The best soul food dishes, ranked (2023)

Soul food scholar Adrian Miller is here to set the record straight.

Adrian Muller

Adrian "The Soul Food Scholar" Miller is the author of the book, which won the 2014 James Beard Foundation Award.Soul Food: The Amazing Story of an American Kitchen, One Dish at a Time.FOLLOW HIM@soulfoodscholar

I'm a peaceful man, but sometimes I do things that can best be described as "battle words." Here's one such opportunity: Here I've dared to rank the top ten soul food dishes of all time.

Soul Food: a cuisine that unites West Africa, West Europe and the stranger to controversy. Although the label had been floating around in black culture for at least a decade before, "soul food" had its breakthrough in the 1960s, when black power advocates declared their independence from the narrative imposed on African-Americans. for white hegemony. Food was included in this ambitious project.Soul food was presented to the world as a completely different cuisine than southern cuisine, though they shared common ingredients, cooking techniques, and history.

It was a brilliant marketing move, but ideologically incomplete for two reasons. Despite conscious efforts to create distinctions, the lines between soul and southern cuisine are blurring in the American South, so much so that even African-Americans refer to what they eat as southern food. Second, African Americans had to fill in the blanks about what is food for the soul. The malleable definition of soul food was enough to win the approval of African-Americans across the country, but it did.allowed many regional and personal interpretations.

Now, half a century later, we can look back and see that a consensus has emerged about what should go on a plate of soul food. As with many soul food lovers, childhood memories of what I ate at home, with my grandparents, at church, and in restaurants shaped the ranking below. I have endeavored to be as objective as possible, stepping back from my own personal preferences and adding what I have gleaned from the incredible body of research I have worked book on the history of soul food.

Whatever follows, I'm certainly not trying to belittle anything a loving caretaker served you during your childhood. Still, it's time to set the record straight.Here's a countdown of the best soul food dishes.

  • 10. Chitlines

    Image via Yelp/Jerome G.

    Without a doubt, chitlins (also known as giblets) are the most controversial option on this list, as they are the most controversial and misunderstood item on your soul food plate. People love or hate them (tell me on the "love side") for what they are (usually pig intestines) or because they smell when cleaned, cooked, or eaten. Despite the intense feelings, there's no denying that chitlins have played an important role in the history of soul food. As early as the Middle Ages, European nobility enjoyed deer chitlins after a successful deer hunt, and over time, the entrails of domestic animals such as cows and pigs became a food enjoyed by rich and poor alike. In the antebellum South, both blacks and whites on the plantation were prize-winning chitlins after a fall hog slaughter. African-American immigrants brought their love of chitin to urban areas outside the South, and thanks to urban butchers and slaughterhouses, chitin became a year-round treat.

  • 9. Black-eyed beans

    Image via Adrian Miller

    Black-eyed peas, actually a bean, have legendary status. Despite being native to West Africa, most people associate black-eyed peas with New Year's Day. Millions of African Americans have adopted and transformed an old European superstition:that you can be very lucky if someone with dark eyes knocks on your door first on January 1st. Although the superstition has no equivalent in West Africa, black-eyed beans have traditionally been eaten on auspicious occasions, such as the birth of twins or religious days honoring certain deities. When you taste black-eyed beans in a smoky, spicy broth, you'll understand why this dish was once considered "food for the gods."

  • 8. Sweet Potato Pie

    Image via Flickr/Southern Foodways Alliance

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    Dessert was a foreign word in pre-colonial West Africa. Despite this, sweet potato pie became a classic soul food staple. Enslaved West Africans, accustomed to a traditional diet of tropical yams, found sweet potatoes to be a useful substitute. Originally, the popular dessert was a simple whole sweet potato roasted over the coals of a dying fire. First, enslaved cooks eventually added eggs, milk, and spices to mashed sweet potatoes. Once cooked, the new culinary creation was called sweet potato bread. Over time, a bottom crust was baked under the bread. Sweet potato pie has an annual showdown with pumpkin pie as the Thanksgiving dessert of choice. But that's not a problem: Among African-Americans, sweet potato pie is unbeaten.

