Here at Wide Open Eats, we’re proud of our Southern heritage. We can sing just about any Merle tune at the top of our lungs and when the going gets tough, we just grab a Shiner and keep on keepin’ on. Sometimes, though, we take a good look at some of our favorite things and wonder just why they’re so popular in the South. We’ve covered weird food combinations people around the country love, and the American foods that foreigners just don’t get, but there was one stone unturned.
Today, we’re looking at the food combinations Southerners love and we’re asking ourselves just why chocolate gravy goes with biscuits (you’re probably asking why wouldn’t it go with biscuits). Brace yourselves because we’ve got the good, the bad, and the ugly.
1. Biscuits and chocolate gravy
I hate to break it to ya, in other parts of the country they just don’t eat chocolate gravy with flaky biscuits. No, I don’t get it either, but this is definitely an inherently Southern dish. I won’t tell you that you can’t smother your biscuits in chocolate gravy and I also can’t deny the convenience of such a simple, sweet pantry sauce.
Seriously, all you need is flour, sugar, cocoa powder, milk, and salt. Check out this recipe from Southern Bite that adds just a bit of vanilla extract and butter.
2. Shrimp and grits
This pairing makes so much sense, but it’s still one of those Southern (and specifically Cajun) delicacies. The fact that people even eat grits is a Southern tradition, and when you throw one of the more abundant coastal seafoods on top, it tastes like a bowl of comfort from the bayou. And let’s not even get into the people who eat grits with sugar!
From Texas to to Louisiana to Kentucky to Virginia, each state has its own version of this classic dish, but our recipe keeps it old-school and simple. Get the recipe here.
3. Mayonnaise and bean sandwiches
Beans and mayonnaise are two distinct Southern ingredients that you can find in almost any dish. However, together, they create a delicious and tangy dish that most of our grandparents from the World War II-era swore by. Cheap, fast, and easy, don’t knock it until you try it!
To make your own at home, check out Linda’s Bean and Mayonnaise Sandwich recipe.
4. Potato salad and gumbo
A Louisiana food tradition through and through, places in Southern Louisiana hand over your bowl of gumbo with a big scoop of potato salad. The only thing Southerners argue over? If it goes in the middle or on the side. Meanwhile, everyone else around the country is questioning our overall judgment.
This recipe from Green Gumbo with Potato Salad is a real treasure from Eat, Write, Pack Light and it even amps up the healthy factor of the classic Cajun stew. Get the recipe here.
5. Peanuts and Coca-Cola
This is not weird, this is an American treasure. We’ve written about the history of peanuts in Coke before, and after the outpouring of responses we got in, it turns out that this isn’t completely Southern. Folks as far as Minnesota, Maine, and Oregon all had happy memories of tossing peanuts in a dark cola of some kind!
No recipe required; simply take a swig out of a glass Coke and add a small bag of peanuts right into the bottle. Drink, eat, repeat!
6. Kool-Aid and dill pickles
‘Koolickles’ may stand out in memory to older Southerners as being gas station staples. In states like Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana, it wasn’t uncommon to find pickles soaking in red Kool-Aid at the counter.
Nowadays, you can make your own with any flavor Kool-Aid combination you prefer. When it comes to foolproof recipes, we love this recipe from HGTV.
7. Cantaloupe and black pepper
Now I can’t even get my own boyfriend to eat watermelon with salt on it, and even though his favorite food is cantaloupe, this would probably turn him away forever. But alas, cantaloupe with black pepper, oil, and vinegar is one of those summertime Southern combinations best enjoyed on a porch as the sun set. This is a common Mediterranean way to enjoy melons, so Southerners aren’t alone here.
If you’re not ready to go into it cold turkey and dump black pepper on fresh cantaloupe, try this recipe from The Splendid Table for Cantaloupe with Black Pepper, Oil, and Vinegar.
8. Sorghum on black-eyed peas (or grits)
What’s sorghum? It’s a superhero cereal grain that grows like corn and is used in a sweetener known as sweet sorghum syrup. It has a consistency similar to molasses, and Southerners have been known to spread it all over black-eyed peas and grits.
Now before you go dumping it over a bowl of black-eyed peas, let’s be reasonable. This recipe for Southern Sorghum & Black-Eyed Pea Salad is an easy introduction to the cereal grain of the South and it makes a big batch.
9. Coleslaw and hot dogs
Coleslaw and hot dogs are a natural pairing most often found in the South. While you have your West Virginia and Carolina-style slaw dogs that combine chili, hot dogs, and coleslaw, you also have an Alabama classic: the slawdog. Texans even get in on this trend by adding BBQ sauce to the dog before adding the coleslaw. Either way, there’s no denying that this popular side is right at home on top of a dog in a bun.
To make your own at home, this recipe for Carolina-Style Slaw Dogs from Spicy Southern Kitchen is your best bet at Southern greatness.
10. Moon Pies and RC Cola
Give me a Tennessee Moon Pie and an RC Cola and I’m a happy camper. This classic combination stirs up as many memories for Southerners as enjoying a bottle of peanuts in Coke, and for good reason. The two chocolate-covered graham cracker cookies with marshmallow filling is just the happiest snack.
Blame it on the sugar rush, but there isn’t a pairing sweeter than this. In fact, Big Bill Lister, famous for touring with Hank Williams and known as ‘Radio’s Tallest Singing Cowboy’, even wrote a song about it. Listen above.
11. Fritos in milk
No, I don’t know how people came up with these things. I only know that Fritos is a ridiculously popular food pairing in the South because I’ve seen more than a few folks chow down on it.
While I do love cornbread in milk, I just can’t behind the consistency of soggy Fritos. Sadee, above, learned that Fritos and chocolate milk pair best, but we might take her word for it.
12. Fruit and mayo sandwiches
Mayonnaise finds its way into an awful lot of food in the South, and it’s probably because Duke’s has been supplying the good stuff for all of these years. That being said, Southerners are known for two downright wacky sandwiches: pineapple and mayo sandwiches, and banana and mayo sandwiches.
This tends to cause the most reactions from non-Southerners because they just don’t get it. In fact, GQ even tried Dale Earnhart, Jr.’s favorite banana and mayonnaise sandwich and did not enjoy, to say the least. It scored a negative 100.
Which of these food combinations do you love, and which do you hate?