No need to look further if you’re finding the best soul food recipes. Everyone at your table will enjoy this variety of meals. Soul cuisine comes in a wide range of flavors, from conventional to experimental. Many recipes include both meat and vegetables and fruits. Although the term “soul food” is now widely used to refer to cuisine from the African diaspora, it was not utilized in the United States at first. Soul cuisine did not become popular until the 1960s when the civil rights movement in the United States gained traction. Furthermore, the term “soul” bears ideological overtones.
So what are the best soul food recipes? If you’re looking for some comfort food, you’ve come to the right place. Soul food is an ethnic cuisine made by African Americans in the southern United States. It’s a dish full of flavor and rich spices. It’s the perfect dish for feeling a little nostalgic or lonely. From fried catfish to smothered collard greens, this Southern cuisine has something for everyone. You can prepare all of them in just minutes and serve them for dinner every night. And if you’re looking for something a bit more traditional, you can try out southern fried catfish.
What is Soul Food?
Soul food is a style of cuisine that emerged during chattel slavery and is rooted in African American culture in the Southern United States. Although not all Southern recipes are considered soul food, every soul food has its origins in the American South. One of the cuisine’s main characteristics is its intensity of flavor, exemplified by rich comfort food meals that combine spicy, salty, and sweet flavors.
Black pepper, paprika, cayenne, garlic powder, and celery seed are popular soul food seasonings. Collard greens, Southern-fried catfish, red beans and rice, buttermilk biscuits, and macaroni and cheese are basic soul food recipes. Peach cobbler, sweet potato pie, pecan pie, and banana pudding are popular soul food desserts.
Cornmeal and pork are two staples of soul food cuisine, as they were among the few foods available to enslaved people during the time of chattel slavery. Cornmeal is required to prepare hushpuppies, Southern cornbread, and fried fish. Various cuts of pork, such as pork chops, pickled pig’s feet, and chitterlings, sometimes known as chitlins, which are pig intestines, are prominent in the cuisine.
Today, cooks in innumerable soul food restaurants recreate and adapt traditional soul food dishes developed in times of scarcity for today’s diners. Many Black Muslims and Jews, for example, have altered classic soul food recipes to eliminate pork to comply with their religious traditions.
What is a Typical Soul Food Meal?
A typical soul food meal would feature:
- Sides: black-eyed peas, candied yams (dark-fleshed sweet potatoes), macaroni and cheese, and stewed greens (cabbage, collard greens, kale, mustard, or turnip);
- Entree: chicken (fried or smothered), fried fish, or pork (smothered chop or “chitlins,” which are pig intestines);
- Cornbread (a muffin, slice, square);
- Beverage: a red-colored drink (called “red drink”);
- Dessert: banana pudding, peach cobbler, pound cake, or sweet potato pie.
The Best Soul Food Recipes
Here are the best soul food recipes:
Black-eyed peas are a versatile legume that can be eaten over rice, with cornbread on the side, or with sautéed collard or turnip greens. Several recipes call for ham hocks, ham bones, or chicken stock to give stewed black-eyed peas a delicious, meaty flavor. Because they cook faster than most other dried beans, don’t leave them in the slow cooker for long periods. Hoppin’ John, a South Carolina Lowcountry dish cooked with rice and aromatics and typically served on New Year’s Day, is a popular Southern black-eyed peas meal.
Layers of vanilla pudding are studded with fresh banana slices and vanilla wafer cookies to make banana pudding. In banana pudding recipes, a top layer of toasted meringue was originally called for. Whipped cream gradually replaced the meringue. Like the graham cracker crust on an old-fashioned cheesecake, some banana pudding recipes include a vanilla wafer cookie crust.
Candied Sweet Potatoes
Candied sweet potatoes, also known as candied yams, are a Southern side dish made from buttery sweet potatoes caramelized with warming spices and brown sugar. To make a sweet potato casserole, top candied sweet potatoes with mini marshmallows before baking in a casserole dish.
Collard greens are a mild-tasting leafy green vegetable that can be cooked or eaten raw in salads. Thinly sliced collard greens are frequently served with a hunk of cornbread or johnnycakes (flat cornmeal-based cakes) to soak up the rich broth they’re cooked. A few minutes of gentle massaging with a little olive oil will break down the leaves just enough for you to enjoy them on their own with your favorite dressing or in coleslaw with red cabbage. Alternatively, follow Chef Mashama Bailey’s lead and cold-smoke your collard greens to tenderize them and infuse them with flavor.
Cornbread is a cornmeal-based quick bread popular in Southern cooking and appreciated by many for its tender, crumbly texture and sweet aroma. Southern cornbread is sweeter and more cake-like, with little to no sugar and a higher cornmeal-to-flour ratio. Learn how to make cornbread from scratch.