  • 7. Maisbrot

    Image via Getty/Tom Williams

    There was a time when cornbread was so important to soul food that certain foods, like vegetables, were only served when cornbread was present. Cornbread is just one example of the Native American influence on this cuisine. In addition to making traditional Native American cornbread-like breads (later called meatloaf), African slaves made familiar West African breads that used cornmeal as a substitute. Cornbread for the soul differs from southern cornbread in that it always contains some sugar. Some mistaken souls believe this turns soulful cornbread into pies. It doesn't matter. Whether it's hot cornbread, jiffy mix, or spoonbread (a cornbread soufflé), cornbread is the soul food staff of life.

  • 6. Fried Fish

    Imagen vía Getty/The Washington Post

    Traditionally, West Africans have made seafood their protein of choice, and African Americans have continued this culinary tradition. Even during slavery, the weekend fish fry was a highly anticipated event. On a typical plantation, field work hours ended at noon on Saturday and the enslaved spent the rest of the day doing chores and activities such as fishing. Catfish gets most of the attention these days, but depending on what's available, any number of fish will be gobbled up: buffalo, mullet, sea bass, snapper, and whiting, to name a few. Frying was the preferred way of preparing fish, as it allowed you to enjoy the food at the moment. This is further proof of the old adage: "Fish must swim twice: once in water and once in fat."

  • 5. Red drink

    Image via Yelp

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    In the culture of soul food"red" is a color and a flavor.We don't bother to differentiate if something is cherry, has a hint of blueberry, or is a tropical punch. It's just red. The enduring popularity of red drinks is a nod to two traditional red drinks, cola tea and hibiscus tea, which came to the United States during the Atlantic slave trade. The red drink can take a variety of forms, but is often served as a kool-aid or punch.

  • 4. Peach Shoe Rack

    Image via Adrian Miller

    Peach cobbler owes its superiority over other soul food desserts in part to technology. Cobblers were once a seasonal fruit dessert only enjoyed in the late spring and summer months. It was usually prepared in a large cast iron pot over a fire. The pot was filled with whatever fruit was available, some extra sweetener, and a few spices, and then the whole thing was topped with a crust of leftover cookie dough. With improvements in canning technology, fruit desserts can be eaten year-round. As ovens improved, soul food cooks were now able to add a bottom layer of crust, making the dish a bit fancier. It turns out that peaches were once considered an aphrodisiac. This could explain why, despite the existence of so many shoemakers, the peach has conquered so many hearts.

  • 3. Macaroni and cheese

    Image via Flickr/stu_spivack

    I know older African Americans who believe that mac and cheese is created entirely by soul food chefs, but that is clearly not the case. The confusion may arise because enslaved cooks were introduced to this dish outside of the Italian context. Before great waves of Italian immigrants arrived in the United States in the late 18th century, wealthy whites visiting Europe fell in love with macaroni and cheese and brought recipes with them. White planters like Thomas Jefferson introduced the dish into the kitchens of great houses. Enslaved cooks were called in to prepare the dish, usually on weekends or when special guests dined on the plantation. After Emancipation, African Americans embraced this dish and made it part of their culinary repertoire for Sunday lunch. Since then it has retained its special status.

  • 2. verde

    Image via Adrian Miller

    Vegetables are a staple on the soul food plate, with greens (the edible leaves of certain plants) being the most consistent main attraction. Most African Americans trace their roots to West Africa, a region where vegetables are a mainstay of many local cuisines. Enslaved West Africans brought a love of vegetables to the other side of the Atlantic. Unable to obtain the bitter tropical greens they were used to, African Americans substituted bitter greens grown by Europeans, the most popular being cabbage, kale, kale, mustard, and rutabaga. This vegetable is eaten throughout the year but has special significance on New Year's Day as a symbol of prosperity. For those who have discovered cabbage and kale in the last five to 10 years, welcome to the party. We have been eating them for almost four centuries.

