Southern Comfort: 5 Healthy Takes on Hearty Recipes

Southern recipes with a healthy twist

Nobody knows home-cooked comfort food like the south, but sometimes southern dishes can be high in fat and calories. We’ve rounded up healthier versions of all your favorite southern dishes so you can enjoy them guilt-free. Whip up one of these recipes when you’re in need of a little southern comfort after a hard day’s work.

Gulf Crab Cakes with Lemon Butter

Gulf Crab Cakes Lemon Butter Recipe

Crab cakes are a Texas favorite. Tender pieces of crab are folded in with bell peppers, onions and spices. Since this recipe calls for pan searing and baking the cakes rather than frying them, the calorie and fat content is much lower than regular crab cakes. Make sure you refrigerate the crab cakes for at least 30 minutes before cooking. This ensures they hold their shape while in the oven.

Try the recipe: Gulf Crab Cakes with Lemon Butter from Southern Living.

Blackened Cajun Tilapia

Blackened Cajun Tilapia Healthy Southern Recipe

Fans of Louisiana-style cooking will love this blackened Cajun Tilapia. Protein-rich Tilapia fillets are rubbed with a blend of traditional Cajun spices and are then sautéed until the spices create a dark, crispy crust. This recipe takes only 15 minutes to prepare, so it’s a great option for dinner on a busy weeknight.

Try the recipe: Blackened Cajun Tilapia from Once Upon a Chef.

Oven-Fried Green Tomatoes

Oven Fried Green Tomatoes Healthy Recipe

Fried green tomatoes are a classic southern dish, but for a healthier spin try these oven-fried green tomatoes. This version has got far less calories than the traditional recipe since these tomatoes get their crunchy shell from baked breadcrumbs rather than a dip in a deep fryer. If you grow your own vegetables, this recipe is a tasty way to enjoy your tomatoes before they even ripen.

Try the recipe: Oven-Fried Green Tomatoes from Kalyn’s Kitchen.

Shrimp and Grits

Healthy Shrimp and Grits Recipe

Perhaps the most famous southern dish, shrimp and grits get a healthy twist in this recipe. Sprinkle the shrimp with salt and pepper, then cook them in a reduced-sodium sauce along with some spinach. Serve the shrimp on top of the parmesan grits, a creamy, gluten-free grain made from cornmeal.

Try the recipe: Shrimp and Grits from Southern Living.

Spicy Oven-Fried Catfish

Spicy Oven Fried Catfish Recipe

If you like your dinner with a bit of New Orleans flair, you’ll want to try this spicy oven-fried catfish recipe. It features a spicy, crunchy breading on the outside and fresh fish on the inside. And since it’s not fried, there’s no guilt involved in this recipe. It features catfish, which is commonly found and eaten on the bayou. If you can’t find catfish at your local supermarket, try using another type of white fish, such as Tilapia, in its place.

Try the recipe:Spicy Oven-Fried Catfish from Grandbaby Cakes.

Next time you’re craving some down-home southern cooking, try one of these classic dishes with a healthy twist. You’ll still get all the big, bold flavors that southern cuisine is known for—but without all the extra calories and unhealthy ingredients.

For more healthy twists on favorite recipes, check out these 5 classic recipes with healthy updates.

Photo credits: ne30 / Shitterstock, Inc., Southern Living, Once Upon a Chef, Kalyn’s Kitchen, Aimee M Lee / Shutterstock, Inc., Grandbaby Cakes