Cooking crispy Southern-style fried chicken is a surefire way to make your next BBQ the talk of the town, especially if you serve it with waffles, buttermilk biscuits, or mashed potatoes with sausage gravy as a side dish. To make a traditional fried chicken recipe, coat the chicken in batter or flour and fry it until it is crispy on the outside. Brine the chicken before frying it to add flavor and tenderize the meat.
Fried okra is a regional dish found throughout the Southern United States consisting of fresh whole or sliced okra coated in buttermilk, tossed in a mixture of seasoned flour and cornmeal, and deep-fried in oil until crisp. Discover how to make fried okra.
Grits made from cornmeal are one of the staples of soul food. Chefs make a porridge out of ground corn bits and a variety of flavorings (such as butter or cheese), then top it with various flavorful proteins (like eggs or fish). This soul food staple can be found on the menus of many Southern restaurants all day. Grits can be topped with various proteins; for example, spiced shrimp is a popular topping for shrimp and grits, and cornmeal-battered fish is a popular topping for fish and grits.
Gumbo is a hearty stew made with the distinct flavors and textures of okra and sassafras leaves and seafood, Andouille sausage, or boneless skinless chicken breast. Gumbo’s exact history is as hazy as the stew itself, but gumbo recipes first appeared in New Orleans cookbooks at the turn of the nineteenth century. Gumbo can be eaten on its own or with a scoop of rice, which absorbs the broth perfectly.
Jambalaya is a rice dish with spicy sausages and local seafood that originated in southern Louisiana. To make jambalaya, begin by browning the meat, usually pork or sausage. Then, add the Cajun Holy Trinity of bell pepper, celery, and onion to the fat. Finally, combine the meat and vegetables with the rice, grown on the Mississippi River since the early eighteenth century, and cook it in fish or chicken stock with Creole and Cajun seasonings.
Soul Food History
When “soul” became a common word to describe African-American culture in the mid-1960s, especially when jazz and gospel music became popular on radio and television, “soul food” was coined.
The cuisine is deeply rooted in the Black Power Movement’s historical significance. During the American colonial period and up until the Civil War, people enslaved on plantations adopted the foods available to them into a unique food class. During the Great Migration, blacks who picked up and moved on found comfort in recreating the dishes they grew up with. Neighborhood gathering places where people socialized and ate together were black-owned soul food restaurants. This cuisine’s character and importance are derived from the emotional bond that binds this cooking style to its origin.
Soul or Southern?
Too many people in the United States, which sounds like a description of Southern cuisine. It’s difficult to tell the difference between soul and southern music. “While all soul food is Southern food, not all Southern food is soul,” Bob Jeffries wrote in his 1969 book “Soul Food Cookbook.” “Soul food cooking is an example of how really good Southern cooks used what they had on hand.”
Soul food had its origins in African enslavement when people had to make do with what they had. Many Black Americans continued to use the ingredients as part of their food traditions for the next 100 years after slavery was abolished. Of course, a racial divide does not entirely define soul food.
There hasn’t been much difference in the foods eaten by poor Black and poor White Southerners in the past. “The differences between the foods of [B]lack and white Southerners are subtle,” wrote John T. Edge, director of the Southern Foodways Alliance. Soul versus country cooking is distinguished by more capsicum pepper heat, a heavier hand with salt and pepper, and greater use of offal meat.”
Why are People so Critical of Soul Food?
Many people dislike soul food for two reasons. Some argue that soul food requires a warning label, based on the persistent belief that eating it regularly will cause death. Consider what nutritionists advise us to eat more dark, leafy greens, fish, legumes, and sweet potatoes, to name a few. All of these are essential components of soul food. It all comes down to how they’re prepared: Meats can be baked instead of fried, and vegetarian dishes can be prepared.
The second criticism is that soul food should not be celebrated because it is “slave food” or “poverty food,” which is more common among African Americans. This is also a half-baked idea. Much of what we now refer to as “soul food” was once considered “celebration food” or “prestige food.” The royal cooks made macaroni and cheese for King Richard II and Queen Elizabeth I. The English and French gentry ate chitterlings, while Henry VII ate sweet potato pie (“chitlins”). The fried chicken was a rare treat in the antebellum South, far from being the ubiquitous convenience food it is today.
Although “soul food” has become a catch-all term for all African American cooking, it is only one aspect of it. Soul food is the cuisine of the Deep South’s landlocked areas, which millions of African Americans left behind during “The Great Migration” to the North, Midwest, and West (the 1910s to the 1970s). Soul food is an immigrant cuisine that combines West African, Western European, and American culinary traditions. The Creole cuisine of Louisiana and the Lowcountry cuisine of the Georgia and South Carolina coastlines are very different, despite sharing an African heritage.