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  • 1. Fried Chicken

    Image via Flickr/stu_spivack

    Fried chicken is one of the most delicious things ever created.It is one of the few foods that can be served for Sunday lunch, church functions, or other special occasions. Although it is loved by many cultures, there are various points of contention as to who exactly gets the credit for inventing this dish. Whether you're a chef in West Africa, Western Europe, or Southeast Asia, fried chicken has become a favorite with African Americans. Classically fried in a cast iron skillet, Nashville Spiced or paired with a waffle,Roast chicken is divine in soul food cooking. No wonder we nicknamed it "The Gospel Bird."



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Last News


What state is best known for soul food? ›

1. New Orleans, Louisiana. No place has as much soul as this storied city, and there is no wrong way to turn when dining in New Orleans.

What is the tastiest dish ever? ›

Rendang, Indonesia

Source Often called "the world's most delicious dish," Rendang is prepared by simmering beef with coconut milk with a mixture of the best of spices including turmeric, garlic, lemongrass, ginger, chillies, and galangal.

What is the most loved dish? ›

Pizza is the topmost liked food in the world. Today you can find pizza in almost every corner of the world. This traditional Italian dish is made of flattened round dough topped with cheese, and tomatoes, and additionally garnished with basil, olives, and oregano.

What is a popular African American dish? ›

Traditional African American comfort foods include homemade macaroni and cheese, fried chicken, red beans and rice, cornbread, seasoned greens, mashed potatoes and gravy, and ice-cold sweet tea. Although many of these foods are not considered the healthy choices, they excite our taste buds and warm our hearts.

What was the original soul food? ›

Enslaved people were typically given a peck of cornmeal and 3-4 pounds of pork per week, and from those rations come soul food staples such as cornbread, fried catfish, barbecued ribs, chitterlings, and neckbones.

Who are the best black Southern cooks? ›

The 20 most influential African-American chefs in the South today
  • Tunde Wey, New Orleans. ...
  • Mashama Bailey, Savannah. ...
  • Carla Hall, Washington D.C. ...
  • Todd Richards, Atlanta. ...
  • Tiffany Derry, Dallas. ...
  • Dolester Miles, Birmingham. ...
  • Rodney Scott, Charleston. ...
  • Daryl Shular, Atlanta.
Jul 24, 2021

What is a famous Southern dish? ›

From fried chicken to cornbread to sweet potato casserole to hush puppies, southern eats have made their way around the globe. And while all this buttery, fried, breaded, cheesy, and or creamy comfort food might not be great for your waistline, they sure are delicious.

What is South Carolina signature dish? ›

Shrimp & Grits

Undoubtedly one of South Carolina's most iconic dishes, shrimp and grits, once a budget-friendly Lowcountry staple, has become a menu darling across the state.

What is true Southern food? ›

A traditional Southern meal is pan-fried chicken, field peas (such as black-eyed peas), greens (such as collard greens, mustard greens, turnip greens, or poke sallet), mashed potatoes, cornbread or corn pone, sweet tea, and dessert—typically a pie (sweet potato, chess, shoofly, pecan, and peach are the most common), or ...

What city has the best soul food? ›

New Orleans, Louisiana

The blues and cajun capital of the world, New Orleans is one of the ultimate southern food cities in America. From seafood to soul food to barbecue and beyond, nearly every style of food is represented in the Gulf of Mexico city.

Is soul food Southern or black? ›

While not all Southern food is considered soul food, all soul food is definitely Southern. Soul food is an ethnic cuisine traditionally prepared and eaten by African-Americans in the Southern United States.

What nationality is soul food? ›

soul food, the foods and techniques associated with the African American cuisine of the United States. The term was first used in print in 1964 during the rise of “Black pride,” when many aspects of African American culture—including soul music—were celebrated for their contribution to the American way of life.

