a good amount of sugar and butter). But hey, nuts are healthy right? Pecan pie is a staple during Southern holidays, but can definitely be enjoyed at any time of the year. 

14. Corn on the Cob 

corn
Tiare Brown

Obviously, Southerners love their corn. They've got corn pudding, cornbread, and the classic corn on the cob, to name just a few. If you've ever been to the North Carolina State Fair, you know that corn on the cob is one of the foods you must have. You can get it slathered in butter or queso (which of course is the better choice because duh). It's a classic that will never not be good no matter where you're eating it. 

15. Strawberry Shortcake

dairy product, berry, sweet, pastry, jam, cake, cream, shortcake, strawberry
Kristine Mahan

Sweet and fruity desserts obviously take prominence in Southern culture. Strawberry shortcake made from freshly picked strawberries and homemade shortbread is a delectable dish dessert that's perfect during the summertime. There's no better feeling than picking your own strawberries and turning them into a masterpiece.  

16. Cornbread

sweet
Maddie Stanley

Yet another Southern dish involving corn. Most cornbread recipes, however, don't actually use whole corn kernels to make (though you could definitely incorporate them if you wanted). Instead it's made of cornmeal, which gives it that corn flavor all Southerners know and love. Cornbread is great on it's own, but also acts as a perfect vessel for sopping up dishes like chili or stew. 

17. Fried Catfish

The South has no fear of frying anything, and that includes freshly caught catfish. If you're going to spend a whole day fishing, you deserve to treat yourself to what you catch, right? Fried catfish puts a Southern spin on fish and chips with the mild and succulent flavor of catfish. It's definitely a dish you don't want to miss out on trying for yourself. 

18. Pralines

chicken, chili, vegetable, beef, pork, sauce, meat
Becky Hughes

Most Northerners I know have no idea what pralines are, which is a pure shame if you ask me. Pralines are sweet pieces of heaven made from cream, sugar, butter, vanilla, and pecans. They're a favorite candy in places like Louisiana and Charleston, among other Southern cities. They're a great treat for munching on while exploring the beautiful sights of the South; just make sure to save some for when you get back home because you will definitely want more.

19. Fried Shrimp

If you've ever seen Forrest Gump, you'd know there's about a million ways to prepare shrimp. In the South, frying seems to be the preferred way to prepare anything, including freshly caught shrimp. Fried shrimp takes on the same satisfaction as chicken nuggets; where only wanting one turns into devouring about 20. But when in the South, every fried, greasy, and/or buttery calorie is worth it. 

20. Gumbo

Gumbo is a creole dish known to places like New Orleans. It's essentially a stew, made from ingredients like shrimp, andouille sausage, rice, tomatoes, and other vegetables in a broth or stock base. Gumbo is a pretty perfect meal, as it includes your carbs, proteins, and veggies all in one. It's super healthy, delicious, and filling, making you want to recreate it in your own home for an easy, satisfying dinner. 

21. Baked Beans

meat, beans, legume, vegetable, baked beans
Jim Johnson

When in the South, baked beans appear as a side item on pretty much any restaurant menu. They're also a staple at summer barbecues and cookouts, as they go great along pretty much every other Southern food item. It's easy to buy canned baked beans at the store, but whipping up your own Southern variety is all the more tasty. 

22. Hashbrown Breakfast Casserole

In the South breakfast is pretty important, especially on lazy weekend mornings when the whole family is together under one roof. The easiest, and most sensible thing, to prepare in this situation is an epic breakfast casserole made from hashbrowns, breakfast sausage, eggs, and a ridiculous amount of cheese. It's the perfect thing to wake up to, with all the necessary ingredients to make it through the morning. Wake 'n bake.

23. Coleslaw

pepper, coleslaw, slaw, carrot, salad, vegetable, cabbage
Kirby Barth

Coleslaw is another traditional side item in the South, especially alongside barbecue. Many Southern BBQ joints serve up their pulled pork sandwiches with coleslaw, providing a tangy compliment to the smoky meat. Coleslaw is also extremely versatile, as it can be made with a variety of different ingredients. Prepare it with mayo for a creamier texture, or use vinegar for a lighter option. 

