A side-dish staple of Southern barbecues, succotash turns seasonal vegetables (like fresh summer corn and butter beans) into a wonderfully savory melange of flavor and texture that pairs perfectly with smoky BBQ fare. If you've ever wondered where succotash comes from, how it became so popular in the South, and how you can incorporate your preferred veggies into this classic dish, we've got your answers right here, along with succotash advice from New Orleans-based private chef cookbook author Donald "Chef D" Smith.
What Is Succotash?
At its essence, "succotash is a cooked dish with kernels of corn, shell beans, lima beans, and the 'holy trinity' (onions, bell peppers, and celery for those unfamiliar)," says Chef D. He also mentions that some cooks choose to add tomatoes and/or okra to their succotash.
Succotash is traditionally prepared in a skillet on the stovetop, with the vegetables sautéed in oil (or bacon grease, lard, or butter, all of which are popular Southern alternatives). The veggies are gently seasoned with salt, then cooked until tender (about 7 minutes). Then, you can add fresh herbs (like basil) or savory garnishes (like bacon bits) before serving. While succotash is traditionally served hot, it also works well as a room-temperature side dish or even as a chilled dish at a summer cookout.
After it's cooked, succotash can be kept in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week or in the freezer for up to a year.
Check out Wide Open Eats' Succotash with Bacon and Tomatoes recipe.
Where Does Succotash Come From?
"Succotash is a Native American dish meaning 'broken corn'," says Chef D. While succotash is now enjoyed throughout the South, the dish in fact originated with the Narragansett tribe near present-day Rhode Island. Succotash ultimately found its way down the Eastern seaboard and became firmly entrenched in Southern culinary traditions.
Can Ingredients Be Substituted?
According to Chef D, the only two ingredients that need to be in succotash are "corn and lima beans." However, some chefs choose to switch out the butter beans for other bean varieties. For instance, chef and food writer Gabriel Glaser of Chef Travel Guide prefers "cowpeas [black eyed peas] along with fresh pole beans including wax beans, blue lake beans, and haricot verts [French green beans]."
As far as the other vegetables are concerned, you're free to incorporate any seasonal produce that suits your fancy. We mentioned tomatoes and okra as popular add-ons, but summer squash, zucchini, chili peppers, and eggplant are all fair game.
Which dishes pair well with succotash?
Thanks to its seasonal ingredients and gentle char from the sautéeing process, succotash makes a natural partner for barbecue fare. Whether you're serving smoked brisket, "wet" ribs, plant-based burgers, grilled sausages, or any other cookout favorite, succotash will both highlight and balance the peppery and smoky goodness.
READ: The Best Southern-Inspired Vegetable Side Dishes for a Summer BBQ