What is the #1 eaten food in the world? ›

Rice is a food staple for more than 3.5 billion people around the world, particularly in Asia, Latin America, and parts of Africa.

What is the world's best food? ›

The world's 50 best foods
  • Buttered popcorn, United States. Taking a love of popcorn to a new level. ...
  • Masala dosa, India. Is the masala dosa the world's best pancake? ...
  • Seafood paella, Spain. ...
  • Poutine, Canada. ...
  • Buttered toast with Marmite, UK. ...
  • Stinky tofu, Southeast Asia. ...
  • Ketchup, United States. ...
  • French toast, Hong Kong.
Apr 13, 2021

What is America's number 1 food? ›

Most Popular American Foods
  • Burgers.
  • Apple Pie.
  • French Fries.
  • Hot Dogs.
  • Chocolate Chip Cookies.
  • Pizza.
  • Fried Chicken.
  • Grilled Cheese.
May 31, 2022

What is the number 1 food in USA? ›

The Number 1 Most Popular Foods in America are Hamburgers!

What is America's most eaten food? ›

In 1970, people consumed more than twice as much beef than chicken, but by 1987 it surpassed pork, and in 2004 moved passed beef. Chicken has been on top since.

What are 3 examples of soul food? ›

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);
Jun 1, 2021

What is a good dinner for black people? ›

Dinner Ideas
  • Chicken Pot Pie. This creamy and rich Chicken Pot Pie is the best food for the soul you'll ever have. ...
  • Southern Fried Chicken. ...
  • Breaded Pork Chop. ...
  • Shrimp Etouffee. ...
  • Chicken Shrimp and Sausage Gumbo. ...
  • Red Beans and Rice. ...
  • Southern Style Corn Bread. ...
  • Southern Black Eyed Peas.
Jun 22, 2021

What is soul food for black people? ›

“Soul food,” a traditional African American cuisine characterized by hearty dishes such as fried chicken, catfish, cornbread, stewed greens, and black-eyed peas, is loved by millions of people.

What is black culture food? ›

Soul Food is a term used for ethnic cuisine, traditionally prepared and eaten by African Americans in the Southern United States. Many dishes and ingredients included in "soul food" are also regional meals and comprise a part of other Southern US cooking. The style of cooking originated during American slavery.

Is KFC considered soul food? ›

Topping the list of soul food and Southern food are fried chicken, barbeque ribs, macaroni and cheese, chitterlings (hog intestines, also known as chitlins), pickled pigs feet, turnip greens, black-eyed peas, sweet potato pie, hushpuppies and cornbread, (also known as johnnycake) [source: San Jose State University].

Who is World No 1 cook? ›

1. Alain Ducasse. Alain Ducasse is a well-known French chef who is considered among the best chefs in the world with 21 Michelin stars. He started working as chef in 1980 and made his way through the top rated chefs earning 21 Michelin stars in 2012, second highest after Joel Robuchon who had 31 stars.

Who is the number 1 chef in America? ›

Thomas Keller is the USA's most decorated chef, with a current total of seven Michelin stars.

Who is the best black chef in America? ›

The Top Black Chefs in America to Get to Know
  • Barbara B. Smith. ...
  • Carla Hall. American chef and television personality, Carla Hall has accomplished so much on her climb to fame through her cooking. ...
  • David Lawrence. ...
  • Erick Williams. ...
  • Makini Howell. ...
  • Marcus Samuelsson. ...
  • Mariya Russel. ...
  • Mashama Bailey.

What food can you only get in the South? ›

20 Foods You Can Only Find In The South
  • King Cake. king cake. ...
  • Fried Okra. fried okra. ...
  • Wickles. wickles. ...
  • Hush Puppies. hush puppies. ...
  • Shrimp and Grits. shrimp grits. ...
  • Moon Pie. moon pie.
Jun 27, 2017

What is North Carolina signature food? ›

Smoky ribs, fresh-caught shrimp and plucked-from-the-tree peaches are just a few of the most-iconic treats that await in North Carolina.

