The American South is as synonymous with its delicious, hearty comfort food as it is with its rich history and deeply-rooted traditions. Its culinary scene is a window into a culture that makes the South such a (literally and figuratively) warm and unique place to visit.
Traditional Southern food culture is often associated with soul food, fresh seafood, zesty barbecue and cheesy, creamy entrees. The cuisine is well known for being a little indulgent, and the flavors present in many of its most famous dishes are rich, comforting and well worth replicating at home.
With European, Native American and African roots, Creole culture is a staple of New Orleans. Creole food typically features a blend of tomatoes, rich sauces, herbs and seafood layered over a bed of rice, quinoa, grits or pasta. Experience a dose of Creole cooking by making Creole Tilapia, cooked with fresh-off-the-stove carrots, celery, cilantro, parsley and Tilapia and served over brown rice.
Try the recipe: Creole Tilapia from Prevention.
If you know anything at all about Southern cuisine, you know that fried food is king in the South. While just about every region in the South loves frying seafood, states along the eastern coast, like South Carolina, Georgia and Florida, are particularly well-known for mastering the art of frying up a fresh catch-of-the-day.
Emulate the East Coast’s classic fried fish dish by breading and frying Tilapia fillets with a mixture of egg whites, breadcrumbs, flour, cornmeal and basil. Be sure to load up on a soulful side dish like fried pecan okra, soulful collard greens or fried green tomatoes when serving.
Try the recipe: Crunchy Oven-Fried Tilapia from Genius Kitchen.
Fish and Grits
A quintessential dish of the South, shrimp and grits is something you’ll find on the menu at almost any Southern joint. The dish has a long history, with grits believed to have originated with the Native American Muskogee tribe, which ground Indian corn into a gritty, creamy texture. While traditionally eaten as a breakfast dish in the lowcountry of South Carolina and Georgia, the dish has more recently enjoyed a gourmet makeover, with many chefs now pairing shrimp and fish with some more creatively constructed grits. This particular recipe makes use of both shrimp and Tilapia, and seasons the dish with garlic, thyme, lemon juice and parmesan cheese. This old school dish is adaptable to any flavoring and ingredient combinations, so feel free to put your own modern spin on a certified Southern classic.
Try the recipe: Sauteed Shrimp and Tilapia with Parmesan Cheese Grits from Happily Eating.
Another dish native to New Orleans, gumbo is a hearty stew consisting of meat or seafood and produce like celery, carrots, tomatoes and bell peppers. Gumbo is notoriously laborious to make, often taking several hours to simmer into perfection, but this accelerated version will be on the table in just over an hour. Made with intense flavors and unique textures, trust us when we say this dish is worth the wait!
Try the recipe: Tilapia Gumbo from All Recipes.
At your next social gathering with friends, why not bring along a little Southern hospitality by whipping up one of these traditional dishes? With robust flavors and winning combinations of fish and vegetables, the food of the American South is unlike anything you’ll find anywhere else. One thing is for certain though—you’ll never leave the South hungry!
For a health-conscious approach to Southern cooking, check out Southern Comfort: 5 Healthy Takes on Hearty Recipes.