24. King Ranch Chicken Casserole

Obviously, Southerners take great pride in their casseroles, and why shouldn't they? This king ranch chicken casserole is super easy, takes very little time to cook, and only uses two dishes to prepare (read: fewer dishes!). The casserole is made with a mixture of chicken, corn chowder, diced tomatoes, tortillas, and heaps of mozzarella cheese. It's perfect to make when you really don't feel like cooking, and will provide leftovers to be enjoyed for a couple more dinners. It's a win win win. 

25. Hamburger Steak

Contrary to the name, hamburger steak doesn't actually have any steak in it. It's just ground hamburger meat that's shaped into patties, then fried and topped with gravy. Essentially, it's like a Salisbury steak; creamy, beefy, savory, and super simple to make. This dish is perfect to prepare when you have hamburger meat on hand and, a craving for something other than cheeseburgers. 

26. Fried Okra

Upon first seeing fried okra in the South I wondered wtf it was. Well, it's a green vegetable filled with seeds that slightly resembles a pepper, though it has a mild taste similar to eggplant. In the South they tend to serve it up fried (not surprising) as a side dish at many restaurants. 

27. Mississippi Mud Brownies

Mississippi mud brownies are the star of brownies. What makes them so great is that they're topped with melted marshmallows and sweet chocolate icing. The result is a chocolately, marshmallowy masterpiece that's loved by folks from all regions of the U.S. You're definitely going to want to make them for yourself at home, but be warned that after you try them you'll never look at a typical brownie the same. 

28. Red Beans and Rice

pork, paella, curry, pepper, chicken, vegetable, meat, rice
Antonia Drummond

Red beans and rice is another classic dish in Louisiana Creole culture. With the incorporation of sausage and additional spices it makes for a tasty and filling one-pot dinner. Whip it up at home and dream of singing and dancing your way through Bourbon Street in New Orleans

29. Sweet Potato Pie

dairy product, cake, pastry, pie, pumpkin, sweet, cream
Mikayla Ostendorf

By now we all know that sweet potatoes are a gift from above. They're super versatile and can be made into anything from fries to tacos to delicious sweet potato pie. It's obvious that Southerners love their pie, and the sweet potato variety makes for a sweet and healthy dessert to compliment a rich Southern dinner. 

30. Banana Pudding 

dairy product, sweet, vegetable
 Isabelle Smith

Nothing compliments some Southern BBQ like sweet, creamy banana pudding. At most BBQ joints you find in the South, they offer homemade banana pudding that's seriously better than any store-bought variety you've ever tasted. A trip to the South is more than necessary just to try this sweet treat. 

31. Sweet Tea

Pretty much any restaurant in the South offers sweet tea as a beverage choice. When Southerners trek to the North, their biggest disappointment is usually the lack of sweet tea when they go out to eat. For some, there's probably more sweet tea in their bodies than water. You know someone's not truly from the South if they aren't a fan of this sweet drink (guilty). 

32. Hushpuppies

meatball, vegetable, chicken, meat, sweet
Izzi Clark

Ah, hushpuppies. They're like crispy, warm nuggets of gold. It's another star side at Southern joints, accompanying BBQ or other classic dishes. Hushpuppies essentially taste like fried cornbread, and are great dipped in freshly whipped butter or jam. 

33. Honey Baked Ham

Ham is a staple at Christmas dinner for most families, as it is in the South as well. But in the South, they choose to lather their ham up in a copious amount of honey, then bake it low and slow until it's caramelized to perfection. The result is a sweet ham with a crispy crust and tender meat that'll be loved by everyone you're having over for the holidays.  

34. Pimento Cheese

macaroni, milk, cornflakes, corn, pasta, cereal, rice
 Kathy Dai

Cheese lovers, if you've never tried pimento you're seriously missing out on one of the best cheese spreads known to humankind. It can be enjoyed as an app with crackers, or between your two favorite slices of bread in a bomb ass grilled cheese sandwich. Southerners also enjoy it with fried green tomatoes, but feel free to get as creative as you can with this creamy, flavorful cheese.  

35. Potato Salad

biscuits, cheese
Nina Lincoff

Another classic Southern side, potato salad is a hit at barbecues, family gatherings, and Southern restaurants alike. It can also be prepared a variety of different ways and incorporate different veggies and herbs, depending on what kind of flavor you're going for. For lovers of potatoes and cold salads that require no cooking, this one's a winner.