What food is Charleston best known for? ›

20 Iconic Charleston Dishes and Drinks and Their History
  • She Crab Soup. She crab soup is a crab soup that has a “little something extra.” Orange roe tops this soup to make it specifically a soup made of female crabs. ...
  • Shrimp and Grits. ...
  • Cornbread. ...
  • Planters Punch. ...
  • Hush Puppies. ...
  • Frogmore Stew. ...
  • Fried Green Tomatoes. ...
  • Okra Soup.
Dec 9, 2018

What is Gullah style food? ›

Typically, Gullah-Geechee food is defined as a fusion of West and Central African cooking techniques and Lowcountry ingredients, with dishes ranging from crab rice to okra soup.

Is Southern food unhealthy? ›

Is soul food healthy? The Southern diet, which is often associated with soul food, contains organ meats, processed meats, eggs, fried foods, added fats, and sweetened beverages. This eating pattern is tied to an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, kidney disease, cancer, stroke, and mental decline ( 2 , 3 ).

What food is South Alabama known for? ›

Alabama is known for its barbecue, like many southern states, and even has it's own unique White BBQ Sauce. But it's also well-known for many other southern and soul food favorites like Fried Green Tomatoes, Classic Southern Smothered Pork Chops, Collard Greens, Fried Chicken, Shrimp & Grits, and Tomato Pie.

Which US city has the best Indian food? ›

6 Must-Visit Indian Restaurants in USA
  • Dhamaka – New York City.
  • Dosa – Oakland.
  • Junoon – New York City.
  • Lehja – Richmond, Virginia.
  • Rasa – Burlingame, California.
  • Adda – Long Island City, New York.
Sep 22, 2022

Which city has tastiest food in the world? ›

1. Rome, Italy. As lively as ever, be it day or night, Rome invites you to discover many things, all of which are refined and enjoyable. Italy's capital takes first place in the ranking of the best places to eat in the world.

What is the number 1 best fast food? ›

The Most Popular Fast Food Companies
#4Taco BellGlobal
6 more rows
Aug 31, 2022

Did soul food come from slavery? ›

Historically a food that began during the tragic years of slavery in the South, when slaves would get cuts of meat and vegetables that were considered inedible by their white “masters,” the great migration following the Civil War introduced soul food to the entire country.

How did slaves cook their food? ›

There was no cooking-stove on our plantation, and all the cooking for the whites and slaves my mother had to do over an open fireplace, mostly in pots and skillets.”

What city is soul food set? ›

Plot. Soul Food, told through the eyes of 11-year-old Ahmad (Hammond), follows the trials of the Joseph family, a close-knit Chicago family that gets together to have Sunday dinner every week, with plenty of soul food to go around.

What's the difference between soul food and Southern food? ›

The food isn't different; it's the history behind it

Some chefs would describe the two cuisines as exactly the same. "It's the same food; it just depends on your point of view on whether you call it soul food or Southern," said Alabama native and southern food blogger, Jackie Garvin (no relation to G.

Why is soul food called soul? ›

They decided to infuse something into their music that white musicians never could: “the sound of the Black church in the rural South,” which they called “soul” or “funky.” Soon, the word was used to label many parts of Black culture, from soul music to soul brothers and sisters to soul food.

What is soul food known for? ›

Soul food is basic, down-home cooking with its roots in the rural South. The staples of soul food cooking are beans, greens, cornmeal (used in cornbread, hush puppies, and johnnycakes and as a coating for fried fish), and pork. Pork has an almost limitless number of uses in soul food.

What is the most popular cultural food? ›

New Study Reveals Most Popular Cuisines in America
  • Chinese food. With an average of over 3.35 million searches per month in the U.S., Chinese is Americans' favorite food.
  • Mexican food. ...
  • Thai food. ...
  • Indian food. ...
  • Korean food.
Sep 23, 2022


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