Even though a healthy, balanced diet is important for all of us to follow, it’s also just as important to make sure that we are nourishing our mind and spirit with some yummy soul food every once in a while, too.
Soul food, just like the name suggests, is a truly delicious cuisine that draws in elements of a variety of different cuisines including Africa and certain states throughout America including Alabama, Mississippi and Georgia.
In this post, we are going to be providing you with a list of the very best soul foods that you should try.
From popular dishes we’re sure you will have already heard of to more obscure dishes – this list will provide you with soul food inspiration and plenty of comfort. Read on.
What Is Soul Food?
Before we get any further, we first think that it would be a good idea to provide you with some more context on the history of soul food and why it’s so popular even to this very day.
Like we’ve already mentioned above, soul food is essentially a type of cuisine that incorporates elements from different cultures around the world.
Most specifically, soul food typically consists of African cuisines (see also ‘The Most Popular African Dishes You Should Try!‘) as well as traditional dishes eaten in the deep South of America.
Wondering where the name of this type of food comes from, though? Well, soul food is a term used to describe this type of comforting cuisine and was coined during the Black pride movement in 1964.
Long before it was given a name, though, during the time of the Transatlantic Slave Trade – enslaved people were often given leftovers and unwanted food.
However, this did not stop them from making the best of what they were given, and the enslaved people used their creativity to create some of the most delicious recipes that are cherished to this very day.
As for the here and now? Soul food has continued to be one of the most popular types of food that is enjoyed all over the world.
So much so, that there are many different popular restaurants and fast food chains that incorporate traditional soul food recipes into their menu, or offer a whole new fun spin on them!
In the following section, we are going to be sharing with you some of the most beloved and popular soul food dishes.
The Most Popular Soul Food Dishes
Now that we have provided you with some more context on soul food and how it came about – there’s all the more reason to celebrate the people who created it!
The best way that you can do this is by trying some of the most popular and traditional dishes for yourself…and perhaps even cooking some for yourself! Just keep reading:
1. Fried Chicken
Kicking our list off, we have selected fried chicken. Who doesn’t love fried chicken?
A true comfort food and one of the most well-known types of soul food – fried chicken is delicious, yummy and sure to leave your mind, body and soul feeling nourished.
Absolutely mouthwatering, southern fried chicken is, when made correctly, crisp and golden on the outside and tender and juicy on the inside.
As per the traditional recipe, fried chicken is best served hot and when it has been either dipped in buttermilk or eggs to create that iconic (and totally satisfying) crunch.
Plus, of course, how could we forget about the seasoning?
While it is certainly not mandatory to season your fried chicken, all the best cooks will tell you that no piece of fried chicken is complete without a hearty helping of various spices…and don’t forget about the sauce!
If you want to make sure that you have the best fried chicken eating experience, you’ll be making a good choice to pair your fried chicken with a sauce of your choice.
Although, in our experience, we find that sauces such as hot sauce, ketchup or gravy are the best options to pair with your dish.
The result? Trust us when we say that fried chicken when prepared correctly is absolutely delicious and incomparable with any other type of food.
It’s packed full of flavors, has a tender texture that you won’t be able to get enough of and a satisfying crunch with each and every bite that you take. Our mouth is watering just talking about it!
2. Mac N Cheese
Now, what would our list be if we didn’t make sure to include this delicious staple?
A true classic in the soul food category, macaroni and cheese is everything a good meal ought to be: cheesy, hearty and totally comforting.
Still, it’s important to note that not all mac n cheese are made equal – and when it comes to soul food, only the best of the best will do.
If you’re yet to experience truly authentic soul food mac n cheese, rest assured that you are going to be in for a treat.
When made correctly and following the traditional soul food recipe, southern-style macaroni and cheese is full of flavor, cream and plenty of cheesy-deliciousness (see also ‘28 Amazing Vegan Soul Food Recipes‘). Does it get any better than that?
Even though macaroni and cheese can be made in a variety of different ways, it is customary for soul food macaroni and cheese to be made with a variety of different cheese including cheddar, mozzarella and just about any other type of cheese that the cook might like to include in their cheesy mixture.
For the best results, each cheese that is used to make soul food macaroni and cheese should be grated in order to maintain a smooth consistency, as well as mixed with flour, milk, eggs and a variety of other seasonings before being added to the mac.
Once mixed together, it’s important to add another layer of cheese before baking for around 10-30 minutes depending on how well done you want the top layer of cheese to be.
The result? A truly authentic soul food experience that will keep you coming back for more.
3. Collard Greens
Collard greens are another yummy soul food dish that you simply have to try if you haven’t already.
Even though collard greens aren’t typically seen everywhere in the world, they are a staple soul food dish and are most commonly found in restaurants and fast food places in the deep South of America.
