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17 Southern Foods You Need To Try

Think of it as a checklist, not a ranking. Because eat just one of ‘em, and you’ll want more of the rest of ‘em.

1. Eastern NC-Style Barbecue

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North Carolina could be the nation’s undisputed champion of pulled pork, and there might be nothing better to pair it with than its trademark vinegar-and-pepper sauces.

2. Texas Brisket

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The state’s too big to contain just one kind of slow-cooked beef: East Texas usually chops brisket and serves it on a bun with thick and sweet tomato-based sauces, while Central Texas slices and serves it with bread and thinner vinegar-based sauces on the side.

3. Tex-Mex

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While you’re in Texas, you might as well sample fajitas, chili, nachos, and the like where they were adapted to what you know, but made the way they were before getting shipped across state lines in another Chili’s.

4. Chicken-Fried Steak

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Beat a beefsteak skinny, batter it, fry it, smother it with gravy. Taste heaven for the first time, go back to the start.

5. Boiled Peanuts

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Found everywhere in the South from the side of the road to next to your beer, these tiny delicacies are meant to start conversations and bring everyone together.

6. Deviled Eggs

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They’re the standard when you’re hosting events, and a big part of Southern hospitality is hosting events.

7. Beignets and Chicory Coffee

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These little rectangles of fried dough have enough powdered sugar to make anything you eat in the next 20 minutes as sweet as roses on Valentine’s. And the coffee? The stuff’s legendary.

8. Hushpuppies

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Sure, sure, sure, cornbread is cool and all, but what if you made it bite-size and fried it? Now that would be delicious, right? Yes, y’all, dreams do come true.

9. Fried Green Tomatoes

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Cornmeal makes its way into the batter here, too, whether mixed with flour or all on its own. But the real secret’s in frying the unripe tomatoes in bacon fat.

10. Biscuits ‘n’ Gravy

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A simple pairing that’s caused a lot of debate: mushroom gravy or sausage gravy? Complete breakfast or side dish? Eggs or potatoes? At the end of it all, though, so long as the biscuit’s fluffy on the inside, crisp on the outside, and downright delicious, it’ll be fine.

11. Grits (or Hominy)

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It’s a breakfast about the consistency of oatmeal, but made with corn and usually topped with awesome things like cheddar, bacon, shrimp, or jalepeños. The pro move: all four.

12. (Fried) Chicken and Waffles

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Having to say “fried” out loud just means you need to leave because that restaurant’s making it wrong. However, even if fried chicken wasn’t invented in the South, it sure was perfected there — which just leaves whether to top this with gravy or butter and syrup.

13. Po’ Boys

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Nicknamed for the poor boy strikers who had nothing else to eat in N’awlins in the ’20s, it’s generally, meat, sauce, lettuce, and tomatoes on a foot-long piece of bread. But it became the legend it is today with a base of fried shrimp.

14. Étoufée

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It shares a lot of similar ingredients with gumbo and jambalaya, but the roux base really brings out the best in crawfish. And don’t worry about crawfish sometimes being called “mudbugs,” either — that’s just Southern for “delicious.”

15. Peach Cobbler

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Not quite pie and not quite a warm bowl of peaches… but it is completely what you need to knock your socks off.

16. Peanut Brittle

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The best stuff often comes with a mallet so you can split up this crunchy nougat into bite-size pieces and munch on your personal ticket to peanut heaven.

17. Pecan Pie

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C’mon, look at that pecan pie. If you’re not salivating, you’re not human (or you’re a human who’s allergic to pecans).

But for a slightly different taste of the South, tune in to CMT’s Party Down South on Thursday, January 16, 10/9c.

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