Truly delicious, the very best types of collard greens are the ones that have been slow cooked with a variety of meets (the most common types of meats used are ham hocks and bacon) which helps to give the collard greens a lovely smokiness that will leave you wanting more after each and every bite.
To give them plenty of flavor and to ensure that each bite is even better than the last, collard greens (when they’re done right) often contain a variety of additional seasonings such as onion, garlic, vinegar and even black pepper.
In some instances, there are some cooks that like to add a little hot sauce to their collard greens to give it a fiery kick, or sugar if they want their collard greens to be a little on the sweeter side.
Collard greens are delicious on their own but they can also be paired with a variety of additional dishes such as fried chicken.
Regardless of whether you plan to eat them by themselves or you want to pair them with a few other soul food dishes that we’ve mentioned on this list, you are sure to be totally satisfied.
Trust us – collard greens are delicious, and a dish that everyone should make sure that they are trying at least once! Thanks to all the delicious seasonings, you aren’t going to need to worry about adding any salt!
4. Peach Cobbler
Even if you’re not overly familiar with soul food, we’re sure that you’ll have tried (or, at very least, heard) the wonders of the peach cobbler.
Perfect for the winter months (or whenever you’re in need of a comforting dose of sweet and savory flavors) a peach cobbler is the sweet treat for you.
Even though peach cobbler is popular all over the world and enjoyed by many different countries and cultures – the very best peach cobbler is always made with fresh peaches that have been subtly spiced, as well as having a buttery crumble on the top layer.
The reason we’ve said that it’s perfect for colder months is because it is traditionally served with cinnamon and nutmeg – and that always reminds us of fall and winter.
If you’re going to be trying peach cobbler for the first time or preparing some for yourself at home, we recommend that you consider pairing your peach cobbler with vanilla ice cream and some warmed crushed nuts. It’ll be simply divine!
5. Baked Beans
Okay, so, while baked beans might not necessarily stand on its own as a meal – it certainly makes the perfect soul food side dish, which is precisely why it has managed to make it on our list.
So, even though baked beans have gained a reputation for being a favorite of the Brits (think breakfast beans on toast) you might be interested to learn that baked beans actually originate from African cuisine.
Not only are they absolutely delicious and pair well with a variety of different dishes – baked beans are lightweight and on the healthier side, so they’re a great option for anyone craving comfort food without being too unhealthy.
When made the traditional way, baked beans are often made with onions, garlic, ketchup and even some brown sugar to give the beans a slight sweetness that isn’t at all overpowering.
They are then often baked in an oven, which gives them enough time to be able to soak up the flavors of all of the other delicious ingredients.
For a truly authentic soul food experience, we recommend that you pair your baked beans with fried chicken or collard greens. Trust us, you won’t regret it.
When it comes to side dishes – cornbread surely takes first place! If you’ve never tried cornbread before, you’re in for a treat. Cornbread is hearty, delicious and can be paired with just about anything!
Upon first impressions, it could be easy to think that cornbread is boring and bland – but this couldn’t be further from the truth.
Cornbread is not only one of the most versatile side dishes out there, but it is also one of the most delicious.
So much so, that if we could pick just one side dish to enjoy for the rest of our lives – it would certainly be cornbread.
For a truly authentic soul food experience, we recommend that you try it Southern-style.
Made with either yellow cornmeal or white cornmeal, cornbread often contains the basic ingredients of sugar, baking powder, butter, salt and milk – although you can add in a variety of other ingredients such as jalapenos or cheese. It’s entirely up to you.
Next up on our list we have selected chitlins, which are also sometimes referred to as chitterlings.
If you didn’t already know, this dish contains the small intestines of a pig – and is one of the most popular (and traditional) soul food dishes out there.
If you’ve never tried this dish before, it’s only natural that you might feel put off by the contents of this dish.
However, trust us when we say that this dish is nothing short of absolutely delicious – all you need to do is be a little bold and try it.
Paired with vinegar, galic, onion and seasonings, chitterlings are hearty and comforting.
They can be enjoyed all year round but we think that this dish is best served during the colder months when you need something a little more “hearty”.
What we love about this dish is how versatile it is -you can quite easily mix and match a variety of ingredients to make this dish your own, and it pairs perfectly with collard greens.
8. Fried Pork Chops
Moving on from pig intestines, this next dish might be more up your street if you don’t fancy Chitlins!
Fried pork chops, along with being one of the easiest dishes to prepare – is also one of the most delicious and comforting
Interestingly enough, unlike fried chicken which gets deep fried in oil, pork chops are a little different from fried chicken as they are given a slightly different cooking method.
Instead of deep frying pork chops by submerging them in oil, pork chops are typically prepared by frying them on a pan. They’re still just as delicious as their fried chicken counterparts, though!
If you haven’t had fried pork chops before, you simply have to try them at least once.
Absolutely perfect for those days when you need a little extra comfort, fried pork chops typically consist of an extra crispy crust thanks to the way they are pan-fried, and are best served with smooth gravy!
Of course, it’s important to remember that we’re talking about soul food!
So, just like some of the other dishes that we have already talked you through – if you want to make sure that you are eating truly authentic fried pork chops, you should make sure that you are adding in a variety of species for seasoning including paprika, pepper, garlic, onion and perhaps even a few chili flakes if you want a kick.
Top tip: If you are planning to make your very own fried pork chops and want to make sure that they are comforting and yummy – we recommend mixing some freshly whipped cream into your gravy (see also ‘The 5 Most Suitable Substitutes For Au Jus Gravy Mix’).
This will help to thicken the gravy and give it a gorgeous texture while also ensuring that it has a lovely creamy taste, too.
9. Creamed Corn
Next up? Creamed corn, of course! Creamed corn is one of the best soul food side dishes you can have, and pairs well with a variety of different soul food dishes. It can even be enjoyed on its own as a tasty snack!
So, even though creamed corn can be made in a variety of ways (especially given how popular creamed corn is across the world) the best way, in our opinion, will always be the traditional soul food way.
If you would like to prepare some for yourself the southern way, then we recommend that you make sure to incorporate butter, corn and whole milk (see also ‘8 Substitutes For Whole Milk‘) into the recipe in order to ensure that the mixture is thick and delicious.
Along with these basic ingredients, remember that you are also going to be free to customize the recipe in whichever way you would like.
In particular, when we make this recipe we like to add a little pepper, sugar and salt as these three seasonings enhance the flavor while balancing out perfectly with the cream in the gravy.
There are even some cooks that like to incorporate spices such as cayenne pepper into their creamed corn in order to give it a little bit of a kick. This is totally optional, though.
If you;d like to give your creamed corn a fiery kick without it being too overpowering, then we recommend that you consider adding a few sprinkles of cayenne pepper over the tops of the creamed corn after you are done preparing them.
This will give your creamed corn a mildly spicy, smoky flavor that will balance out and complement the rest of the flavor profile perfectly. Yum!
10. Sweet Potato Casserole
What would a soul food list be without the inclusion of at least once hearty casserole?
As it just so happens, the sweet potato casserole is by far one of the best dishes to try when you’re craving a comforting soul food dish.
One of the best parts about sweet potato casserole is just how versatile it is as compared to other types of casserole dishes.
For starters, sweet potato casserole can be enjoyed as part of a main meal at dinnertime, or even eaten as dessert!
The options really are endless when it comes to this versatile dish. It’s so delicious, in fact, that we wouldn’t be surprised if you ate it for breakfast!
Just like the name suggests, this casserole dish incorporates sweet potatoes as its main ingredient.
In order to create the casserole, the sweet potatoes are typically mashed down into a smooth texture, before then being combined with a variety of additional ingredients to help enhance the flavor of the sweet potatoes including sugar, spices, eggs, butter and even fluffy and sweet marshmallows!
If you want to enjoy your sweet potato casserole the authentic Southern way, then we recommend that you make sure to top your sweet potato pie with a pecan topping with a butter crust.
It tastes absolutely delicious and perfectly compliments the sweet potato pie, and can even be paired with some freshly whipped thick cream if you really want to treat yourself.
11. Buttermilk Biscuits
Moving on, the next soul food dish that we have to share with you are buttermilk biscuits!
Sure, even though you can find biscuits all over the country, no biscuit quite compares to the deliciousness of a traditional southern soul food buttermilk biscuit – which is precisely why it has made it onto our list.
Simple and divine, buttermilk biscuits are known for their light and fluffy texture and slightly crisp golden brown exterior.
Just like the name suggests, buttermilk biscuits are full to the brim with generous helpings of butter, which means that these biscuits are not only buttery in taste, but soft and moist in texture, too.
Even though there are many people that find buttermilk biscuits to be far too creamy due to the generous helpings of butter used in the cooking process to prepare them – we think that they taste absolutely delicious and creamy, as do other people.
Not just that, but besides having a buttery texture that we’re sure you won’t be able to get enough of, the generous helping of butter will also ensure that the texture of the biscuit is tender and moist.
So, in other words, armed with some buttermilk biscuits, you can rest assured that you are going to be able to enjoy your biscuits without needing to reach for some water every few bites to help wash it down.
Delicious and easy to eat – does it get any better than that?
There we have it! You’ve made it to the end of our guide.
Now that you have taken the time to read through all of the above, we hope that we have been able to give you some inspiration on the best soul foods…as well as which one to try next! Thanks for reading.